Monthly Archives: January 2015

The Boomtown Rats/Republica, The Junction, Cambridge, 3rd November 2014

The Boomtown Rats:
Bob Geldof (vocals, harmonica)
Pete Briquette (bass)
Simon Crowe (drums)
Garry Roberts (guitar)
Unknown (keyboards)
Unknown (guitar)

Republica (special guests):
Saffron Sprackling (vocals)
Tim Dorney (keyboards)
Jonny Glue (guitar)
Conor Lawrence (drums)

The Junction
Clifton Way

There has been something of a plethora of bands who achieved varying levels of success, fame and acclaim during the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, reforming and then hitting the gigging circuit, spreading their own measures of nostalgic fairy dust along the way. Some have done it better than others, and maybe some should have just left things as they were and remembered the good times. And then there are others who do it, you don’t think it will amount to much and then wham!!! Yes, you’re on your backside, your head is head spinning and you’re feeling totally wowed.

That pretty much sums up the entire evening of Monday 3rd November 2014, when seminal naughy-step 1970’s New Wave schoolboys, The Boomtown Rats, still fronted by yer actual Sir Bob Geldof (he of Band Aid/Live Aid fame), brought their own particular brand of post-punk anarchy to The Junction music venue in Cambridge, with special guests, the irresistably alternative electronic rock band Republica, getting things very ably warmed up for the headline act.

republicacambs311140029acopyrightWhilst being seen by many as a “re-formed 1990’s band”, it’s fair to say that Republica were not a band that really split up. They enjoyed a run of top twenty singles between 1996 and 1999, including the ever-green “Drop Dead Gorgeous” and the seminal indie electro-rock anthem “Ready To Go”, as well as positive press reactions at the time. With only two albums under their belts, Republica went into hiatus after the label they were signed to went out of business in 2001. Fortunately for the rest of us, they restarted the machinery in 2008 with an appearance at a Contra Mundum concert in Windsor, with pictures of the band “in the studio” appearing on their official Facebook page in 2010. Their first release in fifteen years came in 2013 with the E.P. “Christina Obey”. Taking to the stage at The Junction on this night were Saffron (lead vocals), Tim Dorney (keyboards), Jonny Glue on guitar and Conor Lawrence on drums. From the opening notes of “From Rush Hour With Love”, Republica enthralled and entertained, performing the songs that cemented their original ascendency to fame alongside newer tracks such as “Hallelujah”, “German Accent” and the fabulous “Christina Obey”. Every track gelled and oozed the Republica sound which both sounded and felt as fresh today as it did 15 or more years ago, bursting with their signature techno-rock sound. Saffron, looking better than ever, was as effervescent and energetic as she ever was, playing to the crowd beautifully and taking no prisoners as she belted out the anthemic Republica songs with the right sort of gusto and controlled aggression that the Cambridge seemed to want. Republica have mastered the three most important elements of a great gig – style, presentation and performance, so basically, this is a band you have to see live.

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The Boomtown Rats enjoyed a string of top twenty singles between 1977 and 1980 including two number ones with “Rat Trap” and the controversially brilliant “I Don’t Like Mondays”, as well as silver (“The Boomtown Rats” and “The Fine Art of Surfacing”), gold (“Mondo Bongo”) and platinum (“A Tonic For The Troops”) albums. The chart achievements of The Rats has been somewhat eclipsed by the astoundingly relentless charity work of lead singer Bob Geldof, who co-wrote “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” with Ultravox’s Midge Ure and was the driving force behind the historic global charity concert “Live Aid”. And of course, he had the lead role in the film version of Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”.

