Sunday 18 December 2022

The Sweet, Rock City, Nottingham

Supported By Kira Mac

Tonight is the last night of the Sweet's ‘Unlock the Rock’ Tour at Rock City with support from Stoke-on-Trent’s Kira Mac or at least two fifths of them. Vocalist Rhiannon Hill, hereafter known as Kira Mac, is very apologetic as she explains this and for the lack of their usual electric sound. Tonight, with her perched on a stool alongside Joe Worrall on guitar, it is very much an acoustic show but as she says when The Sweet ask you don’t say no. 


She has quite a soulful voice which sort of makes you curious as to what the full band would sound like. Very different I would imagine. She is chatty and explains what many of the songs are about. Often it appears they are about either her own terrible taste in men or that of her friends!

After a short break the chants of ‘We want The Sweet’ start up and then suddenly we are into ‘Action’. Which takes us back to 1975 when I was eight. So I can't claim to have seen the Sweet in their heyday, I'm far too young, but they did headline Trent Polytechnic's student Christmas Party at the Nottingham Palais in December 1985 supported by fellow 70’s icons Mud.


By then the band had assailed the heights of popularity before plummeting back down the other side amid acrimony and alcohol. So I am not sure if that was Brian Connelly's version of the band or Andy Scott's as two versions of The Sweet were doing the rounds at the time. I suspect it was the former. Tonight it is obviously Andy Scott's as he is sadly the last man standing of the original four members of the band.

Tonight Scott is joined by long-time musical partner Bruce Bisland on drums, the energetic Paul Manzi on vocals and Lee Small on bass plus an additional guitarist for when Scott’s ageing fingers can’t quite do everything.


After a detour into Russ Ballard’s ‘New York Groove’, a song largely made famous by Ace Frehley of Kiss, the nostalgia trip continued with ‘Hell Raiser’. Those two songs seemed to highlight two things. Firstly the band had quite a few huge hits back in the day but also they soon stopped having them and therefore there isn’t enough well known material to do a long set. Therefore there’s just fifteen songs tonight and a middle section of lesser known material that causes proceedings to labour a touch. Not that many of the crowd, mostly regulars one feels, seem to mind too much.

The band don’t, interestingly, go back to 1971 to play the rather twee songs ‘Funny, Funny’ and ‘Co-Co’ but we do get ‘Wig Wam Bam’ and ‘Little Willy’ towards the end of the set. 

Scott successfully fills any void with some excellent banter and also tells us that we were listening to the band’s new single ‘Don’t Bring Me Water’ over the PA before they came on. There is also an album called ‘Paradox’ to follow. That’s not bad from a man who referred to himself as the only person in the room born in the 1940s.

Of course there’s still loads of the really good stuff - ‘Teenage Rampage’, ‘Love Is Like Oxygen, ‘The Six Teens’ and ‘Fox on the Run’ with ‘Blockbuster’ and ‘The Ballroom Blitz’ held back for the encore to end an excellent night.

Sweet Setlist Rock City, Nottingham, England 2022

Thursday 27 October 2022

Pete Wylie & The Mighty Wah!, Leadmill, Sheffield

Tonight I'm in the back room of the Leadmill, the Steel Stage as it's known and barely big enough for the four person band, to see Pete Wylie celebrate 40 years of Wahness. From the opening ‘There is no intro music’, and there really isn’t, tonight's affair is a laugh a minute. 

I say 'affair' because it's more of chat show than a gig. In just under two hours on stage Wylie manages to deliver just eleven songs and there's not even that much Wah! about a lot of them.

Of course the crowd tell him to get on with but as he points out people have been telling him to get on with it for 40 years and he's not about to start now. What we get is tales about his shirt, about pears and about all sorts of other things including his ADHD. There's also more celebrity name dropping of stars from his era than most of the crowd have had hot dinners. Sadly far too many of those stars are no longer with us.

He dedicates 'Fourelevenfortyfour' to his long time collaborator Josie Jones who we lost in 2015 and 'Heart as Big as Liverpool' to Janice Long, whom he spoke to the day before she died last year.

The banter is all very entertaining when it's not sad while the music, when it comes, is very good despite the fact a lot of the backing comes from a laptop. Laptops are of course cheaper than hiring a bigger band and teaching them what to play. 

The Wah! classics are there 'Come Back' and 'The Story of the Blues' along with 'Better Scream' and my favourite of the night, because I wasn't sure he'd play it, a terrific 'Remember'. 

