Tag Archives: live reviews
This event was billed as part of a Young at Heart Festival and it was a night of two halves. The first half was a sit-down interview with Midge conducted by Scottish broadcaster and music journalist Billy Sloan, followed by a second half where Midge performed some old and new songs.
It was a format that worked, no doubt due to the relaxed and well researched interviewing style of Billy and his subject Midge having such an interesting wealth of stories to draw from.
The evening felt like sitting in someone’s living room and listening to some easy banter, but where the stories are all interesting and engaging, and you’re not looking for an escape route to the kitchen.
Obvious topics for conversation were Midge’s collaborations with Bob Geldof, when the two hooked up together in the 80s and pulled off the Live Aid concert on 13th July 1985. Although they were obviously ambitious and passionate about their cause, I don’t think they anticipated just how ground-breaking an event they were embarking on.
Those of us who remember a world before social media and the internet, can appreciate how difficult it must have been to pull musicians together for the Band Aid single. And Midge admitted that on the morning of recording, they were in the studio nervously waiting, with no idea who was going to turn up and who would sing what lines. Duly recorded the single was whizzed over to Radio One on a cassette tape. Remember those? A magical moment was when Midge turned on the radio and heard it getting its very first exclusive airplay.
And it was inspirational to hear how a young boy from Cambuslang managed to forge a career in the music industry and realise a dream, grafting in early bands such as Slik and Rich Kids and then forming the seminal Visage with Steve Strange.
There was also a stint with Thin Lizzy, where he answered an SOS call from Phil Lynott, after the abrupt departure of Gary Moore, which saw Midge on a flight to New York, learning guitar chords on the way.
It was an interesting and engaging chat full of fascinating stories which could have gone on for longer.
After an interval Midge backed with two excellent young male musicians performed some of his best known tracks and some from his new album Fragile. It’s his first release of original music for over a decade, although he has been recording other material during that period, such as a covers album, some live CDs and the latest Ultravox album Brilliant. Fragile, you could say, is a solo album.
It’s also the 20th anniversary of the Breathe album and he’s currently on a Breathe Again tour around the world. He has released an album called Breathe Again – in celebration, which includes the entire Breathe album and four bonus tracks (Lament, Fade to Grey, All Fall Down, Become).
It’s difficult perhaps to imagine an acoustic version of one of the most iconic tracks of the 80s – Vienna – but it worked, as did a brilliant version of Visage’s Fade To Grey. And Midge poignantly paid tribute to Steve Strange who sadly died this February.
What was evident from this evening was that after over 40 odd years in the music business and now at the age of 61, Midge is as passionate about music now as when he started. The old songs stand the test of time and judging by the new songs, he’s still got plenty to say.
He’s currently on tour – for more information see: Midge Ure website
The diminutive Alison Goldfrapp surrounded by the impressive London Contemporary Orchestra in the majestic setting of the cavernous Royal Albert Hall looked uncertain, somehow frail and nervous – displaced perhaps, like some Hollywood star brought back to life in the shaft of light that bathed her. She looked a bit like Marlene Dietrich. Staring out into the crowd, she admitted she was nervous, it showed a charming vulnerability.
She is a true chameleon, you’re never sure what Alison Goldfrapp you will see. She displays the whole gamut of innocent childlike naivety, angelic otherworldliness, then she’s the sweet seductress, a screaming siren and a whirling dervish. In whatever form, her tiny frame with its powerhouse voice totally commands and captivates.
I’ve seen Goldfrapp many times and I imagine them to be sound perfectionists, every gig is note perfect, and this one was no different, apart from the feeling of occasion. While it may not be a “Last Hurrah” – it had the makings of one. Everything was pulled in, an orchestra, an amazing band, at one point the Lips Choir – made up of 54 female voices, and a special guest appearance by John Grant. Alison Goldfrapp and Grant proved an impressive double act as they sang the Lee Hazelwood and Nancy Sinatra hit One Velvet Morning, with Alison’s girly teasing a perfect foil for Grant’s deep throat masculinity.
The bulk of the night was a play through of latest album Tales of Us. The album is a departure from their electro-disco pop and very much a return to the vibe of Felt Mountain. So additional older songs such as Utopia fitted seamlessly into the set list. The carefully crafted and haunting songs of Tales of Us lent itself easily to the wonderful strings and arrangements of the orchestra.
Stranger is particularly beautiful. It’s a song to lose yourself in as you can feel the harmonies swirling around you, but watch the video which accompanies it and it’s a macabre and twisted contradiction.
It’s also begging to be used in a James Bond soundtrack. Goldfrapp should be creating movie soundtracks with their ease for crafting vast sweeping cinematic landscapes.
