The Sherlocks @ The Empire, Middlesbrough

The Sherlocks just keep getting better

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This will be a relatively short review as there’s little more I can say about The Sherlocks.  This was my 5th time seeing them in the last 18 months and they’ve got better each time (Ku Bar, O2 Academy 2, Glastonbury, Newcastle University).  I’m pretty certain this was the largest crowd yet and everyone seemed to love every second of this gig.

I went with my brother, Mike, to see this one as the venue was on his home turf.  When we arrived at the venue at about 7.15pm, it was cold and wet and there was a large queue outside.  We decided to go for a beer.  Unfortunately, as it turned out later, this meant we missed the first support act, Neon Waltz.  Never mind, we caught Oddity Road who were good.  They had a similar sound to The Sherlocks and hail from Sheffield.

The Sherlocks came on stage at about 9.15pm and played through the entirety of their debut album, Live For The Moment.  Lead singer, Kiaran Crook, seems to be finding new ways to get the audience involved and it resulted in a great atmosphere throughout, including a music-less sing along after the closing number, Chasing Shadows.  After reaching no. 6 in the UK charts with the album, I hope they go on to have a strong career with an even better follow-up.  Good luck to them.  They genuinely seem to love every moment of playing and that’s evident to see.

The Sherlocks Setlist The Empire, Middlesbrough, England 2018

 

Lord Huron @ Leeds Beckett University

The tremendous Lord Huron get back on the road to warm up for the new album. It was good. Very good.

In 2015, Lord Huron released Strange Trails.  I wasn’t a mega fan at the time, although Ste had introduced me to Lonesome Dreams.  I liked Strange Trails when I first heard it and now, 3 years later it’s firmly placed in my top 10 albums of all time (it’s number 1 on some days).  After catching them at The Cluny in the first year of agigamonth I was eager to get tickets for this gig, originally planned for the Brudenell Social Club.  The nearer we got to the gig, the more obvious it was that no new material was going to land (in the week since the gig, there’s been 2 songs and some teaser stuff on social media).  That didn’t matter.  It was awesome regardless.

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Best laid plans: Ste & I got tickets for this as soon as they came out.  Leeds isn’t too far south of us, but it’s 90 minutes or so from me and a couple of hours from Ste.  We were going to head down together and garb some drinks, staying in a hotel for the night.  In a bit of unfortunate timing, my daughter had a swimming gala during the day in Sheffield (further South) and it was obvious that this was going to be tight to get back up for the gig.  Ste went straight to the hotel.  Lana finished her final race at 5pm and after a rapid turnaround, I too managed to get to the hotel shortly after 6.30pm.  Straight out for food and drinks.  As a safe bet we went to the Wetherspoons; The Cuthbert Broderick (the one we always seem to end up at in Leeds).  It was busy, but we took a seat and downloaded the pub app and ordered food and drink through it.  A couple of minutes later the pints arrived (Shipyard American Pale Ale) and a few minutes after that the Haggis Burgers arrived (Burn’s night special).  Tremendous!  We downed the pints and took on the burgers, delighted that we would get to the venue in time to catch the support act.

Queue.  Not so good, Al: we arrived at the venue and there was a huge queue.  It turned out that those with a physical ticket could go straight in.  Those with a barcode print out (which is surely now the norm) had to queue and queue very slowly at that.  As we approached the door, we could hear that Flyte had already taken stage.

Support Act: Flyte were good.  Very good.  We only caught 4 songs (Cathy, Come Home amongst them) and I needed to visit the bar for one of them.

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Lord Huron: LH took to the stage at about 9pm.  The sound wasn’t initially that clear, but it improved as they played an outstanding set, drawn heavily from Strange Trails.  It’s really difficult to explain why I like this band so much.  There’s something about Strange Trails that I think works as an album.  All the songs are strong and it works really well as a whole.  I never tire of listening to it and when I first bought my new turntable, this was the LP that I played non-stop.  It was therefore great to hear loads of Strange Trails songs again, with an early intro into the new album, Vide Noir.

