25 May 2007: BD1 LiVE Launch Night – St Georges Hall, Bradford, England, UK

BD1 Live is the new and exciting venture undertaken by Bradford’s own independent music fanzine, mono and top gig / club night, Granadaland. The partnership has come into fruition as a result of and in direct response to the expanding music scene which has developed quickly over the last year in the city. The events are set to take place in the impressive St Georges Hall to further stimulate music in Bradford and are 14+ to accommodate the younger fans who are seen as being every bit as important as older punters. The launch night saw Duels headline with support by Bradford acts Analog Bombs, Monty Casino and Laura Groves.

The Analog Bombs are first on the bill with their own brand of ‘post punkist indie’. Lead singer Ben swaggers about the stage with a bottle of beer in one hand and microphone on stand in the other, into which he grumbles nonchalantly whilst being completely covered by an irreverent mop of unruly hair. The Analog Bombs exemplify themselves with Primal Scream-ish undertones, infectious guitar tunes and ska measures of organ riffs which creates a catchy set. So catchy that even after the boys have left the stage, Lola is still stuck in my head. They’re loud, super confident and possibly a little bit drunk… but that’s The Analog Bombs.

Next up are Monty Casino who seem to share my passion for modern history. No bad thing at all. I’m still finding it a bit weird seeing them on such a larger stage than what they’re used to. But this does not appear to intimidate Patrick, Jed or Kai in the slightest. In fact, I don’t think they’ve even noticed. Monty Casino are definitely on top form tonight. The lyrics are as deadpan and ironic as ever, together with jerky guitaring, erratic percussion and frantic bass lines; with songs referencing Gorbachev and Gavrilo Princip and the Black Hand, Monty Casino have clearly utilised the highlights of GCSE history. I wouldn’t be surprised if the trio actually composed their tunes in lessons. More songs about Centenary Square, the Tour de France and one in Welsh, together with Patrick’s discourse in between, leaves the audience feeling vaguely bewildered yet quite entertained.

Laura Groves has the astonishing power to silence absolutely everybody in the room. Slightly nervous (bless her!) and wearing a spiffy dress, Laura stands centre and commands the stage by beginning with nothing but her scarily amazing voice which like waves carries all the way to the back and quietens people one by one. The grand and majestic interior of the beautiful St Georges Hall is well suited to Laura Groves and her music. Softly spoken, she mentions how small she feels but once she’s sat behind her keyboard, Laura’s clear ringing voice prevails over her shyness and astounds all. Coast, possibly one of my favourites, never ever fails to give me shivers and tonight’s venue makes it all the more special. As usual, Laura receives the loudest applause and cheers, which is nothing short of utterly deserved.

Duels’ set leans heavily towards newer material for a second album yet to be released. They appear to have matured since the last time I saw them and they’ve uncannily all grown rather fetching beards, apart from Katherine of course. They’ve moved away from the anthemic Britpop tunes of their debut, The Bright Lights And What I Should Have Learned, but still incorporate Potential Futures and Brothers And Sisters into their set. Duels’ latest offerings are more accomplished and notably darker, eerie and melodic. The duet with Laura Groves is an interesting one and proves successful for both, leaving the audience charmed.

If the launch night was anything to go by, then there can only be further achievements and progress made by mono and Granadaland who will hopefully entice further national touring bands to the city with local acts supporting. Thanks go out to the BD1 LiVE team and to the gig-goers of Bradford for a very special night, hopefully the first of many…

© Taaryn Brench

24 May 2009: The Specials – Millennium Square, Leeds, England, UK

Young and old skankers alike turned out in force on Sunday, to welcome legendary Two Tone ska band The Specials back to Leeds. After a thirty-year absence, Terry Hall marked the Millennium Square leg of the group’s long-awaited reunion tour by apologising for “taking so long to come back”. All was forgiven though, as the diverse congregation of contented cider-infused spectators (save for the few miniature offspring of original ska aficionados) were just thrilled to be present on such a momentous day.

