Sunday 17 December 2023

Ruts DC, Rescue Rooms, Nottingham

Supported By Voodoo Radio

Support comes from Voodoo Radio who are a father and daughter two 2-piece. It’s not often you see that. Particularly as he, Tony on guitar, is 64. Paige plays drums, just a tom-tom and a snare, standing up and does most of the vocals. This limited set up is surprisingly effective as the two of them play their generally short but lively numbers but it’s not just about the music with them.

She’s not shy, introducing songs such as ‘Basic Bitch’ which is a song about what her brother calls her. While he acts as a straight man to her ramblings. They are quite a combo, playing well off each other.

Apparently where they are from in Barrow in Furness, a coal mining town, ‘Slag Bank’ means something completely different to what is does down south. While she says ‘Turn Out The Light’ is about a one night stand. He says it’s about saving electricity.

Voodoo Radio are quite a thing, unique and very entertaining. Well worth seeing.

Then it’s time for the Ruts DC. I came to the Ruts late, after they had finished, but was taken by their take on punk despite their occasional reggae diversions that I wasn't so struck on. They only released two albums and the second of those was actually released after their front man Malcolm Owen died from a heroin overdose in 1980 at the age of 26.

The band continued for while under the name Ruts DC but eventually disbanded in 1983. At which point I discovered them.

The band had a 24-year break but when another original member Paul Fox died of cancer the two remaining members bassist John ‘Segs’ Jennings and drummer Dave Ruffy got back together and have continued ever since. They have recorded and released plenty of new music, not wanting to be a Ruts tribute act.

 

Those two, along with Leigh Heggarty on guitar, stroll onto the stage, smartly attired. Suited and booted. Looking very cool.

They open with ‘Faces in the Sky’ from their latest ‘Counterculture’ album, then seamlessly go back several decades for the Ruts classic ‘SUS’.

 

For ninety minutes or so they deliver all the oldies such as ‘Something That I Said’, ‘West One (Shine On Me)’ and yes the reggae of ‘Jah War’ but their never songs are equally appreciated.

‘In a Rut’ turns into a medley that includes the Pogues ‘Dirty Old Town’ as a tribute to the recently departed Shane McGowan. While the set closer is the epic ‘Babylon’s Burning’.

 

They return for an encore that sandwiches the 1979 single ‘Staring at the Rude Boys’ between two newer tracks, closing with ‘Psychic Attack’ from the 2016 album ‘Music Must Destroy’, before sending us out into the cold night seriously warmed up.

Ruts DC Setlist Rescue Rooms, Nottingham, England 2023

Thursday 30 November 2023

Tom Robinson, The Old Cold Store, Nottingham

 Supported By Rob Green

Tonight I am at Nottingham’s Old Cold Store to see Tom Robinson. The Old Cold Store is part of the Vat and Fiddle pub owned by Castle Rock Brewery so the audience is at least assured a good pint.

The Cold Store is also really cold. This is partly because it’s late November but also because it appears that the venue is just the pub’s backyard that they’ve (sort of) put a roof on. This is also (sort of) a seated gig and they’ve put chairs out for us old folks. Although you can stand at the back if you’re hardcore and/or you want to jump around to keep warm. Note to self: bring gloves next time.

 

Support comes from a chap called Rob Green who is originally from Nottingham. As always with a Tom Robinson show the support artist has been featured on his 6 Music Show and is introduced by the man himself. Green plays a short 20 minute set which only consists of three songs, a poem and a medley of covers but then he is hauled back on stage for one more called ‘I’ll Be Around’ which is the best one he does. He’s decent and hits some amazingly high notes with his voice.

After giving us a chance to get another beer, Robinson comes on stage, rolls his sleeves up, and launches into the first of two 45 minutes sets with a track I didn’t know ‘You Tattooed Me’ from his 1986 album ‘Still Loving You’. One of several songs that he plays tonight that I’ve not heard before.

 

This evening it is just him, without his band, and 'up close and personal' is the title of the show and that is what we get. Just Tom, his guitar and his keyboard.

The two sets will have an intermission in between. This is presumably another innovation along with the chairs for us oldies and for himself, a sprightly 73 year old.

During his reworking of ‘Fifty’ as in ‘what if we live to be fifty’ that he has now called ‘Eighty’ out of necessity as he’s now obviously way past being fifty, he tells of the three things getting older has changed in his performances. Firstly that he has to write down any new song lyrics or else he’ll forget then. Secondly, that having written them down he can’t actually read them. The third thing slips his memory.