There's also the highlight of his solo career 'Sinful' with its David Bowie 'Heroes' tribute as well as new material from his recent 'Pete Sounds' album.

He quips that he was going to update 'The Day That Margaret Thatcher Dies' for Liz Truss but then ran out of time when she was forced to quit. Tonight he runs out of time again with the Leadmill's student night fast approaching and requiring a 10:30 finish. He rushes back to encore with 'Seven Minutes to Midnight' but you feel he had planned to play more. 

Best get on with it next time Pete and a bit more Wah! please.

The Mighty Wah! Setlist The Leadmill, Sheffield, England 2022

Sunday 23 October 2022

Sea Power, Rescue Rooms, Nottingham

Supported By Loose Articles

Support tonight is from Manchester’s rather wonderful and rather wild Loose Articles who may, or may not, have expected to be playing to a room full of Dads awaiting a band who sing about ice shelves amongst a stage strewn with plant life. Although by some sheer coincidence one of the four girls does go by the name of Tree.

They have fortunately brought a few fans with them to lower the average age for a set that actually enchants everyone. Their punky sound sort of blends (if I may show my age) Sleeper with an Eddie Argos\Art Brut delivery (I’m sure they will hate that description) on the day Eddie really didn’t like buses (one of their songs).

Aside from a great sound, they have a great slogan too 'feminine and threatening, working and class' while among several songs with a football angle they have one that is apparently about Gary Lineker shagging a packet of crisps. For a finale their lead singer Natalie (or was it Tree) spends the last track dancing amongst the audience. Beat that Sea Power.

Of course back in the day the eccentrics that are now called Sea Power would have done exactly that but now I think the guys have middle-aged knees and Noble rarely seems to swing from the light fittings these days. Yet musically they are still majestic as illustrated by their outstanding latest album 'Everything Was Ever' which understandably dominates proceedings tonight.

The new songs which are great on record sound even better in the live arena with the likes of 'Folly' and 'Two Fingers' standouts again. It’s also great to have a track where you can validly flick a V sign to everyone in attendance and call it a dance.

The new songs nestle nicely with the oldies which of course the band rotate as always and after seven albums they have a lot to rotate now. As ever something excellent is pulled from that back catalogue such as the opening 'Who's in Control', the wonderful 'A Trip Out', 'The Lonely' and to a lesser extent the expansive 'Cleaning Out The Rooms'.

There’s always something you are thrilled to hear again along with disappointment at what they’ve left out but then there’s always next time. Which just means you can never skip a tour.

However the finale of the sets does now seem to have become a bit of a religion with ‘Lights Out’, ‘Remember Me’ and ‘Carrion’ closing the set before an encore of the anthem ‘Waving Flags’ and their sublime instrumental ‘The Great Skua’.

It’s another amazing night but maybe shake that ending up if you can’t swing from the rafters any more?

Sea Power Setlist Rescue Rooms, Nottingham, England 2022

Tuesday 27 September 2022

Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls, Rock City, Nottingham

Supported By Pet Needs + Truckstop Honeymoon

Unsurprisingly Frank Turner again delivers two strong support acts tonight in Truckstop Honeymoon and Pet Needs. First up are husband and wife team Mike and Katie West aka Truckstop Honeymoon. They have been together a long long time and have a well-honed act, part comedy banter part bluegrass country music right down to the banjo and the double bass. Anyone who has song titles such as ‘Louisiana Tug Boat Captain’ and ‘Your Mother Is a Sociopath’ are fine by me. They are immensely entertaining and a great way to kick off the evening.

There is then a complete change of gear when Colchester’s unashamedly punk Pet Needs take to the stage and they take to the stage serenaded by Art Brut’s ‘Formed A Band’. Has anyone anywhere ever come on to an Art Brut song before? Other than Art Brut themselves? Eddie Argos would be so proud.

They may now be from Colchester but singer Johnny Marriott grew up in Nottingham and tells us that he saw his first punk gig at Rock City when he saw Rancid. 13 years later he’s on the same stage. It’s also a great story that their first album got picked up during lockdown. They are clearly a band on the up and they’ve brought a huge crowd with them including Johnny’s Mum and Dad. Like Truckstop Honeymoon they don’t lack for confidence although we won’t mention Johnny’s dancing but you can’t knock his and the band’s enthusiasm which is truly infectious.

They’re playing at the Bodega in December but given tonight’s reception I’m not sure that’s going to be big enough for them.

