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Weyward Chile – at the ‘Wey Will Rock You’ event – The Star Guildford

Weyward Chile possesses that kind of cock-rock insolence and sweaty strutting charm that actually swoops the gals off of their feet and sets the men a-jigging. And that’s exactly what occurred at The Star Inn, Guildford on 9th Sept at the boys’ regularly hosted rock night ‘Wey Will Rock You’ (planned for the last weekend of every month.) The guys and girls were dancing and grinding  – and hollering along to the best, biggest and most bruisingingly boisterous bad ass blues rock this side of the Smokies.

Frontman lead vocalist Karl looks very much like ‘Donovan’ but he possesses the seriousness and the rustle of Robert Plant. He is as bold as he is beautiful. On the sweet lead guitar we have chancer and chief mojo-maker Korush, on the smouldering rhythm guitar we have Jack and on the power-house percussion we have Alex showing off a tantalizing new kit, with James on finger-lickinginly good bass.

Starting with an onslaught of power and strength that shakes the roof tiles off the mossy ole ‘Star, the band smash into a blistering set that can only be described as ruthless classic rock. Delivered in dollops so big, you will need an excavator and a pile-driver to make sense of the chords and chops. With songs like “Whole Lotta Love” and Jimi’s version of “All Along the Watchtower” you know what you’re going to get.  Yes, exuberant classic rock and blues.

But their own songs are also full of promise and contagious, good time, rock-ability. From their gas-bottle necking grassband country twanging, feverish ‘Go Go’  to ‘Clouds Start To Rain’ which has an elegant chord structure and a tuneful verse together with nagging guitar ripples from Korush- lightly feathering the pattering rhythms. I can’t wait for their studio album.

There was a lot of low-down, yard-dog, dice rolling type numbers, like ‘Mike’s Song’ created with roostering roistering buoyancy. And ‘I Went Down’ which is their truest ‘Bad Company’ number. It’s like running down the strip with a desolation angel on your arm, trying to get to the liquor store & grab yourself a bottle of Gentleman Jack before the big game. It’s like sluice-juiced rock-daddy headymen Aerosmith before their big-hair dandy days. When they played true honest-to-goodness rock, blues and metal.

Huge sound and energy is created by Karl as he prances the boards and teases the audience with his wild shirtless holier-than- f * ck arrogant swagger. Yes, Weyward Chile are now truly ready for stadium stardom. I can imagine these boys making a success of a West-coast tour anytime now.

Hard place dominant rock and blues for the wise and the ready…

© Neil_Mach
September 2011

Links:
http://www.weywardchile.com
http://www.myspace.com/weywardchile
http://www.youtube.com/user/WeywardChile

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Morning Orchestra – Live Review – Hobgoblin, Staines

They may whiff of flop-house green tea, and look like a bunch of ne’er-do-well backyard stirrers from a monochrome Buster Keaton road movie, but this band may well be the best thing to have come out of last year- well, this side of the Catskills, anyway. Organic and farm fresh, these boys harness the unsullied rawness of sometime 1950’s hometown skiffle-charm, juxtaposed with a keen ear for post punk indie rock. Think of McGuinness Flint crossed with Lovin’ Spoonful and Mumford & Sons, to get somewhere near the idea.

This astonishing show band comprises of corn-bred Dave Yeoman on vocals, also playing his trusty ukulele and some modern keys; Stoical Richard Jones on guitar and Vocals; Sage-like Andrew Stuart-Buttle on bass and also providing backing vocals and trusty Pete Rundle on drums. This is a line-up of raw kinetic energy, albeit neatly tied and tussled into a compact, camera-ready package.

So at the Hob, Staines, we enjoyed a sublime serving of feverishly beautiful songs delivered by this troop of jolly bright-eyed and virtuous do-gooders. The set was like plundering a two-for a dime Rock-Ola full of roots music hits. Take, for example, “Whatever Goes Around” which has a twanging chiming, neatly packaged vibe – this song is cheerful and buzzy in a good way. Or take the song “Two Feet”- (and please let us  forgive the fact that the intro sounds just like Sweet’s  seventies hit  “Blockbuster”.)  Let’s go straight to the highborn vocals that break through the ‘paste and sticks’ rhythm, to clear a way for that noble, yet choppy, chorus to shine through.

