Category Archives: live music surrey

CURVED AIR — Back Screech Love? In Concert at Claygate

This Sunday we visited CLAYGATE — at the tail-end of their superbly organised MUSIC FESTIVAL week — to see the pioneering British progressive rock group CURVED AIR play live in concert at the Claygate Village Hall.

Their “Air Conditioning” album (1970) is still considered “essential listening” by the prog-rock crowd.

Retrospective – Anthology 1970-2009 – Best Of – (Remastered) – Curved Air

It was exciting to see a band — so famous — in what amounted to a village hall.

And the band have a strong Surrey heritage too [forerunner Sisyphus played one of their first performances at the Leith Hill Place Ballroom, Surrey] — so they were made very welcome.

After an extended instrumental introduction, the original “Hair” girl Sonja Kristina emerged onstage in a swirl of boho gypsy waftiness to get the crowd clapping along before the start of her distinctive low-dark, sexy vocal styling.

One of the first songs performed was “Stay Human” from the most recent album “North Star” [2014] with the “I am still your lover...” line.

This has strong riffs and thriving violin work from the “Sideshow Bob” lookalike Paul Sax on violin

(Fiddle-wizard Paul was one of the first participants at the Yehudi Menuhin School… and it shows.)

Sonja Kristina emerged onstage in a swirl of boho gypsy waftiness…

Screw” began with a two-tone riff played by the elfin “Legolas” Robert Norton on keyboards.

With clashing cymbals from original drummer Florian Pilkington-Miksa and unfolding vocal drama.

This number sounded like an avenging angel — on the prowl and dangerous. The alarming shrieks from Paul’s violin added to the sense of urgency and impending doom.

In the Seventies the band were often referred to as “the British Jefferson Airplane” and with songs such as “Marie Antoinette” [from Phantasmagoria, 1972] it is easy to see why.

This number was full of delicious harmonies, expert twiddles, and a lot of punches and trills.

However, it was a protest song at heart, although misted in historical imagery. Back in the 1970’s the worlds of fantasy, psychedelia and new-age shininess could all be packed-together in one gorgeous song. And they still made social comment. How cool is that?

Paul was one of the first participants at the Yehudi Menuhin School… and it shows…

Sonja took an acoustic guitar for the popular folk-song “Melinda (More or Less)” [also from Phantasmagoria.]

This beauty is a fan favorite and shows the hippie principles of the band as well as their eternal affection for the folk-star Donovan.

Unfortunately the second half of the show was bugged by a very loud and completely unpleasant feedback squeal.

“We need to find that pesky mouse….” Sonja told the crowd.

The problem was temporarily fixed — but it didn’t stop a lot of people from wandering off into the night.

The show ended with the fantastic “Back Street Luv.”

This super-hit demonstrated Sonja’s slow vocal style, which still reaches those husky tenor lows where she seems happiest, though she breaks into expressive contralto register at times.

Chanting revolution, pop and psychedelia.

Progressive rock is never much better than this…

Words & Images: @neilmach 2017 ©

STEVE MORRISON — Guitar Star Live in Staines

Since being on the telly [Guitar Star, Sky Arts 2015] the home-crafted bluesman STEVE MORRISON has become a bit of a draw.

We saw him and his band “Blues Abuse” [with Alan Hughes on drums and the legendary Alan Glen on harmonica] playing live at the superior RIVERSIDE CLUB, STAINES last Thursday.

During the first half of the electrifying show we enjoyed “Call Me the Breeze” JJ Cale [Naturally, 1972] which was rewarding, buoyant and appropriately transient.

Steve’s picking technique is impressive … he provides bass notes, chords and twiddles — often simultaneously.

Steve provides bass notes, chords and twiddles — often simultaneously... Photo Credit @neilmach 2017 ©
Steve provides bass notes, chords and twiddles — often simultaneously… Photo Credit @neilmach 2017 ©

Steve’s own composition titled “Love Has Gone” was gently set.

With baroque influences and a supreme lament-filled sob at the end, given up by Glen.

The sprinkle of finely chosen guitar notes fell like a confetti of anxious teardrops.

Another self-penned number, the “James Bond” theme called “Climbing On Top of the World” (“writing that was at the very top of my to don’t list…” Steve told the Staines audience) seemed crenelated and indented.

A fine blend of thrill, suspense and remarkable release.

In the second half, the happy crowd at the club were enlisted to join in with the choruses “just think of this place as a church… a church that sells beer…” we were told.       So we sang as we swayed.

Everyone from Elvis to Beyoncé via Suzi Quatro has covered Little Willie John’s “Fever.”

