There are 173 posts in total.
paradise dreaming - a city fairytale, by hamfisted - chamberlain square 23/06/2006
— 2006-06-23, 23:09:18
it's difficult to know where to start with this performance; billed as it was as 'a contemporary performance of shakespeare's a midsummer night's dream', celebrating the wedding of 'helen' and 'dominic'.
certainly when one arrived at chamberlain square to pick up your ticket (a buttonhole plastic flower) you were given the impression of something promising - if you had seen the setting up of the space in paradise gardens down in front of the conservatoire, you would have seen the potential for something magical. the staging around the chamberlain square fountain was less impressive - but that's ok, because most outdoor performances of amnd i've seen have been minimally staged for the first half; it's all part of that suspension of disbelief, innit?
in the warm-up before the performance was scheduled to start at 8:30 a number of schoolchildren came in to the space, showing off their circus skills with diabolo, clubs, and unicycle, and did a show comparable with some of my older, hippy, friends. nearer the time a few members of the company started circulating, working to get the audience into our character as wedding guests ("so how do you know the groom, then?"). as a warmup, it was quite good.
unfortunately, things started to go downhill before the performance proper had even started...
at around 8:15 the music, by composer and musical director ian chapman, started coming through the pair of speakers either side of the stage. by 8:30, after i'd heard the same four bars of [...]
Read the rest of paradise dreaming - a city fairytale, by hamfisted - chamberlain square 23/06/2006 . In group Birmingham
Jerry Springer: the Opera - Birmingham Hippodrome, 07/02/2006
— 2006-02-07, 23:03:46
Bill of Rights
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Such is the above extract from the constitution of the USA quoted on the first page of the programme for Jerry Springer: the Opera - which is widely interpreted as being the part of the constitution which guarantees the people the right to free assembly, to protest, to speak freely, and to enjoy and practice their religious beliefs (or lack of them) without interference or favour from the State.
Of course, the USA constitution does not apply to us (no matter how much George W Bush would wish it to be so), but many of its principles are sound enough, based on the British legal system anyway. And, in fact, the British constitution protects freedom of speech and religion perhaps more vigourously - the constitution position in Britain is that everything is lawful unless there's a specific common or statutory law to prohibit it.
During this past week, as the controversy over the publishing of the cartoons depicting Mohammed has escalated into deaths and the Government's Religious Hatred Bill passed into law (though significantly amended), we have ironically seen much more hatred coming fromreligion than directed towards it. So as I approached the Birmingham Hippodrome theatre for the show [...]
Read the rest of Jerry Springer: the Opera - Birmingham Hippodrome, 07/02/2006 . In group Birmingham
Jansen Ensemble - symphony hall, 18/10/2005
— 2005-10-18, 22:59:28
the three baroque concertos (or concerti, if you really are an italian) from tuesday evening's concert all stem from the body of music which treads the line between chamber music & orchestral music; indeed, prior to the rise of the so-called 'authentic performance' movement would often have been performed as orchestral works.
the jansen ensemble, led by violinist janine jansen, whilst not quite performing in the totally authentic camp were certainly well in the spirit of it - a single player per part, & the musicians all (where feasible) standing to play rather than taking it easy on the award-winning symphony hall chairs.
opinion is still divided as to whether there is a right or wrong way to perform baroque music, but for myself i certainly prefer to hear it cut back to the minimum, in order that the baroque twiddly bits (which are, after all, the point of the genre !) can be heard, & you still get a 'big' sound. performing this way also assists in holding to the original baroque idea of a concerto which was more of a piece having a featured instrument(s) but with the rest of the ensemble being just as important, rather than the later concept of a definite soloist with mere accompaniment from the orchestra.
in the first half of the concert we heard two bach concertos - the concerto in d minor (bwv 1052)& the concerto no. 2 in e major (bwv 1042).
to my mind, bach is, well, bach really; music students mimic bach [...]
