Tag: live review

Live review: DragonForce

DragonForce / Lovebites / McRocklin & Hutch November 13th 2019 The Roadmender, Northampton Metalheads over a certain age will remember guitarist Thomas “McRocklin” McLaughlin as the child prodigy who made…

DragonForce / Lovebites / McRocklin & Hutch
November 13th 2019
The Roadmender, Northampton

Metalheads over a certain age will remember guitarist Thomas “McRocklin” McLaughlin as the child prodigy who made numerous TV appearances back in the 1980s when he was a young pup barely in double figures. I’m pleased to report that time has aged his skills like a fine malt whiskey, and tonight he appears as half of duo McRocklin & Hutch. They’re an interesting tension of opposites that fuse a love of 80s rock to 21st century technology, and in welding organic guitars to surgical synths they’ve created a new genre termed ‘shredwave’. With an inherent groove ‘Wasted’ adheres this pair to the crowd, and the following ‘Locked In’ only increases the affection. Sometimes I find guitar virtuosity can be sterile when it’s practitioners become lost in intricate webs, but no fear with McRocklin & Hutch, who combine to create a sound that’s both ethereal and emotive. ‘Don’t Need Nobody’ ensures they bow out on a high.

Dressed all in white and arriving like avenging angels Japan’s Lovebites are all smiles and opening salvo ‘The Hammer of Wrath’ finds them getting off to a blistering start. Without pausing for breath ‘Pledge of the Saviour’ is unleashed along with ‘Rising’ which is the perfect vehicle for Asami’s operatic vocals. Those only familiar with Japan’s vapid idol scene might be surprised at Lovebites musical proficiency, but these five women can really play and in truth they rock harder than most guys. ‘Above the Black Sea’ features some fine interplay between guitarists Midori and Mi-ya and, with a bass player much in the Steve Harris mould, the band proceed to deliver a foot-on-the-monitor, fist-in-the-air metal fest. New track debuted ‘Signs of Deliverance’ bodes well for the forthcoming album Electric Pentagram, and the following ‘Under the Red Sky’ flies like a stealth bomber. With songs like set closer ‘We Are United’ in their arsenal I’m sure we’ve witnessed future headliners.

An unbearably long intro, coupled with the black sheets hiding the set, builds a palpable tension that stretches many present to breaking point. It’s broken when DragonForce hit the stage amid a shower of ticker tape and jets of pyro that shoot ice white plumes of smoke to the rafters. Opening with ‘Highway to Oblivion’ it’s immediately obvious this isn’t going to be an ordinary rock concert as vocalist Marc Hudson fires a faux flame thrower at the audience. Two oversized retro arcade games flank the stage and there’s a real ‘80s feel to the set as the band are encased in a cornucopia of neon pink and bright blue strobe lights. It’s nice that DragonForce make an effort with their stagecraft but their songs would hold up without all the smoke and mirrors as ‘Fury of the Storm’ attests. ‘The Last Dragonborn’ follows, with it’s East Asian flourishes, along with the insanely catchy ‘Heart Demolition’. What comes next is an instrumental section, as Marc swaps mic for guitar to play some gaming themes – and the six stringers from Lovebites return along with a banjo toting hillbilly for a fun-filled, if rather surreal, interlude.

It’s back to the rock action with a ferocious rendition of ‘Black Fire’ as the band show no signs of flagging. ‘Razorblade Meltdown’ is accompanied by more phosphorous flares and then more ticker tape showers the crowd during ‘Cry Thunder’. DragonForce titled their latest opus Extreme Power Metal for good reason: like Iron Maiden or Helloween, only played at 78rpm, their songs are amped up slabs of metal yet they retain a strong sense of melody. However the band are far from one trick ponies as the obligatory power ballad, ‘Remembrance Day’, proves. It’s been a night for fans of guitars which each band displaying technical skill and, not to be outdone, Herman Li and Sam Totman trade solos and shred ferociously on fan favourite ‘Valley of the Damned’. The band return for two well deserved encores, including an amphetamine run through of Celine Dion’s ‘My Heart Will Go On’ which initiates a huge circle pit. ‘Through the Fire & the Flames’ is attended by more ticker tape and pyrotechnic flares and when the party streamers fly it seems a fitting way to bring down the curtain.

Words by Peter Dennis. Pictures by Peter Dennis and Ben Gregory-Ring



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Live review: Music Of Cream

Music of Cream The Stables, Milton Keynes October 8th 2019 It’s true of any music, be it rock or classical, that if it’s not performed live it will die and,…

Music of Cream
The Stables, Milton Keynes
October 8th 2019

It’s true of any music, be it rock or classical, that if it’s not performed live it will die and, with the sad passing of Ginger Baker, that makes the Music of Cream even more vital.

