Gig Review: Sue Perkins at the Millennium Centre, Cardiff

This was a very late birthday present from MWF, and a decent pick for us as both are big fans of Perkins and I had read the memoir which formed the basis of the show, which I reviewed here.


As with the book this is a warm and funny look back over her life with Perkins casting a wry, self deprecating eye over her past and family. It’s hugely entertaining and aided by the use of a large screen which allows her to deliver visual punchlines and poke gentle fun at old family photos.

She has an easy on stage presence and is utterly charming throughout, and talks about her career, life and opinions in a light, breezy way. Some of the stories are familiar to those who have read the book, but are given fresh life through the telling.

I particularly enjoyed that she included a brief Q&A session at the end, which gave her a chance to play off the crowd and share some new stories. The whole show is a quick, fun affair and ends strongly with Perkins playing us out with a song. It’s a thoroughly pleasant evening in the theatre and confirms that Perkins is an extremely likeable and funny performer. 

MWF and I loved it and throughout recommend catching her if she comes to your town.

Verdict: A very funny show with Perkins on top form, delivering an amusing and charming series of stories. And her skills at playing off the crowd are wonderful. 9/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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Comedy Gig Review: Richard Herring at St. David’s Hall

I’ve been a Richard Herring fan for quite a while now, and seen him perform before but this is the first of his touring shows I’ve gone to see. I bought tickets for MWF and I and we headed to the St. David’s Hall last night.

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The show’s title is Happy Now? And it sees Herring reflecting on how his life as changed since becoming a husband and father. Herring discusses the nature of happiness and whether it’s possible to be actually, truly happy. And whether being perfectly happy all the time would be a good thing.

It’s a funny, clever show as Herring talks about how happiness is a temporary state and that we actually need the downs to appreciate the highs. It’s a sensible idea and Herring uses the theme to go off on several weird tangents.

I laughed consistently throughout and thoroughly enjoyed, as a fan of Herring’s mix of the silly, crude and actually quite thoughtful I found it worked brilliantly. MWF was less familiar with his style and while she laughed quite a bit wasn’t won over. I think it was Herring’s talk of sex robots that lost her. And she did not appreciate his argument that sleeping with a sex robot doesn’t count as infidelity.

If you like big ideas explored with a bit of vulgarity and snark then this is for you, and there’s enough warmth and self awareness to keep it on track. It’s a very entertaining night at the theatre and on leaving I at least was happy.

8/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Comedy Gig Review: Michael McIntyre at the Duchess Theatre, London

MWF had chanced upon free tickets for this gig, where Michael McIntyre was due to perform in a small venue to test out new material. At twenty quid each it was too good a chance to pass up and so on Monday night we headed to the Duchess.

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It was a very small theatre, with only a couple of hundred seats and it was pretty much full. It was a great opportunity to see McIntyre working a smaller crowd as he can pack out arenas. Personally I like the small room as it encourages more interaction and feels more relaxed.

McIntyre delivered what you expect, cheerful observational fare which was solidly entertaining and kept the laughs flowing. There was a sense of it being a work in progress, but it was fun to see him riffing and then pausing to scribble notes.

It means that when we see him perform later we’ll have a feeling of being first to see some of his stuff, including great routine about his kids’ toilet habits (“Who’s poo?!” Makes for a decent catchphrase) and given the small setting he also discussed a trip to White Hart Lane and offered a shock revelation about one ex-Spurs player.

McIntyre had support from Charlie Baker and Seann Walsh. Baker struggled with a crowd who didn’t seem to know what to make of his singing and dancing schtick, and the response was mild.

Walsh, who’s sarky curmudgeon persona is a delight and he offered keen observation. The crowd were a little standoffish at first but Walsh won the room and by the end was getting big laughs.

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Walsh

I’d liked what I’d seen him do before but was still impressed and will definitely check him out if he comes to Wales.

McIntyre returned for a bit more and continued to impress and it was a fantastic evening out and we left amused and satisfied. He really was very funny and the small venue brought a new side to his act, which I enjoyed.

