If , like me , music is what keeps your heart beating and fires the sparkle in your eyes , then this global pandemic would’ve smothered the flames to a damp pile of dying embers . Yes , most of my favourite local musicians continued to do live streams to keep the flickers of a flame going, but it was real life , in the flesh, live music that took the biggest blow, preventing my gently nurtured campfire from igniting into the wild bonfire I was craving . Sure, as restrictions eased , outdoor live music was once again permitted , and the temptation to dive right into “whatever/wherever” was on offer, was strong. Although I didn’t . Still unsure how it would be with limited numbers, social distancing, and a fear , albeit very mild, of good old Covid 19 , I waited. Subliminal maybe, I was waiting for the right “fit” if that makes any sense at all .
Step forward “The Firefly” in Lowesmoor. Open mic night on a Thursday kept popping up on my news feed . A few local musicians that I know and love became regulars performing there . I had to go, the pull of live music far outweighed my uncertainties of a virus that had held me captive for 4 months.
Thursday 17th September was my 5th time going and its safe to say I have found my happy place again . Let’s start with the Firefly itself . Firstly , staff are amazing . Every member of the team puts you at ease, and treats you like a member of the family popping round for a cuppa . Table booking has become essential for this popular night, and upon arrival, you are escorted to your table and encouraged to order via the app to get food and drink brought to table . As a cider drinker , my thirst served is always quenched by the variety on offer . The food menu is solely, 100% vegan . Although not a vegan myself, I have devoured the loaded fries, and a burger have gone down well within my social “bubble” too . Hand sanitiser is available throughout and around the bar, though if you order via the app you have no reason to leave your table, and to be fair, why would you want to? The setting is perfect, wooden benches, strictly limited to people in their own bubbles, subtle lights and floral decorations dotted around the outside, umbrellas on tables, it’s easy to forget where you are. Good vibes and atmosphere is oozing from this little gem, to help transport you to a better place. A place where live music is allowed.
Now to the event itself. Hosted by popular local singer/songwriter Kringo Blue, the night is always opened up with a little set packed full of his signature style. Laid back, chilled out vibes with skillful, warbling guitar, Kringo offers up his own versions of songs, including a spectacular cover of Seven Nation Army, which is always my favourite. Kringos sound is unique within his covers and originals, a quality hard to find, and even harder to stick to and make a constant throughout a setlist…. Kringo makes it seem easy.
The evening is then opened up to anyone. It’s mostly a pre-booked in running order, but anyone could potentially put their name down on the night to perform a song or two. Over the weeks I’ve been going , variety has been the name of the game, with a host of familiar faces and new discoveries. Among the familiar I’ve seen, Sean Jeffery offers up a set of crowd pleasing covers, and will occasionally throw in a self penned original, with open mics being the perfect platform to get new music heard. Although Sean appears quietly unassuming, he proves he is a seasoned professional time and again, clearly dedicated to delivering a quality performance. “Blinded By The Sun” by much underrated 90s band The Seahorses comes out top for me from his eclectic range of covers. A faultless set showing commitment, and a true appreciation of quality on show.
Bobby has taken to the mic a couple of times, literally letting his hair down to belt out an insanely epic version of Chris Isaaks “Wicked Game”, with the deep and sultry voice to match. Vocally versatile, Bobby can also hit the high notes when needed, and encourages audience interaction with his version of “Old Town Road”.
Both former members of The Fidgets, Max and Ryan, have rocked up on a regular basis, mostly performing individually, but on one occasion they teamed up to do a little set of songs from the bands’ busking days, “I Feel Fine” by The Beatles being a firm favourite, songs to raise a smile.
Ryan’s solo mix includes old, new and original material, with songs that span decades, his delicate but dynamic vocals make for an adorably heartwarming set. Each of his performances will always leave the socially distanced crowd wanting more. Ryan’s versions of “It Must Be Love” and “Its a Wonderful World” have stood out for me, for the very fact his voice has moulded itself around the lyrics and claimed the songs as his own. Simply beautiful.
Max tends to pick up the pace with up tempo covers, songs that allow his personality and passion for playing, burn bright. His energy alone can warm even the coolest evenings. His distinctive voice is one of perfection for the set list he offers up, from “These Boots are Made for Walking” to “Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head”, anyone familiar with Max would know its him singing, if just walking past the enclosed safe haven of the beer garden. To be instantly recognisable is not something every artist can claim, but this guy has individuality wrapped up in abundance. By far the highlight of his most recent set was his own song “You”, a beautiful little love song that feeds my desire of hearts and romance. Having only ever heard this song on Spotify and live streams, as released during lockdown, there was something quite poignant about hearing it played right infront of me. A natural entertainer with an infectious stage presence.
Then there’s Matt, who my “bubble” guests and I have decided would be a perfect hotel lounge bar singer due to his dusky vocals and crooning classic covers. Matt is a real cool cat, and has treated us to smoky renditions of “Mercy Mercy Me” and “Lets Stay Together “. An effortlessly awesome, easy listening set of music that actively encourages good times and social get togethers. Another laid back performer who just “delivers” and sets the mood in the aforementioned perfect setting.
To break up the line ups with some much needed girl power, Hannah Webb has teamed up with Ben Hall to add delicate harmonising vocals, and also performed a showcase of her angelic voice for a short set. In an earlier week I heard an outstanding rendition of “At Last” by a female vocalist. Portia Smith has belted out Valerie with Kringo on guitar, and the evenings have seen a real mix of instrumental talent too. There are many more that I haven’t mentioned, but honestly equally enjoyed. Live music, it’s just “my thing”, you know.
Despite the evenings taking on an seasonal Autumnal chill, being surrounded by like minded music lovers in a safe and cosy environment provided by The Firefly, my musical bonfire has finally had its flames fanned by some much needed LIVE music.
To all involved, I thank you. From the bottom of my soppy little heart, you don’t know how much what you all do means to me.
New month and a new band for me to review.
I’d heard a lot about The Faux Fighters. I was all set to see them last time they visited Worcester, but I wasn’t well and couldn’t make it. From what I heard after, I’d missed out. I wasn’t about to let that happen again.
This time, the band had support from local band Altered Voltage. Singer Tash, who I’ve written about before, opened the evening with three solo songs, serenading the growing crowd as the doors opened. As before, when I saw her provide support for U2Baby, Tash mesmorised everyone with her dulcet tones, again stunning everyone during her performance of Wicked Games.
She was joined on stage by her Altered Voltage band mates to perform an eclectic set of 8 songs. Being in a group transforms Tash, from being the simplistic guitar strumming songbird, into a crazy little rocker, and the foursome gel wonderfully onstage together. The songs chosen were perfect to show case the bands collective skills and knowledge of music, choosing perhaps lesser known tunes and turning them into their own. For such a young band, they had a captive audience, everyone I heard talking about them was lavashing deserved praise
. The band attracted at least two people to the dancefloor from the opening song, Wolves of Winter by Biffy Clyro, and there they stayed for the whole set. I’ve heard that Swim Down by Moose Blood is a band favourite to perform and it showed, the energy from all four members was insane and it was impossible not to fall in love with everything this band has to offer. Every time I see them perform, they have grown, evolved. And it’s exciting.
