Experience and Desire under the Shadow of The Joshua Tree.

​It was finally Saturday 5th May.

Over a year of waiting. 

Back in March 2017, I fell in love with the music of U2 after seeing tribute band U2Baby. They inspired me to write down my experience of that night, because, the performance I witnessed made me listen to U2 songs in a way I never had before, and to seek out more. It’s fair to say, I fell in love with U2 songs, as performed by U2Baby.
Their return coincided with my birthday shenanigans this year, and after reviewing every other gig I’ve been to since theirs, I’d vowed to leave my reporters notebook at home and just enjoy a night out as a crowd member with my friends for once. However, I couldn’t leave my ears, my brain and my heart at home. They go wherever I go and so yet again I’m compelled to write down my experience, after being left physically and mentally buzzing.
A rare sunny bank holiday weekend, an even rarer Saturday off for me, I woke up knowing I had an epic day ahead of me. During the day I met up with two friends I hadn’t seen for a few years, drinking wine and having a picnic down by the river.
After a quick pit stop home to refuel and change, I was out for the U2Baby gig I’d waited so long for. I’d managed to persuade some friends to join me so I knew the night was going to be as brilliant as the sun soaked, wine filled day. My photographer friend L and I had worked hard to promote this gig in our own way, desperate to provide the kind of crowd U2Baby deserved, fresh from their headline slot at a Tribute festival in Bahrain.
Support came in the form of local acoustic singer/songwriter Tash Hurdiss. Her voice is absolutely incredible, and the audience were stunned into impressed silence during her set. Particular highlights included outstanding covers of Chris Isaacs’ Wicked Game, and Space Oddity by the legend Bowie, for which she was joined onstage retrospectively by Cerys and then Chris, her band mates and also extremely talented local musicians, adding extra support with their guitar flare. Space Oddity, especially, moved most people I had the pleasure of talking to, with Tashs vocals, surprisingly deep and smouldering, lending themselves perfectly to a fitting tribute to a much loved musician. For me, a highlight was a song she wrote herself titled Josephina. From seeing her perform before, I know the song is about her best friend, and it is beautiful, brings tears to my eyes as the message of wishing her well and how much she loves her is so clear.  She created a buzz, and since the gig I’ve read so many comments about how amazing the support act was. A triumph for Worcester, the Marrs Bar and those of us desperate to see local artists get the foot up they deserve.

Tash Hurdiss

The venue had filled up around me as everyone had been transfixed by Tash, so by 9.15pm when U2Baby took to the stage, we were ready to party.

A wicked guitar riff and energetic drum beat lead us into the first song The Fly, and some of the crowd were on their feet dancing from the outset, something I’ve not seen at a gig for so long, usually waiting until at least a few songs in. This song was the perfect opener on the night, showcasing the bands skills with reverberating guitar solos, rhythmic beats of the drums and the bass was booming. Next was I Will Follow, an early single by U2 with a more indie rock feel, with a chanting chorus that anyone can, and did, pick up on, to sing along to.

Third on the set list was Out of Control, a song written by Bono on his 18th birthday, keeping the crowd singing along and dancing with its fast tempo and wicked, almost mod/punk style verses.

More well known tracks such as Beautiful Day and Vertigo kept us all on our feet and singing along.

Lights of Home was the first song we heard from latest U2 album, Songs of Experience and for me this is where, with a slightly slower tempo and gentler backing track, the vocals of the lead singer really began shine. His voice on the higher notes leading to the title line really took hold of me, I couldn’t help but listen to every word, their meaning becoming clear to me. As I’ve said before, I fell in love with U2 songs the first time I saw U2Baby, but vocally, the tribute bands singer, Ric, resonates with me stronger than Bono himself. As I explain in that first review, U2Baby introduced me to songs I’d never heard before, so it is their version I seek out when I want to listen to a certain song for a reason. Visually too, when I watch U2 performances, I recognise the stance that Adam takes to be the same as that I’ve seen from Ash. The intensity on The Edges face perfectly merges with my memory of Simon. The powerful beats and gentle brushes I see from Larry replicate my recollection of Jon, and the encouragement of interaction from the crowd and stand behind the microphone that Bono takes, is reminiscent of Ric. I’ve done things the wrong way round, seeing U2Baby before becoming a U2 fan, but it works for me. Even down to the equipment used, these guys do not miss a trick.