8/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Comedy Gig Review: Luisa Omielan at Cardiff Glee Club

Last night I took MWF out to see a show. She’s been stressing with uni assignments and a comedian she liked was coming to town so it would be a nice treat. The comedian was Luisa Omielan who was performing her Am I Right, Ladies? Show at the Glee club.

Omielan is doing alright for herself even if she hasn’t quite broken big yet, but I think that might happen soon as she is a real comic talent.

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It was obvious that it was going to be a unique show as the warm up act was Omielan herself on stage dancing to the DJs music and taking photos and hugging audience members.

The show itself is a pacy 75 minute set that flies by and is powered by Omielan’s energetic performance. MWF says she kinda reminds her of Russell Howard in the sense of the vibe and energy and it’s not an unfair comparison.

Her show deals with various issues such as body image, slut shaming, getting over an ex and depression, which sounds heavy but Omielan keeps the laughs flowing and  pushes her message for female confidence and being happy with yourself in an entertaining way.

I really dug the show, with and laughed a lot, applauding as well. Omielan is an unconventional performer in some ways but she does a fantastic job of making you laugh while making valid points. She clicked well with the audience, apart from two at the front who annoyed her and she got moved back, and worked the crowd well.

I also enjoyed her use of music throughout the show and her honest, open nature during the show.

I would definitely recommend one of her shoes and will keep an eye out for her in the future as she’s a  likeable, funny and engaging presence on stage.

9/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Gig Review: Lady Gaga at NIA, Birmingham

As the rain lashed down on a miserable day in Birmingham, making everything washed out and grim, but for the thousands of slightly damp little monsters gathered in the NIA it was a far brighter, more colourful evening, because Lady Gaga was in town, and she was amazing.

artrave lady gaga

I’d kinda forgotten she was touring at the moment. When the artRAVE dates had come out I’d been broke and so not being involved it fell out of my mental calendar. Then on Monday MWG told me she had a surprise for me on Wednesday afternoon, the only hints she offered was that we’d have to drive somewhere and I’d need to dress tidy-ish. Being naturally suspicious and someone who isn’t too keen on surprises, I thought of Joe Pesci in Goodfellas, where they tell him he’s going to be made but instead winds up whacked.

No prying could get MWG to budge, but she insisted I’d like it, so I just asked, as a shot in the dark, “Are we going to see Lady Gaga?”. She probably could have styled it out, but MWG’s poker face is atrocious and I knew right away what was going on (she’d bagged a couple of tickets that the original owners couldn’t use). I think she expected me to have a meltdown, but I’m British, dammit, so I kept a lid on the excitement which grew all through Tuesday and Wednesday.

I freaking love Lady Gaga. MWG is a fan too, and between us we’ve seen both of her major UK tours (MWG saw Monster’s Ball in Cardiff, and I went to Dublin for the Born This Way ball). It was really cool to go see her again, and especially cool that I got to be with MWG for it.

Even a downpour couldn’t dampen my spirits and I filed into the NIA with the other little monsters, once again feeling that I was probably one of the bigger monsters and feeling slightly underdressed in my t-shirt and 3/4 lengths. I marveled at the costumes some of the fans had crafted for themselves and took my place for the opening acts.

First up was Breedlove, a singer/MC who was alright but seemed terribly out of his depth. With no accompanying band or dancers he was just a loan figure on a vast stage, singing to a largely disinterested crowd. He’s probably quite good in a smaller venue, like a club or bar, but here he just didn’t seem to have the presence to convince, although his songs were fine and catchy pieces.

Next up was Lady Starlight, who hadn’t impressed me in Dublin but was better here. She seemed really into her techno set and there was something endearingly gawky about her dancing, she also looked like her costume was inspired by those collectible dolls you get representing countries. Austria maybe? It wasn’t really my bag but got me bopping away and was kinda fun.

And then, after a lengthy delay, the main event!