“I bet you look good on the Dancefloor” was arguably the song that ramped up the mood in the venue, calling for frantic dance moves from the crowd and onstage.
A dedication from the singer to her Dad led us into popular choice, No-one Knows by Queens of the Stone Age, before the set was concluded with Lights Out by Royal Blood,a song which has previously, aptly, caused stage malfunctions when performed by the band, inspiring their name. The only sparks that flew this time though, came from the group themselves, proving they were very worthy candidates to warm up the waiting crowd.
Since delving into this writing malarkey, I’ve found myself in a position where I’m reviewing music I’m not familiar with. Original artists are great, as their music is previously unheard by most of the people in the venue. When you’re reviewing a tribute band however, the opposite is true. Facing the mighty Faux Fighters, I felt I was wet behind the ears, a little like an outsider, if I’m honest, and the pressure to “get it right” was immense. The venue had filled with people who would know The Foo Fighters inside out, and apart from maybe two songs, I knew NOTHING!
I knew what the band looked like, I knew who the lead singer was, but I’d never watched any of their live performances, although I had caught a song they performed at The Brits this year. Their music had passed me by. Was I finally out of my depth with this one? Would I have to admit defeat? Armed with notebook,pen and a whole heap of determination, I waited.
As the screen lifted and the intro led into the opening song “No way back”, the first thing to hit me was the singers striking resemblance to Dave Grohl. Staggering infact. The two “dancers” had stayed front and centre and were joined by a friend, a small crowd forming as the band threw their energy off the stage and into the venue. No pause for breath between one song into the next, “I’ll stick around” enticed more people onto the dance floor, filling it up in front of us so we had no choice but to stand. “Up in Arms” and “My Hero” , which incidentally was the first song I recognised, followed. The music was loud, and polished. These guys were clearly professionals at what they were delivering.
The fifth song of the first set served up a little surprise. Tash from Altered Voltage and Maddie from another local band, Nexus, joined the band onstage to provide harmonic backing vocals for Sky is a Neighbourhood, the song I remembered was performed on the Brits earlier this year. The song has the perfect alt-rock pulse to suit the trio of singers now onstage and it’s fair to say this moment was certainly one that would be talked about after the show.
The groovy beat and winding guitars in Generator headed up another run of crowd pleasing favourites. The songs were delivered with so much passion, I had to wonder how I’d gotten through life without ever hearing them before. It certainly was the kind of music I like, and the Faux Fighters were expertly serving me each song in perfectly digestible ear splitting, throat tearing morsels of awesomeness. As the first set came to end with “Stacked Actors”, the venue was fit to burst, as more people joined the Faux party, long since ditching a Peaky Blinders event that had happened earlier that evening, to join us while dressed in their finest outfits.
As I’ve admitted to not knowing much about the Foo Fighters, I took the opportunity to talk to the people around me who clearly did. The best testament a tribute act can get is that of a die hard fan of the original band. One guy I chatted to had seen the Foos several times live, each ticket costing him an arm and a leg, but in his opinion, worth every penny. He did however then say, “but for a tenner I’ve seen these guys, the music is just as good, he bloody looks like Dave, it might as well be the real thing”. Out of the mouths of fans.
The band came roaring back onto stage and into the limelight with the power of wild lion. “Rope” opened the set, then into “Breakout” which , from assessing the adoring crowd, was a winner with the fans. By this point , the guy behind me had noticed me frantically taking notes, desperate to capture the atmosphere I was feeling there and then, and decided to take it upon himself to remind me to add “potatoes” to my shopping list, a joke that became a running theme throughout the rest of the evening. “Learn to Fly” was jam packed full of rip roaring riffs, causing the swaying crowd to sing, dance, jump and bounce in unison. Blokes hugging, songs have meanings to people, and if a tribute act can successfully convey the same meaning to a person as the original artist, then that’s proof indeed that they must be doing something right.
The guys took the opportunity inbetween songs to do a few birthday wishes to crowd members before going into “For all the cows” , prompting the guy behind me to tell me to add milk to my now hypothetical comedic shopping list. Two more songs ran into a wind down “Wheels” and I really studied what was going on around me and on stage. The crowd was literally buzzing, as if the ground beneath them was electrified, making them jump around uncontrollably. They were loving it. The band members looked professional, they looked as though they were performing to thousands, not hundreds, they looked like the real deal to my eyes, my eyes that would only recognise Dave Grohl on a Foo Fighters poster. I guess what I’m trying to say is that they looked like they belonged up there on that stage. As far as I was concerned, they might as well of been the real deal. Not knowing enough of their music before hand to make a comparison, I could only go on my feeling on the night itself. It was a good feeling. Not one person remained seated. All eyes and ears were on the band. If anyone left early, I sure as hell didn’t notice. All I saw were more and more people squeeze onto the dancefloor as each drum bashing, guitar screeching, vocal powered song went by.
They have the ability to turn a small dance floor into a heaving mosh pit. That’s admirable!
After All My Life and Arlandria, thanks was given to my partner in crime Sarah, for taking the photos. Sarah is one of those die hard, life long fans of The Foo Fighters, and having heard her talk about these guys before, I knew I’d be in for a treat.
By the time they reached “Best of you”, I was a mental, hot and sweaty mess. I got adopted by the guys that had been around us all evening and whisked into the middle of the dance floor in a long line of bouncing bodies and intertwined arms. The songs outtro lasted an eternity, with strains of “woah ooh-oh” from the crowd continuing long after the song had finished, reaching its climax with a Mexican wave of adoring arms showing how much the music was being appreciated. If that had been the last song of the set, I have a feeling we would still be there now. I have only ever experienced that kind of reaction to one song before, and that is when Shed Seven finished a live gig with “Chasing Rainbows” , and the chorus continues long after the band has milked the adoration, left the stage and the crowd is back out in the street heading home . It’s epic. It’s belonging. It’s what music does. It’s what good bands evoke.
“Pretender” took the already manic crowd to a whole other level, before more screaming vocals on Run led into Monkey Wrench and then the finale song “Everlong” leaving the crowd wanting more. But there was no more to give. The guys had put everything they’d got into that performance, leaving it lingering within everyone that was there to witness a tour worthy show.
My words can only say so much about a performance like this. My words are no substitute to actually being there. The photos can capture a small snap shot of the evening, but you have to be there to feel the heat, and the passion from the band and it’s fans.
To The Faux Fighters themselves, well done and thank you. You were kinda epic!
Follow the band:-
Friday 17th August
Uncover presents Heinz-sight, White Noise Cinema, Sam Hollis and friends, and Skewwhiff.
First up on the night was solo artist Heinz-sight. Having seen him ordering a drink at the bar before his set, I could sense nerves from this guy as he took to the stage, with spot light and all eyes firmly on him. Even seasoned professional performers get nerves, and to me, this shows a sign of true passion for spilling their thoughts out to strangers from a stage, with nowhere to run and hide. Opening track “Needle in a haystack” was a jolly little tune, with an infectious hook that drew you in , and original lines such as ” Bet your lips taste so sweet, a thousand different flavours of Rowntrees. I know that line, is pure cheese, but sometimes cheese is just what the world needs ” put a smile on my face and of those around me. “Music Man” was next up, with a military march drum beat behind the first chorus, the artist showed a mix of genres and lyrically it felt like we were being shown the pages of his diary. Clearly, I think, autobiographical words made into a mix tape of sounds during his set list. A selection of songs from previous EPs and his current one “Indie-sctructable” . Music Man was definitely a toe tapper, with empowering words- “so many people trying to get you down, the trick is not to show your frown”.