His memory is strong though concerning his former TRB band colleague Danny Kustow to which he dedicates ‘Too Good To Be True’. A tale about Kustow is just one of his many recollections about his songs he tells tonight.

 

Robinson is also still a vocal critic of everything wrong in the world and also of abuses of power hence one of his newer songs ‘The Mighty Sword of Justice’. Then after ‘Atmospherics: Listen to the Radio’ he takes a break, so that we can all have a lie down.

Part two includes such classics as ‘Grey Cortina’, ‘War Baby’, ‘Glad to Be Gay’ and ‘Up Against the Wall’ before he closes with a ‘short medley of my greatest hit’ i.e. ‘2-4-6-8 Motorway’.

He treats us to one more which is the rather poignant ‘Only the Now’. It’s a personal favourite of his about the reality that the past is the past but that the future is always unknown and we all have to live in the moment. Sound advice and an excellent night.

Thursday 23 November 2023

Big Country, The Flowerpot, Derby

Tonight’s gig with Big Country at the Flowerpot in Derby is a bit of an odd one. It is part of the band’s 40th anniversary tour for their 1983 d├ębut album ‘The Crossing’. Yet the Flowerpot is not a big venue and nor does it have a large stage so tonight’s gig is a semi-acoustic, semi-electric affair and there are chairs set up on stage for the band to rest their ageing limbs. That's a good idea. Us in the crowd could do with them too. 

There is also no support band so a pint from the Flowerpot's real ale bar does the warming up instead. 

They open with an outlier ‘King Of Emotion’ which isn’t from the record we are here to celebrate and nor is the second track which their big hit ‘Look Away’ but then we get down to it with the next five all coming from their acclaimed first album. Although I'm not been a Big Country aficionado and a lot of the album's lesser er known tracks were fairly unfamiliar to me. 

The band, who do indeed stay seated throughout the night, now consist of founding members Bruce Watson on guitar and Mark Brzezicki on drums. Simon Hough is the vocalist while Bruce's son Jamie also plays guitar. After a six year hiatus following original lead singer Stuart Adamson’s death in 2001 the band have been back on the road ever since. 

 A short thirteen song set was rounded off with three songs I was very much familiar with, the big hits that were ‘Chance’, ‘Wonderland’ and ‘Fields Of Fire’.

 They do vacate their seats to briefly leave the stage before returning to close with a rousing ‘In A Big Country’. Now I’m off for a sit down.

Big Country Setlist The Flowerpot, Derby, England, THE CROSSING 40th ANNIVERSARY 2023

Sunday 19 November 2023

The Sisters Of Mercy, Rock City, Nottingham

Supported By VirginMarys

I have seen the VirginMarys a few times live always as a support band but not for some time, so it's no surprise to learn that it's now ten years since the guitarist-drummer twosome of Ally Dickaty and Danny Dolan's first album and they were together a while before that.

They are just as I remember. Lively and... loud. Particularly those drums but they are also hugely impressive as they literally blow us away with their grunge/punk tunes.

Then for those with any eardrums left. It's time for the Sisters.

It's also been a while since I saw the Sisters of Mercy. Far too long I think. I stopped going because they seemed to have become almost a parody of themselves. The last time I saw them at Rock City the sound was really poor, the best days of Andrew Eldritch's vocal cords seemed well behind him while the stage was so utterly drenched in dry ice that you were left wondering if there was actually a band there on stage at all and you had fallen for some elaborate scam.

So yes, I've been away too long, because tonight was nothing like that. Tonight the Sisters rocked up at Rock City and rocked out, putting on an amazing stage show and the assembled masses loved it. The sound was top notch, Eldritch's voice problems seemed in remission while not only was the dry ice in moderation but they even have a decent light show going on.

 

Whereas last time I though the band just seemed to be going through the motions this time that certainly isn't the case. The band’s two guitarists long-time collaborator Ben Christo and newbie 'Sister' Kai, a replacement for Dylan Smith who was dispensed with earlier in the tour, are fully engaged tonight and throwing old skool rock poses all over the stage. While Chris Catalyst man’s Doktor Avalanche the drum machine, whatever that involves.  


 
Then there's Eldritch, and yes his voice isn’t what it was but he more than gets by tonight for a man of 64.

You could be a cynic and say the show involves a lot of karaoke. Doktor Avalanche the drum machine has, of course, always been a thing for them but now it's all the keyboard parts and also all the bass lines as the band have long since dispensed with a bass guitarist. 