The absence of Jerry Dammers prompted the question of whether relations are quite what they once were in the rude boy camp, however the evening was not sullied by this one exception and the remaining members-Terry Hall, Lynval Golding, Neville Staple, Roddy Byers, Horace Panter and John Bradbury-performed as passionately and energetically as they did back in 1976, when they first notably Rocked Against Racism.

Golding prompted the monochrome-clad, yet still colourful, crowd to consider the group’s ongoing social endeavours, by announcing “Don’t vote BNP!” as ‘A Message to You Rudy’ started up-a stark reminder that their campaigning for racial harmony is as relevant today as it was three decades ago.

Nevertheless, The Specials’ on-stage revelry remained to be as infectious as ever as they delivered more celebrated tracks such as ‘Rat Race’ and Gangsters’, which were repeatedly met with immediate joy from their newly sunburnt and exuberant followers.

Staple’s declaration of “This is for the bouncers” accompanying the intro of ‘Monkey Man’; the contagious mass singsong commanded by ‘(Dawning of a) New Era’; and the undeniable raucousness of ‘Concrete Jungle’; they all ensured that watchers were left in no doubt that expectations were being firmly lived up to, and even surpassed-one might expect that ageing thirty years could slow The Specials down somewhat-one would be wrong.

Revellers occasionally leaned a little too far towards boisterousness, but old staples such as ‘Ghost Town’ directed proceedings from the punk realm of ‘Do the Dog’ into the more relaxed, calypso-inspired area of The Specials’ work.

The 7,000-strong assemblage cheered for more as the six performers teasingly exited the stage, before returning for the inevitable encore. The triumphant comeback gig was rounded off with impeccable versions ‘Too Much Too Young’, ‘Longshot Kick de Bucket’, ‘Skinhead Moonstomp’ and Enjoy Yourself.

Terry Hall assured all that the appreciation was reciprocated, stating: “Thanks very much, it’s been a privilege”. Although over a generation had passed since The Specials’ previous visit, Leeds was left in no doubt that the boys have kept their feet on the ground, and the connection between band and audience has never been lost.

© becky161

20 May 2007: Levellers – The Engine Shed, LUSU, Lincoln, England, UK

Rolling around the Lincoln ring road following my Google map/direction finder, I thought I was never going to reach the venue, but eventually after heading in what seemed to be completely the wrong direction for 20 minutes I followed the final instruction – After 94 feet, stop – and I arrived in The Engine Shed’s car park.

After a brief exchange of “Hello, how ya doin’s” with Mark Chadwick (who was presumably being shown back to where he should’ve been by an Engine Shed employee) in the car park, which at least proved I wasn’t late, I was ushered into the venue.

The Engine Shed is not what I was expecting at all. An apparently newly built-for-purpose, rather than an old, engine shed, it looked like a sort of mini-NEC arena and was superb – With the sad exception of the security people, who seemed to think they were working at the NEC.

Catching the last couple of numbers from the support act while queuing for a beer didn’t do much for me but I should have paid more attention as just as I was beginning to get into their last song, it was over. I didn’t even catch what they were called.

While waiting for the Levellers to appear I spent the next fifteen minutes with my feet slowly gluing themselves to the dance floor. I’ve known sticky dance floors before, Rock City circa 1988 is a prime example, but this took the biscuit. You could barely lift your feet in some places for fear of losing your shoes.

The Levellers unexpectedly appeared high above the stage and descended a staircase like Gods descending to earth. We were taken straight into “100 Years Of Solitude” and the venue exploded. The mosh pit rocked, the “No Crowd Surfing” signs were ignored and a rather younger audience than is currently the norm at a Levellers gig went for it big style.

One of the benefits of seeing a band more than once on the same tour is that you can be pretty certain of which song is coming up next. When “Forgotten Ground” started I thought they’d reworked the setlist, but it had just been moved slightly.

The thing about this evening was that every track sounded even more powerful and full of energy than is usually the case. Whether it was to do with the newness of the venue and the sound system I don’t know, but whatever happened it inspired the Levellers to even greater heights than usual.

Boaksey was in attendance again tonight and treated us to his usual manic stage antics during “One Way”, Mark introducing him as “My Girlfriend” and planting a sloppy kiss on his lips.