More classics, Desire and New Years Day, led us into the soft opening of “The Little Things That Give You Away”, another vocal exposing song, which was delivered beautifully and had the hairs on the back of my neck standing. A favourite of mine from the new album, despite many people saying its a “safe” song. The lyrics have developed a personal meaning for me, and to hear them being sung with such emotion makes the crowd fade away so that it’s just me and the band stood in the room. Towards the end, the track picks up pace around the heartfelt vocals, so that the voice and instruments merge beautifully together alongside each other, drums and cymbals crashing, before falling away softly as the song ends. U2Baby performed it with such passion, I felt every word.

The first half of the set was finished off with Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For and Until the End of the World, leaving me and the rest of the room wanting more. I didn’t even venture to the bar for fear of missing something.

Second half opened with Even Better Than The Real Thing and the epic Sunday Bloody Sunday. Then we were treated to Trip Through Your Wires, a funky little tune I’d never heard before U2Baby compelled me to go add every album to my CD collection. The harmonica gets another outing after seeing it earlier for Desire, another string to the talented bands bow, and another addition towards their accurate portrayal of the band themselves. One and Ultraviolet followed, before Kite. I took my place firmly by the side of my gig partner L for this one, knowing what meaning the song holds for her. Such an iconic song with powerful lyrics, and a symphony of music to back it up, it was impossible not to feel the emotion from L and from Ric on stage, as his own voice cracked with the purest reality of the song, with the lyric “don’t want to see you cry”, having the opposite effect causing real tears to flow, testament indeed to the band to reproduce such a personal song to the same emotional degree as the real U2. If I see someone cry, it makes me cry too, I’m an emotional, sensitive wreck and music has magical powers to evoke and bring forth every possible emotion.

Following Kite , a little side story developed. Back in May 2017, lead singer Ric joined L and myself at a Mused gig at The Marrs Bar,a relatively local Muse tribute band. Their support act that night was fronted by talented singer, Maddie. Ric thoroughly enjoyed the support act but Maddies awkward boom stand bothered him, so much so he vowed to pass on an original 60’s stand that he no longer needed himself.  Easily adjustable with just one hand, the stand was the same as ones used by the likes of  Hendrix, Thin Lizzy and Bono himself. True to his word, the stand was presented to Maddie by Ric that night, showing support of a new generation of musicians.

Get Out of Your Own Way turned the mood back to a positive defiance, where the room joined in with the uplifting lyrics empowering people to stick up for themselves and do what they need to do. “I can help you but it’s your fight” rang around the venue. The songs from the newest U2 album going down well with the crowd.

Get Out Of Your Own Way

Crowd pleasing anthem With or Without You, led into the deep groove of Bullet the Blue Sky, where a literal spotlight was directed onto Simon as “Economy Edge” by his brother Ric as “Budget Bono”, forcing the focus rightly so on the epic skills of a very talented musician and showing again the amazing attention to detail the boys pay to recreate, as closely as they possibly can, a real live U2 performance.

Next up was Running to Stand Still transitioning into Where the Streets have no name. Without having years of being a U2 fan under my belt, the live performance had escaped my notice of this particular combination, but having now researched it, and watched, I understand the link more, an underlying note feeding one spectacularly into the other. I don’t claim to be a U2 boffin on when and where each nuance and reference comes from, but I know the guys do, and that’s one of many reasons I’m so impressed by them. With some songs, I’m seeing and hearing things for the first time via U2Baby, things that die hard fans know all about from performances by the real band, from mannerisms and quirky little ad-lib outros on certain tracks. I’m learning. 