Sometimes Dave’s uke takes the lead or introduces a song, like the bumpy “Caroline” with the thumpy bass, rat-a-tat percussion and soft as goose-down vocals. At other times, Dave takes goes to the keyboard, to add texture and depth. The whole time he  bounces, Cheshire-cat grins, and cradles the heart-warmed audience with his gentle vibrato-filled vocals.

The splendid “Everything Alright” has generous layers of softly textured melody and a sweetly groovy rhythm. This is the ultimate feelgood ‘angels in white’ lullaby for you and your gal. I thoroughly recommend a hug by the fireplace with this tune on softly in the background. Those precise harmonies will gladden your heart. And it will get your ‘other half’ in the mood.

There is plenty more shilly-shally riffing from the oversize scrapbook of this jook house band, and most breeze along at a fairly frantic pace. The musicianship and vocal quality is quite astonishing. Songs range from softly rocking up-tempo numbers- each played with beguiling style-  to low slung  cotton-picking gen-u-ine Americana.

Wow. What a band!  What a Catch for the Hobgoblin!  See ’em as soon as you can, while it is still possible. ‘Cos They will be flying high, certainly, by the end of the year.

© Neil_Mach
December 2010

Link:

http://www.myspace.com/themorningorchestra

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Sweet Charity – Doesn’t Put a Tingle in Your Fingers

Bob Fosse’s original musical ‘Sweet Charity’ opened in 1966 but you will be more familiar with the 1969 movie version starring Shirley MacLaine. Based on Fellini’s ‘Nights of Cabiria’ and a book by Neil Simon, with music by jazzman Cy Coleman and lyrics by Dorothy Fields. It was a successful show in the late sixties.  I went to see the 2010 West End revival playing at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket and starring Tamzin Outhwaite in the lead role.  We are introduced to Charity Hope Valentine as she meets her new boyfriend, Charlie in New York’s Central Park – Charlie then steals her handbag and pushes her into the lake – starting off the string of events that leads to Charity failing, in ever more desperate ways, to achieve escape from her demeaning existence and find her idea of heaven … her ‘little white picket fences’.

The story is about the life of misery and disappointment that a girl has to bear. Charity is a taxi dancer at a Times Square dance-hall. Surprisingly, the ‘working girls’ like Charity in this story are more often than not optimistic, full of aspiration and expectation. Their hopes are so frequently and cruelly dashed upon the painful rocks of a life – that you would expect them to be cynical harpies full of hate for all men. But they seem totally unaffected by their futility – shaped for them by the total and abysmal failure of all the men that they meet to be honorable and trustworthy.  Men are always exposed as liars, cheaters, thieves, charlatans or selfish oafs. Men are pigs at the trough. And women are the feed.

You will recognise “Big Spender” the Shirley Bassey hit directly the opening notes blast out. This is the big show number that introduces the ‘taxi dancer’ girls at the “Fandango Ballroom” where Charity works for a pittance.  You know the song, ‘The minute you walked in the joint, (boom boom) I could see you were a man of distinction, a real Big Spender’.    Although these “dime-a-dance” girls are genuinely one step up from the hookers described in Fellini’s film, it is not difficult to assume that girls who offer the patrons hotter and more sensual dances, for their ten cents, get to fill their dance cards quicker and get to choose their dance partners. So the competition amongst the girls is to go the extra distance to grab themselves a good punter. They don’t pop their corks for every man they see !