Gaga emerged, adorned with wings and played the title track from the ARTPOP album, followed by “G.U.Y”, one of my faves from that album.

lady gaga

It was everything you expected from Mother Monster, a show of campy excess, fantastic vocals and her own, captivating, individual presence at the centre. I said of the Born This Way show in Dublin that at times it felt like a cult meeting at times and that was evident here, with the charismatic singer holding the audience in the palm of her hand throughout the gig.

It may have lacked the prog-esque concept of the previous tour, but the set was a triumph, with some of the big hits mixed with lesser known songs from the most recent album. In between songs Gaga spoke to the audience, in a mesmerizing mix of earnest expression, foul mouthed humour and tongue-in-cheek posturing.

The theme here was for her fans to direct their emotions into art and her own journey and growth as an artist. She talked to the crowd about self expression, addiction, self harm and self-acceptance, always with a feeling of genuine sincerity and care. The cynical may see it as Gaga playing the ally card, but it felt real to me (gods, I sound like that wrestling fan don’t I? “It’s still real to me, dammit!”) and must be extremely powerful for her younger fans who may be struggling to accept themselves and their place.

But beyond that it was just a triumph of pop art. OTT costumes, sexualized dancing and banging tunes, it supplied each in spades and was incredibly fun. I sang along, bounced about and while I may not have descended into the screeching raptures of the woman a few feet across from me, I was thoroughly entranced and loved every second.

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I probably preferred the Dublin gig overall, but then Born This Way is an album I love and have listened to more, but in the run up to this gig I listened to ARTPOP a lot more and it’s better than I originally gave it credit for, and I suspect that Lady Gaga is going to be on hard rotation on my iPod for the coming weeks.

I’d definitely go see Lady Gaga again, which would make her the second artist I’d have seen 3 times, after Motorhead. Heck, I might even dress up a bit next time, really get into the spirit of things.

Paws up.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Gig Review: A Day To Remember at Cardiff Motorpoint Arena

It’s always a little awkward going to a gig of a band you’re not really a fan of. I’ve done it a couple of times (Slayer, Haduken, Gallows) but in those cases I’ve heard a fair amount of their stuff, dug it and done pre-gig listening. With A Day To Remember it was different, I’d only heard a handful of songs, none of which had wowed me and my pre-gig listening on Spotify was brief, and it wasn’t long before I returned to artists I’m into (Bee Gees, Willie Nelson, Bob Marley, Goldie Lookin Chain).

So why was I going? Well, ADTR are MWG’s favourite band. She’s had the tickets since before we were dating and needed to use the spare. I agreed to go with her.

To be fair, ADTR put on a decent show with some smoke, confetti, a T-shirt cannon and the lead singer crowdsurfing in a giant inflatable ball. They were better than the support and their fast paced rock is great for some bouncing around and head banging, and they blew the crowd away (MWG loved it). They were a good live band, but a bit screamy for my tastes.

This appears to be something he does at lots of gigs, still cool though

This appears to be something he does at lots of gigs, still cool though

But when you don’t really know the songs all you can really do is bop a bit, applaud and people watch.

There was a young girl with an older woman and debate raged over whether they were mother and daughter. There was a loved up couple who snogged for most of the concert, a heavily pregnant woman and a disinterested girl, although I couldn’t figure if her boredom was real or created to appear cool, her aloofness meant to signify she was above the crowd’s simple joy. Either way I wondered why she was there.

People watching made me feel old, I gave myself points for the bands I recognized from shirts (ADTR shirts, which were ubiquitous weren’t counted) and emerged with a dismal 5, all of which were older acts (Guns N Roses, Nirvana, The Misfits, KISS and Pantera).

I was astonished by a girl who looked about fourteen but boasted a wolf’s head tattoo (a Twilight inspired piece, apparently) and watched gig habits very different from my early ones.

The first of these was the filming of the gig on mobile phones, and several were held aloft for much of the concert. Now I’ve snapped off a few shots at gigs in my time, like the photographic masterpiece below, but these people were taking snap after snap, or filming.

Hayseed Dixie at Download '07

Hayseed Dixie at Download ’07

For entire songs they’d hold their cameras up, staring at a tiny screen rather than just enjoying the experience. Gods, I sound old.