The crowd in full swing and fine voice!

Exit saw the introduction of The Shadowman. Research before the gig, when I heard that the guys were starting to include it in their own show, revealed to me that it was a character created by Bono to help him perform Exit, a song that associated to bad times for him, and it let him step into a different persona to avoid feeling the pain. Watching videos of Bonos Shadowman, the character is mysterious, almost creepy, maybe even a little eccentric, and although Rics portrayal was perhaps slightly less obvious, there were more than enough elements amongst his movements, vocal tone and of course change of outfit to include a dapper hat, to make the character recognisable to fans. Rics version of The Shadowmans entrance onto stage was sinister and almost hypnotic, setting the tone with an apt steely glare, captivating his audience.

The Shadowman

The final track of the set was Bad, another song I hadn’t known before seeing these guys the first time round, but have grown to love. It is a fan favourite, especially when performed live as it has complex layers that build up with the intensity of the song, showcasing each instrument, including the voice, perfectly. A song written in memory of a friend with a heroin addiction, it’s another that draws raw emotion from the performers, and a song that has everything. Beautiful musical arrangements, poetic lyrics, powerful meanings and of course notoriety after it was performed by U2 at Live Aid (if you don’t know my reference, Google it). And in true Bono style, the tune ended up with an outro, this one being Heroes by David Bowie, and from just a few lines I was desperate to hear the band play the whole song.

After a few long seconds off stage, the inevitable encore opened a selection box of three more songs. The heart warming All I Want is You, where during the line “cradle to the grave”, the pitch Rics voice hits on a certain note, is enough to make me revert back to being an obsessed teenage girl again,  the vibrant and colourful rendition of Helter Skelter and the final song, dedicated to yours truly for my birthday, Elevation, a feel good end to àn epic show. Everyone was up dancing, everyone! With chants of “More” as the band took their final bow, we knew the end had come but were reluctantly letting go, losing ourselves completely in another outstanding, electrifying performance. Why did it have to end? One thing I’ve found since following the band is that the U2 fans are like one big family, all connected by the messages U2 songs hold. U2Baby bring that message to the masses. To people like me, who never has and probably never will see U2 live. Following a tribute band like this one is all inclusive, giving everyone access to the experience of being at a real U2 gig. It’s a feel good, mood lifting, friendly experience where everyone gets together to have a good time.  Each member of the band is an exceptional musician in their own right, and deserve to be recognised as such, each playing an audio and visual role in the performance. Each as important as the other. 

If the music doesn’t move you, you’re not listening to it right. 

Worcester NEEDS to see this band again. We need the excitement. We need the feeling of comradery they bring. We need nights out as epic as they deliver. 

2019? I only wish we don’t have to wait so long. 

Myself & “Budget Bono” aka Ric

*Disclaimer… All thoughts, opinions and recollections are mine and mine alone! Any inaccuracies can be blamed on the fact that I didn’t intend to review this one so I’m relying on my memory alone of the night! (’twas my birthday night out, in case I hadn’t mentioned!)

Myself with Tash and the band.

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Life on Marrs – The Man in the Stars

10th January 2016.

The day the world lost the most flamboyant, influential, iconic and trail blazing  British singer/songwriter the universe has ever seen. After a career spanning five decades, every music lover I know was devastated by the loss of David Bowie. His music was, and of course still is, instantly recognisable. After his death, our airwaves were inundated with plays of his most famous hits, with no less than 8 of his songs ending up in the January 2016 top 100 UK charts. I never had an opportunity to see Bowie live, I don’t imagine many of you reading this did. By the time I was born, his musical career had already surpassed 10 years. 

Fast forward to 17th February 2018.

The Marrs Bar, Worcester. 

Bowie Tribute act “Aladdinsane” came to play. 

Billed as the greatest Bowie tribute in the UK and beyond, Paul Henderson and his band had big space boots to fill.