More tracks “Indie-vidual” , “Sulk” (which was a recognisable tantrum turned into a song, awesome!) and “Ghost”- written about an ex , reinforced my suspicions that the words we were hearing were personal and somewhat private, but he had a story to tell and he wanted to tell it!
“Give it” was the sets closing song, with its electro pop back track , it’s clever lyrics told of modern image, how social media plays a part, and the set was concluded with a little speech about body image, and how we should all be who we are without bowing to the pressure of social medias unrealistic expectations.
Next up were White Noise Cinema, a 6 piece band with so much equipment on stage it was unbelievable. I’m not technical with instruments but to the untrained eye, there were drums, 2 guitars, 3 keyboardy “things” , one with a set of side drums. I didn’t know where to look! Now I’ll admit to not catching the titles of some songs so, writers privileges taken to describe them! The opening song, perhaps “More than us”, had me intrigued from the get go. Every instrument played a major role in creating an epic sound blasting throughout the venue. The band members themselves, like the collection of instruments, were varied, from the topless drummer, to the unassuming singer with a surprisingly powerful voice, the mix worked. The second song, introduced more musical delights, introducing tambourine and megaphone to the cacophony of delights, intertwined with the epic guitar riffs we were hearing.
The third song was a little softer, perhaps entitled Ghosts, the singer also picked up a guitar,I’m sure I spotted a maraca, and I was feeling Maroon 5 vibes, although the guitarist on the left hand side of the stage would be suited to a Muse tribute band, my eyes and ears were often drawn to him. The fourth song we heard is ear marked to be released later in the year as a single, and again took my mind to Muse, this time the song “Madness” was emulated in my head . It’s guttural beat winds right down Nirvana style before surging back up with a vengeance.
A song about mental illness, Thin Skin perhaps, ended the set with floor thumping power. The creativity from this band is something I’ve never seen before and I’m excited to follow their career from now on. I was accompanied by two critical teens on this occasion , and both of them loved White Noise Cinema, praise indeed!
Third up on the stage was singer /songwriter Sam Hollis and friends. A quirky bunch of 5 guys with three guitars, a keyboard and drums between them, and with a set list of 7 equally quirky songs. We were treated to a little “uni lads vibe”. Singer Sam was heavily reminiscent, in the way he dresses and moved on stage, to Jarvis Cocker, a little eccentric compared to one of his band mates who looked like he’d just got out of bed! This isn’t a bad thing, oh no, it added to the feel of the set and made for interesting viewing. The songs again were written from experience, relationships being an obvious choice, although guitar heavy Deep Again seemed to focus on a best friends betrayal. “Love Dreams” was my favourite song of their set, full of attitude and smoky bar sass. Collectively these guys are very competent musicians producing musically unique songs they can be proud of. They seem to focus on the band’s sound as a whole without the need for too many instrumental solos, although Ciaran on keyboard (who I’ve reviewed before as a solo artist under his stage name “Keys”) got a little mention and a nod to his skills in the 6th song. Closing song 21st Century saw the bed head guitarist sit on the floor, following a quirky little back to the audience dance move. Groovy numbers from these likeable lads with a lot to offer. Definitely ones to watch.
Headline act Skewwhiff have also had the pleasure of being reviewed by me before so I’m not needing to do an in-depth report of this gig, although, it’s fair to say, each time I see this foursome, I love them a little bit more each time.
This band, who musically refuse to sit in just the one genre box, and are loved and supported locally, deserve to have huge success. Festival favourites across the country, the music is infectious and relatable. Their set of 13 songs should be an album, as each song seamlessly links to another creating a radio ready play list for anyone seeking feel good music to sing and dance to. Not that any of us can keep up with the vocal talents of lead singer Beanie, aka Hannah. Third song on the set “Gizmo”, shows how this talented lady can lend her delicate vocals to all kinds of music styles, ska, punk, and yes, she can even rap. Each band member, with Beanie on vocals, Hogey on guitar, Sammy on bass and Glazz on drums, is professional on stage and their hard work and commitment to their own songs is clear to hear. By the fourth song, Sam Hollis and friends took to the dance floor and entertained us with their moves as one hit after another kept the good times flowing. It is impossible not to boogie either on the dance floor or in your seat to these guys, their catchy numbers flow into you, hooking their little sound waves into your nerves and muscles and make you move to the music.
As a proud owner of Skewwhiffs long player CD “Nice Little Upper”, I’ve loved tracks such as Startrite, and Skidaddle, for a long time, since it’s release in 2014 infact, a firm favourite being “Its Obvious” , a song about the paradise of equality in a relationship, the beauty of being equal but different. However I’m always looking for new music and I’m hoping there’s a new release on the horizon featuring tracks such as the cheeky “Doll Parts” and the encore “Hey Mister”. If you’ve never seen these guys live before, you need to. Their style cannot be pin pointed so appeal to such a wide audience! You’ll want to be at the front of the crowd, but you’ll have to push past me to get there!
Saturday 4th August, a pub I was familiar with as a child due to being just round the corner from where we lived, The Virgin Tavern, opened its doors to a Worcestershire based, 5 piece classic rock covers band, Recovered.
With my 6ft teenager in tow, I was a little out of my comfort zone, not knowing what to expect, not having seen these guys before. It’s also been a while since I’ve seen live music anywhere other than The Marrs Bar, so my expectations were, perhaps unreasonably, set high.
Sure, there was no stage. The guys had set up in an area of the pub that would more than likely usually host extra tables and chairs. However, the equipment was extensive, with lighting too, and the set up and space was more than adequate.
The first set opened with an impressive teaser of music instantly recognisable as the “theme” from Pirates of the Caribbean. The teen and I were impressed. A smile on our faces before they’d even begun.
The first song was an all time favourite mine, Summer of 69 , belted out by Jamie, also on guitar. Vocal duties were handed over to Shaun for “Really Got Me” by The Kinks.. Third song on the set list was a brave choice for a band of deep voiced guys, but I surprisingly enjoyed the low range offered by Shaun as he sang Zombie, famously sung by the late Dolores O’Riordan in The Cranberries. The accompanying music held the intensity of the original song, showcasing the talent of the youngest guitar player, Jake? The crashing cymbals towards the end of the song vibrated round the pub, and from there I felt the night picked up momentum.
Songs by Pink Floyd, Thin Lizzy, Steppenwolf and The Troggs were more of what was expected, before Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond pushed the boundaries of rock covers but most definitely got the room up on their feet dancing.
“Teenage Kicks”, “My Sharona” and “Proud Mary” kept the spirits up in the room, all delivered to us by Shauns vocals. Jamie took the lead again for “Somebody” by Bryan Adams, before handing back to Shaun for one of my most played songs by The Beatles, “Come Together”. Weird and wacky lyrics with a sultry psychedelic backing track which was expertly delivered by the Recovered guys.
