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.


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


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.

Royal Blood @ Leeds First Direct Arena

Who throws a shoe?


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.


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.


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


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.


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


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


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.

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?


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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!


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


Tom McRae @ The Cluny, Newcastle & The Wardrobe, Leeds – 2nd & 3rd October 2017

Two stunning evenings in the company of Tom McRae

Tom McRae has released 8 studio albums, numerous live albums and demo / b-side collections.  I first heard of him on the short-lived music channel, The Amp.  I saw some infomercial type interview about Just Like Blood and was then hooked.

The Cluny

The last time I saw Tom was at The Sage.  It was a serene performance ruined at times by a drunk woman singing louder than Tom.  Andrew joined me that night as a Tom McRae virgin, as Ste couldn’t make it.  The Cluny gig was the 6th time I’d seen Tom live (although one was an in-store performance).  Ste had been with me for 4 of those.  I’m pleased to say that both Andrew and Ste were with me at The Cluny for our first proper gigamonth (proper includes essential ingredients; just the three of us, a pint, a chat and some food) since Haley Bonar in May.  The food (The Rumble Po’ Boy Jumble!) & beer (Andrew had a Wylam DH Table Beer and Ste & I had the space in between…or something like that) were up to the usual high Cluny standards.

Support act: IMG_0924Lowri Evans opened the evening supported by Lee Mason on guitar.  I enjoyed the set, which included a Welsh intro to a Welsh language song.  It was nice to hear little anecdotes and stories behind the songs spread throughout the set.

Tom McRae: Tom took the stage at about 9.30pm.  Totally unassuming.  He slowly ambled onto the stage and picked at a few guitars before letting Dave know he was ready to start.    I was instantly transfixed in the performance as Tom ignored the guitars and opened with an a capella version of Mermaid Blues.  Simply amazing.  That was soon followed by my favourite song of his latest album (album; Ah, The World! Oh, The World!), Show Them All.  Tom performed using a range of acoustic guitars, an electric guitar, a couple of harmonicas and a piano.  Every song was stripped back and completely beautiful.  Show Them All & Summer of John Wayne were both acoustic before the only use of the electric guitar on Won’t Lie.  Won’t Lie was the first of a number of audience participation songs.  The was a respectful and quiet hush from the crowd throughout, but every opportunity to get involved was taken with real intent.

2nd Law followed on piano.  Achingly heartfelt.  Next up was How The West Was Won which transformed into a cover of Free Fallin’ by the late, great, Tom Petty.  Tom Petty had died a short time earlier and his passing clearly affected the thoughts and performance of Tom.  When Runnin’ Down A Dream came on the PA after the gig, it sounded amazing and very poignant.

The High Life provided another opportunity for “angry” audience participation and Tom started taking some requests, checking in with his little red book every once in a while.

Everything seemed so relaxed.  Tom commented that the lack of a band meant it could be that way.  No need to rehearse.  Take it as it comes.  Sao Paolo Rain was sensational.

Tom seemed to warm up his on stage patter as the night went on, revelling in the recent life transforming nature of having a song covered on the Norwegian version of The Voice.

Tom indicated a new-found purpose to performing.  The world is so screwed up at the moment, that if he can just depress his audience enough during a gig, then the world might not seem so bad in comparison when they leave.

At this point in the gig, I was completely absorbed.  When he was taking requests, I wasn’t in the least bit compelled to make one.  I don’t care what he played.  He could have played anything from his back catalogue and I’d have been happy.  Yes, I have favourite Tom McRae tracks, but I didn’t need to hear them tonight.  I’ve heard them before and was just wanting to be taken away by whatever was next.  It Ain’t You, Expecting The Rain, For The Restless and Ghost of  a Shark were next.  Ghost…bled in to Please before My Vampire Heart.  None of This Really Matters was the penultimate song and only one of two played from the next album (which I’d have been happy to hear in it’s entirety).  He closed with One Mississippi.  An encore was not needed.  Lights up.  Tom Petty on.


I’d come to gig clutching 4 of Tom’s albums to be signed, hoping he’d be out before or after the show.  I already had 4 signed albums, so was hoping to complete the set.  He kindly obliged and stopped for a serious selfie.  I left very happy.

Tom had arrived at the gig following an epic journey.  He delivered a fantastic performance.

I left the gig thinking that this was the sort of performance I’d like to see again.  I wondered where else he was playing, but figured I was unlikely to go to another gig on this tour.  I’d never done that before.  Never been to another gig by a band or artist in the same tour.  Ste and I had recently discussed whether this was something we could see us doing.  We thought it unlikely.

I listened to a bit more Tom on the way home (From The Solo Lands) and thought, what if?

The next day I was in Rotherham with work.  I was taking someone with me.  At 7am they let me know they weren’t well.  Tom was playing in Leeds that night.  Well, considering I’d already travelled down, it would be rude not to.  Ticket booked.  Night two.

