With Just A Hint Of Mayhem

Music trivia, useless info, extra added random stuff and the odd rant from me

Billy Bragg & Joe Henry – Grand Opera House, York – Tuesday January 24th 2017 January 26, 2017


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Almost a year ago Billy Bragg and Joe Henry travelled from Chicago to Los Angeles, a journey of nearly 3,000 miles where they got deep into the largely American tradition of railroad songs. Their new album resulted from this trip as they stopped off at famous and yet dying stations en route to record. In America the aeroplane has effectively killed off long distance rail travel. As Billy and Joe informed us, it is no longer to get a passenger train to Nashville. They played two sets tonight. The first had both showcasing songs from the album and ended with a few solo songs from Joe Henry. The second started with some solo tunes from Billy Bragg and then finished with the two of them singing together.

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The show kicked off with “Railroad Bill” a chugging little traditional tune. My favourites from the joint part of the first set were “John Henry” a brilliant traditional song with a great story in the lyric. They did not confine themselves to old traditional tunes though, there was also a marvellous arrangement of Gordon Lightfoot’s “Early Morning Rain”. I had never seen this as a railway song, but listening to it at the gig and later it clearly is. The stories that Joe and Billy told between the songs were at times as entertaining as the tunes themselves. Both of them share an encyclopaedic knowledge of and passion for music and that makes the whole performance so meaningful.

Billy Bragg and Joe Henry perform live at the 2016 Non-COMMvention in Philadelphia.

Billy Bragg and Joe Henry perform live at the 2016 Non-COMMvention in Philadelphia.

I must confess that I knew little about Joe Henry before tonight, but I am most definitely a fan now. His own songs are incredibly good, especially “Trampoline” and “After The War”. But what really blew myself and my beautiful wife Catherine (a.k.a. Catwoman) away was his stunning cover of Allen Toussaint‘s “Freedom For The Stallion”. Joe was a close friend of the late, great Mr Toussaint which made this even more poignant. Williambloke took the stage after a brief interval to open the second set and he was on his usual top form politically. To showcase that he opened with a recently written take on Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A Changin'”. He added “….back” to the end of the title and the new lyrics are a very clever and very effective dig at the new orange president in the USA. Billy covered and Anais Mitchell song called “Why We Build The Wall” and that is one of the most thought-provoking songs that I have heard in a long while. He also did some of his own songs; “Between The Wars” and “Accident Waiting To Happen”

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After that Billy and Joe came back together for some more railway tunes and stories. This included covers of Carter Family and Hank Williams songs “Railroading On The Great Divide” and “Lonesome Whistle”. There were also two Leadbelly covers, first with “Rock Island Line” which most people in the UK recall as a Lonnie Donegan song. The second of the Leadbelly songs was “Midnight Special” a song that I have heard many, many times but I never knew any of the history of it. Apparently it has its roots in the story of an US prison which was close to a point on the track where trains took a turn. If this happened at night the light of the train would scan across the prison and it was said that the prisoner who was bathed in that light would be the next one to be given parole. Now I don’t know whether that actually happened but it is a great story.

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Mr Bragg and Mr Henry left the stage briefly before returning for the obligatory encore. “Gentle On My Mind” a song made famous was first. This is yet another song that I never saw as a railroad song until tonight. Bob Dylan’s “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You” was nicely arranged and played. The show closed with a magnificent Woody Guthrie cover from his dust bowl years; “Ramblin’ Round”. This in many ways was more of a relaxing show than a rousing and loud one. But I bloody loved it and I urge you to go and see Billy and Joe if you get the chance, or at least get yourself a copy of their ‘Shine A Light’ album.

 

WOW – A Celebration of the Music and Artistry of Kate Bush – Grand Opera House York – Thursday 7th March 2013 March 8, 2013


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I can count on one hand the amount of tribute acts I have seen in my lifetime. Before last night it was just two; The Bootleg Beatles and The Wall a Pink Floyd tribute band. Both were very good. However in my opinion both were surpassed by the excellent show I saw at the Grand Opera House in York last night. It was titled ‘WOW – A Celebration of the Music and Artistry of Kate Bush’. The fact that Kate Bush is such an original and unique solo artist means that any attempt at a decent tribute to her would be difficult. However 36 year Maaike Breijman from Holland pulled it off impeccably well.

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She has a resemblance to Kate and a similar vocal style. She is also an excellent all round performer and she proved this by singing, dancing and playing the night away. She didn’t only focus on Kate Bush’s greatest hits although most of them were there. The overall show, including a brief interval, was close to two hours long. I lost count of the costume changes Breijman undertook but every one of them worked. Her band was superb as were the two male dancers that accompanied her for most songs.