“Forgotten Ground” got the prize for unexpectedly fast track of the night as the band went through the speedy parts even faster than they usually do. What a changed beast this song is to when it was welcomed back to the setlist a couple of years ago as “Forgotten The Words”. Marvellous stuff.

Banter with the audience was at a minimum tonight as the band were slick and tight, powering their way confidently through the set, the audience baying for more during the breaks.

“Come On” blew me away and rocked the venue into “Burford Stomp” and “Carry Me”.

As the band returned for an encore, they slowed it down for “Another Man’s Cause” and then sped it up again to an even faster pace for “The Riverflow” and “The Devil Went Down To Georgia”, Jon’s bow seeming to almost set fire to the strings of his fiddle.

After another short break we were treated to an even faster than normal “What You Know” and then, to my dismay, that was it.

It seemed like Lincoln hadn’t had an evening like this for sometime and the place had certainly been blown away by the show tonight, the last night of the UK tour and the last UK indoor show the Levellers will play this year.

Two questions remain;

Why was Jon hitting Simon over the head with his fiddle bow and;

Which festival dates have I got tickets for again?

Setlist (approximate running order); 100 Years Of Solitude / Fifteen Years / Last Man Alive / Hope Street / What A Beautiful Day / The Boatman / One Way / When Love Runs Out Of Time (Simon Solo) / Men-An-Tol / The Road / Forgotten Ground / Come On / Burford Stomp / Carry me / The Game / Liberty Song / Break / Another Man’s Cause / The Riverflow / Devil Went Down To Georgia / Break / What You Know

Freeborn John – Rev Hammer – DVD/CD (released 19 May 2007)

Freeborn John - Rev Hammer

Rev Hammer’s concept for his Freeborn John DVD/CD has been around for a long time.

The original studio CD was finished in 1996 and this DVD package’s literature thanks “Mark Chadwick for an idea in a country garden, July 1994”. However, there are recordings in existence of Rev performing some of the songs on here (“ England’s New Chains” and “ Elizabeth’s Great Gallop”) as early as 1992.

This gives some indication of the amount of love, endeavour and effort that has gone into this project, covering the best part of 15 years. And it shows.

Freeborn John tells the story of John Lilburne, the leader of The Levellers (no not them) in 17th century England , and “the first English Radical”.

This DVD is a recording of the performance that Rev and his fellow musicians performed at the Beautiful Days festival, Escot House, Devon in August 2005. You also get a CD of the live recording as well.

The DVD (and CD) consists of 13 or so tracks, the majority written by Rev with one written by Justin Sullivan of New Model Army which is, I believe, exclusive to this release.

The story starts where it should, at the beginning, and takes you through Lilburne’s life, telling of his run-ins with Prince Rupert, The King and eventually Oliver Cromwell.

The story is told in a sort of Folk-Rock-Opera style with passion and intrigue as each of the performers taking the stage puts in enthusiasm and effort. And what performers there are, including but not restricted to; Rev himself taking the part of John Lilburne, Maddy Prior playing Elizabeth – John’s wife, Justin Sullivan (of New Model Army), Rory McLeod who somehow manages to pull off a great performance as the folk singer (something he has been doing for much of his life) and The English Civil War Society who put in brave performances during the fighting scenes.

I’ve listened to the original CD numerous times and the live CD accompanying this DVD a number of times, but nothing prepares you for the full impact of the DVD presentation. However, you have to pay attention – let yourself get distracted and the impact is lost.

But if you sit there and immerse yourself in the experience of the story, the storytelling and the songs, then you will be moved. Some of the literature in the DVD booklet is included on the DVD to help with the narrative and this works well, filling in the story between the main areas covered by the songs.

This is a DVD that is a required purchase for anyone who was at the Beautiful Days festival in 2005, an historic recording of an historic performance, which could quite easily move the viewer to tears at times (especially during “Seventeen Years of Sorrow” and “Lilburne’s Death Song”) and a document for anyone wishing to learn more about the history of England without the need to resort to a history book.