Opening aptly with Space Oddity, which was indeed Bowie’s first top 5 entry into the UK singles chart in July 1969, Paul, dressed in simple white shirt and black waistcoat, took to the stage with the famous line of “Ground control to Major Tom” and it became instantly apparent that the billing had been correct. Bowie used his natural baritone singing voice to storytell his songs, often not even trying to hide his heavy English accent. Yet his pitch and range was phenomenal. Paul was recreating that in his opening number, clearly showing years of dedication and real admiration for the man he was portraying. Paul once appeared on Stars in their Eyes, and having seen that performance, which in itself was spot on, its clear to see that since then, Paul has worked away at this persona and its paid off. So, an iconic song to open with, brave almost as its so well known, but absolutely the right choice to reel us in. 

After greeting the crowd and announcing it was their first time in Worcester, we were treated to Starman and then into Ashes to Ashes. The guitar is put down and Paul is able to showcase the moves and mannerisms of Bowie, and as the song peaks, the actions are more dramatic, and the whole sound and vision of Bowie that his advertising posters claim to offer, are showcased to their full extent. Although confident and out-going, I often thought Bowie always had a slight awkwardness onstage, which Paul carried out perfectly. The twitch of the head, the stilted but everso dramatic arm movements, it was uncanny. 

The tempo raised with a perfect rendition of Fame, fading out to strains of “War, what is it good for?”, exaggerated dance moves only added to the experience we were being treated to. I didn’t know the next two songs, Be My Wife and Boys Keep Swinging but, I have no doubt they were as vocally close to the originals as we’ll ever be lucky enough to hear, but I was soon brought back to familiarity with Let’s Dance and Changes. 

The Man who Sold the World and Moonage Daydream led up to the end of the first set, a personal favourite of mine, Life on Mars, delivered impeccably, suitably emotional. 

During the interval, I took a moment to look around. My trusty photographer friend L had found out that a fair few people there had travelled from Paul’s home town and surrounding areas, and there was a handful of our own local crowd there. Everyone was buzzing about what they’d seen so far, eagerly waiting for more.  

The second set came with an outfit change, more of the ilk of Bowie’s Glam Rock alter ego Ziggy Stardust. “The Jean Genie” from the 1973 album “Aladdin Sane” saw the crowd get on their feet and there they stayed for the rest of the evening. “Ziggy Stardust” and “Stay” led into “Heroes”, which saw Paul come to the front of the stage and the subtle backing music left his impeccable vocals exposed. We were treated to a bit of Sax with a rendition of ” Sorrow”, followed by “Time”. A song I didn’t know, but felt very show tune, and Paul gave a stage show performance, dropping to his knees and giving all the emotion the song called for. 

Another crowd pleaser was “China Girl”.  By now the dancing crowd were in full swing, and I noticed a girl dancing barefoot with her partner, younger than me but clearly loving the iconic music as much as the older crowd. A woman with long blond hair danced alone, the music clearly running through her veins. Hello Spaceboy, John I’m only Dancing, All the Young Dudes and Queen Bitch followed, taking us to the last song of the night, Rebel Rebel. A rocky tune to dance to, some of the band went out onto the dance floor and the crowd were left wanting more. A short walk off stage led to an encore of White Light/White Heat, another song I didn’t know, but one that I’ll now forever remember.

A repeated line asked “What’s that sound?”. 

The sound that night was most definitely Bowie. 

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Unwrapping The Uncover Xmas Party

Every gig I’ve been to since starting my blogging, I’ve enjoyed. Well, I’ve actually loved. I’ve often wondered what I’d do if I was invited to review a gig and it wasn’t to my taste. I’m hoping I never have to find out.

On 21st December I went along to the Uncover Xmas Party at local live venue The Marrs Bar. Four acts were on the billing, and out of those four, I’d only ever seen one before. 

In summary, here’s how the night went.