The Music of Cream are more than just a tribute band, featuring Kofi Baker [Ginger’s son], Malcolm Bruce [Jack’s son] and Eric Clapton’s nephew Will Johns, this trio have a pedigree in their own right. And that’s immediately evidenced when they take to the stage and launch into ‘Politician’. Garnered a heroes’ welcome the band forsake costumes and other novelties preferring to rely on their musical chops to recreate the Cream experience and undoubtedly each member has inherited some musical talent. ‘Badge’ follows and what really makes this show special for the aficionado is the inside stories that pepper the set (Ringo Starr’s contribution to ‘Badge’ a prime example) and they’re told with comedic flair. It’s a set tailor-made for the fan with less obvious album cuts like ‘Sleepy Time Time’ and ‘SWLABR’ nestling next to ‘White Room’ which is extended into a free form blues jam and takes us up to the interval.

Returning after a short break with a trio of blues cuts including ‘I’m So Glad’ and ‘Crossroads’ finds each band member vying for the audiences attention [in a friendly way] so much so that they take on the cloak of a power trio and it certainly sounds like there’s more than three people on stage. Just days after the death of his father Kofi plays stoically and ‘Toad’ is the perfect vehicle for his drum solo. Against footage of Ginger beating the skins Kofi delivers a 15 minute masterclass which is rewarded with a standing ovation. Set closer ‘Sunshine of Your Love’ positions Cream as proto-metal, the missing link between the British R&B boom and Led Zeppelin, and if further proof is needed about the validity of Music of Cream, this is it. In the live environment they expose what a multi-faceted creature Cream was, from the neo-psych of ‘Pressed Rat and Warthog’ to the blues of ‘Born Under a Bad Sign’ to the glorious pop rock of ‘Sweet Wine’; Music of Cream bring these nuances, often buried on the studio recordings, to the surface. Will Johns plays with some of his uncles prowess on the well deserved encore ‘Spoonful’, and ensures all present leave sated.

Peter Dennis

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Live review: Stormbringer

STORMBRINGER The Roadmender, Northampton September 6th Opening an evening of metal at the Roadmender are Broken Empire. Bringing a groove-laden sound and delivering it with punk aggression this four-piece from…

The Roadmender, Northampton
September 6th

Opening an evening of metal at the Roadmender are Broken Empire. Bringing a groove-laden sound and delivering it with punk aggression this four-piece from Oxfordshire/Northants are a bundle of finely-honed energy. Displaying little in the way of nerves they deliver original tunes like ‘Parasite’ which are both heavy and emotive. Lyrically astute, their first single ‘No More Lies’ follows and is peppered with neat time changes that remind me of ’90s era Metallica. A twin-guitar attack creates a huge sound as set closer [and forthcoming single] ‘Time Running Out’ is a real earworm, and brings things to a suitably climatic crescendo.

Hitting the stage like a gang of whirling dervishes Parallax haven’t come to take prisoners and by second track, ‘End’, their enthusiasm has infected the whole venue. Some powerhouse drumming creates an earth-shaking sound that’s underpinned by some fine finger-tapping on the bass, while the vocals mirror the rhythm and alternate between hardcore growls and something almost soulful. The guitars fire in unison to create an artillery barrage as ‘Losing Control’ and ‘Hero’ are unleashed in quick succession. It’s great to see a band enjoying themselves, but the in between song banter could be toned down so their stage presence matches the ferocity of their sound.

Local band Still Remains appear as a blur of Flying V’s and throwing shapes. It’s no surprise the band cite Metallica, Saxon and Thin Lizzy as influences because their sound perfectly captures that moment in time when the NWOBHM was morphing into speed metal. Originally formed in 1993 as a reaction to grunge their unique take on trad metal has been immovable and seen off various fads and trends. With no pomposity Still Remains are simply four guys on stage, having a ball and living out their fantasies as guitarist Andy Green delivers blistering solo after blistering solo and his vocals have that earthy touch of Paul Di’anno. The whole band lock in well together as the set ebbs and flows smoothly with the songs paired by tempo. ‘What I Am’ broods with a moody riff, while the ferocious set closer, ‘Redeemer’, ensures they leave as they arrived: in a blaze of sonic fury.