After a brief introduction of the band, the set wound down for the next track, as Shaun dedicated a beautiful rendition of Chasing Cars to a gone but not forgotten friend. Although not attempting the higher range reached by Snow Patrol frontman Gary, Shauns baritone-bass vocal suited the song perfectly. A lovely performance making a fitting tribute.
The rock covers came crashing back to finish the set with songs by Free, Black Sabbath and Metallica before the break.
Time was ticking on by now, and the teen was itching to get back to his PlayStation, but by this point, I’d managed to get my cider covered hands on a set list, and I could see what was to come. A little bribery followed, and we were settled for the night. #mumwins
The second set opened with a song which, if you’ve read any of my previous blogs, you will know that I make no secret of loving. Sweet Child O’Mine by Guns N Roses (not such a secret Guns N Roses fan anymore, I embrace the inner rock chick). The “dance floor” by this point, was in full swing…where else but a pub in Worcester would you see ladies trying to perfect the new dance craze of Flossing to Guns N Roses? After a little persuasion, the teen helped out with the dance moves and it was clear everyone was having a brilliant time! An ACDC track led into a song I’d not heard for ages, “Inside” by Stiltskin, and from the set list infront of me, I could see it would be a set of same, songs I’d once loved but had since forgotten. Songs uncovered. Songs rediscovered. Songs Recovered. (See what I did there?)
After Black Keys “Gold on the ceiling” , a song I didn’t know but everyone else seemed to, we were treated to a second rendition of Zombie, this time performed by a girl called Lauren. She looked the part and definitely sounded the part , she was infact, awesome! After Status Quo (complete with shoulder dips), Jeff Beck and Free, the set list reached the point I’d been counting down to:-
Blink 182 – All The Small Things ✔
Oasis- Roll With It ✔
Kings of Leon – Sex on Fire ✔
The Fratellis – Chelsea Dagger ✔
Stereophonics – Dakota ✔
Feeder- Buck Rodgers.✔
Boom, my years straight after college came rushing back to me!
Tom Jones’ It’s not unusual took us into an Elvis song performed by band member Nick. With Elvis wig and glasses in place, we were treated to a rendition of Suspicious Minds before final song 500 miles by The Proclaimers saw the crowd lead a conga style dance all around the pub.
With a little encouragement from what I assumed to be family and friends, the band did one more song, Run, another Snow Patrol classic which actually suits Shauns deep vocal range.
The two sets were fast tempo and heavy, and packed full of classic tune after classic tune, each delivered with fun and passion for the music they perform, a love of music clear to see, by a bunch of blokes having fun with what they do. The audience was entertained, a good night was no doubt had by all. I know these guys have performed here before and they are quite rightly loved and respected when they play.
I went with no preconceived ideas of what to expect. I left with a smile on my face and reminders of long lost songs that needed to be added back into my playlists!
A trio of musical talent converged on The Marrs Bar for another evening of entertainment.
Kicking off the evening was Ewan Pollock. A young artist from Scotland who has been on my radar for a couple of years. I first saw him at The Old Pheasant, but more recently I’ve caught snippets as I pass him while on my lunch break as he busks on the streets of Worcester. Ewans voice is a deep and husky growl (think Kelly Jones of The Stereophonics) and his selection of covers showcased this perfectly. Starting off with Come Together, stripped right back and accompanied by a lazy guitar, Ewan took us on a wonderful tour of songs we love, sung in his own, unique way. Cast No Shadow led us into his only original song of the evening which is currently untitled, but arguably his best track on the night amongst the rest of the awesomeness he delivered. A song about ending a relationship, with a girl whose smile he would once run a mile to see. She used and abused him, and the story concludes that she’s no good for him. “Welcome No More” would be an apt title for this beautifully penned tune. Candy by Paolo Nutini led to the set finale, a charming rendition of Linger by The Cranberries, proving that this lads voice works with any song. I would love to hear more of his own stuff, I know it’s out there.
Next on the agenda was four piece band the Shaun Grant selective. These guys proved that it’s not just the younger generation that can get the room shaking as their collection of Honkey Tonk Blues mixed with good old fashioned hard rock style songs literally had the floor vibrating under my feet. I’ve seen a lot of passionate performers over the last year but these guys were most definitely feeling the music and it was visually obvious to everyone. Left to right across the stage, the lead vocalist would pout during the musical parts, the next guy along had his head thrown back and eyes closed as he felt the music, and then third along we had the guy grooving along, head bobbing side to side, not forgetting the drummer who was clearly loving and enjoying what he does. Not familiar with their music apart from Thin Lizzys Cowboy Song and Motorheads version of Louie Louie, and a couple of ZZ Top I believe, it was clear they were delivering “Rock- Texas Style” as a theme of America and cowboys ran through their set. Not my usual genre but it didn’t stop me toe tapping and yehaa-ing along with the music.
Main act of the night was ULTRAMEGAOK, billed as a tribute to Grunge. I was more “indie” than grunge, so I knew I wasn’t familiar with a fair few songs from the upcoming set list. Do I let that put me off? Never!
Opening song of the night was Black Rain by Soundgarden. Before hearing vocalist Ruben, I never before thought someone could scream lyrics in tune. The musical cacophony of the band rose up behind him and enveloped the vocalist which not only had floor vibrating like the band before, but it blew the roof off the venue. What an opener. The set list took us through We Die Young with its dirty guitar riffs and abrupt ending, into Outshined and then On a Plain by Nirvana, which gave Rubens softer voice an outing , equally as impressive as the previous, heavier vocals.
The Fixer by Pearl Jam was well received by the crowd, followed by You Know You’re Right and Nothingman. Rooster had a slower pace , with an impressive reverberating guitar solo tucked inside. A few more equally high energy songs followed but Holy Water was one that made me feel I needed to seek out some Soundgarden for my collection as it’s deep grunge groove hit the right notes with me. Even Flow by Pearl Jam showcased a solo by “Chewie” on guitar accompanied by the gentle bat of drums behind him. Ruben is a musical banshee as he puts his all into every song he delivers. To keep up that level throughout such a long set was immensely impressive!
Four more songs took us up to the inevitable encore, of a duo of songs “Say Hello to Heaven” and “Spoonman”, another crowd pleaser.
I can only describe the set as “electric” . High energy from start to finish and I bloody loved it!
Another successful evening at the Marrs Bar supporting talent from our area.
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Photos by Lissywitch Photos. To see the whole album from this awesome gig visit her on Facebook here.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
*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!)
Not quite the weekend, not feeling as relaxed and refreshed as the beginning of the week. It’s easy to forgive anyone who wants to stay in and wallow into nothingness.
But, what happens if…. you venture out? From experience, as I crawl closer to my next day off, the thought of rushing home from work to eat, get ready and go out when I have work again the next day, is not one I enjoy. However, also from experience, I often end up so glad I did make the effort.
5th April, Uncover were hosting a line up of four acts at The Marrs Bar.
First up was a young guy going by the name “Keys”. With what I noted down as “epic hair”, he oozed coolness as he and his guitar took to the stage. Unassuming on stage, he treated our ears to a collection of haunting ballads with silky soft vocals. All but one of the tracks performed were from his new EP, 24 Miles, although we did get one song not from the release, and performed without a backing track. His music offered a promise of the sound of the oceans waves, laid back, transporting us to a different, calmer, warmer and almost psychedelic place. His final track, and last track on his EP, Platforms, was my favourite of his set, a tap along, plinky stringed tune, which had me thinking of gentle raindrops in the aforementioned ocean. A nice little start to the evening.