It’s been a while in the making but Frank Turner is back at his spiritual home and what he calls the ‘best gig venue in the world’. I have almost forgiven him for the two cancellations in March 2020 and February 2022. That is cancelled rather than rescheduled meaning loss of booking fees and having to fight the pre-sales all over again as getting Frank Turner tickets is no picnic. Meanwhile he plays four acoustic shows locally that, of course, you couldn’t get tickets for… but anyway. Ancient history now.

The ‘never-ending tour of everywhere’ show 2689 is now here and surprisingly Frank opens with a track that usually comes at the end in ‘Four Simple Words’ before move into ‘The Gathering’ the first of many tonight from his new record ‘FTHC’.

A couple of these new songs tell the story of his relationship with his father. First up ‘Fatherless’ telling of their estrangement and then three songs later comes the second part of the story with ‘Miranda’. His father's called Miranda these days, a proud transgender woman and, he says, they’re ok.

It’s a night of emotional songs as he also pays tribute to his late friend Scott Hutchison, Frightened Rabbit’s lead singer who sadly took his own life in 2018, with the excellent ‘A Wave Across A Bay’.

His now customary solo section is ‘There She is’, ‘The Ballad of Me and My Friends’ and ‘Be More Kind’ but he is sort of heckled, as usual, for other tracks including most prominently 'Thatcher Fucked The Kids'.

Once the solo section is over the Sleeping Souls return for the finale including the monstrous newbie, that harks back to his hardcore roots, ‘Non Serviam’.

When he returns for the encore he whinges a bit about the earlier 'heckling' and then adds 'Thatcher Fucked The Kids' to the set, which I think is the first time he’s ever played it at Rock City before launching into the always excellent ‘Prufrock’. 


His shows are always good but some of the ones I’ve seen in the last few years have got a bit samey but tonight he seemed to go up another gear, perhaps the enforced pandemic break did him good, as this was the best I’ve seen Frank Turner in quite some time. Although... I still think he has way too many tracks on his ‘must play’ list but I best not ‘whinge’ too much about that. 

Frank Turner Setlist Rock City, Nottingham, England 2022, The Neverending Tour of Everywhere

Monday 19 September 2022

House Of Love, Rescue Rooms, Nottingham

With Support From Pete Astor

Support tonight is from Pete Astor formerly of The Loft and The Weather Prophets back in the 1980s. He’s very popular with the crowd and an impressive performer that somehow I’ve managed not to see over all these years. Most of the material tonight s from his later solo career and mostly from his new album ‘Time on Earth’ although he does include ‘Why Does The Rain’ from his Loft days. 


While having not seen Pete Astor before, I did see the House of Love four times in a sixteen month period back in the day when they were one of my favourite bands. This was 1988-1990. Isn't it amazing how you let things slide... Now Guy Chadwick is stood back in front of me 32 years on.

Of course things changed for the band when lead guitarist Terr Bickers left in late 1989, a month before I saw them for the last time at Derby Darwin Suite in January 1990. Then the band broke up completely in 1993.

I've been missing in action a bit since. In 2003 the reconciled Chadwick and Bickers reformed the band and even released new material. This reunion held until 2020 but now Chadwick is back on his own with a new line up which includes great guitarist of around ‘our age’ and a much younger bass player who seems almost styled in the band’s original image. They could be father and son and, as it turns out, they are. Keith and Harry Osborne.

Kicking off with the three opening tracks from House of Love’s debut album ‘Road’, ‘Christine’ and ‘Hope’ but not in the right order. These obviously go down well with the crowd before we are then delving heavily into the band’s impressive new album ‘A State Of Grace’ from which no less than seven tracks are pulled tonight. One of which ‘Hey Babe’ Chadwick dedicates to the Queen on the day of her funeral.

He is chattier than I recall him being in the past and among other things we find out that he lived in Chilwell for 18 months which he says ‘wasn’t great’.

There are plenty of other oldies of course including ‘Shine On’ their first single from 1987, the sheer indie brilliance of ‘Destroy The Heart’ and a hauntingly brilliant ‘Love In A Car’ which closes the set. While another belter from the old days ‘I Don’t Know Why I Love You’ is part of the encore. Possibly the highlight though is a thunderous ‘Burn Down The World’. 

An excellent gig and I best not leave it another 32 years.

The House of Love Setlist Rescue Rooms, Nottingham, England 2022