There were three/four new tracks played it the gig.  At the time of writing the 4th song in the set was still unknown to me, but contained a line along the lines of “wake her in the morning“.  Wait By The River was a another new one – I got the title from other setlists.  Since the gig I worked out that the 3rd new track was Ancient Names (Part One), which may well have bled into Ancient Names (Part Two), but I’ve got no idea now.  The new songs had a slightly different sound, seeming more keyboard / electronic driven.  They sounded good, but I need a few more listens.  A contributor to setlistfm replaced the original noting of “unknown” (which turned out to be Ancient Names) with Until The Night Turns.  I’d had a few to drink, but I’m pretty certain they didn’t play that.

Lord Huron Setlist Beckett University, Leeds, England 2018

Highlights of the set were The Birds Are Singing At Night, Time To Run, The Night We Met and Fool For Love.  That said, it was all awesome and I’m hoping they will be back to tour once Vide Noir has landed.  A Newcastle date would be nice!

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Merchandise: I couldn’t resist a T-shirt.  I tidy £20 for an emerald logo.

Beers & post-gig entertainment: we got a range of bottled craft / real ales from the student union bar.  All eye-wateringly expensive and poured out of the glass bottle into a squeeze plastic pint pot.  Can’t be helped.  I can’t remember the names now, but Ste picked up  Brooklyn one of some description that was 6.7%!  After the gig, the SU bar was already closed, so we headed to find a pub.  We landed in Shenanigans and despite me never having ordered a Guinness in my life, that’s what we both decided to do.  After a couple of pints of the black stuff we headed back to The Cuthbert Broderick for a Shipyard.  We then took a trip back to the hotel for a final bottle of ale before calling it a night.

 

John Bramwell @ The Sage 2, Gateshead

The final gig of 2017 saw the former I Am Kloot frontman in fine form

The final gig of 2017 fell to John Bramwell.  It was a fairly last minute choice as Andrew, Ste & I couldn’t all make a gig on the same day in December.  Ste & I went to this one without Andrew which was a shame.

I wasn’t hugely familiar with much I Am Kloot or John Bramwell solo stage prior to the gig, but I immersed myself via Spotify for a week or two.  I’d listened to the Sky At Night album before but really only knew a few tracks before seeing IAK at Glastonbury several years ago.  I / we didn’t really know what to expect from this gig.  The summary was that it was great.  John Bramwell was very funny and ambled his way through a very pleasing and long set.

John Bramwell Setlist The Sage, Gateshead, England 2017

Support came in the form of Dave Fidler (also playing in the “band” sections of the JB set).  He did a really enjoyable set too.

The JB set was 25 tracks in length, stuffed full of I Am Kloot tunes as well as solo tracks.  The encore was pretty awesome.  I’m writing this a month or so after the gig and so can’t remember specifics to note, so this will be a sparse review.

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Food was at the Head of Steam in the opposite side of the Tyne (fish & chorizo pie for me and fish & chips for Ste), washed down with a pint of Bitter & Twisted.

Pumarosa @ The Cluny, Newcastle

Priestess, you dance, you dance, you dance…

It would appear that this was the final gig of the year with all three of us in attendance.  We managed 10 as a threesome (threesome+ at times) this year which isn’t bad going.  This was, ridiculously, my 24 gig of the year with at least one more still to come.

What was it like? Pumarosa were really good.  Ste & I caught them at Glastonbury earlier this year, but didn’t know much about them then.  They were good that night, but tonight was quality.  I’d been giving the album quite a hammering of late and that helped to ensure I was familiar with virtually all of the set.  Isabel Munoz-Newsome fronts the band and seemed to be having a great time all night and this always improves my enjoyment of a show.  She was a very engaging stage presence with a great dancing style and gorgeous vocals.

They came on stage promptly at 9.30 and breezed through a set which consisted of the entirety of debut album, The Witch, with an added cover.

Dragonfly, Lions Den & Priestess were all highlights for me, but highlights in a set full of them.  The album is most definitely in my top 20 of the year, and is likely to be a vinyl purchase at some point in the new year.

