The Universe Expands is the title of the 4 track EP released by Worcester based singer/songwriter, Sean Jeffery, back in May.
Gravitational Wave is the first track, and opens with a light shuffling beat and a prominent twang of a guitar riff, before the vocals kick in with Sean’s distinctive lyrics that cleverly take on a universe and space theme that deceptively tell an intriguing love story.
After the first verse and chorus, there is a moment where you feel the track is finishing, but in fact it’s just warming up, and more levels are mixed in to add more musical texture.
The song is delightfully upbeat, a fitting declaration that embraces the joy that the singer would feel if the object of their affection changed their mind and decided to give things a go. A joyful journey back in time would be taken, to this feel good soundtrack.
During the chorus and second verse, a female voice takes on an ethereal backing vocal, courtesy of former Hitchhiker band mate Anna Mason, who also provides guest guitar. It’s a track that drifts through the air with ease, it’s upbeat yet gentle, with no harsh unexpected twists or turns.
Next up is Ghosted, a delicate synth melody that orbits around your head, with a guitar that trickles soothingly alongside this instrumental track. There is a some what ethereal sound to the track, as each layer adds depth and substance. A musical tour through space and sound.
Earthbound is a touch of alt rock, with a grittier beat, and impressive guitar solos. This track is always a fan favourite on Seans livestreams, but takes on a whole new level of professionalism in the form of this polished track, with drums by Chris Daniels, and bass/guitar by the late Jez Cole. A track worthy of a full band performance, but has proven it can be stripped back and performed acoustically too.
The lyrics literally bring anyone with ideas above their station, crashing back down to earth. A strong message that at the end of the day we are all equals and all await the same fate.
Serotonin takes the pace back down to showcase Seans vocals and clever songwriting, a thought provoking track that winds along beautifully, poetic lines that touch upon self doubt and losing your way, to be drawn to someone who can lift your mood and lead you through, the much needed serotonin. A subtle and fitting final track to this EP. Four very different tracks that seem to sit comfortably together as a collection. The work Sean puts into each release deserves recognition. Hard work and dedication always pay off, as the EP is a great release overall, showing a skill set to be proud of.
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.
Transport back to around 1996. What were you doing? What music were you into? My older sister and I were heavily into the all consuming Britpop and Indie scene. She was Blur. I was Oasis. We both loved Shed Seven . My favourite band was The Bluetones. My sister loved SPACE. I liked Space, but at the time I wanted heartfelt lyrics full of spite, regret and a sprinkling of passion that the likes of Shed Seven and The Bluetones offered up to my late teens and early 20s. Space seemed a bit of a novelty band, for want of a better word. They were fun.
The biggest shock of my life happened in 2013 when my sister passed away suddenly at the age of just 39. For me, she lives on in the music she loved, so when the opportunity rose to see Space in my home town at the beginning of this month, it’s fair to say I grabbed it with both hands. If any of you have read my reviews before, you’ll know that I don’t just hear the music, I feel it too. I connect with it, I watch the audience and notice their reactions.
After an amazing set from local support act Skewwhiff, who I’ll review separately , because, quite frankly they deserve it, the tension built as did the crowd.
As my gig buddy disappeared down at the front of the stage armed with camera, I side stepped my way into the bosom of the crowd. At the age of 42, I still can’t walk into a pub on my own, but throw me into the middle of a gig, my inhibitions go, and I lose myself to the vibe. I go to my happy place.
A good gig takes me away from the humdrum of everyday life, and my sister’s love of Space made me certain this gig would not only do that, but also transport me into an alternative universe too.
The band took to the stage to a whacky voice over, and Tommy Scott approached the microphone to go straight into “Money”, and the audience pulsed around me as the whole room got up and danced. Second song was dedicated to all the “Weird and Wonderful” people in the room, a new song I believe to go by the same name as the dedication, well received by all in the crowd.
Only two songs in and Tommy was already declaring us as a “Boss Audience” in his lovable scouse accent, and thanking us for being kind.
“Begin Again” was next up, a firey Italian themed ballad about the man who would kill for love. Despite the song being over 20 years old, it’s passion was still felt by the fans who clearly adored the original. Also, despite also being over 20 years older , front man Tommy still kept up the energy on stage that we expected. Dropping to his knees, reaching out, an eccentric character for sure.
Next up, another new song, Face Don’t Fit, with a shout out to all the outsiders who feel they don’t fit in. This song is going to be a sure fire hit amongst the fans, with lyrics that most of us relate to, a cheeky chant that “it don’t mean shit if your face don’t fit”.
Dark Clouds and Avenging Angels brought us back to the familiar much loved hits, By now, Tommy had shed his leather jacket as the crowd warmed up to sing and dance and relive their youth. A lady next to me, who decided it would be a good idea to pour her pint down my arm, was clearly well inebriated, yet, despite being picked up from the floor at least three times, still knew every word to the classics. Proof if needed that music keeps the memories alive, deep in the back of your mind.
Tommy took to the Mic to introduce the next song, after thanking the audience yet again and saying we were very kind :- “this song is about when I was a kid, it’s about me and me brother, me brother always had big muscles and was like Steve Austin, and he loved himself. and I’m the same skinny mother f@”!&r I was then.”
The song was called The Dysfunctional brother of Action Man and lived up to the introduction with an hilarious catchy tune.
A young girl called Stacey was called to the stage to join Tommy and the band with an uncanny rendition of The Ballad of Tom Jones, by far the biggest crowd pleaser of the evening so far. Vocally Stacey filled the shoes of Cerys Matthews perfectly, and the performance of the song by her and Tommy was visually entertaining and suitably funny. Just Brilliant.
Hypnotism and Mr Psycho “blew the crowd away”, as the latter song suggests, before another new face came on stage. This time, 20 year old Jordan joined Space to rap on new track Pterodactyl. The song claimed the prehistoric bird would swoop down, but we were all swooped up in excitement of being treated to a new, but recognisable sound from this underrated band.
We Gotta Get Out of This Place and Antidote came before the most well known Space song ever, grabbed our ears. “Female of the Species” has been a TV theme song and appeared in adverts, and I’m certain if you’ve never heard of Space, you would’ve heard of this. The music was intoxicating, we were being put under a spell.
Tommy lept off the stage and entered the crowd , climbing on tables and offering up the Mic to members of the crazy crowd, as the funky Latin inspired song played out to the venue. At one point I was busy filming and the screen went black, when I moved my phone away, Tommy was singing to me. A moment to remember.
Drop Dead lead us into Neighbourhood which encouraged mayhem from the crowd, I was being pushed from behind, but I didn’t care. In fact there was a lot of careless bouncing and jumping, to what seemed to be the last song of the night.
After a short minute off the stage, the band were back with Charlie M, and closed the show with the iconic Me and You Versus The World, and as the catchy chorus rang through, the audience swelled nearer the stage, jumping in time, filled with memories, nostalgia and no doubt alcohol.
The band were pure entertainment, musically and visually, they had the crowd hooked from the get go, right up to last second, leaving us buzzing and not quite believing what we had just witnessed.
After the gig, I saw an opportunity to meet the charismatic front guy. Waiting patiently as he posed for a selfie with a male fan, he turned and saw me waiting and put his arm around my shoulders. My awkward self couldn’t get the phone to take a photo, and when it did, it was dark, but good enough. After Tommy declared he looked “better in the dark”, he gave me a huge kiss on the cheek and thanked me for attending.
Jo, you were right all along, Space are awesome! And I’ll save the kiss for you when we meet again.
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)
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.