There were special programmes on the night, only 500 were made and each one was hand-stitched. They were numbered and signed by Alison and Will Gregory.
The nerves, although apparent at the beginning of the night, soon subsided, and Alison need not have worried. The audience were in the palm of her tiny hand and this was a truly memorable gig that captivated from start to finish.
It’s a mystery why Horse isn’t more widely recognized. When you think of Scottish female vocalists, it’s difficult to think of anyone who could surpass her vocal talents, and when she’s tackling a cover version, she picks the most difficult songs to test her vocal range – and she always nails it.
It seems to be a permanent fixture on the Horse gig calendar for a “Wintersong” slot, which tends to be something special. This time it was held inside the Dirty Martini bar of Le Monde Hotel in Edinburgh. It proved a perfect venue. The intimate setting had small tables and chairs facing the stage while fairy lights created a magical atmosphere.
A stripped back gig, Horse was accompanied with only a piano played deftly by Michael Abubakar who occasionally added in some backing and harmonizing vocals.
The set list was a mix of Horse’s own impressive back catalogue, some old and some new. She also chose some excellent cover versions, including fans’ favourite, Bring Him Home from Les Miserables.
I have seen Horse perform on a variety of occasions in different settings. I’ve also seen her backed by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra which was truly spectacular, but standing at the other end of the spectrum, this pared back gig stood out. The smallness of the venue and sparseness meant her voice was truly forefront. Every little intonation and change in range was felt and heard. Some notes were held on to for so long that it seemed impossible had you not heard it with your own ears. Her cover version of the Dusty Springfield classic I Close My Eyes And Count To Ten was simply stunning and perfect for her.
Her cover of the Lady Antebellum song I Need You Now was also sublime and fitted the reflective mood of the set list.
Cover versions aside, she’s got plenty good songs of her own, some are over 20 years old and timeless. There was the seductiveness of Breathe Me and a pared back Careful.
A warm and engaging performer, Horse loves to chat, and in between songs there was plenty of easy banter. People relate to her honesty, sincerity and vulnerability. She’s experienced the sadness of losing her parents and she’s experienced the happiness of love and getting married. She wears her heart on her sleeve and people love her for it.
This was her final gig of 2013 and it was a fitting and reflective round up to a busy year.
Going into 2014, she’s already got a Spring tour lined up for February, she’s taking part in Celtic Connections in Glasgow on January 20th and she’s part of a women’s poetry reading night in Kirkcaldy on January 25th in celebration of Robert Burns’ night.
For more information see: Horse Website
For more information on Celtic Connections see : Celtic Connections 2014 Website
I’m surprised George Michael has cancelled the Australian leg of his Symphonica tour because when he stopped off at Glasgow’s SECC, he was in great voice, and looked comfortable being back on the stage.
He thanked the crowd for waiting for him – a long wait – due to him contracting pneumonia and being forced to cancel his previous tour. “I know you had to wait a year and I know it’s been a tough year.” He said. Meanwhile there was no noticeable effect of the reported emergency tracheotomy, his voice sounded strong, particularly during some of his own material, like the sublime Father Figure.
He was backed by a full orchestra, which leant itself easily to his carefully chosen set list, made up of covers and some of his own material. Overall it was a mixture of subdued and intimate torch songs which ultimately made the cavernous SECC feel like an odd venue for a setup that would have been truly magical in somewhere more cosy. However, the venue did provide excellent lighting, spectacular cinematic backdrops and Michael made good use of the space.
It was a gig of two halves, split by a 20 minute interval, with the second half proving more lively than the first.
Some covers were more surprising than others, like New Order’s True Faith, where Michael’s voice was heavily vocodered, and Rihanna’s Russian Roulette.
A highlight was the cover of Terence Trent D’arby’s Let Her Down Easy, a song to bring a tear to the eye about a protective father worried about his little girl growing up and finding love. A cover of Rufus Wainwright’s Going To A Town where the stage was emblazoned with the word Love, also stood out.
Of Michael’s own songs Father Figure, Kissing A Fool and Cowboys And Angels proved perfect for the set list and surroundings.
Glamour came in the form of a Dita von Teese backdrop to Feeling Good, made famous by Nina Simone, and a version that was all out bluesy and sultry, ramped up with a huge instrumental punch.
This shiny polished glamour was a contrast to the gritty realism of the backdrop to the cover of Police’s Roxanne. Michael introduced the film as being real working girls in Amsterdam, as the song’s languid seductive sleaze entered a dark shadowy world.
The crowd got the chance to party to a Michael melody of Amazing, I’m Your Man and Freedom 90, all of which prompted a crowd sing-along.
Michael looked genuinely happy to be back, leaving it to the encore to bring his set up to date with the club-infused White Light.