Pumarosa Setlist The Cluny, Newcastle, England 2017, The Witch

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What about the support act?  I’ve honestly never seen anything like it.  Vïsta was his name.  Just one guy on stage with a computer.  When we arrived in, he was essentially running on the spot in sports gear singing along to a backing track.  My initial reaction was intense amusement and at one point I was crying laughing.  When we decided to stay, after watching him drawing on his t-shirt (which subsequently went up for sale?), it actually became a pretty compelling watch.  It could certainly be considered the most unique and interesting support of the year.  As he noted, it’s Vïsta, with a double dot on the i (this was what he was demonstrating on his t-shirt), if you want to check him out.  Probably worth it.

What about food and drink?  We normally just have food in The Cluny, but decided to venture elsewhere.  Just up the road as it happens.  Arch 2 brewpub & burger kitchen.  Burger and a beer for £6.50.  Andrew and I had an awesome Wolf Blonde and Ste had a Southern Cross.  The burger was excellent to go with the excellent pint.  Unfortunately it was a bit chilly and we noted that this probably should be a summer venue.  Slightly hungry still after just a burger we decided to head to the Cluny for pudding  Waffle and ice cream.  Sounds good, only the waffle was disappointingly cold and tough work.  We smashed it though and washed it down with a hot coffee (ice cold coke for Andrew – crazy Kid).

If you don’t know Pumarosa then check out the album, or start on Priestess.  I think you’ll be pleasantly impressed.

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Royal Blood @ Leeds First Direct Arena

Who throws a shoe?

Honestly!

The Arena in Leeds is an amazing venue.  We were pretty high up, but the sound is fantastic wherever you are.  The sound at this gig was incredible from just two people (with the occasional pair of backing singers).  From a bass guitar and drums these guys don’t give a second to breathe.

Who went?  This one was supposed to be just my wife, Clare, and I.  Unfortunately, Clare was ill for most of the week and had only just got back to work with a lingering headache.  A Royal Blood gig was not what the doctor ordered and so she took a pass out.  Ste stepped in at last minute and we headed down to Leeds after work.  On arrival at my house, Ste got ready, packed up his car and we were about to leave in mine…

Only not quite straight away.  Ste managed to lock his car keys in the boot of his car.  The car was new, it was dark and there was no obvious release mechanism.  15-20 minutes later after lots of sighing and random button pressing, we found the release mechanism and were on our way.

Some bad traffic meant we didn’t actually arrive in Leeds until about 6.30pm and had to source some food before heading in to the arena.

A local shopping centre had a chinese place with preprepared chicken, rice and noodles. It was quick, plentiful and tasty and did everything it was required to do.  We headed into the arena, grabbed a quick pint of Heineken (expensive – > £10 for 2! – but tasty) before taking to our seats.  We were on the third tier up about 15 rows from the back.  Black Honey were already on stage, more than halfway through their set.  I like this band and enjoyed what I saw.  Oddly, when we caught them at Glastonbury this year, we only caught the first part of their set.  I’d like to acth them again in the future.

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At The Drive-In were up next.  I didn’t know the first time around and so didn’t know anything.  There were a some blokes outside noting that they didn’t know who the support acts were, but that their next gig was At The Drive-In and they couldn’t wait.  They were in for a treat.  We weren’t.  Clare and her headache would definitely have struggled with this one.

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Ste & Andrew say Royal Blood in Newcastle earlier this year and they did a pretty short set.  They were one of my highlights at Glastonbury too.  At Leeds, they did almost two hours in total, playing 9 off How Did We Get So Dark? and 8 off Royal Blood, and it was brilliant.

Opening with Lights Out set the tone for a powerful and spirited gig.  Royal Blood are a band that always seem to be enjoying themselves, happy to be on the journey they’ve found the pair undertaking.  Every song was a belter with both giving their enthusiastic all.  The were some menacing mosh pits forming in the standing area and at one point the band had to stop playing for fear of potential crushes.  They resumed and more mosh pits followed.  When they closed on the immense Figure It Out, we weren’t expecting an encore, but were pleased to get one.  During the encore there was a moment that I find incredibly puzzling.  Someone through a shoe at Mike Kerr.  A shoe.  It hit him too and I believe he rightly noted the audience member as a c**t before handing the offending shoe to a security guy pointing out that if the shoe fits…  I could give the benefit of the doubt and say that I’m sure he didn’t intend to hit the lead singer, but honestly.