Read the rest of Jansen Ensemble - symphony hall, 18/10/2005 . In group Birmingham
the mexicolas + paperweight industry - bar academy, 22/09/2005
— 2005-09-22, 01:46:22
i have to admit to feeling a little sorry for the mexicolas after seeing them last thursday at bar academy. if the arguing about them, pro & anti, which took over the birmingham alive forum is representitive of real life, they've got a lot to live up to.
now obviously a band can't control what people say about them in public, but when that discussion reaches the levels we saw here then you can't help but wonder whether their publicity machine has at least had a little involvement in it. it's a dangerous game to play, though, because when you create such a buzz about something, you've got to ensure you've got the product to match it - & sad to say, i don't think the mexicolas delivered. in any respect.
in fact, when the previous band, paperweight industry took the stage, i actually mistakenly thought they were the mexicolas, as they had clearly brought a following with them - with audience members pressing right up to the front of bar academy's floor-level stage lead singerpaul ross was never more than a couple of inches away from his most adoring fans. i thought they were a band clearly with a lot of promise, but they need to do a lot more work right now, & maybe consider simplifying in the meanwhile - it's all very well having strong, distinctive songs (as they do), but if those songs are lost because the band has difficulties playing together & keeping their tuning together, & ending sloppily, there's [...]
Read the rest of the mexicolas + paperweight industry - bar academy, 22/09/2005 . In group Birmingham
against the wheel - flapper and firkin, 20/06/2005
— 2005-06-20, 01:42:57
i often see people complaining about the lack of a live music scene in birmingham. whereas there's some truth in it - there's not as much of one as there used to be - it's not really entirely true. you might have to look for it, but it is there to be found.
i say you might have to look for it, but is the flapper & firkin really a hard to find on a monday night? many a band plays there to its gathered crowd of mates (& the other bands sharing the bill), but it seems not many people go out just paying 3 quid (just over the price of a pint in most city centre pubs) to see whoever might be playing on spec; to my shame i realise i've been a bit lacking myself in that respect of late.
so perhaps that's part of the problem. if more people went out to see more bands they don't know, there would be more incentive to pubs to give more of their space over to live music - & the bands themselves get better with more public exposure & with a bigger crowd to support them.against the wheel at the flapper last night certainly showed they've been getting enough practice lately with roughly a gig a month so far this year, so they've had chance to refine their art - straight ahead loud, energetic, just polished enough to be a tight outfit, yet just still raw enough to have [...]
Read the rest of against the wheel - flapper and firkin, 20/06/2005 . In group Birmingham
gilad atzmon and the orient house ensemble - cbso centre, 22/01/05
— 2005-01-22, 01:39:14
Under normal circumstances, if you went to a gig by a punk band at the Birmingham Academy on one saturday, you might be forgiven for being somewhat surprised the following saturday at a jazz concert in Birmingham's CBSO Centre to recognise the saxophone player in that gig from the one the week before.
That's normal circumstances, but anybody who knows anything about band The Blockheads and saxophonist Gilad Atzmon knows that in this case, normal circumstances don't apply. The styling of The Blockheads as a punk band was always whilst in one sense technically true somewhat of an oversimplification - punk lyrics and attitude maybe, but always backed by a hard jazz-funk musical soundworld. An ideal setting in fact for Gilad Atzmon, perhaps one of the most creative musicians on the scene currently, to have his 'other band'. But The Blockheads was the other gig.
Atzmon's stance is intensely political, and he uses his art, be it as a jazz musician or as the author of two short novels and numerous essays (readable online at www.gilad.co.uk), as the vehicle for his politics. He was born and raised as a secular Jew in Israel in 1963, and spent 20 years witnessing the suffering of the Palestinian people at the hands of the Israeli government and army, eventually moving to England to further his cause from here. Unashamedly outspoken, his book A Guide to the Perplexed was banned in Israel within weeks of being published, and although he strongly affirms the legitimacy and need for a Jewish state he [...]
Read the rest of gilad atzmon and the orient house ensemble - cbso centre, 22/01/05 . In group Birmingham
Behzti (Dishonour) by Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti - birmingham repertory theatre, 20/12/2004
— 2004-12-20, 01:34:09
I was hoping to be able to write a review of the young Sikh writer Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti's playBehzti (Dishonour) playing at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, but unfortunately I was unable to because it was cancelled before I had chance to see it. So this article is unfortunately going to be on the basis of 'what I've heard about it' rather than what I know to be the facts about it.
The play is a black comedy set around a Sikh community, focussing on the relationship between Min, an unmarried woman ('past her prime') & Balbir, her sick mother. It was their first trip out together for some time. Min was hoping to meet up with a friend whose birthday it was, but Balbir had other ideas - a trip to their nearby temple. When Balbir meets old friends there a past shocking event is revealed...