With an upbeat musical intro, next to take the stage were Myra, a four piece band from the West Midlands, offering a little set of covers, some I knew, some I didn’t, (I can only fool myself that I’m 40 going on 20 for so long!) The female vocalist was sassy and on trend, and I particularly liked their grungier, drum beat heavy version of R U Mine by The Artic Monkeys, and the crowd pleasing “I bet you look good on the dancefloor”, with Hash Pipe by Weezer thrown inbetween. I love a good sing along and Myra offered that on the night with youth and enthusiasm, superb musicians who clearly have a future ahead of them, especially if they venture into original material too. From the covers they offered, I think I’d like the musical direction they take.
Third on the agenda was Alex Lleo, a musician I’ve had the pleasure of seeing before, most recently down by the river during Worcester Music Festival. Replace the river with the sea and a sun soaked beach and that’s exactly where Alex’s self penned, heartfelt music and lyrics will take you. Think cruising along a beachfront with the soft top down, wind in your hair, and you’ll get the chilled out vibes I’m describing. Musically on a par, for me, with Paulo Nutini mixed with a little James Morrison, Alex is well known and loved in Worcester, and rightly so. With songs such as This Time Last Year, which spoke of how things have changed, to tales of looking out over New York from a penthouse apartment, we were taken on a journey through his life, a scrapbook in song form. His last song was about his 94 year old Grandad, tugging at our heartstrings with the story of visiting his empty home, described as an Aladdins cave, but without the man himself.
Headline act of the night was Theo. I’d never seen him perform before, but as he set his drum kit up on the floor in front of the audience, not on stage, I was intrigued. I moved closer, having a feeling this would be something kinda special. I wasn’t wrong. I stopped taking notes in the first minute as I was in awe of this guy. One guy, a loop pedal, a guitar and a drum kit. He started off with a few gentle notes on the guitar, then played a riff over the original few notes, looping in the background, then added more, layer upon layer. As the intensity of the looping layers of guitar riffs grew, Theo jumped wildy onto the drums, and the whole, already electrifying performance, went up another notch. Each layer forming an epic musical parade, if I hadn’t seen and heard for myself, I would’ve been forgiven for thinking several musicians stood in front of us. As each tune came to an end, Theo stripped back the layers to start a new one, fading out the drumming, right back down to a gentle strum, but never stopping, one flowed seamlessly into the next, his energy unwavering, pausing only to swig at his drink as the kaleidoscope of sound vibrated around us. His music was inspiring, my 14 year old son went away from that night with ideas forming in his own musical brain.
I would’ve sat at home doing nothing. Instead, for less than a tenner, I saw four awesome artists, and had a brilliant night out with family and friends. Life’s too short to literally Netflix and chill. Get out. Do more. You won’t regret it. Love live music? Then support your local venue. #useitorloseit
A little over a year ago, my best friend and I went along to see a tribute band at our local live music venue.
I wasn’t a fan of the band they were paying tribute to, suffice to say I’d liked some songs they’d released over the years and I owned a Greatest Hits CD, gathering dust in my CD rack.
Seeing the U2 tribute band, U2Baby, changed my life. Drastic, eh? I’m using my right to be a drama queen here, but as dramatic as it sounds, it is a true statement, and I’ll explain why.
Never before have I been compelled to write down how a gig has made me feel, turning it into a blog and setting me on the path I’m now on of writing gig reviews. Also never have I gone and actively scoured the internet to hear a song again, after hearing it performed by a tribute band. Not looking for the U2 version, but looking for a U2Baby version, as that’s the version I’d fallen in love with.
Since the Worcester gig, I have kept in touch with a couple of band members and watched their already successful career grow via social media. Unable to drive and a full time job meaning I work weekends, I’ve been unable to see them live again, but they’ve secured gigs at places such as Sporting Club Monaco, and two hugely successful “shows” at The Cavern Club in Liverpool, as well as being regular after show performers in Dublin when the real U2 are touring.
With gigs like that in their back catalogue of events, little old Worcester is honoured that they’ve decided to come back for a second time.
If you missed them last year, you have less than a month to wait to catch them this year, bigger, better and even more polished than before, and I’m giving you the opportunity to learn more about the band themselves with this little interview I’ve done with the guys ahead of their return.
So go grab a drink, put your feet up and let us do the talking.
Let me introduce you to:-
Ric as Budget Bono
Simon as Economy Edge
Jon as Low Cost Larry
Ash as Affordable Adam
Introduce yourselves, who are U2Baby and how did you form?
Ric – We are a tribute band from the West Side of London and we’ve been together in this line up for just over 3 years. The idea was formed over 15 years ago but I failed to get the right musicians together to accurately recreate the U2 experience. My brother Simon, then started playing U2 tunes and absolutely nailed the Edge’s sound. This convinced me to do a duo and well, it worked! However, the duo wasn’t quite the experience we were looking to deliver, so we looked for two more members to join. Jon and Ash fulfil drum and bass respectively and we also now have Matt on sound.
Its been over a year since Worcester have seen you and a lot has happened since then, including a new U2 album. What can the Worcester crowd expect from you this time around?
Ric – I think we’ve got a lot more accurate in our representation of LIVE U2. We’ve attended quite a few gigs since then including The Joshua Tree 2017 tour and that, well, rubs off on you! You want to do better and better and it leads to more research online and I think ultimately a better live show for us. We’ve also learned a shed load of new songs! Since we played last time I think we’ve added about 20! You can expect a few from the new album, and some real old classics and anthems too.
Simon- A lot of new sound work and “science” that happens behind the scenes. Also new clothes to match the current look, and also I have been working on the attitude of Edge’s stage presence.
Ash- Lots of new songs, better costumes and and even more attention to the little things that make up the show.
I’ve followed you since your first visit here and its fair to say you’ve gone from strength to strength with some pretty impressive gigs under your belts. Which have been your favourites individually?
Ric- My favourite has to be Dublin in 2017. We played when U2 were in town and as a result the Church was packed with U2 fans. The pressure was on, as you can imagine. It went well and we’ve been invited back this year to do the pre- and post- U2 show fan parties at the same venue. We were also videoed live for a film called Dream Out Loud documenting U2 fan stories.
Simon- For me my favourites are not the venues, but the audiences, certainly playing to a massive audience in The Church Dublin was (and will no doubt again) my personal highlight… that energy that you receive from the audience as a performer, knowing the great songs beneath you, is an incredible feeling.
Jon- Dublin, Cardiff, Marrs bar, (of course) and my local Norden Farm.. all for different reasons! Like Simon, it is all about the people.. that is the reason I do what I do. Call me an attention seeker but crowd reaction is what I live for! I can name one very specific point from a recent gig in Cardiff.. 1st song, as the first verse kicks in and, over the top of me playing, the band playing and my in-ear monitors, I hear the crowd singing… “I want to run….” I knew it was going to be a fantastic gig.!!