boomtownratscambs311140002acopyrightAnyway, the concert tonight saw the Rats line up consisting of original members Bob Geldof (lead vocals), Pete Briquette (bass), Simon Crowe (drums) and Garry Roberts (guitar), as well as two tour recruits on guitar and keyboards. The set started with a video sequence on a big graphics display at the back of the stage, showing re-worked album covers, members of the band, the Rats’ logo and even at one point a rat being shot (many gasps in the audience for that one!!!), before the gathered throng raised the roof as the band came on stage, kicking things off with “(I Never Loved) Eva Braun”. The hits poured out of the P.A. system at break-neck speed, with Bob Geldof up there being, not acting, just being, the definitive front man. Whatever your thoughts or views about Bob, whether you love him or loathe him, none of that matters one wit when he’s on that stage in front of you – his stage presence is quite simply massive. He struts back and forth across the front of the stage like a defiant punk peacock, resplendent in a “fake snakeskin suit”, wild hair and, to quote Tim Dorney of Republica (I’m such a name dropper!!!), throwing out some interesting shapes with his gestures and poses. The close-to- sell-out crowd could just not get enough. At 63 years of age, it’s a safe bet to say that he’s still got it. An hour and a half of classic Rats tunes and anthems followed covering the hits boomtownratscambs311140014acopyrightsuch as “Rat Trap”, “Like Clockwork”, “She’s So Modern”, “Mary of the Fourth Form”, “Looking After Number One”, “Someone’s Looking At You”, “Banana Republic” and of course, the legendary “I don’t Like Mondays” which saw Bob starting something of a sing-a-long, which we of course all joined in with because you don’t not sing-a-long-a-Bob!!! Every song was performed in the way in which it was originally written, they were performed with precision and prowess and certainly to my total surprise (a pleasant one I must add), sounding as fresh today as they sounded back in the post-punk/New Wave era of the late 1970’s. Between songs, Bob raconteured and interacted with the crowd, telling a whole manner of stories, including the reasons for the “fake snakeskin suit” – entertaining, funny and totally Bob.

So far it’s all been about Bob, but mention has to be made of the other band members who put in an equally full on performance. You couldn’t help but see that these guys were enjoying every minute of this gig, they played each others’ instruments, dived about the stage and threw those interesting shapes with exacting gusto. And you have to keep in mind that these guys are all hitting 60 years of age – I’ve seen bands with average ages only a third of that who couldn’t give and perform as the Rats did tonight. And that graphics back drop really set the scene for each song, adding quirky cartoon graphics, video clips et al – all said and done, it could be whispered that we had too much to look at, but I’m not the complaining sort.

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The set ended with “Rat Trap” which sent the crowd into overdrive which saw Bob and the Rats return for a three-song encore comprising “Me and Howard Hughes” (a curious choice, but boy did it work!!!), “Diamond Smiles” and a new mega-clubby/techno-ish track called “The Boomtown Rats” which brought the roof down.


In short, the Boomtown Rats are a must-see act, end of story – if they’re playing their brand of original old-skool, high-octane New Wave near you – go, you’ll be very glad you did. It’s fair to say that a lot of the new, younger bands around on the gigging circuit at this time would do well to see the Rats do their thing because they have those all-important three elements of what constitutes a great show that I mentioned earlier – style, presentation and performance.


Concert Images (courtesy of Neil Fellowes Photography):
The Boomtown Rats

Nils Frahm, Epic Studios, Norwich, Norfolk, 26th October 2014

Nils Frahm (piano, synthesizers, electronics)

Epic Studios
112-114 Magdalen Street

Now, this gig was something of a really cool departure from the previously experienced performances as Nils Frahms’ music is of an instrumental nature, combining classical and electronic music. He is noted for his unorthodox use of piano, because he mixes grand piano and upright piano with a Roland Juno 60 synthesizer, a Rhodes electric piano, a drum machine and Moog Taurus bass pedals, and he doesn’t use any kind of loop or pre-recorded playback.

I am very familiar with and quite partial to Nils’ work, so was delighted to have the opportunity to catch one of his live performances, of which I had read much about, at what has become my second home, Epic Studios in Norwich.

nilsfrahmepic2610140003acopyrightTo give a little background, Nils Frahm is a 32 year old German musician, composer and producer, presently based in Berlin. And take it from me, he is annoyingly talented, as he ably demonstrated during this concert. He has a very relaxing, self-effacing demeanour, quietly spoken and of gentle but funny humour, also demonstrated during this concert. Alongside his solo work, he has also collaborated with performers such as Anne Müller, Ólafur Arnalds and F.S. Blumm.

