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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Photography by Lissywitch photography


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! 

Photographs my own. ©me 🙂

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