The band power through a set routed in 1990's 'Vision Thing' album with 'Doctor Jeep', 'Ribbons', a truly thumping 'More' and 'I Was Wrong' featuring along with the classic that is 'Alice', 'Marian' and the Sisterhood's 'Giving Ground' which are interspersed with numerous unreleased songs before they end the main set with another classic in the 'Temple of Love'.   

 

The 'new' songs are controversial and always have been because the Sisters have released zilch since 'Vision Thing' apart from the 1993 'Under The Gun' single, which doesn't feature tonight, but they still keep performing new tracks. Tonight’s set consists of no less than eight of these but it has to be said that most of them are pretty good. This wasn't the case when they first started adding new tracks a couple of decades ago but then they've obviously had plenty of time to refine them.

Eldritch long ago said he saw no reason to release a new record and seems to abhor the prospect of entering a recording studio, employing the necessary people and then paying them both for time and royalties. Why bother, he says, when people can just come to a gig. Problem with that is, despite their prodigious touring record, most fans are probably only attending one gig a year and then when Eldritch eventually stops touring all you will be left with are the dodgy YouTube clips recorded on someone's phone. 

He really needs to sort this and to be fair to him he didn't entirely rule out a new release in recent interviews. As I'm sure he knows, the music industry has evolved and we now live in an era of self-published music and the likes of Bandcamp.

Of course he may be worried that a new record wouldn't be able to live up to the older ones and it probably won't but that's missing the point.

While the set is fantastic, the encore is something else. They have a saxophone up on stage for the instrumental 'Sandstorm' but then it's the fantastic threesome from 'Floodland' of ‘Dominion / Mother Russia', a truly bombastic 'Lucretia My Reflection' and then to close the Hey now! Hey now now! singalong of 'This Corrosion'. Top night.

On the basis of the reaction tonight, and the band's enduring popularity as demonstrated by practically every venue on this tour hanging up the 'sold out' signs, a new record would sell rather well. I think he is missing an open goal here. Get it sorted.

The Sisters of Mercy Setlist Rock City, Nottingham, England, UK and European Tour 2023

Thursday 2 November 2023

The View, Rescue Rooms, Nottingham

 Supported By The Rosadocs

Support tonight comes from The Rosadocs, a five piece from Sheffield who have shades of early Arctic Monkeys about them and certainly don't lack for confidence. This specifically includes lead vocalist Keelan Graney singing their fifth track from amongst the crowd and continually bragging about selling out Sheffield City Hall tomorrow night. Really?

On closer inspection (e.g. Google) this amounts to the 850 capacity Ballroom not the entire City Hall. Not that that isn't impressive in itself as that's twice the capacity of tonight's gig at the Rescue Rooms. Are they worth their own hype? Maybe. They're very good.


If they are a band on the up, The View are a band whose trajectory has been all over the place. They appeared in some style with 2007’s ‘Hats Off to the Buskers’ but their career has been somewhat mixed since and not without some controversy. They seem to have broken up and reformed many times or at least that is the perception.

In fact the opening night of their current comeback tour back in May ended in a fight on stage in Manchester between lead singer Kyle Falconer and the bass player Kieren Webster. Which didn’t initially bode well for them making it as far as this gig in Nottingham. Surprisingly though, here they are. They even dropped a new album ‘Exorcism of Youth‘ in August.

An oldie ‘Glass Smash‘ starts things off in a lively manner with the more restrained ‘Grace‘ following and then they are into ‘Wasted Little DJ’s‘, their debut single. At this point it is clear that the band seem not only to be getting along with each other but positively enjoying themselves.

 

Falconer’s voice is still in great shape but then the group, who do seem to have been around forever, are still in their mid-thirties.

There are quite a few tracks from the new album too which seem to go down well. ‘Neon Lights’ has a shout along chorus which helps and just in case that isn’t going to be enough for ‘Allergic To Mornings’, Falconer makes sure we know the words to the chorus before we start. 

Following another new track ‘The Wonder of It All’, his sparring partner Webster takes the mic for the almost impossible to sing along to ‘Skag Trendy’.

You do feel throughout that the gig is always teetering on the edge of chaos without ever quite getting there but while that’s their modus operandi if anything tonight’s performance could almost be described as slick particularly when Falconer sits down on the drum kit for an acoustic version of ‘Face For The Radio‘. 

However after just fifteen quickfire songs in a brief hour, the band seem to think fuck it and cut three songs off the printed set list. After rattling through the energetic pair of ‘Superstar Tradesman’ and ‘Shock Horror’ they leave the stage and don’t return for an encore but, hey, that’s The View.  

The View Setlist Rescue Rooms, Nottingham, England 2023, Exorcism of Youth