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She seemed to draw her influence for the performances from film of Kate’s one and only tour and the videos for the later songs. The show included a terrific light show and some excellent projections and props. Including the weather machine from the ‘Cloudbusting‘ video. I particularly loved her performances of “The Wedding List”, “The Big Sky”, “Wow” and “Babooshka“. She also brought things a little more up to date with an excellent version of the 2005 hit “King Of The Mountain”. The theatrical staging of “Breathing” from inside a womb was pretty impressive too.

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The two most exceptional moments for me were her wonderful rendition of “this Womans Work” whilst accompanying herself on the piano and the obvious choise for closing the show, the incredible “Wuthering Heights”. It is highly unlikely that we will ever get to see the real Kate Bush play live now, although to be fair whoever thought David Bowie would release a new album? But in the absence from the stage of Kate Bush I can definitely recommend Maaike Breijman. The only disappointment for me was how few people there were in the audience. When she tours again I order you to do your utmost to see her. Sell your Granny, send your kids to sweep chimneys, do whatever it takes just make sure you are there for Maaike’s next tour. That’s an order ok! Click here to find the WOW website.

 

Fascinating Aida – Grand Opera House, York – Wednesday 14th November 2012 November 18, 2012


Last Wednesday I went to see an act that has been around for thirty years. I had been conscious of them but never really aware of what they were. My interest was raised when my good friend John Williams (not the composer or the classical guitarist but a better bloke altogether) sent me a clip of this act from YouTube. I came close to wetting myself while watching it. The act was Fascinating Aida and that clip was for their excellent take on budget airlines “Cheap Flights“. If you have never seen them live or on-line the best way I could describe them would be a satirical, singing cabaret ensemble who are also bloody hilarious!

They kicked off their show with a superb song attacking the banking and big business fraternity which made an excellent acronym from their ‘Companies Using Nifty Taxation Schemes’ I’ll let you guess the actual acronym. They included their biggest internet hits; the aforementioned “Cheap Flights” and the not to be missed “Dogging”. You don’t know what dogging is? I suggest you ask your parents or maybe Stan Collymore.

The group managed to take a dig at so many people in such a short space of time including Tom Cruise, Pamela Anderson, U2, the Germans and many politicians to but a few. In fact their Belgian Song Cycle (at least I think that is what it was called) contained many of these put downs. As a result of that song cycle I will never be able to look at Cheryl Cole again without thinking ladyboy!

Their show is also very topical and referred amusingly to the austerity protests in Europe earlier in the week. These are three very talented women who I would like to thank very much for a hilarious evening out with Catwoman, Caron and John. So Dillie, Adele and Liza we loved your show and we would be delighted to see you again sometime. I would also advise any of my readers who have never seen Fascinating Aida on-line or in concert to check them out immediately!

 

Steve Harley at the Grand Opera House in York 28th May 2010 May 29, 2010


Last night I went to see Steve Harley off of Cockney Rebel at the Grand Opera House in York. I saw him there four or five years ago as well. He was excellent then and he was superb last night as well. He played some new stuff and classic oldies, not just the big hits. Stuff like “Sebastian”, “Judy Teen” and “Tumbling Down” both of which I love.

The band were excellent and include Stuart Elliott the original drummer from Cockney Rebel who formed the band with Steve in 1972. According to Wikipedia Steve is now 59, that makes me feel old, but also it seems at 51 I’m not far behind. The backing vocals were provided by the Lartey Sisters, they were also his support act. Well worth turning up on time for, unlike quite a number of people who stayed in the bar. Check them out on MySpace here. Every member of the band was on top form, a supremely skilled bunch. I thought the guitarist looked a little like Stephen King, which is fine with me as I am a massive King fan

He played two cover versions. “Here Comes The Sun” which he had a hit with in the 70s and also a Daniel Johnston song, which he handled really well

Steve Harley has a brilliant rapport with his audience and showed that with some of the between song banter and he also told a great story about busking in the early 70s. The song I was most pleased to hear again, because I haven’t heard it in ages was “Mr Raffles (Man It Was Mean)” Overall he was on stage for around two hours and as you might have guessed he climaxed with “(Come Up And See Me) Make Me Smile” He did mention how most local radio DJs and much of the press seem to assume that song is pretty much all he has done. But added some good words for Johnnie Walker and Steve Wright, both of whom in his opinion really ‘get it’ I’m not surprised either, I have always admired the brilliant Johnnie Walker.

So overall it was an excellent night, just like the last time and probably the next time as well! Well done and thanks to you Mr Harley!

Check out Steve’s official website here

You can purchase Steve’s new album by clicking here

 

 
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