The Morrison version of this Peggy Lee favourite [penned by Eddie Cooley and Otis Blackwell] had all the ingredients we’d expect from a bigger blues-band – tangy bass line [played by Steve] yummy guitar work, and an awesome voice filled with heart & heat. And the “sax” licks were deliciously handled by Glen.

Full marks to Steve and his buddies for an entertaining live show.

The night had a whole lot of memorable moments (not just virtuoso guitar work, but also great drum solos, some fabulous blues-harp flurries and not to mention many gossipy revelations from Steve’s “telly” work — ) this was just like a traditional British rhythm and blues evening.

Another night of incredible quality musicianship at Staines, brought to us by the highest calibre musicians imaginable.

Words & Photos Neil Mach 2017 ©


Truth About Vegas Live Review

Fresh from an exhilarating seven date UK tour,  the Walton-on-Thames based lads ‘Truth About Vegas’ played the Hob, Staines on Saturday night. Their EP titled “Alcoholiday” is out now and features some fine song-writing and catchy numbers.

DSC_0553Their opening number at the best music venue in Staines was the immensely satisfying ‘Breathe In Breathe Out’ with it’s slightly sneering attitude (reminiscent of ‘The Clash’) and a protesting under-current. This song seems to be about lifting oneself up – to summon the courage that is necessary – before you go out to claim what you deserve. It’s a song of strength and determination.

The back-beats munched deep, the guitar swats were extremely clear and sharp,  and that liquid lead guitar work from Jacob was thoroughly eviscerating.

The melodious chorus of this song was exciting and magnificent too . This was a big number from a memorable act – and a great start to the night.

It Really Hurts’  has some wonderfully tight drum-work right from the outset (by Sean) and this percusssion was intuitively spliced with some creative guitar lines. The main vocal started out ponderously – but this is a piece that swells, stretches and pours out …  it’s rather like an overflowing house party. And so, when this song started to flourish, it radiated the beatific – almost stately – voice  of Joe Sharman.

His words and phrases had meaning and melancholy, nestled between the burning guitars and the tumbling drums. Soon the bristles on the backs of our necks began to rise, while the palpitations ran through our hearts and caused our knees to wobble. It was a sensational number.

The angelic anguish continued with several other new tunes. The band sounded capable and insightful through the whole of their act ( reminding us of ‘The Offspring’)  and their songs remained highly passionate and sincere (reminding us of ‘Fountains of Wayne’.) It was a thoroughly enjoyable and encouraging show … TAV totally wowed the partying Staines-on-Thames audience.

Expect a lot more from this talented group !

– © Neil_Mach February 2014 –


Check the recent interview with TAV here:

Kitten and The Hip Live at Boiler Room Guildford

Kitten and The Hip Live at Boiller Room
Image © Neil_Mach October 2012

One year ago, Ashley Slater met Kitten Quinn.

Ashley Slater is a UK based trombone player and best known for his work with Norman Cook (aka Fatboy Slim) in the band Freak Power. Kitten is a beautiful and intelligent singer songwriter. Together, they write songs, hang out, and play mischief.

In February, they were having a chat, and Kitten advised Ashley not to worry about something or other. Their dance-floor hit ‘Don’t You Worry About That’ was born the next day.

Live, Kitten and The Hip are usually a quartet, with Kitten singing and Ashley taking to the trombone and providing ‘scat’ style improv vocals. Kitten is a natural front-woman, at once mesmerising and seductive.

At Guildford’s favourite music venue, The Boiler Room, 4th October 2012, the band played their debut single “Dont You Worry” ( which has been signed to Hed Kandi and is promised major success in the clubs.) This song has gleaming vocals with a hint of sexy varnish around the smooth jazz edges. The cheeky trombone adds an impudent spiciness to this swing time Lindy Hop dancing track.

At the Boiler Room, Kitten & the Hip played without drums, and there was, in my opinion, a slight over-reliance on their prerecorded backing tracks. Songs like ‘Don’t Touch the Kitten’ have a lush “swing era” feel to them. Kitten’s cleaned out pipes really shine… chromium plated diamond studded style. The lilting ‘Swingle Singers’ sounding backing vocals adds some fine razzmatazz . And the ‘bone rubs up against the cat’s plate-glass voice – creating a heady static electricity to the fizzy pieces.

With their boogie woogiman connections and Manhattan Transfer style evocations, their material is clubland polished. If you go mad for the “Swing house” thing, this may be for you.


© Neil_Mach October 2012



The Planes Live at Boiler Room Guildford

The Planes are a four piece indie rock band from Portsmouth, on the south coast of England. They have been gigging since February 2011 and have since then reached the finals of The Wedgewood Rooms Showcase, and they have played the Southsea Fest. They have also played gigs with Club NME, supporting up and coming acts like Cerebral Ballzy, Jumping Ships and Sad Day For Puppets. Having enjoyed local success the lads are now keen on bringing their sound to a larger audience across the UK.