Opening act was Valence. Three lads from Malvern who took to the stage with the aim to entertain us. Their music was fun pop-punk, and reminiscent of a much cooler version of Busted, without the cheesy jumps and kicks around the stage. Musically, one of their songs reminded me of 90s band EMF, whose alternative sound saw me through my college days. They were having fun, and that translated well to the cosy crowd that had braved the winter elements. The lads closed their set after thanking the audience for their support of unsigned bands, with a great rendition of All The Small Things by Blink 182, giving us a chance to have a sing along. 

Next onstage was the beautiful one woman band, Poppy WS. A barefooted vision in red took to the stage and in her opening song alone, a rhythmic cover of Falling, she played several instruments effortlessly, guitar, keyboard, tambourine.. the list goes on. I was fascinated by her use of the looping pedal, and I believe it was her first time using it live onstage. I’ve seen one used once before, by an Ed Sheeran tribute act, but Poppy used it in a more obvious way, melodically layering percussion sounds and vocal harmonies over the background of her tracks. My playlist at home doesn’t contain many female artists, for no real reason, but Poppy’s voice was mesmerising and I will definitely go and see her again. Her own songs were quirky but catchy, and had a realness about them that you can only feel when an artist has lived and breathed what they write about. Her style was classical mixed with blues mixed with an individuality I can’t liken to anyone else. I will forever remember her set as Snow White floating barefoot through a mystical forest. It was magical. 

  Third on the billing was Plastic Scene, a young five-piece band, of which two had suitably donned the classic Christmas jumpers to evoke the party mood. Their first song had me feeling vibes of The Verve, and the vocalist front and centre did little to deter the image of Richard Ashcroft as his hair was as dark and floppy as my mind had remembered the man himself. They describe themselves as a psych-rock band, and although they wholly stood still on stage, the image and the sound worked well. Laid back, in control, easy to listen to. I was intrigued to hear more but unfortunately their set was cut slightly short due to over running technical issues, but they did themselves proud. Thourougly enjoyed what they had to offer. 

The final act of the night was the one I’d seen before and was the one that had dragged me out on a cold winters night, Skewwhiff. I’ve seen this band several times, most recently when they were support act to one of my idols, Mark Morriss of The Bluetones, at a venue in Malvern a couple of years back. Skewwhiff never disappoint. The first time I saw them, I purchased their CD “Nice Little Upper”. I can’t really pin point what genre I’d put them in, but suffice to say, its feel good music. You cannot stop your feet from tapping and your shoulders shimmying. Mix the music with lead vocalist Beanies energy onstage and you will enjoy the show. She bounces around with infectious enthusiasm. Her vocal range is phenomenal, and each song is peppered with musical vocal gymnastics I couldn’t even dare to replicate. A song I remember from previous times I’ve seen them, “Its Obvious”, had a small group of ladies up dancing and singing along, proving these guys have a well deserved and established fan base. Shewwhiff are awesome. Each time I see them, I like them even more. Its not hard to see why they’ve performed various festivals and have been support act to some top acts. Local band done good, and I think they’ve only just scratched the surface of the recognition they deserve.

So overall, an awesome night, new music to explore and happy festive memories! Well done to all involved. Here’s to more in 2018.
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Photography as always by the amazing LissyWitch Photography

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Your Gig Was Handmade For Somebody Like Me

The Ed Sheeran Experience.

Sometimes in life, opportunities come along that are too good not to take. Big or small, you should grab them with both hands.  On Friday 15th December, such an opportunity arose, in the form of going to see a tribute act with my best friend S. 

The event had been advertised heavily on social media. By all accounts, it was the first gig by local promotion company “Tribute”. Its fair to say, the gig seemed to be receiving its fair share of attention, both positive and negative. As a firm believer of supporting local, live music events, I was delighted to have the opportunity to see for myself. Everyone’s gotta start somewhere, right? A chance to make mistakes and learn from them, yes? 

The Ed Sheeran experience is basically a guy called Jack, who just so happens to be an auburn haired singer who can play a guitar or two. 