Charity meets some ‘big spender’ Vittorio Vidal- who uses and abuses her. She meets shy Oscar Lindquist in a lift liaison (after a daft romp and a frustrating wardrobe scene with the big spender) and this relationship also ends disappointingly. She goes to The Rhythm of Life church under the bridge, where her life is not changed or altered in any way by the charismatic black preacher… so that’s another waste of time and effort. The story is just about the grinding futility of her existence and the relentless search for a man- it doesn’t matter whether the man is good – or bad even – Charity is happy as long as a man (any man) is willing to spend a night with her, because he just might be her ticket out of this place. She runs her heart like some kind of cheap hotel for no-goods and rogues … she has  “always got people checking in and checking out”.

The jazz and show tunes are great fun, but for most part, forgettable. The dance is hot and energetic. Tamzin was full of energy and fun and perfectly interpreted the two sides of the nature of Charity – the girly side, crushed, needy and mundane, and the get-up-and-dance side … the resilient business-woman who makes things work. The other female characters were portrayed in a similar way by the cast- some more severely cynical, others smarter, but they were all in the same boat. They were all used and abused.

The standout number in this show seems, to me anyway, to be set in entirely the wrong musical. The “Rhythm Of Life” song is introduced to us by Daddy Johann Sebastian Brubeck and Daddy’s All-Girl Rhythm Choir- and  ought to be in the musical ‘Hair’ not in ‘Sweet Charity’.   Even if you know this song (because it’s in your head for years after the first hearing) you will be surprised to find here. Sammy Davis, Jr. had a reasonable hit with this number back in 1968, and you will be humming it after the show, I guarantee it.  “The rhythm of life is a powerful beat, Puts a tingle in your fingers and a tingle in your feet, Rhythm in your bedroom, rhythm in the street … Yes, the rhythm of life is a powerful beat.”

Ultimately, though, this show is built on disappointment and futility. Charity and Hope are the two virtues missing from this bleak world. And without hope and success, the show ends, in my view anyway, on a sour note – and leaves a hollow feeling in the heart. The companion songs to the two big numbers are not strong, and the farcical situations are sometimes tedious, if not frustrating, for the audience.  The Theatre Royal was not half full on the night I saw the show, but the tickets started at £10.

If you like big song and dance shows, maybe you should try something else. But if you are curious about why this musical has been successful since the sixties – and you enjoyed the film – you could give it a try.  Just don’t spend too much on tickets  – unless you are some kind of a Big Spender!

© Neil_Mach
November 2010

 

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Bizet’s Carmen at London O2 – 21 May

It was hot work in the cigarette factory- all that panting and gasping, and the ever impassioned heaving- never mind the shrieking knife fights. And it didn’t help that it was the hottest weekend of the year – so far.  I was at the heady and intoxicating production of Carmen 2010 at the London O2 – directed by David Freeman – with Gareth Hancock  [Musical Director] and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra .

This exotic and erotic show was set in the round of this great coliseum of a home, and starred Christina Nassif as Carmen with John Hudson as José and the superb Elizabeth Atherton as Micaëla.

The staging area whirled around and ran to centre stage – with the orchestra at one end.  Performers tended to emerge from the Gates of Life at the corners of the event area, like gladiators facing their doom or glory. There must have been around 100 performers. I counted 35 girls in the cigarette factory- it was quite the largest production of the opera that I have ever seen. The idea behind the staging was to try to replicate the circuitous nature of the Street of Serpents in Seville. Furthermore, images from the macabre Feria Carnivals added fear and discomfort to the scenes and prepared the public for the doom laden thread that lay ahead.

Carmen is an opéra comique – in that it is spoken in places. This gives the work a ‘Hollywood musical’ quality and probably explains its runaway success in modern times. There is no doubt that Carmen is a favourite piece of music loved by both young and old. But this was not always the case, and back in 1875, when the work was premiered, it was defeated by both critics and the public, who protested that it was not serious enough. Bizet died before his work was fully accepted.

At the start of the drama, portly José is but a simple soldier and his music is that of the common folk and in tune with Micaëla’s.  By Act 2, though, José is a complicated rogue who can only be controlled by the summoning of the bugle. Micaëla, by contrast, remains dignified and loving throughout, and equally unblemished by the tawdriness of the situations as they develop as José is lost within the passion he has for Carmen.