Tonight’s headliners Stormbringer have a sound that’s built for the biggest stages, and they’ve taken the right route by paying their dues in clubs and bars. While the Roadmender has become their spiritual home you have the feeling they will soon outgrow the venue. Since I last saw Stormbringer they have shuffled personnel with Darren Caven-Quantrill coming in on guitar and original vocalist Mike Stockley returning after a hiatus. Fans shouldn’t worry as it’s the same Stormbringer, only more groove-orientated and with a more expansive sound. Appropriately they open with their very first single ‘Grinder’, and it’s like Mike has never been away. Slotting right back in the band he immediately commandeers centre stage, constantly punching the air and standing astride the barriers. He’s one of those rare frontmen who can make the whole venue feel involved and, despite the line up changes, the band hit the ground running, like a well-oiled machine they’re firing on all cylinders as ‘Bleed For’ and ‘Save Me’ are discharged in quick succession. It’s a career spanning set which pulls tracks from their three albums while the new song debuted, the moody ‘Mirage’, stomps like a giant and has that huge feeling that Metallica captured on their Black Album. ‘Stick to Your Guns’ follows along with ‘Bad Blood’ as drummer John Paul Quantrill provides a thunderous soundtrack to which bassist Darren McCullagh prowls like a caged animal. Two from their debut album MMVIII follow in the shape of ‘Mark Anthony’ and ‘Gazing at the Grave’, both of which provide plenty of foot-on-the-monitor, fist-in-the-air metal action before guitarist Dom Wallace lays an explosive solo over the anthemic ‘Smother’. Still driven by an insatiable hunger the band look visibly exhausted as they near the sets conclusion; yet they drain the tank to deliver an explosive closer in the shape of ‘Dying Breed’.

Peter Dennis.

Photos by David Jackson

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ExP + DJ O.P.1 live review and interview

ExP’s ‘Fully Fledged Fraud’ Album Release Tour, featuring DJ O.P.1 Friday August 9th The Garibaldi Hotel, Northampton Friday night and myself and Bernie Beirne are heading down to the Gari…

ExP’s ‘Fully Fledged Fraud’ Album Release Tour, featuring DJ O.P.1
Friday August 9th
The Garibaldi Hotel, Northampton

Friday night and myself and Bernie Beirne are heading down to the Gari to catch one of the usual faces, DJ O.P.1. A Northamptonshire DJ with exquisite blends of hiphop, funk, jazz, rock, jungle, dnb, he’s always guaranteed to put on a dancefloor filling night of fantastic tunes. Although on this night, he has a rather special treat in store…
O.P.1 has teamed up with Yorkshire’s finest Rapper ExP, to be his Jazzy Jeff on the latest album Fully Fledged Fraud. And tonight, they bring their ‘tiny’ tour to Northampton. Starting in Leeds last night, the tour stops at The Garibaldi Hotel for one night only before they move down south to the Old Blue Last in Shoreditch.

Ben “ExP” Goodwin draws on influences for his current style of rap from classic old skool hiphop artists such as De La Soul, Jurassic 5, Tribe Called Quest. As he says, “people who know how to have fun on stage and make joyful music”. And having fun on stage is one thing that ExP is really good at, drawing in the crowd with his lyric boards and audience participation. So, whether you know his tracks or not, you find yourself joining in with the chorus of “we don’t do that” and “work is so shit”. Plus, you are bound to recognise some the of the classic songs which ExP has skilfully sampled; from the Ratpack to Bill Withers and Sly & the Family Stone.

ExP has a large following based in Corby from his group Flame Griller, so it was great to see the Corby crowd trek across county and turn up to support their tour.

New Boots had a chat with Ben and Robin before the show began..
The album is called Fully Fledged Fraud, so what’s the concept behind this album. Are you the Fully-Fledged Fraud?
Ben: Yeah exactly, as is everyone. That was kind of the point of it. The last album had tracks that I could name the album after in the end, but this is one is a bit more of a summary of everything. I think the summary of it was that everyone is a fraud, everyone is pretending to do what they do, even if they are doing it to a good level. So, you look at yourself and say I am doing this but if I told them how rubbish I really am…

Ok, I get it. A good example of this is Michelle Obama who talks about imposter syndrome?
Yeah, it’s like when people just feel they aren’t right, and apparently Penelope Cruz too. With every film she does she thinks “I shouldn’t be doing this. I’m a complete fraud, I’m not a real actress”, thoughts like this. This is a major thing for people.

Does this mean that you don’t feel like a real rapper?
Well that and many other things. It’s a very strange thing to think of yourself as a rapper in the first place, especially being white and from Yorkshire! You know and being very grumbly. The content is very grumbly and non-rap in its own way, but it is also about being a fraud in my work life, my married life, everything and anything really.

So, you are gigging tonight at The Garibaldi Hotel, where slowthai recently held his album launch as well. What are your thoughts on the current British hip-hop scene?
The British hip-hop scene is cool and busier the further south you get! So it’s great as you get into London but its also busy under London with Brighton and Bristol over the way. Its good, its bubbling, it has its own thing. But hip-hop in itself is such a big word that it incapsulates so much stuff. You can include trap and grime in that, and if you do it’s as buzzing as it’s ever been.