Ash- I have to say the Dublin ones have been my favourite, with The Cavern being a close second!
Our Facebook group was formed to promote live music in our hometown, as more and more venues close around the country. As a touring tribute band, can you give us a little insight into what you put into a gig away from your hometown? (With regards to rehearsal time, travel arrangements, what gear you bring etc)
Ric – Well we are all rehearsing continually in our own domains. I have a singing setup at home that allows me to play back our last gig and sing over the live band, as it were. Travel can be anything from a short drive to hours and hours (our record was an 11 hour drive to Switzerland for a 40 minute show!). In terms of gear its a couple of van loads if we are providing the PA system, but generally most venues supply that. We have really invested in top quality kit and use the same FX systems that U2 use on stage (albeit scaled down a little!). The sound is really important to us.
Simon- the whole process starts with identifying the specific version of a song we would like to perform, I then go through and produce our “production” materials, which include clicks and cues, and any backing material (incidental music parts) or like now, working on full orchestra for Lights of Home… after that we separately learn our parts, I build my “tone” for that song, and the “scenes” within each like chorus, verse tones etc… and then we come together to rehearse. Only when we are really happy with all of that can a song go on the setlist! So many, many hours work.
Jon – I turn up at the time they tell me to! For gear, I have everything in the correct place/bag. Has to be the same everytime, for consistency.
Ash- We like to travel with all the gear, we have two vans (which we usually fill to the brim!) as for practice, we all do our own separately and then come together when we’ve learned all the new material and then work on it as a whole and get the performance right.
Is there a collective favourite song you love performing?
Ric- I think we are enjoying the new songs because none of us have any preconceptions…. They are all hitting us at the same time
Simon – I think Streets is an awesome collective piece. It brings together strong backing track content, massive drums, great guitar riff and bass parts including classic Moog Taurus. Not to mention the lyrical content.
Jon- I think drummers just like playing! There are some stand out songs for me. The intro to Streets is just so powerful, I love it. I like the heavy, full on tunes like Until the end of the world/The fly, of course, but I really like the dynamics of Iris, Invisible and the middle – 8 sections where everything drops before we go off again.. I love the dynamic journey.
Ash- We all have our favourites, I think as a band we like playing the ones that get the crowd going the most.
And on the flip side, each U2 song showcases talents of different band members, which are your individual favourites to perform and why?
Ric- I like the big ballads…. One, With or Without You and even the newer one’s like The Little Things That Give You Away. Intensely personal songs, like Kite and Iris, are also favourites as they tap into my emotions and deliver a highly connected experience to the audience.
Simon- Until the End of the World (because of the great solo).
Jon- I love all the classics. Larry has many signature rhythms, so for me to try to emulate any of those is fantastic, (not that I aways get them right!) I love 40, especially the end.. basically all of them!
Ash- My personal favourite is The Streets, as I get to play my Taurus (a kind of piano you play with your feet) and its such a big sounding song and always gets the crowd going.
How often do you get together to rehearse?
Ric- We get together every two weeks for about 5-6 hours solid – we come prepared so that we can just rattle through the older songs and spend more time on new things.
Simon – Quite a lot… usually tuesdays. We are very lucky with the rehearsal space we are allowed to use.
Ash-We usually rehearse more when we have gigs coming up or like at the moment, as we are adding lots of new songs from the new album.
How long does it take you to learn a new song to add into your repertoire?
Ric- It can really vary from a single run through together and its nailed, through to weeks of rehearsing them to get them bedded in. There’s no real average as it depends on the song complexity.
Simon – Depends on the song… Lights of Home is already several weeks into the development process and we haven’t played a single note together on it yet!
Jon- Completely depends on the song.. but for some reason I need to play it at rehearsal, record it and listen back before I can get under the skin of it.
Ash- Not too long, we are all experienced musicians and have had lots of practice in learning material.
How far do you go to achieve an authentic U2 experience? (For example, most expensive piece of kit purchased, or replica outfit etc)
Ric- Ha ha ha – don’t go there! The last leather jacket I bought was about £1500. I think that’s close to the price of some of the items of equipment. Put it this way the band has made a major investment in authentic equipment including signature guitars, AXE FX guitar systems, Manley vocal processing…. If he changes his sunglasses again I will go spare….
Simon – Its a scary thing to look at what we have spent to produce this show. My guitar rig (whilst smaller!) is practically identical to the real thing.
Jon- no-where near the level of the others!
Ash – Well!!!! I’ve had my Adam jackets custom made, I used to work for a costume department and I sew, so I make some of the shirts etc. All the equipment I use is as close to what Adam uses as I can afford! I now have 3 of his basses, one I made and I bought the others, the most expensive being the new purple sparkly Fender Precision which actually melted my credit card!!!
Seeing the real U2 perform must be a surreal experience for you. Do you find yourselves taking mental notes of things or are you able to switch off the “personas” and enjoy the show?
Ric- Switch off completely when at a live show. That’s what YouTube is there for. When I’m there my phone is tucked away in my pocket and I just live for the moment.
Simon – When I saw them at the O2 in London during I+e tour, I really studied, but I could… I was about 5 feet from The Edge…. bass was intense. But at Twickenham on the Joshua Tree Tour 2017, I was a little further back, and really enjoyed the audience experience.
Jon – I can’t fully enjoy any gig as I just want to be up on stage.
Ash – Unfortunately I never switch off, I take seeing them as a way to improve my performance.
Music is pure emotion, and some songs have personal meanings to me, do you have songs that relate to times in your lives that you find harder to perform, or maybe even a joy to perform as it reminds you of good times?
Ric – Yes – Sometimes You Can’t Make It on Your Own and Kite almost make me cry when singing. They take me to some very personal memories. That’s all I’m saying!
Simon- All of these songs have a lot of interwoven meanings and special aspects for me. I am regularly floored by the emotion in some!
Jon – my main memory is my girlfriend at the time playing me Under a blood red sky sometime in about 1984, then the iconic performance of Bad at Live aid the year after.
Ash- City Of Blinding lights is the one for me, has great memories
Do you get nerves before a show?
Ric – Good nerves yes. Really just want to deliver the best show we can as people have paid good money to see it. It’s not nerves over the quality of what we do but just nerves that drive us forward really.
Simon- I don’t think I’ve ever got “nerves” before… excitement yes, but not nerves…
Jon – I get apprehensive, usually during the day. sometime more about forgetting something.. I have a recurring dream about rushing to get something from the dressing room and trying to get back in time for the first song!! that’s been going on for years!
Ash- Not really
Every band has a diva, who is yours and why?
Simon- Guess… LOL. I think its Jon, closely followed by Ric. But he has to..
Ric -I agree with Simon… My diva’ness comes out of my persona… whereas Jon is a true Diva.
Jon – Very funny EDGE!! I can read you know!!
Ash- Being diplomatic, I think we are all a bit, It’s just the nature of the job!
Onstage, do you tend to stick to your U2 alter egos, or will we see a little glimpse of the guys behind the band?
Ric – We’re just us playing the music of U2. Sure we try to copy the visual elements of movement and so forth. But we don’t try to copy accents and stuff… so you are really seeing us recreating iconic U2 moments.
Simon- Unless something goes wrong, I try to stay in character… but usually by the end of a gig, people are just enjoying the music so much, we can relax a little.