I like Ed Sheeran, my son is a huge fan. His music is personal, from the heart, autobiographical to the point where its publicly known who he’s writing and singing about, so I admit to being dubious about an act claiming to give the Ed experience. Part of seeing Ed Sheeran perform is knowing that the words are real, and he feels them. Could someone singing those lyrics really be able to convey the meaning if they weren’t personal to them? I was keen to find out.

The gig was held at a relatively small village hall, but upon entering the venue, it proved to have ample space to hold the expected audience. Seats were available for those that wanted them, which it seemed most people did, but that suited us just fine as S had recently hurt her ankle in an “ice” incident. 

The crowd was a mixed age group, with families, friends and loved ones out for a night of entertainment plugged as a Christmas Party. The venue was suitably decorated and the good vibe atmosphere certainly helped me feel festive.

The show opened with a delightful duo, Polly Edwards and Kringo Blue. We were treated to a host of covers that suited Polly’s sultry voice to a tee. I’d seen these guys advertised at local venues before but never had the opportunity to see them. I’m now glad I have and will actively make an effort to see them again .

There was a chance to grab a drink and a bite to eat before the main event, and the choice of drinks was vast and reasonably priced, and the Jamaican food on offer, from West Brom based Jamrock Catering was delicious. All I heard while stood in the swiftly moving queue was postive. 

When Jack, as Ed, came on stage, the similarity was actually surprising. In photos I’d seen he “resembled” Ed, but on stage he took on the Ed persona perfectly. The way he held his guitar, and the laid back attitude he had was spot on. He dressed like Ed, held himself like Ed and when he started to sing, he sounded as close to hearing Ed Sheeran sing live as you could expect to get. Seriously, he was born to be Ed! He was a one man band, switching between different guitars for different songs, seamlessly from one song to another, he was a pro. His show was also the first time I’d  experienced  live looping in action. I’ve since discovered it’s a replica of the loop station Ed uses. I’m not into tech, and definitely not up on the technical terms, but it seems a sound, snippet, run of notes, a vocal sound, can be recorded then played back on a rhythmic loop behind the main track and vocals. Simple things, but I was transfixed. Jacks beat boxing and rap sections were brilliant and the audience were captivated. 

Jack performed songs spanning Eds whole career, but it was the more recent ones that got people abandoning their chairs and making a dance floor right in front of the stage. Once the audience was on its feet, Jack commanded the stage and the already pitch perfect show ramped up a notch. As it had been billed as a Christmas Party, the crowd became vocal about wanting a Christmas song. Jack admitted to knowing the first part of Fairytale of New York and happily obligied us to a verse which was received with festive cheers. 

His rendition of “Sing” was quite possibly the highlight of my evening. A song I know and love due to the fact it’s probably the longest bit of “rapping” I know every single word to! Understandably, it was a crowd pleaser. 

His final song and encore was recent hit “Shape of You”, by which point,the two pints of cider had kicked in and I could no longer sit still so up I got, and danced alone as S rested her ankle. I was pleased to see that in doing so, I’d encouraged  the ladies that were seated behind us to get up for a boogie. The accuracy and attention to detail of Jacks whole performance meant my initial concerns of whether I’d “feel” the emotion of Eds lyrics, became a distant memory. He is an absolutely outstanding performer whose down to earth demeanour helped portray the visual experience of the real Ed. 

S and I ended the night waiting for our taxi in the local pub car park, treating the sleepy village of Hallow to an Ed inspired rendition of Fairytale of New York. Brilliant end to a brilliant night out. 

My conclusion,the evening was a success. Everyone seemed to enjoy it. The support act went down well, the sound quality in the hall was awesome and actually pleasantly surprised me, and if there were any technical hitches, I didn’t notice them. 

Tickets for the real Ed Sheeran sell out in minutes. If you can’t get hold of them, Jack really is a truly accurate substitute.

And as for the event organisers, a huge WELL DONE! I’m excited to see where this venture takes them. After getting the chance to briefly chat to main man Matthew, it seems he has big ideas and I wish him all the best.

Watch this space! 

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