The shocking event in question is an act of murder & of sexual abuse which took place within the confines of the temple - & it was this aspect of the play which provoked such controversy.
Members of the Sikh community in Birmingham felt this mocked Sikhism, & had been campaigning to have the play cancelled since before it started - in fact, the Rep, together with co-promoter of the play Sampad (the nationally respected South Asian arts agency based in Birmingham) & the writer had been in dialogue with the community since before it went into production. However, accomodations were not reached, especially the [...]
Read the rest of Behzti (Dishonour) by Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti - birmingham repertory theatre, 20/12/2004 . In group Birmingham
Mitch Benn & the Distractions - the glee club, 26/11/2004
— 2004-11-26, 01:25:00
"Mitch Benn is one of the foremost exponents of musical comedy in the U.K." - so opens the biographical notes in the press material for his current UK tour.
I'm always somewhat dubious when I see an artist's own publicity manager make such bold claims about their clients, but in the case of Mitch Benn, the statement is more than justified.
Is he a stand-up comic, is he a singer/songwriter, is he an impressionist, is he a guitarist, is he a bandleader ? For most people, to be able to do one of those well is an acheivement in itself, but Benn is one of those rarities who can actually do all five at once, & do it excellently.
For his performance at the Glee Club he was unable to provide his usual gimmick, that of an all-female backing band because unfortunately his usual drummer Tasha Baylis was ill that night. A stand-in (male) drummer was hastily recruited for the night, with apologies in advance just in case anything went wrong. Although it was quite sweet watching bass player Kirsty Newton clearly helping him out all evening, the apology was not required as he filled the role almost perfectly with only one minor fluff which was turned into part of the act anyway - a feat made all the more commendable considering the complexity of some of the songs.
Most of the material from the evening was drawn from Benn's current album, too late to cancel, a mix of satire, parody, [...]
Read the rest of Mitch Benn & the Distractions - the glee club, 26/11/2004 . In group Birmingham
the australian pink floyd - symphony hall, 02/10/2003
— 2003-10-02, 01:21:03
Just before the show started my colleague recounted an anecdote from an old Pink Floyd interview – “The time will come one day with technology when we’ll be able to just set the equipment up, press a button, & go. In fact the time will come when we’ll be able to send another four people out to do the gig instead of us!”. I don’t think when they said that they envisaged the modern day popularity of tribute bands...
I’m not sure I really ‘get’ tribute bands; OK, we’ve all been there, from sitting in the music shop with the guitar we can’t afford to buy playing the opening bars of ‘Stairway to Heaven’ (or ‘Purple Haze’ if you’re of a different bent), through to your first few bands from school and college playing mostly other peoples’ songs. But when you’ve developed your ability a bit, you start exploring your creative talents into your own material. So if you have the talent to play another band’s songs so well, why not play your own?
But on to the gig; the first thing I noticed was that the Aussie Floyd seem to have a bit of a following of their own, with plenty of people walking around with t-shirts sporting pink kangaroos & beams of light refracting through a glass map of Australia. There were a few seats left inside Symphony Hall empty, but it was as near to full as makes no odds which made for a good [...]
Read the rest of the australian pink floyd - symphony hall, 02/10/2003 . In group Birmingham
psychemodo - flapper and firkin, 17/08/2003
— 2003-08-17, 01:15:05
it's been a long time since i've been to a gig at the flapper - about five years ago, when the band i used to engineer for ended its monday night residency. i couldn't have ended my flapper drought with a better night !
according to their website at www.phuncrecords.com, Psychemodo are a Midlands-based rock band... equally at home with plaintive melodies and kick-ass riffs. They have already been likened to bands as diverse as XTC, Ultrasound, The Flaming Lips and Foo Fighters. after last night's gig i'd be inclined to add 'the who' to the list of dignitaries (some of the sounds being a bit reminiscent of quadrophenia) & bar-room jazz to the list of skills.
psychemodo have been going for about a year, starting off mainly as a covers band, but they've been quietly working on some original material of their own for the last nine months, & this was its first outing - they well & truly proved themselves with it, & i look forward to hearing more. songs which are real stories & proper compositions rather than intro-verse-chorus-verse-chorus-guitar-solo-on-the-fadeout - although they sound like neither, if you like what pulp or the divine comedy do you'll like psychemodo.
i tend to like my guitar bands loud & grungey rather than 'clean; i also like loud bands who also know when it's good to play quiet bits as well - & i got what i like for sure !
due to... 'technical difficulties' the traditional support [...]