So to the performance. There was no support act, no great fanfare prior to his entrance onto the gear-laden stage. Nils walks onto the stage dressed in striped t-shirt, rolled up jeans and trainers. You kind of get the notion that this wasn’t going to be your usual concert/recital. He picks up a mic and introduces himself and his gear (some of which apparently is almost “kaput”), then proceeds to start the evening with a piece called “Says”, possibly the most spell-binding music I’ve ever heard performed live, a weird fusion of electronics with electric piano and a gentle arpeggiated synth texture. You almost want to think that the music is too quiet, and I was very conscious of using my camera lest I break the spell that Frahm had quickly and masterfully cast. But it isn’t too quiet, it’s just right and any louder would not have been right. The repetitive arpeggiations of the Juno 6 synthesizer are quite hypnotic and Nils’ simple Rhodes melodies add to this seductive atmosphere. A gentle crescendo builds, Nils’ subtle abuses of the tape-based echo unit create a near dissonant far-away place, but nothing takes over or dominates before it all starts falling back into nothing. Nils Frahm has got us right where he wants us.

nilsfrahmepic2610140007acopyrightFrom here on, we are exposed to his more techno side (amazing), we get a piece that was written after he had fallen out of bed and broken a finger, so went onto write a piece of music for nine fingers (amazing), and we even get a piece called “For-Peter-Toilet Brushes-More” whereupon Nils starts to bash, brush and scrape the insides of the grand piano with a pair of toilet brushes (amazing – starting to really dislike him now). Virtuoso piano pieces follow dreamy, ambient, chillout, beat-driven pieces follow piano textured, near tone poems. The broad range of moods and styles creates a truly morphic performance, each piece easily blending into the next, segued with Nils’ brief but quirky narratives. The music goes from dark to euphoric, from thoughtful to demanding, from vague and almost atonal to grand and melodic. As a musician, I feel music as much as I hear it, and on several occasions throughout the performance I found myself riding crests of immense waves, then moved to the point of tears, such was the emotive scale, scope  and beauty of what I was listening to and experiencing. For a part of the concert, I stood with one of the owners of the venue, and she was as drawn in  and mesmerised as the rest of us.

nilsfrahmepic2610140008acopyrightAnd what of presentation and performance? Well, one man with a couple of pianos and several bits of gear can’t be that interesting. Ordinarily, that would be true, but again, Nils Frahm knows how to create the scene, paint the picture and visualise the music, and he does this like he does with most other things I have seen on this night, subtly, delicately and skilfully. A few white floods, occasionally dipped to conjure up the ambience of warmth, lighting that was as sparse as the music, yet equal in it’s beauty. Often swathed in nothing more than dry ice and white light, Nils Frahm played as a neo-classical virtuoso, his concentration completely unbreakable as he breathed each and every moment of this performance, and an intensity that you feel could snap at any given moment. This concert wasn’t just music, it was performance art and the rapturous applause that exploded at the end was a testament to this young man’s uncompromising talent.

Whatever way I put it, whatever way I express it, the basic premise will always come back to the fact that, quite simply, Nils Frahm is a must-see.



Concert Images (courtesy of Neil Fellowes Photography):
Nils Frahm

Kosheen, Epic Studios, Norwich Norfolk, 25th October 2014

Sian Evans (vocals)
Markee Ledge (guitar,keyboard)
Mitch Glover (drums)

Catnip and Claws (support):
Emma Catnip

Epic Studios
112-114 Magdalen Street

A night of 90’s vibe electronica at Epic Studios in Norwich with electronic dance band Kosheen and support from local electronic music maker Catnip and Claws. Kosheen were not  band I fully got into or knew very much about, other than what I saw or heard when they were at their height, and the support act, though apparently from Norwich, was completely unknown to me. And so I entered the main auditorium, unprepared for what the evening had in store for me.