Jon – I can only look miserable for a few minutes!! (that’s a joke, of course). I struggle to do much other than play in time and play the right bit of the song! I spend most of the gig with my eyes closed listening to the ‘Click’, trying to concentrate, so in that regard, I am not like Larry at all.
Ash – Hopefully not, otherwise I’m not doing my job!!! We are a U2 show not a bunch of guys playing U2 songs. I like to think we are more of a replica than a tribute.
The Marrs Bar is a fairly intimate venue, and you have also played at some big festivals. Do you have a preference between big festivals or up close and personal gigs?
Ric – They are both brilliant. I don’t mind either way. It can be great playing to a small group of 50 or to a massive crowd of 1000s…. We’d put on the same show regardless.
Simon – Like I said earlier, it’s not so much the venue, but the audience. I like to play to an excited audience. If we get to do that… it’s all good. “wherever”
Jon – I prefer the intimate where I can see people are enjoying it, even better if can hear them singing.. 🙂
Ash – I love both, you get something different from every venue and audience.
Worcester, we are in for a real treat. Whether you are a U2 fan or not, this will be a show worth seeing, because it is a “show”. A performance of epic proportions that any live music lover will appreciate. Also, you’ll be supporting a live music venue in our hometown that I have grown to love since starting on this new venture of reviewing gigs. The sound, the buzz, the atmosphere when the venue is full. I’d be lost without it.
I’ve been counting down the days to see U2Baby again, and I hope you’ll a join me on the ride. I’ll be there, With or without you, but I’m hoping it’ll be with you.
Saturday 5th May, it’s a date, see you there 😉
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Back in December, 2017, I heard about a new live music venue opening in Worcester.
Billed as a music cafe-bar , it was offering live music events, food, rehearsal space for bands. It sounded like my ideal hangout. I also heard that it only had a capacity of 80, which was split between 2 “rooms”, the main bar area, and a room off to the side where bands would perform. It was hard to visualise but I was desperate to check it out. In their first few months they hosted several gigs and the feedback I was hearing was only adding to my desire to go, but gigs clashed with other commitments.
Until Friday 30th March. Good Friday. My son was away, my other half was working, I had a free pass!
Paradiddles, the new venue developed over two years by Kit and Rachel, is a space designed for socialising, relaxing and offering an interactive space for creative arts. That particular night, professional West Midlands function band, Polkadot Robot, were hosting a “Bandeoke” night. Band members Kerry, Chris and Crag replaced their usual singer Lucy, with a host of guest singers brave enough to take to the stage to sing one of the songs that had been listed on social media in the previous weeks.
Arriving early so L could set up her camera equipment, the bar area was already filling up, but despite the cold, wet, weather, the atmosphere inside was warm and welcoming. In the second room, the band were setting up and sound checking. The room seemed small and I was still intrigued and apprehensive as to how the evening would pan out.
Opening the night was Ed Steelefox, locally known for his DJ skills rather than singing, treating us to a rendition of Sweet Disposition. Around me the room had filled, but it didn’t feel cramped, it felt “inclusive” , everyone there to share a fun night of live music, smiles and laughter, including the owners.
As the night progressed, singers young and old took to the stage, covering a wide range of musical genres. We had the likes of Paulina singing Holiday by Green Day, a very charismatic performer full of stage presence and confidence that had the crowd singing along.
Becki brought sass to Tainted Love and Valerie with a surprisingly powerful voice from her little frame, a lovely soulful voice that belonged in the spotlight.
Having only recently ventured into this live music blogging malarkey, I’ve become familiar with names of people involved in the local music scene, and Paradiddles gave me the opportunity to put faces to names. Chris Burton took to the stage to sing Welcome to the Monkey House, a song drummer Crag was so adamant no-one would choose, he vowed to eat his shoe if they did. True to his word, Crag swallowed a piece of shaved off Converse with a drink, certifiably confirming this as the most random night I’ve blogged about.
Owner Kit also took to the stage, with the energy to match his choice of song, Hotel Yorba by The White Stripes, his long hair flowing wildy across his face until it was tamed by the introduction of his woolly hat. The crowd was singing along, everyone having so much fun.
One of my favourite songs, Mr Brightside was performed by Jess, who is in her own local band The Social Outcasts. She was followed by another young and upcoming local artist, Alec, from 3WOD , who put his heart and soul into a version of “Hate to say I told you so” by The Hives, showing the expression and passion of a born performer.
As the evening went on, a few singers that had signed up to sing weren’t there, but there was no shortage of brave souls offering to step up to the stage, meaning we got unprepared performances of songs such as Rebel Yell by Billy Idol. Beer in hand, belting out the words, these were the true stars of the night, stepping in so that the party didn’t stop.
Some singers were awesome, others just there to have fun, some rather tipsy, but no-one judged, criticised or berated anyone onstage, the general consensus was that everyone enjoyed everyone who performed. As each “performer” took the stage, the audience changed, making way for friends and family members to savour the enjoyment of seeing their nearest and dearest having an amazing time.
The second half kicked off with the crowd helping Jess out with Ghostbusters, you seriously couldn’t get a wider variety of music packed into one night. The Power of Love sung by Siãn, Parklife sung by Emilie and Summer of 69 performed by Allan, amongst others got the bandeoke treatment. Becki, with Man, I feel like a woman and Mercy, and Paulina with 1985 and Pour Some Sugar on me, came back for more of the adrenaline rush being in the spotlight was offering.
A guy named Chris shocked everyone by hitting the high notes usually left to The Darkness frontman Justin when he sang “I believe in a thing called love” and was clearly a crowd pleaser as he sang two more songs to the cheers and encouragement of the cosy gathering crowd. Loving the attention and enjoying being on stage…fully embracing the whole feel of the evening.
Two young girls sang together, choosing 2003 song “Are you gonna be girl” by Jet, showing that it was an evening that everyone could get involved with, whatever their musical tastes of preferences.
The night ended with Alec heroically learning Rock and Roll Star in just ten minutes after the original singer didn’t show, and left the crowd singing along with an epic 90s anthem.
Polkadot Robot were flawless throughout the whole evening, despite the change in tempo and genre, they kept going effortlessly from one song to the next, showcasing their skill and talent and loving every minute of it! No technical issues, no lull, no loss of energy. Full speed from start to finish. The venue was perfect for the occasion, as I popped to the bar the music could still be heard and enjoyed by those wishing to stay seated in the bar area, under the cymbal lightshades and next to Animal from The Muppets playing the drums in the door way.
Bandeoke is not a concept I’d ever come across before, but the organisation and execution of the event has definitely made me want to go along to future gigs at Paradiddles, and any other events where I’ll see Polkadot Robot. 10/10 to all involved.
Paradiddles are quoted as saying that they believe in music being “The Great Communicator” , and from my position at the back of the room, watching and listening to everything going on, they have well and truly created the space they wanted to, which was based around “music, connectivity and communication” . For that night at least, we were all connected by the love, fun and buzz created by music.
Country wide we were still under yellow weather warnings as “The Beast from the East” and Storm Emma turned our towns and cities into white deserts. Snow drifts to rival sand dunes stopped workers, shoppers and school kids from going about their day to day duties. Half days and food frenzy shopping took place as people feared being secluded from the outside world in apocalyptic conditions.