But for Rev Hammer, nothing like this would ever have seen the light of day as I can think of no other performer around today who could have pulled it off.

Rumour has it that Rev is planning to tour the show next spring (2008). If this rumour turns out to be true, then I wish him luck and can promise here and now that I will be there.

13 May 2007: The Wildhearts – Town Mill, Mansfield, England, UK

This is billed as the most intimate gig of the tour which is a great example of positive marketing. Playing anywhere in Mansfield – not least a venue with a capacity of just 275 – rates as a mistake in my book but I would say that because I come from Nottingham. In the interests of fairness I must say that the Town Mill isn’t too bad and in some ways it’s nice to see The Wildhearts up close and personal.

G.U. Medicine provided the first dose of support and it was potent medication indeed. Playing fast and thrashy juggernaut rock, they reminded me of Sacred Reich (particularly on ‘Girl From Chittagong’), Motorhead and Queens of the Stone Age with vocals coming from an unholy union of 70’s rawk and a mouthful of whisky. The band’s delivery was excellent and full of energy, particularly from lead singer – and Jack Black look-alike – Lee Storrar and bassist Ryan Senior. With instantly likeable tunes they had me tapping my foot all the way to the merchandise stall to purchase a CD the instant their set ended.

Sign, the next support act, swiftly followed and lightened the atmosphere with a more glammy sound. Yes, they did rock to a point but it was hard to get past the sight of a shirtless lead singer with the body of a 12 year-old schoolboy and (painted on) tears of blood. I’m sure every search performed on Google for this band will have the words ‘Skid Row’ and ‘Sebastian Bach wannabe’ contained within it, so I’d like to keep up that ratio. Looking like Skid Row, sounding like Skid Row and then covering a Skid Row song was all a bit too much for me. They have potential but in my opinion may benefit from developing a sound and image of their own. If G.U. Medicine are a juggernaut, then Sign are possibly a 1984 Corvette.

The Wildhearts appeared on stage at 9.40pm to much applause from the (sell-out?) crowd. The songs came thick and fast with minimal banter in between. After releasing a new self-titled album a matter of weeks ago it wouldn’t have been any surprise for this set to be littered with songs never heard live before. However, as at other shows on this tour, it was a case of the ‘same as usual’ played here plus just two new tunes thrown in.

Now, I’m a huge Wildhearts fan and love those old songs to bits but personally I think it would’ve made a nice change to hear more of the new stuff. Something else that seems to have been dropped from the Wildhearts repertoire lately is a completely unexpected track or b-side out of the blue which, for me, was always a highlight.

Ginger wasn’t afraid to voice his…..erm, reluctance?…..to be playing at a venue of this size but it didn’t seem to get him, or the rest of the band, down too much. The only obvious effect was that the low ceiling limited some of their more active antics and it also looked as though new bass player, Scott Sorry, was itching to cut loose on a bigger stage. CJ’s usual face of calm and tranquillity turned into a huge grin as he and Ginger appeared to derive great delight from throwing numerous plectrums into the audience, although not as big as Ginger’s grin when he was handed a toy gun to fire pellets towards the back of the room. He probably imagined he was hunting rednecks.

Rich Battersby on drums played a blinder, as always, and does add a lot of controlled power to the sound, just a shame we couldn’t see too much of him. Scott on bass looks like he’s always been in the band which is really saying something and a credit to him as he is filling several big pairs of boots.

The main disappointment of the night – but in no way a surprise – was the standard of Wildhearts’ merchandise. Come on, lads, it’s about time you found someone able to knock up a half-decent t-shirt or two. The best one available on this tour features a guy with a portable stereo for a head, but I have no wish whatsoever to be mistaken for a Radiohead fan.

Highlights were one of the new songs, ‘The Revolution Will Be Televised’, and the timeless ‘My Baby Is A Headf*ck’. The other new tune that was played, ‘Rooting For The Bad Guy’, was OK but the extended riffing halfway through takes away most of the momentum and lessens the effect of a potentially great live song.

The whole set was performed very tightly with minimum fuss or bother. They didn’t even go off stage before the encore, but instead turned their backs and told us to pretend that we couldn’t see them.