catnipnclwsepic2510140001acopyrightFirst up was Catnip and Claws, and I have to confess to immediate heart-sink as it looked as though it was going to be a kind of DJ set – the nightmare of Chase and Status was coming back to get me!!! However, I was pleasantly surprised (and hugely relieved) to see that this was not the case and what we had was a live electronica set, consisting of a lovely young lady by the name of Emma Catnip who describes herself as “just a girl making modern nostalgia”. Armed with a PC (that crashed, in a most epic fashion, about 5 minutes into the set, but we’ll skip over that) and a handful of MIDI controllers, Miss Catnip soon had the beats pounding and the tunes mashing and flying around everywhere, courtesy of her dextrous pot and fader handling. The set had a definite 90’s vibe to it, but Emma’s use of effects and controllers soon added a most definite 21st century sheen and dynamic quality as she morphed and mashed her abundance of breaks and beats that had your eyes spinning like reels on a fruit machine – in a very good way. On top of a great set that provided a suitable warm up for the headline act, it was good to see a female electronic music artist in action, there’s too few of them in my view. And great that she’s a local girl too. A little scan of her profile reveals that she’s making cool progress and most definitely one to watch,

So, with a nice warm up from Catnip and Claws, it was soon time for Kosheen. As I said earlier, I knew of them, but had no firm idea of what they did live, so it was good to see something that, for me, was fresh and something that I could approach with an open mind.

kosheenepic2510140005acopyrightThe turnout was good and so there was an expectant atmosphere which really helped things and a big cheer went up as they came on stage and went straight into the music with no messing and taking no prisoners. Sian Evans was a front-woman through and through. Her vocals were spot on and she showed no signs of wavering throughout her energetic performance, and clearly enjoying herself. She did the repartee with the audience, she got into the music and she shared the stage with the other two band members. Impressive, that’s all I have to say. The drummer, Mitch Glover, was on the mark from the start with controlled precision drumming, playing to sequenced beats and breaks (not always the easiest things for a drummer to do) and driving the entire set like a jack-hammer. I will say that had he not have been a part of the band, I’m not sure the set would have had such a dynamic feel to it – okay, I suppose that is something of an obvious statement, but there are a number of acts of this nature that use programmed rhythms and something is definitely lost. On guitar and electronics was Markee Ledge, mysterious in his shades and looking not unlike a reject from Oasis (in my book, to be a reject from Oasis is a GOOD thing), and I was impressed by the way in which he maintained a good live sound with a clever combination of synths and pre-programmed material throughout- in other words I didn’t feel cheated in terms of actual performance.

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The set consisted of a well-balanced and solidly paced mix from Kosheen’s five studio albums, and having listened to the albums since the gig, I can tell you that they translated very well to the live arena. Highlights of the evening were the hit song “Hide U” which was very well received, “(Slip & Slide) Suicide” and “Damage” which was one of the slower paced songs and saw a fantastic performance from Sian Evans. One of the things that really impressed me about kosheenepic2510140008acopyrightKosheen was that they are, whether you like or not, an electronic dance band (and if we’re being quite honest with ourselves, those sort of bands don’t always come across great live), but along with the likes of Faithless, they are very much an electronic dance band that has broken the mould and proven themselves to be as credible on stage as they are in the studio. That’s no mean feat in this day and age of plastic, manufactured, auto-tuned mime artists. There was no stunning light show, no intense video backdrop or out-of-this-world onstage theatrics. No, what you got was a serious act comprised of competent artists combining sequenced and played parts with a strong front-person whose personality was as big as the venue.

Kosheen got a new fan that night.