After leaving the gig we settled in for an hour in the multi-storey car park.  I expected it, but still frustrating.  Ste managed to get out of the car, find a local vending machine and get us some pop for the way home.  As he arrived back, I was just ready to leave.  We headed home about midnight.  It was a great night.  It also gave me the excuse for a second Mike Myers quote in the space of two reviews.  Smashing baby!Royal Blood Setlist First Direct Arena, Leeds, England 2017, How Did We Get So Dark?

Black Honey Setlist First Direct Arena, Leeds, England 2017

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Wolf Alice @ O2 Academy, Newcastle

Wolf Alice: Beautifully Unconventional

Wolf Alice have become one of my favourite bands from the last few years.  Don’t Delete The Kisses is one of the best songs of 2017 and I picked up the green vinyl edition of Visions Of A Life without hearing much of it.  We bought tickets for this one well in advance of the gig and it didn’t disappoint.

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When I left the gig the main thought in my mind was:

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Wolf Alice, do ethereal quiet to jaw dropping shout loud banshee screaming within the blink of an eye and it’s incredible to behold.  I probably generally prefer their more ethereal sounds, but it’s all quality.

The setlist went something like this:

Wolf Alice Setlist O2 Academy Newcastle, Newcastle, England 2017, Visions of a Life

We had seats on the balcony for the night and that meant the photos weren’t great, but the crowd looked a little insane below, so was pleased to have a seat!  I think I’ve possibly got to that age where a seat feels more civilised.

There were loads of set highlights but I can’t look far beyond the “singles”.  The mirrorball brought another sparkling element to the beauty of Don’t Delete

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The lighting at gigs these days is getting very impressive.  At times dazzling, but always unique from show to show.  This was now different with a three tier light going in straight lines across the stage.  Visually spectacular in a small venue.

 

There wasn’t a huge amount of dialogue between band and audience, but that didn’t matter.  A large volume of the crowd knew every word and sang along throughout.  Some dodgy timed handclaps from the audience did little to diminish the quality of encore opener, Blush and following Giant Peach we all went home happy.  Ears ringing.  But happy.

There’s some better photos of the gig on the O2 academy page here.

What were the support acts like?  I really enjoyed them both.  Superfood probably edged it for me.  Sunflower Bean, from New York (as the lead singer mentioned numerous times) were also good though.

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Superfood
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Sunflower Bean

Who was there?  Ste & I for the whole night.  Andrew joined us a couple of songs into Superfood’s set and so there wasn’t too much opportunity to catch up.  For the gig itself we were also joined by one of Ste’s friends.

Food was from coop again.  It’s always good (as is the beer), but perhaps we should be more original when we go to the O2?

 

Little Mix @ Manchester MEN Arena

Little Mix provide VIP treatment for my birthday girl

At some point in 2016, a text conversation went a little like this…

Wife: Little Mix are going on tour.  Shall we take Lana for her birthday.  It will be her first proper gig.  She’d love it.  They are playing Leeds.  Do you want to go too?

Me: Yep.  Sounds good.  I’m sure she’ll love it.  Yes, I’ll go too.

*Radio silence*

Several weeks later…

*signs on to internet banking*

Me: Err, Clare.  Have you spend £505 on Little Mix tickets?

*shudders*

It seems that my wife felt that Lana’s first experience of a proper gig (festivals not withstanding) should be amazing.  VIP tickets were therefore the order of the day.  In Manchester.  Sometimes it’s best not to argue.  I may have shaken my head once or twice and muttered the odd expletive, but at the end of the day, it was all about these two.  Particularly the taller one at the front, whose birthday it happened to be.

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As Manchester is over a 2 hour journey away, it was essential to stay the night, so we picked the kids up early on their last day before half-term and headed off to Manchester.  We arrived at the Premier Inn near the venue shortly before 6pm.  We set off almost immediately to the arena failing to find anywhere obvious that would sell some food on the way.