So, if you were to sub- genre yourself under hip-hop, what genre would you say you are?
Haaa! Well the cool thing now is Mumble Rap! So, I have coined ‘Grumble Rap’ because I’m just having a grumble man.. when you start sub-genre’ing…what I’m doing and its like boom bop and classic hip-hop.

What’s it like working with O.P.1?
This is my third gig ever working with O.P.1 and mate it is incredible. He is the best DJ I have ever worked with by a long shot. He knows his stuff man, he’s the best.

Some of your lyrics are just downright hilarious. Do you spend time trying to craft the joke or does that just happen naturally?
No! there is nothing worse then trying to be funny and I don’t think that I am funny. Its just observations, so if something pisses me off from time to time, I will write it down on my phone and I’ll put that into something. Somethings write themselves really quick and something things take ages to craft.

The new album got a promotional tweet from Frankie Boyle! How did that happen?
It was years ago when people realised that he was into hip-hop and he was sharing tweets about the music that he liked. So, a member of Flame Griller messaged him out of the blue and said we do this music and he really got into it. Since then he has followed us, he’s supportive of us and we can shoot him a message and he will promote our music. Its very, very cool. Romesh Ranganathan as well! Its great to have that boost.

So, London tomorrow, then what’s next for you?
Then I have a small gig on the 17th August – Autopot Summer Social then literally nothing. Another Flame Griller gig in October but nothing else. Ever since putting the album out in July I’ve been running around trying to get everything out, trying to talk to everyone so I think once it gets to mid to late August I can try to start promoting the album and get new people to listen and share. Word of mouth is the most important thing for me. Then hopefully there will be another album by 2022.

Over to you O.P.1 – how did this collab come about?
I was DJing at a festival in Corby last September and I was DJing for a local group and a few other MCs on the night. ExP came down, saw me smashing it [as usual!] and he said we need to work together. He asked me to do some scratches on a track, I threw some ideas together, did the cuts and he liked it and went with it. So that’s on the new album, a track called “High Horse”.
He then asked me to do the southern gigs, but it ended up me being his DJ full time now. The video should be out in a couple of months. I don’t know how much I can say, its an animated video. It looks pretty dope from what he sent me. Check out his videos on YouTube, as they are all proper.
I think we both have the same work ethic, the same ideas and the same background in hip-hop so it just kind of worked out really well. We will definitely be doing some more stuff together in the future, for sure.

Except for this project, what else are you up to?
I have regular nights at the Garibaldi Hotel, The Pomfret and the Charles Bradlaugh. I have a few festivals coming up and there are a few local artists I will be working with. You can keep up to date from my Facebook page “DJ O.P.1”

Lisa Eversden

Fully Fledged Fraud is available online here

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Live review: Paul Young

PAUL YOUNG / SINEAD BURGESS Royal & Derngate, Northampton May 13th 2019 Putting a decidedly Antipodean twist on Americana is Brisbane born singer-songwriter Sinead Burgess. Accompanied only by an acoustic…

Royal & Derngate, Northampton
May 13th 2019

Putting a decidedly Antipodean twist on Americana is Brisbane born singer-songwriter Sinead Burgess. Accompanied only by an acoustic guitar set opener ‘Tennessee Bound’ has a real forward motion, and there’s a lot of variety on display as next cut, ‘Praising God, Raising Hell’, is very Dylan-esque – both musically and in its lyrical astuteness. Interspersing her songs with confessional tales adheres Sinead to the crowd as does the bluesy ‘Momma Raised a Ramblin’ Man’, which segues nicely into a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘The Chain’. In relocating to Nashville Sinead seems to have absorbed some of that environment and it gives her country tinged songs an authenticity, especially on latest single ‘Wild Flowers of Colorado’.

Some albums, perhaps unwittingly, really capture the spirit of the times and that’s certainly the case with Paul Young’s No Parlez. While it’s an album very much of its era it also has a timeless quality and this is due to the wide spectrum of influences it drew upon. As befitting of such a seminal album Paul is here to perform that record in full, and the rocky ‘Behind Your Smile’ is perfect as an opening salvo. Evidencing the wide palette from which No Parlez was painted the reggae influenced ‘Love of the Common People’ follows along with the chanting title track. Taking a few liberties with the original track listing his breakthrough solo smash ‘Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home)’ is welcomed like an old friend by an exuberant crowd, and precedes the funky ‘Iron Out the Rough Spots’. When No Parlez catapulted Paul Young into the mainstream the album was plundered for single after single, and in truth any track on this record would’ve troubled the charts. His cover of ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ still seems a little daring but, by putting his own stamp on it ensures it nestles effortlessly alongside his own ‘Tender Trap’ and ‘Broken Man’. The Jack Lee penned ‘Sex’ brings the No Parlez section to a fitting end.