Much is made of Carmen’s slippery nature and her venomous almost serpentine machinations.  These characteristics are musically enhanced by chromaticism, en-harmonic pivots and coiling motifs. But the sharp rhythms and exotic percussion also alludes to her ‘other worldliness’ and her Gypsy origins. She never quite feels comfortable in any social group – not the cigarette girls, nor the smugglers or even with other Gypsy girls. But Carmen is perfectly comfortable within herself and she accepts her nature and the nature of others around her, in a way that few can understand. She even gives in to her fatalistic ending – not only at the conclusion of the opera but also in the card reading scene.

Her fidelity and sharp mind is effectively introduced to the audience through the shrill nature of the central motif. This often sounds ironic and even patchy at times – like the unreliable character herself. Christina Nassif played the character with the sneer and the sensual passion that the part deserved, but I thought that the depth of her expression and the  overall dramatic quality of her performance was not as enthusiastic as it should be. When compared with the stunning fragile beauty of Micaëla’s air in E flat – brought to subtle life by Elizabeth Atherton – you could hear the limitations in the vocal power of Cristina.

Favourite moments were, of course, The Flower song, the Toréador’s Song and The Habanera – all gracefully and majestically brought to the fore by the superb orchestra conducted by Gareth Hancock. The vastness of the staging and the colossal size of the cast meant that  – at any one time – several scores of performers were ‘out of line of sight’ of the conductor. However, the production was perfectly handled by carefully positioned video monitors around the arena, so that the artists could each see the conductor from wherever they were.  I was concerned that some of the most intimate details of the plot would actually be ‘lost’ in the huge space. And I was fortunate to have a front row seat; (I do not know how folk managed to careen into those dizzying heights at the top of the event area- be warned that if you go to this venue you must not be scared of heights and you must wear sensible shoes.) But care and attention were given to the amplification of the voices, to provide as authentic operatic experience as possible for the audience. And spotlights and creative stage management meant that the limelight effectively fell at the right time and the right place to magnify or highlight the more important elements within the plot.

The last time I saw Carmen it had a ‘real horse’ and wonderful Gypsy dancers – and this O2 production also exceeded my expectations in both scope and epic proportions. The frantic hysteria of Act 4, including the Toreador’s Song, will live long in my memory.

As a delighted crowd left their seats we were all sternly warned that, ‘The O2 is a No Smoking area and patrons will be forcibly removed by staff if found smoking inside the building.’  No doubt patrons would also be flogged at whipping posts and the odd one lanced by picadors as well – just as an example to the others. I heard one member of the audience remark,  “That’s a bit rich isn’t it?  All night we have had to witness hussies flagrantly smoking endless cigarillos, torch lit processions brimming with flaming poi dancers and fire-eaters, and squad upon squad of chain smoking troops …. and we can’t even light up a crafty one!”

A sumptuous and hot production and a truly memorable experience.

© Neil_Mach
May 2010

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Hair – The Musical – Gielgud Theatre, London

Hair – Gielgud Theatre

Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair …

It was a perfect spring afternoon in London when I went to see this new Diane Paulus production of the iconic swinging sixties musical “Hair” starring American 2009 Tony Award ® winning actor Will Swenson (Berger) along with Tony ®  nominated actor Gavin Creel  (Claude). I spent the afternoon in a pleasant amble around in Soho – browsing in Carnaby Street – before going to the Gielgud Theatre and revisiting my misspent youth. It brought back some kind memories for me.  I was one of the hated  ‘tribe’ of hippies.  I remember my Dad telling me not to go out in the street wearing my love beads around my neck because they made me  “look like a proper poof”  (his words).  Ah the sixties! This musical takes me back.  I also remember when I finally cut my hair (like the character Claude has to do) and the look of sadness upon my father’s face when he realized that the free and innocent creature he had once loved was gone forever. It is an irony of the age that men and women like my Dad fought in the Second World War for freedom and for love yet looked on in despair when the fruits of that hard won freedom was a generation that was actually acting ‘freely’ – protesting against the ‘rules’ of a regimented society (in a gentle non-confrontational way) and seeking approval for their mantras of love, peace and harmony and the ‘abandonment’ of the materialistic world