Raw Ramp was lucky enough to catch the band at Surrey’s favourite live music venue – The Boiler Room, Guildford on Friday 05 October, where they supported Films of Colour, Cities of Glass and Secret Son.

The sound of The Planes is haughty and trashy. They come across as lonely lanky lads, with floppy hair dos, devil-don’t-care attitudes, and bucket loads of style. Imagine the Stone Roses crossed with the Libertines to get something of an idea of what’s going on. They readily admit to being inspired by the Small Faces, and that shines through, in their looks and their polish.

Songs like ‘Looking At Me’ illustrate the ability of the band to find a hook and then use it, masterfully. Mike Smith’s vocals (lead vocalist and rhythm guitar) are clear-cut and inspired. And the harmonies are sweet. Sweet as honeyed rye. Guitar work is precise and imperious. The drumming ( Ollie Shaw) is as tight as a Punkie’s doodah.

The Planes song ‘On Demand’ reminded me of work by The Style Council. Crisp arrangements, smooth bass lines (Chris Smith) , and just the right amount of peppered funk. When the lyrics are peeled back, they reveal an inconsistent maturity.

The band played a new song at The Boiler Room – which, they say, will be on the highly anticipated new EP ( released next month.) ‘Stay The Weekend’ has crunchy chords, dizzy harmonies and a terribly catchy chorus … as well as those shamelessly sashaying guitars from Sam Wardle (lead guitar) .

As the band squeezed out their last song, I got to thinking that we are going to see a lot more of these guys. And that’s a good thing.

© Neil_Mach October 2012


First Aid Kit Live at The Boiler Room

First Aid Kit is a Swedish folk duo composed of sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg, whose close vocal harmonies and woodsy, folk-influenced songwriting take influence from the likes of Fleet Foxes and Joanna Newsom. Hailing from Enskede, a southern suburb of Stockholm, the siblings began composing songs in 2007.

After playing a concert in Nashville the duo was approached by Jack White who requested them to record a single for his Third Man Records series. In February 2011 the duo collaborated with Bright Eyes during their performance of Lua. In January 2012 the band released their second album, The Lion’s Roar, produced by Mike Mogis. The album was critically acclaimed upon release and went straight to #1 in Sweden on the week of release and #35 in the UK.

First Aid Kit came to the superb Guildford venue The Boiler Room (sold out) with songs like their very special piece ‘The Lions Roar’. These have a Dylanesque quality to them- not only lyrically but also with wallowing, haunting chord structures. But you can often find a harshness, a grit and a determination in their exquisitely rendered songs. No matter how sweet the girls look, or how honeyed those immaculate confections are, this pair are bold and rugged and they have a knowing glint in their eye.

‘The Lions Roar’ is a song that criticizes religion – but empathy is also shown for the ingenuity of the human race. It is recognized that, where we need to seek comfort – we will look for it, and find it. In the best ways that we can. Klara’s voice breaks at unpredictable times – reminiscent of those country and western singers who sometimes you lead to a choke. And Johanna’s tresses billow and sway like shimmering plumes. You soon realise that these girls are true performance artists. The “Lion’s Roar’ leaves you almost inconsolable, with feelings of isolation, rejection and pain. Yet, somehow you smile. Because life is beautiful. That’s all there is to it.

A similar song that can also be enjoyed as a metaphor for gaining strength in isolation is ‘Hard Believer’, which was written after reading Richard Dawkins’ book ‘The God Delusion’ and starts out as an explanation – offered to an uncompromising believer- that sets out the sibling’s own belief system. The vocals are arranged against a soft combing of delicate strings. As the harmonies start, you can almost feel the wind on your face – and see the wild geese flying into a winter moon. Yes, as they say, “time is tough”. But, as the keys are starting to fall in tone, and notes drop fatally lower – like autumn leaves tainted by an early frost – the descant becomes even more soulful and less expectant. It is at this stage that the song can truly be released- into a full and thriving understanding of the nature of life. It’s a position that we can take and we can understand – no matter our belief system or adopted religion.

Two cleverly crafted cover songs were also included in the Boiler Room set. The gently rhythmic ‘When I Grow Up’ (written by The Knife’s Fever Ray (Karin Dreijer Andersson) and, later, “America” by Simon & Garfunkel, which the pair performed ( for Paul Simon) at the Polar Music Prize Ceremony 2012 this year.

An amazing, and spiritually uplifting evening of fine performance.

– © Neil_Mach September 2012 –