What follows is a crowd pleasing, career spanning set as Paul cherry picks tunes from his long career. Taking us back to his genesis a raucous run through of The Q Tips ‘Get ’em Up Joe’ gets the audience on their feet, before ‘I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down’ almost takes the roof off the Derngate. Backed by his regular band ensures the songs are faithfully reproduced while simultaneously retaining a live edge. The addition of two female backing vocalists provide a nice foil to Paul’s blue-eyed soul but now oak-aged vocals. Quite fittingly ‘Every Time We Say Goodbye’ brings the show to a conclusion but, judging by some of the young folk present, this is really ‘hello’.

Peter Dennis

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Live review: slowthai

slowthai The Craufurd Arms, Milton Keynes May 7th 2019 It’s Champions League semi-final second leg night. slowthai’s second favourite team Liverpool [he’s a Cobbler, don’t you know] are already 3-0…

The Craufurd Arms, Milton Keynes
May 7th 2019

It’s Champions League semi-final second leg night. slowthai’s second favourite team Liverpool [he’s a Cobbler, don’t you know] are already 3-0 down from the first leg. They have been belittled everywhere over the past week. And for Liverpool you could read slowthai’s hometown of Northampton in the past couple of years. The football team were relegated in 2018, amid bafflement at how they’ve managed to lose a £10.25 million loan from the Borough Council. On top of all that the County Council declared itself “effectively bankrupt”. The bottom of the pile is real gritty, as slowthai tells us.

As tonight’s show progresses our 99p rapper is getting score updates. “It’s 3 nil to us now! No way!” That wide smile creeps just a little wider. He’s fired up for this short run of small venue dates: his way of connecting with the fans he loves so dearly, on as even keel as can be had. Everyone expects him to go interstellar when his debut album Nothing Great About Britain drops, and fans will struggle to get such close-ups again.

This gig is an explosive mix of righteous anger at the state our nation, and a celebration of youth recognising one of their own flawed companions. The man born Tyron Frampton is a constantly whirling physical presence, aided by his balaclava-clad hype man [and regular producer] Kwesi Darko. Sweat levels get exponential pretty much from the off, when ‘Polaroid’s “Kodak moment/Polaroid picture/Shake it, yeah yeah yeah” refrain initiates.

Over eleven songs here his people bounce, take videos, and shout choreographed banter/faux abuse at each other. He splits the crowd, sets up mosh pits, and generally directs us with the touch of an old-style film auteur. His Freddie Mercury-esque vocal call-and-response bit is so funny even he can’t get to the end of it without falling into hysterics. Then mid-set he reveals a unnamed and unreleased collaboration with US rapper Denzel Curry, hinting at future travels beyond the album already. The two 24 year-olds reaching across the Atlantic sounded like an enticing prospect.

‘Doorman’ is blistering, natch, and once the swirling mosh settles there’s a dozen people up on stage with him. It’s his party and we can most definitely come in, it seems – and all for the price of a cone with flake.

slowthai is the 4-0 surprise victory that changes the course of history. This is another gorgeous moment to highlight him. The Shoe Army marches on.

Drug Dealer
North Nights
T N Biscuits
Unnamed collaboration with Denzel Curry

Words by Phil Moore. Photos by David Jackson.

Nothing Great About Britain is out May 17th. Pre-order here

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Live Review: The Barratts, The Covasettes, Fox Chapel, Krankhead at The Roadmender

THE BARRATTS The Roadmender, Northampton April 13th 2019 Regular music scene champions, the well-loved Same Old Kids from ShoeTown with the ShoeName have now grown up quite a bit. Their…

The Roadmender, Northampton
April 13th 2019

Regular music scene champions, the well-loved Same Old Kids from ShoeTown with the ShoeName have now grown up quite a bit. Their maturity into season, travelled musicians wowing crowds with their nifty guitar ditties and exciting live show is established now. A big hometown show in front a few hundred fans feels both rather deserved and gloriously celebratory. It would be amiss to miss it, frankly.

As people who know what’s what they have tonight bought along their besties to join in. The opening set from Krankhead, the rising hip-hop pairing of Mio Flux and Patchy The Rockstar is sweary and sweaty, and they are absolutely on it. The likes of ‘SNL’ and ‘Sabo’ are party starters, and they will be headliners in their own right if things play out the way New Boots suspect it might.