There was one place in Worcester though, where a united love of live music became stronger than the worry of whether, once you’d gotten there, would you be able to get home as it felt like glaciers would be forming, not melting, in the dead of night.
That place was The Marrs Bar.
Much loved Muse tribute band “Mused” were back, this time with support by a new local band, Nexus. The venue was the fullest I’ve seen it for a while, showing that a bit of bad weather won’t stop a loyal following of fans. Friends and family of Nexus helped make up the weather braving audience, but Mused have a well deserved following of their own, as the lads themselves are fairly local, hailing from around the West Midlands.
Nexus opened the night. The band is made up of singer Maddie, Tom on drums, James on guitar and Dave on bass. All members have emerged from the Worcester School of Rock and Performance, which gives young musicians of any ability the chance to learn new skills and use existing ones. Although all still young, and a recently established band line up, its fair to say, as soon as the band took to the stage, despite the obvious and understandable signs of nerves, they looked professional and more polished than you’d expect from their ages. Maddie was the quintessential Rock Chick, dressed in black,with red feather earring dangling from her left ear. Opening track “Had Enough” by Lower than Atlantis instantly made me notice that Maddies voice had the ability to make any cover they were going to throw at us into a version they could call their own. When the strains of Nirvanas “Smells like teen spirit” started, I wasn’t worried that a personal favourite of mine wouldn’t be delivered well. Maddie appeared lost in the music as she belted the song out, and her voice effortlessly switched from low notes to high as required by the song, and the intensity in her voice was matching the crescendos of the talented musicians alongside her. I was impressed.
In a tribute to the late Dolores O’Riordan, “Zombie” by The Cranberries was probably my favourite in the set, as it showcased the full range of Maddie’s vocals, hitting all the melodic high notes required. After “My House” by PVRIS, where Maddie states she finds it harder to do female vocal songs (Maddie, you are note perfect whatever you sing), we were treated to an untitled original song by the band. After a mellow start, with chilled out vibes, it leads into a frantic upbeat tune which sat perfectly amongst their choice of covers, leaving me with a sense of excitement about the future of this band. Royal Bloods “Little Monster”, Nickelbacks “How you Remind me”, Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” and “Paranoid” by Black Sabbath followed, Maddie vocally keeping up and growing in confidence as the set went on. The rockier songs showing off the skills of the whole band with edgy guitar rifts and drums to raise the roof. The bands enthusiasm and love of music was clear to see, and their performance on the night was exceptional.
Final song of the set, fittingly, was “Hysteria” by Muse, which again didn’t disappoint me, or the eager Mused fans. The applause spoke for itself.
It wasn’t long before Mused hit the stage. Fresh from watching the real Muse live stream a gig from Paris on social media on 24th February, I was excited to see Mused singer Carl emulate Matt Bellamys choice of outfit from that set, and the first thing I noted down in my trusty gig review notebook was “Red Trousers!”. As Drill Sergeant rang out across the venue, the audience dutifully replied “Aye, Sir” as the intro to Psycho played and we were all caught up in the moment. My favourite ever song to play when needing to let off steam, the Mused boys were spot on with choosing this as their opener. Snow? What snow? Muse only appeared on my musical radar in 2015, I was unfashionably late to the party but I’ve made up for lost time. The album that introduced me to them was “Drones”, so I admit to having a soft spot for any song from that, and I was happy to hear “Reapers” played next.
It didn’t take much to get the crowd clapping out the beat to “Starlight”, a rare softer side of Muse which was note perfect by singer and band as a whole. Carl has a huge task on his hands to even get close to the range of Matt Bellamy, big shoes to fill. He not only fills those shoes, but stomps and jumps around the stage in them in his portrayal of the man himself. A back catalogue of songs followed, Supermassive Black Hole more well known by non Muse fans,into Muscle Museum, Hysteria, Hyper Music and The Handler. “New Born” seemed a crowd favourite with rhythmic clapping and chanting from a group of lads front and centre in front of the band. Mused are born performers, intent on delivering impeccable renditions of a live Muse performance, rather than just an accurate portrayal of a studio recorded album, from the ad lib interactions with each other on stage, to the musical rifts from one song into another.
Bliss followed , and then we had “Madness”, which, since starting from Drones and working backwards, I’ve discovered is a bit of a Marmite song for the die hard Muse fans. I’m definitely on the love it team, and Mused embrace the song and deliver it with a passion that makes it hard for anyone listening not to admit they, too, love it a bit.
By this point, my photographer friend L had climbed up onto the side of the stage to capture some of the action. Whereas I’m listening, watching, looking around at the vibe of the audience, L focuses purely on the band,and through the lens, captures the essence of the performers themselves. She can tell if a band is into a song, caught up in the moment and focused in the zone, and she expertly times the press of her camera buttons to freeze time and forever capture a moment. She has photographed Mused on several occasions. And she absolutely loves doing it! The energy buzzes from the stage and down the lens. From certain angles Carl LOOKS like Matt, which only adds to the whole “effect” of the performance.
“Feeling Good” is an iconic cover by the Muse guys, and Mused do the song justice, right down to the megaphone section, a song that even non Muse fans can get behind and join in with, a classic, with a wicked twist. On a visual note, the red sparkly Cort guitar did not go unnoticed. Little details that add towards the stage persona.
Resistance, Time is running out and Mercy kept the energy on stage and off at maximum. “Plug in Baby” always seems to get the crowd going and it was clear to see for a few couples this was “their song” and the opening screechy rifts sent them into a frenzy. Knights of Cydonia ended the set, an anthem among Muse fans and a song that Carl, Stu and Chris clearly love to perform. Highly instrumental, it really does show the skills and accuracy all three lads possess. No Muse song is easy to perform. Notes are fast and furious on the guitars, beats on the drum are critical to the song, not just an additional back ground beat as with some bands, but an essential part of the track, and vocally Matt is not easy to match. Clear to see, the band have fun. On stage with each other, and through crowd interaction, and that’s another reason to fall in love with these guys.
Chants of “more” echoed round the venue as the band made to go off stage. We knew they’d be back. Unsustainable plays as the band gear up for an encore. “Supremacy” is a song Mused have apparently never played at Worcester before, but the song went down a storm. “Uprising” is a well known Muse song, one of a handful I’d known before falling in love with them, and has become a personal triumphant song for me, so, although already hoarse and tired from singing and dancing all night, I kept going to adamantly claim that I would not be forced, degraded or controlled and that I would, indeed, be victorious. Music speaks to a lot of people, and to find an act that performs songs that have grown to mean so much to me at such a high standard is really the closest thing I’ll probably get to seeing the real band play. The dedication and commitment to the show is noticeable, but above all, the fun and engery they exude on stage is intoxicating.
The show was closed with “Stockholm Syndrome”, ending most definitely with a bang and not a whimper. From the outset, the setlist was a crowd pleaser, and if the set had continued for another hour I have no doubt in my mind that the Mused lads would not of strayed or wavered from brilliance. My feet however, probably couldn’t of danced anymore.
As the saying goes, all good things must, unfortunately, come to an end (but not before I had a fan girl moment of my own)