There have been several attempts to reincarnate this rock musical – most fail – but this is, I believe, the right time to re-watch those hippies and what they represented and to sit back and enjoy the show.  Although I was familiar with the musical,  I was still surprised at how everything seemed to be so relevant.  Subjects stand out like anti-war, pro-drugs, the results of ‘guilt free love’ and racial harmony and all have currency today.  It is worth remembering how important and innovative this show was originally, with black and white actors on stage at the same time – sharing equal billing -long before anyone could imagine a man like Barack Obama would be living in the WHITEhouse.  Eventually, skin-heads, punks and a New Wave of working class culture killed off the ‘middle class’ hippies (contrary to popular myth they were not all exterminated at the Altamont Free Concert of 1969.) And this musical was lost along-the-way,  lost in the same way as our ideals for peace and love and our cheese-cloth shirts, cow-bells and Afghan coats.  But the legacy of the Hippie culture still lives on and is found in environmental consciousness,  whole food shops, music festivals, new age travellers, sexual liberation and tolerance,  LGBT communities, ‘world’ music, and even the journey into cyberspace.

Claude, and his mate Berger, like all their friends of the tribe, struggle to balance the ideals of love, peace and harmony against a backdrop of the Vietnam war and those conservative middle-class parents (like my Dad) who think that the kids should have a wash, grab a haircut, land a job and just bloody  well conform.   The story is based around the decision that Claude faces –  should he cut off his hair  and go to Nam or should he dodge the draft and burn his papers?   The consequences of both choices may well result in the ruining of his life (he may face a prison sentence for burning his papers – but at least he would be alive and unwounded. )  The tribe doesn’t have much but they do have  each other and they have got their shared love. So they make love not war.  And they ask us to give peace a chance.

“I got my feet
I got my toes
I got my liver
Got my blood”

The music by Canadian composer, Galt MacDermot – the Bantu beats and the funky rock n roll tunes, don’t necessarily conjure up memories of Sixties hippy music. For me, then, my music of choice was Jefferson Airplane, but I also liked the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Bob Dylan.  In the musical there is no psychedelic rock or hard blues – though the cast talk about it plenty. (Though there was a nod to Jimi’s Star Spangled Banner.)  Even critics at the time thought that the show music did not accurately reflect the counter-culture of rock. But the music of Hair is firmly in the tradition of big belting
show-tunes and musical barn-storming stompers.   And the songs are good. “Aquarius” still makes my hair stand on end – and “Let the Sunshine In” [ a hit single for 5th Dimension] is still as gob-smackingly beautiful as ever. Other stand out songs are the Blur-ish ditty “Manchester, England, England” sung by Claude and the blaxploitation songs of Dionne (Sasha Allen) black boys / white boys  (“ white boys are so pretty… ”)

In “The Trip” scene Buddhist monks, Catholic Nuns, Red Indians, Viet soldiers and even astronauts get involved in the slaughter of the innocent. It was no surprise to find that director Diane Paulus has also worked on dramatic operas like ‘Turandot’ because this scene and the ‘Eyes Look Your Last’ were visually stunning as well as emotionally moving musical masterpieces. Thanks must also be given to Karole Armitage for the breathtaking choreography.