Fox Chapel are ace tonight. They’ve been away, Lying Low – this is their first show in almost 12 months – but they are still tight as. Rumours abound this might be their last show, and if so then their bouncy post-punk will be sorely missed. Yet they promise from the stage to release some new material soon, so maybe this isn’t the last we have seen of them. Like gluttonous toddlers we collectively remain hopeful for more ‘Ice Cream’.

The Covasettes are four good-looking lads from Manchester with a line in bass-driven ditties. They are a strong match for our headliners, but they are lacking bite. ‘Like You’ and ‘This Feeling’ and ‘Top Drawer’ are indebted to noughties guitar rock and, further back, The Smiths, but the melodies and hooks are a little too polite and predictable, perhaps. A great live show though; their enthusiasm for what they do is unquestionably infectious. Northampton seems to appreciate them, and ultimately here and now that’s all that matters. There is space and time to grow and make their mark, and make New Boots take a second look.

By the time The Barratts come on the party is in full swing. Frontman James Faulkner is resplendent in black cape, feathered hat and tailored cream jacket – the dandy frontman transported in from 1890 that you never knew you needed. He conducts the crowd from start to finish with confidence, which is immediately needed as guitarist Brandon Essom has a broken cable before we’ve even begun. No matter. That the band have only released six of the 15 songs they play over their hour onstage does present them with a significant problem. But winning over a sizeable crowd who don’t know a lot of the material is all in a days’ work apparently, as no one seems to lose interest at any point. This is helped by a constant change in pace: new songs coming thick and fast from different sonic places, but all clearly the work of the same band. From the spiky indie dancefloor numbers to the ballads the public give their love back to every one, and in spades. 

‘Match Of The Day’, from 2016, brings the first round of moshing. But it’s the five song finale, all tunes in the public domain, that feels like one big cup final goal celebration – and deftly recalls all that’s best in British guitar music from the last four decades. ‘Satellites’ has a double chorus that’s heaven sent, all whilst Faulkner dissects society’s woes. New single ‘Lights Out In London’ is the Doherty/Morrissey-esque missive that should see them take big steps forward towards the nation’s heart. They save their jewel in their crown, ‘The Garrison’, to the very end. Not only does it contain a colossal heavy backbeat from the engine room of Will Smith and Evan Bridgstock that’s pummels anyone within earshot into easy submission, it’s exactly the sort of rowdy singalong anthem they seem to excel at.

The five Barratts seem to be having the times of their young lives. Long may it continue.

The Barratts setlist in full:
The Crooked Mile
Lift Song
Certain Time Of Night
Name Badge
Smokey Ghosts
Emotional Machine
Match Of The Day
Lights Out In London
Same Old Kids
The Garrison

Words by Phil Moore. Photos by David Jackson



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Live review: Shakin’ Stevens

SHAKIN’ STEVENS + J. LEE & THE HOODOO SKULLS The Derngate, Northampton March 2nd Openers J. Lee and the Hoodoo Skulls hail from Surrey, but you would never guess. They wed…

The Derngate, Northampton
March 2nd

Openers J. Lee and the Hoodoo Skulls hail from Surrey, but you would never guess. They wed a distinctly American sound to some huge bluesy riffs and manage to sound both retro and contemporary. Cloaked in black, like disgraced preachers, they dispense a 30 minute masterclass in good time rock’n’roll. Vocalist Jason Lee Barratt is the quintessential frontman who, along with the Hoodoo Skulls, play the perfect soundtrack for a Saturday night. Closing with a blistering cover of ‘Shake Your Money Maker’ is a thing of genius, and they should definitely be on your watch list.

Tonight perennial rock’n’roller Shakin’ Stevens brings his ‘Greatest Hits and More’ tour to Northampton. It’s hard to remember a time when Shaky wasn’t around, and his brand of rock n’ roll is the kind of music that’s made for everyone. It effortlessly straddles genres and generations. The tension that’s been building since doors opened is finally released when Shaky takes to the stage and by second track ‘Turning Away’ all but the infirm are grooving. With a voice that’s aged like fine wine ‘Give Me Your Heart Tonight’ and ‘It’s Raining’ are sung with the same conviction as they were decades ago. A nice cover of James Ray’s ‘(Got My Mind) Set on You’ follows along with a spirited ‘You Drive Me Crazy’. Shaky’s latest LP Echoes of Our Times was quite a risk, but it certainly paid off and the bluesy ‘Suffer Little Children’ from that record provides a nice change of pace yet sits easily with the more rocky material. ‘A Love Worth Waiting For’ and ‘Cry Just a Little Bit’ take us to the interval in the best possible style, and ensures the first half of the show ends on a peak.