Concert Images (courtesy of Neil Fellowes Photography):
Catnip and Claws

The Blockheads, Epic Studios, Norwich, Norfolk, 17th October 2014

theblockheadsepic1710140006acopyrightThe Blockheads:
Derek “The Draw” Hussey (vocals)
Chaz Jankel (guitar, keyboards, backing vocals)
Norman Watt-Roy (bass, backing vocals)
Johnny Turnbull (guitar, backing vocals)
Gilad Atzmon (saxophone)
John Roberts (drums)
Seamus Beaghan (keyboards)

Eva Black (support):
Sam Norfolk (vocals, guitar)
Dave Warren (guitar)
Olly Simmonds (drums)
Kev Goff (bass)

Epic Studios
112-114 Magdalen Street

After the less-than-enjoyable experience that was Chase and Status the previous week, I was delighted to have found my musical gate of golden light in the form of the phenomenon that is The Blockheads. On this evening, the consistently excellent Epic Studios played host to a night of excellent music, performed (yes, performed) by proper musicians who were playing proper instruments. No backing tracks, tape sync or computers, actual live performance.

So, here we go.

evablkepic1710140003acopyrightThe support were a local outfit called Eva Black. And mighty fine they were too, playing some excellent alternative rock to get things warmed up, a good tight, polished and clearly well-rehearsed set. Sam Norfolk did an excellent job on lead vocals with some very strong guitar work from Dave Warren. Checking out their Facebook page, they do seem to be regular performers in and around the area, so if you get a chance to see them, do so, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

And so to our main act. The Blockheads.

theblockheadsepic1710140021acopyrightMistakenly, when you talk about The Blockheads, the first thing you kind of think of is Ian Dury and quite likely, “Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick”. That’s great as far as it goes, and whilst Ian Dury was, without any doubt, one of the finest lyricists of his time, his “sound” was that of The Blockheads. And this evening’s performance sealed the deal for me on that one. Personal opinion, but there you go.

It all kicks off when Derek “The Draw” Hussey walks up to the mic, and says “we are The Blockheads and we sound like this……” and we get to hear exactly what The Blockheads sound like – slick, professional and tight. I’ll confess that I’ve never seen The Blockheads live,  with or without Ian Dury, but loved the music and have all the albums (including their very latest one “Same Horse Different Jockey” released in 2013 – get it!!!), so this evening was a real icing on the cake experience for me.

theblockheadsepic1710140010acopyrightDid it matter that Ian Dury wasn’t front-manning it all? No. “The Draw” is about as good as it gets for a band of The Blockheads stature and prowess. He didn’t try to be Ian Dury, he didn’t try to sing like Ian Dury and he didn’t try to make you think he was trying be or trying to sound like Ian Dury. He looked and sounded the part of the perfect front-man for a band of this nature, presenting the persona of a retired hippy wide-boy with long silver hair and beard to match, Ray-Ban style sunglasses (later changed to a circle-rimmed pair with laser etched peace symbols), the gravelly London twang and perhaps the only truly discernible nod to Mr. Dury, was a white scarf that he hung over the mic stand. I’ve seen him described as Cockney Kris Kristofferson, and yeah, not far wrong. He performed the set with very apparent ease, a wonderfully dry/wry sense of humour and consummate professionalism. This is all adds up to the fact that Mr. Hussey has seriously filled the shoes of the afore-mentioned Mr. Dury, and it shouldn’t really come as any surprise because the gentlemen were good friends and The Draw was Ian’s minder.

theblockheadsepic1710140012acopyrightWe were treated a nicely balanced mixture of newer material (demonstrating The Draw’s more than very acceptable wordsmith skills) and the “classic” songs. Every song was performed with utmost skill, performance and style, all members of the band really giving it their all, not least Norman Watt-Roy, a man who gave his bass guitar more life and character than I’ve ever seen in a bassist and gave pure performance throughout with no let up. These truly are group of  proper musicians, performing a solid fusion of pop, funk, jazz and good old rock ‘n’ roll music that has unquestionably stood the test of time, all of which was genuinely appreciated by the audience, particularly when legendary songs such as “Billiericay Dickie”, “Wake Up And Make Love With Me” and “Clever Trevor” were played. Newer songs such as “Look the Other Way”, “Boys Will Be Boys” and “Undercover” fitted in seamlessly with the likes of “Plaistow Patricia”, “The Inbetweenies” and “I Want To be Straight”.