The Wardrobe

There was no Andrew & Ste.  I arrived in Leeds at about 5.30pm.  3 hours to kill.  My phone wasn’t going to have much battery left!  I had a nice pint of Wardrobe Pale Ale and a burger and headed downstairs to watch Lowri Evans (this time solo) at 8.30pm.  Another enjoyable set, made even better by the previous nights familiarity.

Tom joined us on stage at 9.30pm and after some guitar lead issues, he opened again with Mermaid Blues.

I was right at the front for this one.  There was a small change to the start of the set with For The Restless replacing Summer of John Wayne.  Tom described it as the best opening of set that he’d done for some time.  Who am I to argue?

The set started to change as the requests came in.  Sao Paolo Rain was the first request, at the same point in the set as at The Cluny.  I shouted for Walking 2 Hawaii with several others and that followed.  Simply stunning.  Possibly my favourite Tom song.  This version was incredible.  Simple he said.

Human Remains was another audience shout which really appealed to Tom and this was followed by It Ain’t You.  Tom then spotted a “hole” in the audience and unplugged his guitar and took a trip to the centre of floor and performed Bloodless.  The strict curfew was looming and so previous night set closers; None of This Really Matters and One Mississippi followed.  Ghost Of A Shark was then sneaked in under threat of fine and the set was closed with Free Fallin’.  Tom dedicated the night to Tom Petty.  Rest In Peace.

Ramshackle. Heartfelt. Meandering. In all the best ways. Thank you, Leeds. And all who are travelling to multiple shows! #dave #dave #dave

— tom mcrae music (@tommcrae) October 3, 2017

I travelled home, pleased to have experienced two incredible nights.  I was pleased with my spur of the moment decision and thankful to a supportive wife for not complaining!

I’d completely immersed myself in Tom’s back catalogue before The Cluny gig, listening through all the studio albums and most of the other collections.  I normally respond following a gig, by stopping listening to the band or artists for a while.  This is not one of the those responses.  Ah, The World! Oh, The World! is a stunning album, that gets better on every listen.

Tom McRae Setlist The Cluny, Newcastle, England 2017

Tom McRae Setlist The Wardrobe, Leeds, England 2017

Barns Courtney @ Think Tank? Newcastle

Barns Courtney delivers a quality set that deserved a larger audience

This was a first.  Well, at least a first for a long while.  Barns Courtney was introduced to me by my wife, Clare.  I was away at Glastonbury when she texted to say that she’d like to see him.  I’d never heard of him, but said yes.  When I got back, I had a listen on spotify and was hugely impressed by Golden Dandelions, Fire and Little Boy.

Think Tank? is a small venue in Newcastle with a capacity of about 250.  This one was far from full with about 70 to 100 or so present.  I was surprised as I expected it to be full.  It should have been as it was a little treat.

Barns Courtney took the stage at 9pm and the first thing I noticed was that he was sporting a moon boot on his right foot.  This didn’t impair him much.  It probably should have as I feared for his safety for most of the gig!  He seemed intent on bouncing around the stage as if it wasn’t there and fortunately managed to stay upright for the whole gig.


The audience was relatively odd for the evening.  I don’t think I’ve previously been to a gig where the crowd stood back from the stage for the main act, but they were intent on doing so tonight.  Clare & I were probably the furthest forward and we were a couple of meters away.  That didn’t affect Barns’ from engaging with the audience.  He did so impressively, but his masterstroke (presumably tried and tested) came 4 songs from the end when he asked everyone to come forward so he could take a photo of everyone.  Everyone duly came forward.  He took some video footage, threw his phone to the ground and informed everyone that they might as well stay where they were now.  Sweet move.

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The highlights were clearly the tunes I knew from Spotify, but all in all it was an excellent 12 song set with a huge amount off energy.  John Waugh, the saxophonist with The 1975, played on three of the tracks and it brought an extra quality dimension to the set.  Barns was clearly happy to have him there.


Glitter & Gold, Never Let You Down, Little Boy, Golden Dandelions and Fire were all awesome.  His debut album is out on the 29th September, so I’m looking forward to hearing it.  Shame it doesn’t look like it’s getting a vinyl release, but it will be well wroth checking out.

There was something about his attitude that I really liked.  I don’t know why, but he brought me in with something that I found incredibly amusing.  As he was finished with his mouth organ on one tune, he absently discarded it over his shoulder and it bounced to the back of the stage.  It was the way he did it that just had me laughing and warming to his excitable style.  I’m interested to see what comes next.

I pilfered the setlist from the stage as others were clearly hovering to do the same.  Shy bairns…


Support act: Georgie Keller opened the evening.  He was on the stage by himself with a backing track for 30 minutes.  Pretty impressive and pretty brave, only taking brief respite with a single acoustic guitar cover of a Shawn Mendes track.

Food & drink: Clare & I were on our own for this one and as we were bit rushed there was no time for food in advance.  The post gig chicken kebab was a bit on the dodgy side, but welcome.  I took on board a Dead Pony Club and Clare had a Peroni at the gig.

Merchandise: none available.  Makes a refreshing change that I wasn’t tempted to part with more cash.