Two tracks from that latest album open the second half: the title track, then ‘Down into Muddy Waters’ – both of which blend Cornish folk with Americana. This theme is continued with a nice cover of the Creedence Clearwater Revival standard ‘Have You Ever Felt the Rain’. Ably backed by a seven-piece band who provide a suitably beefy sound, Shaky proceeds to blast through his greatest hits: ‘A Letter to You’, ‘Marie, Marie’ and ‘Oh, Julie’ all to get the audience on their feet and evidence what a well loved performer Shaky is. Two female backing vocalists provide a nice foil to Shaky’s oak-aged voice as the set is closed with ‘Lipstick, Powder and Paint’ and ‘Green Door’.

Of Course it wouldn’t be a Shakin’ Stevens show without ‘This Ole House’, which is the first of two encores, and then new track ‘Fire Down Below’ which draws a nice symmetry between the past and present. While Shaky doesn’t have the stage moves of yore he still moves well for a man approaching his 71st birthday. And while his current show is devoid of flashy leaps and splits it has the benefit of bringing the songs to the fore. And with songs this good it’s exactly where they should be.

Peter Dennis

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Live review: From The Jam

From The Jam / Nine Below Zero Northampton Roadmender November 30th 2018 Some bands age like fine wine and that’s certainly the case with Nine Below Zero. Opening their set…

From The Jam / Nine Below Zero
Northampton Roadmender
November 30th 2018

Some bands age like fine wine and that’s certainly the case with Nine Below Zero. Opening their set with an energetic version of fan favourite ‘Riding on the L&N’ the band deliver a masterclass in rhythm’n’blues. ‘I’m in the Doghouse’ follows and simply swings while evergreen vocalist Dennis Greaves makes his guitar sing on a hard edged rendition of blues standard ‘Killing Floor’. With his partner-in-crime, the harmonica maestro Mark Feltham the pair have been performing together for four decades and share an obvious chemistry – as evidenced by a tight but fun rendition of ‘Tequila’. Nine Below Zero turn in a crowd pleasing, greatest hits set with ‘Wipe Away Your Kiss’ and ‘You Can’t Say Yes, You Can’t Say No’, both from their seminal Third Degree album, following in quick succession. As you’d expect a fiery run through of ‘Eleven Plus Eleven’ sets the venue alight and ensures they end on a high.

From The Jam are touring the classic All Mod Cons album to celebrate it’s fortieth anniversary. Nowadays a word like ‘classic’ is thrown around casually but All Mod Cons is certainly worthy of such a title. More than just an album it really captured the spirit of the times, both musically and lyrically, and the triumph of tonight’s show is that some of that essence is replicated. The short, sharp shock of opener ‘All Mod Cons’ is performed with the aggression it warrants, before the band ease off the throttle with ‘To Be Someone’. In the live environment it becomes evident what a kaleidoscopic album All Mod Cons is. From the power-pop of ‘David Watts’ to the neo-psychedelia of ‘The Place I Love’ to the primitive punk of ‘Billy Hunt’, From The Jam paint each song with the appropriate shade.

‘English Rose’ affords the opportunity for an acoustic interlude and the band deviate from the original track listing to include ‘Smithers Jones’ and ‘Private Hell’. The latter, when stripped bare, reveals a lyrical depth hidden in the original. Then it’s back to All Mod Cons for the Orwellian ‘A Bomb in Wardour Street’ and the poetic ‘Down in the Tube Station at Midnight’.

What follows is a ‘best of’ set full of songs that defined a generation. ‘A Town Called Malice’ turns the venue into a huge dancefloor, before we’re treated to the “too good to be a b-side” ‘The Butterfly Collector’. Vocalist Russell Hastings sounds uncannily like Paul Weller, but he still manages to impart his own stamp on proceedings. Bruce Foxton has cut down on the trademark leaps and bicycle kicks but he still turns in an energetic, lively performance and his vocal on ‘News of the World’ sounds vital and fresh.

The band return for three well-deserved encores: ‘In The City’, ‘Eton Rifles’ and a rousing ‘Going Underground’. Purists may dismiss From The Jam as a glorified tribute act (albeit with an original member), but they obviously haven’t seen the joy their performance brings. Thankfully Bruce Foxton cares enough about his past so we can relive a little of ours.

Peter Dennis

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Live review: Ctrl Alt Fest Delete

CTRL ALT FEST DELETE Various venues, Kettering Friday October 26th – The Three Cocks Tonight, Ctrl Alt Fest Delete kicks off the party with three incredible bands. This is a well-loved…

Various venues, Kettering

Friday October 26th – The Three Cocks
Tonight, Ctrl Alt Fest Delete kicks off the party with three incredible bands. This is a well-loved pub, but it’s not just regulars in tonight – the place is packed with both old and new faces, all buzzing with excitement to hear Kettering’s (and Corby’s) finest.