But in all seriousness, why video the whole thing on your shaky camera, when you can watch the concert properly and jump about a bit. Surely that’s more fun that distancing yourself from the action by gazing intently at a screen. Sure you’ll have the footage to look back on, but the footage won’t be Oscar worthy and wouldn’t you rather be one of the muppets jumping around and having a laugh as opposed to a low rent cameraman.

It’s also annoying because instead of watching the band you’re watching a mini version on somebody’s iPhone, and it’s blocking your view. Take a pic or a snapchat video and then put the phone down, you inconsiderate douches. Anybody who drops their phone while videoing a concert for more than 30 seconds has it coming.

concert phones

Also annoying, and something I’d previously only seen at festivals, was girls being raised onto the shoulders of their boyfriend (I assume it’s a partner). At a festival it’s a pain, but kinda understandable due to the distance from the stage and sheer numbers, but indoors at the Motorpoint in Cardiff? Don’t be a dick, ladies.

If a homunculus like MWG can work out she has to find a position where she can see, then others should too. If you can’t see think of the poor sods behind you who now have to stare at the back of some girl as she obscures their view. At Download they get pelted with (if their lucky) empty cups or get picked out by the cameras and flash, which appeases the crowd a bit, but here there was nothing people could do, aside from glare and pray for telekinetic powers, or, as I did, dream of hitting the Doomsday Device on them.

What a rush!

What a rush!

I realize that for a gig review this has mainly been about other stuff, apologies.

Verdict: Not really my bag, but ADTR gave their fans what they wanted. 6/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Gig Review: The Soul Miners at Live Lounge, Cardiff

One of my many failings is a complete and utter lack of musical talent. Wales may be the land of song, but my English side has clearly cancelled this out. At primary school I struggled to grasp the recorder, and a teenage attempt at learning guitar flamed out early.

This bugs me a lot. I love music, same as most people (anyone who says they “don’t really like” music/books/films is to be avoided) and frequently wish I could make my own. I’m not asking to be Springsteen or something, but just being able to play the guitar or piano would be ace, to the level where I could join a band.

I used to want to be a rock star. Which teenage boy doesn’t think about it? Money, travel, girls and excess, my teen dreams were like an edited version of The Dirt, with the tragedy and addictions edited out.

Now, the idea of being a rock god holds little appeal for me, apart from the cash or the fact it would increase my chance of meeting Lady Gaga.

But I’d love to be in a pub band. Playing little bars and rock clubs, maybe even weddings and stuff. You see those bands, and those guys always seem to be having a ball. And why the hell not? You get to play with your mates and see people having a good time, because of what you’re doing. I’d imagine that’s quite a buzz.

Which brings us to the band I saw last night, the Soul Miners, who definitely knew people were having a good time because the place was bouncing. The group had a sort of Commitments-vibe and played a set of Motown and soul standards.

I was in a good mood already thanks to a few rum and cokes and the fact that the doorman had ID’d me which made this mature student feel a whole lot better about himself. Especially as my flatmates have really stepped up the old man gags recently.

 

But the band would have made it a cracking night anyway. They had a good set list, filled with well known, beloved classics and they were tight, professional and fun throughout. They knew what the audience wanted and they delivered it in spades.

It wasn’t long before I was dancing like a loon, much to the amusement of the guys I was with and other patrons of the Live Lounge, fast becoming my favourite Cardiff bar. I did the mash potato, I did the twist, I did horribly bad disco dancing to “Play That Funky Music”.

They finished off with a brilliant double whammy of “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love” and “Proud Mary”, and there were several big silly grins around the room. A cracking band, and a great night out.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Gig Review: Journey, Whitesnake and Thunder at the Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff

 

I headed to Cardiff yesterday with hopes of plenty of hope for plenty of fist in the air, no-nonsense classic rock and for the most part it didn’t dissappoint.

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I’d queued up with my sister, noticing that for a change I was in the younger section of the audience at a gig and surrounded by older fans clearly recapturing their youth. The men were thicker of waist and thinner of hair than they’d probably been back in the day, but there was a pretty cool, friendly atmosphere and plenty of cougarish Whitesnake fans who’d probably lusted after David Coverdale back in the day.