Certainly, looking back, hippies were full of sh ** – gathering bits of religion along the way, with astrology and mysticism often as an excuse for sexual abandon, drug use and general laziness. Amongst the freedoms enjoyed during the Summer of Love was the freedom of nudity – and Hair still contains elements of this, but it now seems more artistic and almost twee against our modern ‘porn flick’ sensitivity.  Previous Hair nudists have included (in no particular order) Paul Nicholas, Richard O’Brien, Elaine Paige and Tim Curry. Meat Loaf, Curved Air’s Sonja Kristina and even Donna Summer and Liz Mitchell (of Boney M) in a German production. The full-frontal nudity in the 2010 version is neatly and appropriately performed, swathed in gentle warm light – just before the interval – just seconds long. If you are thinking of going to see the show just ‘for an
eyeful’  then think again- the nudity is – shall we say – tame, by modern standards.

I recommend this production for a loving, warm and passionate evening of pure entertainment.  Like the posters say, “Feel The Love” …

Let it fly in the breeze and get caught in the trees ….   Hair!

© Neil_Mach
April 2010

Tickets for the limited run in London
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Demure – Staines Hobgoblin, March 21

If a maverick fez wearing buffoon maven is lurking in your waking dreams, threatening to whack a pair of rumba shakers up your kilt then you’re probably being persecuted by the songs of Demure.

Yes, those brave post-grunge pilgrims were playing the Hob, Staines again last weekend, with an increasingly enthusiastic crowd egging them on.   And those powerful songs that they play tend to dig deep troughs into the metaphysical mind and fiddle around in those darker recesses  of your  consciousness.

Demure have clearly been standing on the bar (rather than leaning against it)  in recent months and the ‘new’ guitarist they have broken in- Tekin Mustafa- allows the front-man lead vocalist Johnny B  some welcome release –  ensuring that he is now able to provide fire, urgency and gravitas to the overall performance,  and securing the visual presence of the band. The extra band member also allows Philip Price (lead guitar)  the time and space he needs to play a source of inspirational lead melodies and the polished breaks we are used to,  pushing the sound of the group towards the skyline.

Whilst not down playing the general strength of character and heartfelt nature of the Demure songs, there is also a sense of sly fun with these boys – even in their darkest passages and gloomiest moments.  And this sense of fun combined with a commitment to create strong and beautifully arranged pieces,  forms the basis for their work.

The band turned out a couple of strong new songs on the night.  ‘You me and everyone else’  had a venetian style string overture to it,  followed by a see-sawing crisis of rhythms and the chrysalis of some folk sounds.  Then thin slices of guitar garnished the chords, and the echoing vocals lead on towards an amalgam of funky moments.  This was an histrionic ape-dance of a song and  a bit of a departure  from the  dramatic,  thoughtful  grunge of Demure’s earlier works.

Demure can be relied upon to play a damn solid show with rollicking roll-out rock and touches of old-water gator-skin grunge.  Tremendously exciting and hugely professional  (just listen to those unsettling military style drums by Neil Rawles on ‘You Say’ or the shimmering guitars of Philip on ‘1 Vision’. )  This enjoyable band showed  that they  possess  the  ability to consistently grow musically and also prosper in the business.

More genuine than a cockney sparrow and more alive than a mamba down the Y-fronts,  this edgy band is a fun passport to a post-grunge hay-ride.

© Neil_Mach
March 2010

Link:

http://www.myspace.com/demure.fans

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Succotash at Two Rivers (Phoenix) Staines

Succotash at The Two Rivers Bar

Wed 3rd Feb

Local talented soft rock heroes Ravi and Carl (together they are Succotash) are playing the TWO RIVERS bar again …. on Wednesday 3rd February.

This bar was known as the Phoenix pub (it’s in Church St, Staines, nr Davies Angling and The Hobgoblin). It’s now been taken over by new management and has been spruced up greatly (much more friendly/family/food/fun) orientated! It is now known as the TWO RIVERS bar.

The boys will probably kick off around 8.30pm (in the back bar) and will be playing a mixture of covers and Ravi’s own songs. There should be a few new ones in there (maybe some Madness, Jam ) and plenty of old favourites. Last time our ADPONTES resident music critic Neil Mach went along he reported that he had a truly enjoyable evening. And he liked the beer! Well worth paying a visit. Not to be missed!

Free entry!

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