Female-fronted My Mate Dave take to the stage with endless energy and relentless enthusiasm, starting their set with an unbelievable cover of ‘These Boots Are Made For Walkin’. The band seems to specialise in pop songs, but they perform the tracks with a rocky, razor-sharp quality, adding bouncing riffs and gravelly vocals to songs that were once smooth and clear. It’s an element of talent that a lot of bands seem to miss, but My Mate Dave hits the mark every single time. Corby instrumentalists Family Of Noise clearly have a lot of fans present tonight, as many people are waiting with anticipation for the trio. It’s not hard to see why, as they make their entire set look effortless, playing their instruments with as much ease as the most experienced of professionals. It’s easy for instrumental bands to fall into a trap of repetition, but with strong bass lines, smooth riffs and pounding drums, Family Of Noise make each and every song sound as fresh as the last.

Ending the night with a bang, The Fevers play with finesse and style. Covering well-loved tracks from bands like The Ramones and Buzzcocks, there’s not a single person in the crowd that isn’t bopping along. Although The Fevers are a covers band, they each possess intense amounts of talent, with a clear cut, professional sound. They are the perfect band for this festival, and truly define what it’s all about: a love of music, for all ages.

Saturday October 27th – The Prince of Wales
Here in one of Kettering’s oldest pubs the music is loud and the drinks are flowing. People of all ages have turned out to see the two bands playing tonight – one with a unique, original sound, and the other an Iron Maiden tribute band. It knits together the two sides of the town’s music scene, and The Prince of Wales is the perfect setting.

Unitra, a heavy metal three-piece, embody the energy of Steel Panther but the talent of musicians that have been around for decades. Taking to the stage with a dramatic intro track, Unitra’s smashing drums and polished riffs make for excellent listening. Inciting mosh pits and dancers alike, the space in front of the band is packed with all kinds of people, from old to young, and those celebrating Halloween to those that have just turned up for this gig. The banter between songs may be balancing on the wrong edge of cringy, but when the music is this good, you can’t quite bring yourself to care. Besides, they slot into place at The Prince of Wales with perfect ease, and the punters are loving it.

Judging by the amount of Iron Maiden t-shirts in the crowd, Iron 2 Maiden are going to go down a treat, and the highly anticipated set does not disappoint. Kicking off Saturday’s closing set with ‘Can I Play With Madness’, they storm this tiny pub with all the enthusiasm of the real thing. The guitar and drums are a perfect match, coming together to create the tunes we all know and love, and while the vocals aren’t quite true to the original band, it’s an admirable effort from Iron 2 Maiden. If you’re a fan of Bruce Dickinson and co, this tribute is definitely worth a watch.

Sunday October 28th – The Shire Horse
The Shire Horse is the perfect place for a Sunday afternoon gig. With comfortable wooden chairs and a roaring fireplace in the corner, it’s a nice reprieve from the bitterly cold weather outside, and with several acoustic sets taking place across the room, it’s the right setting for winding down Ctrl Alt Fest Delete and bringing it to close.

Jacob Brathwaite fits this evening’s mood perfectly. Armed with an acoustic guitar and a gentle voice, he mixes his own songs with covers from the likes of The Kooks. Death Cab For Cutie’s ‘I Will Follow You Into The Dark’ is a highlight of the set, and the singer makes every track he performs his own. He is undeniably talented; featuring professional riffs and a clear voice that wraps around you like a comfort blanket, his set is unforgettable. Kettering’s own hazeyjane are up next, with a set that promises ‘ambient acoustic material’. The description fits the band to perfection, as they play well right from the very first song. The music is ethereal, almost otherworldly, with a strong acoustic sound that fills The Shire Horse, but it stands out against the rest. Underneath the surface, you find strong percussion and haunting vocals, creating a calming atmosphere that blends well with the open fire and warm wood decorating the pub.

From the outside, it seems as though Aldous Pinch does not quite fit this line-up. He is neither calming nor gentle, instead bringing to the stage a vaudeville performance that has the whole crowd on their feet. His music is somewhere between sea shanties and poetry, and every song is a complete story. Featuring tails of boozy nights and prostitutes, it would be very easy for the performer to get lost in repetition, but instead, it’s enthusiastic, exciting, and something entirely fresh. Aldous Pinch is definitely one to watch out for in the future. To close the festival Kettering duo Dem Urban Foxes take to the stage with a captivating sound. The music is polished and practiced, and the band clearly knows what they’re doing with their catchy hooks and intense vocals. The music is neither boring nor depressing: instead it is energetic, and most of all, sincere. It’s a great headlining set, and the perfect send-off to such an exciting festival.

Lucy Wenham

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