Some of the younger fans might have hidden behind a mask of irony, but I think everyone was genuinely looking forward to belting out a few power ballads, it being a safe place free of judgement.

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First up was Thunder, who I’ll admit were the band I knew least about. They were already in full swing when I got into the arena, and got the ball rolling pretty quickly. I only recognized one of their songs, “Love Walked In” but the rest of the set was pretty fun and got the crowd moving.

With members who have been playing together since the 80s they were pretty tight and reminded me of a pub band, but in the very best way. There was a real sense of fun to the performance and they were clearly having a whale of a time on stage. Frontman Danny Bowes played the crowd beautifully and seemed to have tongue firmly in cheek, injecting humour into his strutting performance.

Danny Bowes.

Danny Bowes.

By the end of the set I was keen to check out more of the band’s work and greatly impressed.

I’d wondered before the gig which one of the double bill headliners was to go on first, and it turned out to be Whitesnake. I saw them at Download back in 2009, and had really enjoyed their show then, so I knew what to expect and they delivered it in spades.

David Coverdale is a phenomenal lead singer, and was on fine form. He may be getting older but he still has the rock star aura about him, and was definitely proving to be a big hit with the older female section of the audience. There was a kind of gleeful, playful naughtiness in his performance.

When speaking Coverdale is oddly posh, and this along with his appearance makes him seem like a rather charming, disheveled old rogue. I’ve got to say I have a bit of a man crush on the dude, and he’s one of the best frontmen I’ve seen live.

David Coverdale- Awesome frontman.

David Coverdale- Awesome frontman.

Much of their stuff was kinda cool, bluesy rock but there’s a healthy amount of power chords and rock posturing. They blitzed through some lesser known hits before a good old power ballad singsong with “Is This Love”, one of the best examples of the genre. There was a bit of showing off from their guitarists, who duelled with each other.

Even the drummer got involved. Now, most of the time I’m against drum solos, as the boredom threshold is considerably lower than with guitar showing off. With drum solos you’re impressed for about half a minute and then you want them to wrap it up, but this one was saved thanks to Tommy Aldridge throwing away his sticks and using his bare hands to continue, which was kinda cool.

The set built up to a double whammy, with the group’s most famous hit “Here I Go Again” getting a massive response before they finished off with “Still of the Night”, clearly a fan favourite.

It was a brilliantly worked set, with the band keeping their momentum going and the crowd pumped, following up their slower songs with belting, more powerful ones to fire the audience up again. It was an awesome set and I had a big dumb grin on my face by the end.

Unfortunately, such a strong performance from Whitesnake left Journey with a tough act to follow, and they never came close to matching it.

That’s not to say they weren’t good and fun at times, but there were too many missteps. Firstly, there was the decision by Neal Schon to perform “Star Spangled Banner” due to it being Memorial Day weekend. Fair enough, if you feel like honouring the troops go for it, but did you really have to play the whole thing, Neal? It’s a bloody long song. And that’s without all the noodling and flourishes. It started off impressive and enjoyable, but by the end that was just gone and it seemed like self indulgent, needless showing off.

Neal Schon- little bit self indulgent.

Neal Schon- little bit self indulgent.

For me, their set never fully recovered after that. It robbed them of momentum and energy, and doing two slower songs back to back (“Open Arms” and “Faithfully”) didn’t help them out later, even if the crowd got into the first half of the ballad double bill.

The other downside was we all knew where the set was heading. When it comes to Journey, all roads lead to “Don’t Stop Believin'”, which they finished off with, and which, predictably brought the house down.

They weren’t completely terrible and most of the crowd lapped it up, but after Whitesnake if felt like a comedown. Although, I have a lot of respect for new frontman Arnel Pineda, the former cover band singer who had bags of energy, flinging himself about the stage with wild abandon. He had this kind of infectious enthusiasm and likability, and his voice is freakishly close to the original vocals on their big hits. He belted them out with great feeling and seems a born entertainer.