theblockheadsepic1710140003acopyrightSo, highlights. Tough one as there were so many, but of course we have to look to the more iconic tracks such as “What A Waste” and the dual personalitied “Sweet Gene Vincent” which brought the roof down.  “Sex and Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll” and “Reasons To Be Cheerful part 3” never sounded better, as though they were written for live performance alone – sterling vocal work by The Draw on these two. The number that closed the evening was “Blockheads” and again, it gained a whole new lease of life live. But the one song that really stood out for me was “Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick”. Okay okay, beat me with it now for being so passé, the thing is I really don’t care so get over it, because this song really showed everything that is so fantastic about The Blockheads from the voice of The Draw, the keyboard work of Seamus Beaghan and the guitaristings of Messrs Jankel and Turnbull to the insanely brilliant and frenetic bassings of Norman Watt-Roy and sax work of Gilad Atzmon, at one point the latter was playing two saxes!!!


All in all, a great gig, in a great venue. One slightly dour note was that the promoters had booked The Blockheads into three venues in as many days in less than a 30 mile radius which hit audience numbers markedly – in my opinion that’s bad. Bad for the venues, bad for the band and bad for audiences, perhaps a little more thought should have been applied which would have seen better attendances. However, the sound of Epic Studios was once again fantastic and walking around talking to people, that seemed to be the consensus of opinion with many stating that it would be great to see a continuation of the big name acts using Epic Studios. I echo that completely.



Concert Images (courtesy of Neil Fellowes Photography):
The Blockheads

Chase & Status, Epic Studios, Norwich, Norfolk, 10th October 2014


Chase & Status:
Saul Milton
Will Kennard (in name only)
MC Rage

Dimension (support)

Epic Studios
112-114 Magdalen Street

Okay, I’m going to be up front from the beginning here – I found it really difficult to write this piece because, essentially, I’m not really sure I saw a performance of any kind that I could adequately respond to, and I have genuinely struggled to be as positive as I have in my views. I was told by several people “in the know” that these guys were the “ones to see” and that “they filled stadiums”. And you know, whilst drum ‘n’ bass isn’t my thing, I was actually quite looking forward to this, such was the promise of what I had been told.

casepic1010140003acopyrightAll I saw on this night were two very mediocre DJ sets.

Dimension was the first on and basically, all he did was just stand there playing a load of “tunes” and every now and again, he actually raised his arm in salute. Without wishing to be unkind or rude, I can honestly say that I have seen far more animated and entertaining wedding DJ’s. Ultimately, that was it and all that I can really say is that it was dull, lacklustre and boring.

Anyway, keep an open mind I thought, the main act will obviously show why the tickets were the price they were and why Chase and Status enjoy the success they do.

Oh dear.

casepic1010140015acopyrightI sat through the most cumbersome and monotonous conveyor belt of played-out, done-to-death beats ever, with some bloke (I had to assume he was the much revered MC Rage, these guys were obviously way too cool to make introductions of any kind) prancing around the stage shouting “Chase and fucking Status” every five minutes, in between him also shouting “wicked” (very 90’s) or shouting “Make some noise!” (which thankfully, the attendant crowd did). And, it would seem that Norwich was deserving of only one half of the act, that being Saul Milton (Chase), who was nothing more than a slightly more animated version of the “warm-up” DJ. I don’t know what happened to the other one, I don’t know if he was even there or not as nothing was said. And I’m not really sure what kind of message that gave out to people who had paid good money (£23) for their ticket. When one considers the performances that were witnessed the night before (Public Service Broadcasting, Radiophonic Workshop and Ulrich Schnauss), I can’t help but feel a whole lot of “let down, disappointed and unimpressed”. That said, I want to highlight the real star performers tonight – Epic Studios and their security personnel. They all did an excellent job of organising the crowd, maintaining a great atmosphere and providing an excellent venue, so I think it’s important that they and their security should be praised for ensuring both people’s safety and enjoyment throughout the evening.

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Okay enough already, let’s finish things and sum this one up: no performance, poor presentation and zero style.

The capacity crowd loved it.

I did not.



Concert Images (courtesy of Neil Fellowes Photography):
Chase and Status