Read the rest of psychemodo - flapper and firkin, 17/08/2003 . In group Birmingham
ghosts of the abyss - imax, millennium point, 17/08/2003
— 2003-08-17, 00:54:01
this was my first visit to millennium point, which considering it has been open for just over two years now is quite telling - but more on that later.
ghost of the abyss is a documentary by james cameron taking us back to the site of the rms titanic, scene of his 1997 oscar winning success, shot in imax 3d. if you've got any prejudices about any of those aspects of it - think again. 3d cinematography has come an awfully long way since those terrible films of the 50s where the red & green tinted aliens loomed into your lap, & imax as a cinema format is considerably more than 'just a big screen'.
the publicity blurb (& the somewhat cold-ridden announcer...) goes to great pains to tell you it "immerses you & pulls you right into the centre of the action". "yeah, right" was my admittedly cynical initial reaction, but that was blown away the instant the adverts finished & we moved into the trailers - it might sound like marketing guff, but it's actually genuinely true; you as an individual really are literally put right into the middle of things rather than a member of an audience watching them play out on a screen 50 feet away ! there's the inevitable cheesy 3d-for-the-sake-of-it effect of a robot arm grabbing menacingly three inches from your nose, but for the most part it is highly tasteful, the idea being to give you the experience of being a member of [...]
Read the rest of ghosts of the abyss - imax, millennium point, 17/08/2003 . In group Birmingham
grand union orchestra - the call of paradise - symphony hall, 11/11/2002
— 2002-11-11, 00:48:13
n a nutshell, far too many people missed what was definitely one of the best jazz-world concerts the city has seen for a good few years.
since those first experiments in the 60s, a number of people have worked on the fusion of different musical cultures in the small band setting, mostly with some success even if often a little derivative. the grand union orchestra have succeeded in doing so as a big band with a flair which in a just world would earn them at least a page in any half-decent history book on the development of contemporary music !
the work they are currently touring is 'the call of paradise' (by leader tony haynes), taking much of its vocal texts from various diverse religious sources. it describes itself as 'a kind of musical journey - but through emotions rather than a literal one', & as well as showing us how religion is linked to much of the world history's misery & violence also reminds us of its inspiration of so much beauty, using texts which speak of love & devotion as well as of warfare & hate - opening with a passage from the old testament's 'song of solomon' (or 'song of songs'); if you thought the bible had a bit of a downer on love & sex, think again & go & read that passage !
the music well knew when to do the 'fusion bit', & also when not to - the big [...]
Read the rest of grand union orchestra - the call of paradise - symphony hall, 11/11/2002 . In group Birmingham
The Divine Comedy - Birmingham Academy, 30/09/2002
— 2002-09-30, 00:42:37
'courageous' is probably the best adjective to describe the divine comedy.
where many other successful british bands seem to be content to rest on their success & stick to a nice safe line-up playing the same nice safe songs in the same nice safe style, the divine comedy can always be guaranteed to take risks, to keep their listeners on their toes, & to rarely play safe neither with line-up, set list, nor sound.
indeed, i've always considered them to be very much just as much a "musician's & poet's" band as an "audience's" band - if you're a musician & you're neither inspired by them to keep at it nor so blown away you want to give up, you're not really a musician; & likewise, if you're a poet & aren't moved by neil hannon's lyrics, your very soul itself must have been stolen.
tdc's gig at the academy last night was, in the taking risks department, no exception. but.. erm... i'm sad to say it, but i don't think they shone as much as they should have done. sure, neil as lead singer rather than taking the traditional ego-position in the centre spent much of the gig at the side of the stage, simon played double bass rather than bass guitar for i think the whole gig, & rob had his drumkit on the opposite side rather than on a riser at the back - 'rock ensemble' might be a better description than 'rock band' [...]
Read the rest of The Divine Comedy - Birmingham Academy, 30/09/2002 . In group Birmingham