Arnel Pineda- His joy and enthusiasm for being there with the band was clear and rather sweet.

Arnel Pineda- His joy and enthusiasm for being there with the band was clear and rather sweet.

When they played their hits they were pretty damn impressive, and it was these songs that carried them through and made them quite good fun, but it was just let down by poor set structure and the fact every band member wanted their moment in the spotlight, leading to some tedious showing off parts.

A great night, but the wrong band was headlining.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Gig Review: Lady Gaga at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin

KISS, Alice Cooper, AC/DC.

I love gigs with spectacle and showmanship, and Lady Gaga’s has that in spades. Against the backdrop of a fantastically crafted castle stage she delivers a barnstorming, captivating live set which fuses her driving, relentlessly catchy and anthemic pop with a loose space opera style concept which lends the whole thing a cool, prog-ish feeling.

The space opera tone suits an artist who is constantly viewed as being different, strange and in some ways alien. She courts this throughout, playing an escaped alien fugitive who comes to set up a new race within mankind. Its a little trippy and fudged at places, but its ambition is admirable and it serves as a decent framework for Gaga to play through her hits and several of the album tracks from the sensational Born This Way album.

The themes of individuality, creativity, acceptance and equality flow through it all and Gaga regularly stopped to talk to her audience in short speeches which while clearly practiced and prepared were nonetheless delivered with great sincerity and no shortage of charm. In her interactions with the crowd, including a “show and tell” section where the stage was pelted by signs and gifts from the “Monster pit”, were handled extremely well and Gaga showed wit and intelligence. She wasn’t afraid to show her emotions to the crowd but there was a streak of awareness that manifested itself with a tongue in cheek sense of humour.

Throughout the show she held the audience in the palm of her hand, every new song greeted with squeals of delight and thousands of voices joining in, hands aloft as they saluted their heroine. Captivated faces stared at her throughout, chanting and cheers continued throughout and at times it felt less like a pop concert and more like some kind of cult meeting or political rally.

The lucky fans chosen to join her onstage or invited back stage responded with almost religious levels of euphoria, sobbing and rendered speechless by being so close to their idol.

Gaga seems aware of her position in the eyes of her audience and her heartfelt addresses to the crowd and calls for equality and acceptance were magnificent to witness. A lady in front of me, pushing 40 muttered a complaint to her partner about her “talking a lot” but she was in the incredibly small minority, with much of the crowd watching with rapt attention.

It reminded me of seeing My Chemical Romance at Download back in 2007, when Gerard Way attempted to address his fans about dealing with emotions and problems, no mean feat when avoiding bottles, and I could hear two older rockers whinging and snickering behind me at the little fans in front of me. I can’t criticize someone for taking their position as a role model seriously, its something far too many celebrities seem to ignore, but Gaga delivered it in a much more palatable way than Way’s slightly preachy tone. She never talks down to her audience, and nobody could disagree with the message of tolerance she endorses, well, nobody with a working moral compass, anyway.

The songs were phenomenal, the big hits receiving roaring approval, but clearly a large number of dedicated fans  recognized the album tracks and as both Gaga records have been on heavy rotation on my iPod in recent months I sang myself hoarse by the end. Standouts for me were the anthemic “Born This Way”, the piano led ballad version of “Hair” and an amazing version of my favourite Gaga song “Bad Romance”. Each one was accompanied by wonderfully well choreographed dance routines and some incredibly intricate costumes, including one stunning creation seemed to be have styled after H.R. Geiger’s Alien design.

This picture doesn’t even begin to do it justice.

It was a fantastically enjoyable concert, delivered with enthusiasm and a level of sincere enjoyment that couldn’t help but charm you. The atmosphere among the crowd was one of the best I’ve ever witnessed at a gig and all my ill feelings that had built up due to Dublin’s woeful signposting soon melted away, and I left the stadium buzzing from a marvelous performance, upbeat and a little drained, I tell ya, belting out “Edge of Glory” really takes it out on the vocal chords, I don’t know how she does it.

A brilliant gig from a phenomenal performer and easily one of the best gigs I’ve ever attended.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.