Banter with the audience was at a minimum tonight as the band were slick and tight, powering their way confidently through the set, the audience baying for more during the breaks.

Very good, very enjoyable, very Wildhearts.

Rough set-list (not necessarily in the right order); Vanilla Radio / Caffeine Bomb / TV Tan / Someone Who Won’t Let Me Go / Sick of Drugs / The Revolution Will Be Televised / Everlone / Stormy In The North / Nexus Icon / Suckerpunch / OCD / Nita Nitro / My Baby is a Headfu*k / Break/ Rooting For The Bad Guy / I Wanna Go Where the People Go


11 May 2007: NFD + Rhombus + Nightmoves – Junktion 7, Nottingham, England, UK

11 May 2007: NFD + Rhombus + Nightmoves - Junktion 7, Nottingham, England, UK

missed the start of Nightmoves set as I had to finish the drink in my glass before I was allowed upstairs with my next pint in a plastic cup.

The last few numbers they did though were performed professionally and with the intention of entertaining the sparse crowd. In this they largely succeeded, although their The Sisters Of Mercy by numbers circa 1984 act did begin to grate after a while and there wasn’t enough smoke.

And then they completely surprised me by ending with an excellent version of “Body Electric” which actually made you feel like climbing the walls.

Rhombus were introduced and stormed through their first number. This was much better and the set seemed full of promise until the drum machine decided that the next song was going to be three seconds long no matter how many times it was tried and that was it for a few moments while they sobered it up.

After a short story from the compere, Rhombus reappeared looking slightly stressed but very professionally continued their set. Being completely unfamiliar with the majority of their material, I can only say that it was upbeat and entertaining. Well worth splashing £8.50 on their new CD.

After asking permission to do one more song, they ended with the excellent “If You Haven’t Been Shot (You Should Be)”, which made it all worthwhile.

The venue had filled up by the time NFD took to the stage and there was a sense of anticipation in the air.

With not much space on the stage it was a tight fit for the band but they managed to overcome this constraint to hammer their way into the first track, last year’s single “Light My Way”, with Peter ‘Bob’ White straining against his microphone stand and spitting out the vocals.

The sound was stunning, not too loud, but powerful and aggressive. Not for many years have I seen a band that produces such power.

“My Possession” was next, followed by the beast that is “Turbine”, Bob growling out “Nothing lasts forever, nothing lasts forever”. “Stronger”, “Unleashed”, and “ Darkness Falls ” were next, Tony Pettitt’s bass driving the power of the music throughout.

Bob took on some guitar duties for the excellent “One Moment Between Us”, which was followed by “Descent” and then “Caged”.

The soon-to-be released next single “When The Sun Dies” was introduced. The band mentioned that this was the first time they had played it so there was the possibility of them mucking it up, but it seemed to come off OK. More quality output to look forward to.

“Move In Closer” and “So Let It Begin” closed the show, prior to which the band thanked us for coming and mentioned that they would be recording a video for the new single at one of the London dates later this month.

After a fair amount of encouragement, NFD returned to the stage and Bob announced that they were going to play “A few of Tony’s songs now”. And the treat began.

“Pray now…”. The familiar opening to “Psychonaut” took us into over 10 minutes of delight, with Bob crouched over the microphone, cigarette in hand. The crowd were overjoyed to hear this and what followed was completely unexpected.

The one cover turned into two as we were powered through “Preacher Man” and then three as the set ended with “Moonchild”.

An excellent gig which ended on an unexpected and welcome high.

The thing is NFD were great on the night and no longer, in my opinion, really need to do the cover versions at the end, however welcome they may be. Their own material stands up to scrutiny on its own merit.

Catch them at a venue near you as soon as possible.

Setlist; Intro / Light My Way / My Possession / Turbine (Nothing Lasts Forever) / Stronger / Unleashed / Darkness Falls / One Moment Between Us / Descent / Caged / When The Sun Dies / Move In Closer / So Let It Begin / [Break] / Psychonaut / Preacher Man / Moonchild.