At the venue the security was reassuringly tight, without any unnecessary delays.  Upon entering we were directed towards the “VIP check in desk” *coughs*.  We were all handed our “The Up Close VIP Package” goodie bag.  This consisted of:

  • Great seat in the first 15 floor rows / best tiered seats
  • Exclusive VIP gift chosen by Little Mix
  • VIP tour programme
  • Exclusive VIP tote bag
  • Commemorative VIP show ticket
  • Collectable VIP laminate + lanyard
  • VIP check in desk

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Just a reminder that I had this VIP package too.  This means, I got this goodie bag full of IMG_1101stuff or another word beginning with s.  To labour the point slightly, we started the night with 4 programmes.  Four.  4.  I was hoping the VIP gift would be a t-shirt.  The girls could have had mine.  Instead it was headphones.  4 pairs of Little Mix headphones.  We had just bought Lana a pair of headphones for her birthday.  She has another pair now.

With the VIP gift not being a t-shirt, we headed to the merchandise stand and Lana spent some birthday money on a T, while Erin decided she would pre-spend some Christmas money on one.  Oddly there was only a select few available in the kids sizes, but they found ones they liked anyway.

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Anyway, stomachs were rumbling now.  Food choice: Hot Dogs or…well, nothing.  Hot Dogs it is then.  Hot Dog and a pint – £9.  With a soft drink – £7.  £32 lighter we all ate our quite substantial, but ultimately unsatisfying Rollover Hot Dogs.  The kids were hungry less than an hour later.  Oddly there was no-one selling snacks in the arena, unless you joined the lengthy bar queue.  A rare missed-opportunity to make some money.

We headed inside and took our front row seats.  Erin was initially disappointed thinking she wouldn’t be able to see as the stage was quite high, but she realised that wouldn’t be an issue when the first support act came on.

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Lina was first up.  Inoffensive Europop with a pretty decent piano ballad to open her 4/5 song set.  She was followed by Jessarae.  Justin Bieber sung in the style of Ed Sheeran.  Not my thing at all.  The crowd didn’t respond that well either, despite having got behind Lina.

 

I was taken aback by the advertising throughout the pre-gig entertainment.  Large screens at either side of the stage showed 4 or 5 music videos on rotation, with the artists and song title clearly displayed.  Lina utilised the screens during her set to advertise her website.  Effective, but not what I’m used to.  Little Mix were prominently spruiking their new fragrance.  Lana duly purchased this the following day with some more birthday money.  Effective.

Little Mix took the stage shortly after 8.30pm and opened with Power.  The kids love this song, however, Erin was clearly afraid of the plumes of fire jetting out of the stage.  They were noisy and at our vantage point, very warm!  It was impressive stuff. Lana loved it.  Erin cried on my lap for most of the first song.  She calmed after that, although was cautious for the 3 or 4 further tracks that utilised the fire jets.

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Black Magic (the girls favourite) followed.  There was something odd about the music for this with a thundering dance beat removing some of the poptastic class that the song usually has.  Regardless, the kids lapped it up.

 

What followed was an impressive show.  They utilised the full stage and the full venue.  There was one big screen across the entire width of the stage.  Throughout the show this showed a collection of crowd clips, backstage clips, video footage and live footage from the stage.  I’ve not been to a gig with such powerful screens before.  Top stuff.

 

Another of Lana’s favourites, F.U., followed from a platform rising from the stage.  When asked by an old couple in the hotel lift the following day, what her favourite song on the night was, without skipping a beat, she said F.U.  Oh, to be 9 and innocent.  Bless her.

 

The first costume change came after F.U. and they made there way onto a metal gangway that had been lowered from the roof.  They then performed a few songs from the back of the venue before making their way back to the stage.

 

I can’t really comment on the rest of the songs as, for me, they did blend a little.  That said, the pace was quick, the performance was upbeat and the show was good.  I found myself enjoying it throughout.  I’m not going to go out and buy a Little Mix album (Lana has them all anyway), but it was good.

 

After a second costume change they did a few more tunes before a quick three song medley before leaving the stage.  Lana was most impressed by being waved to by each member of the band at various point in the gig and there was also a brief a appearance on the big screen.  Happy, birthday girl!

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There was a final costume change before the encore and last song; Shout Out To My Ex.

 

The girls are unlikely to reach that kind of level of VIP-tastic immersion in the future, but they certainly enjoyed this one.

Little Mix Setlist Manchester Arena, Manchester, England 2017, The Glory Days Tour