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Little Shop Of Horrors at Magna Carta

Concorde Productions presents Little Shop of Horrors

This week we went to see the rock musical Little Shop of Horrors [music by Alan Menken] at the excellent Magna Carta Arts Centre in Egham put on by Concorde Productions, directed by Craig Howard.

Most people are familiar with the 1986 movie and recall Rick Moranis as Seymour and Steve Martin as the dentist. In fact, the film directed by Frank Oz features an assortment of recognizable faces.

The story first came to the public as a cult film in 1960…

This famous musical has lived an inverted existence… the story first came to the public as a cult film ( in 1960, with Jack Nicholson.)

This was later envisioned as an off-Broadway stage musical in 1982 and had a five-year run, with shows in London’s West End in 1983, then the big production movie in 1986 before finally moving to Broadway production.

The story is about a pitiful florist shop worker who fancies his glamorous but trashy co-worker, and raises a plant that feeds on blood and human flesh. The plant grows during the show and and although it resembles a classic “window-sill plant” cultivated by amateurs — a cross between a Venus flytrap and one of those avocados you try to grow from the stone — it eventually becomes a monster that dominates the entire stage.

The story begins in Mushnik’s Flower Shop in Skid Row where the audience is introduced to the miserly and miserable old shopkeeper (played convincingly by John Wesson.) The glamorous blond bombshell shop assistant Audrey (played by Georgie Glover) arrives late and with an injury on her face (it later becomes clear that the shiner was given to her by boyfriend Orin, the sadistic dentist played by Billy Reynolds.)

The plant grows during the show and resembles a classic “window-sill plant” cultivated by amateurs. Photo Credit: Concorde Productions

The hero of the story, Seymour (played by a lanky Christopher Blackmore who seems very Brad Majorish in this production) appears from the back-room where he’s been raising a little plant he discovered. It’s a surprisingly odd looking thing so Audrey invites Mushnik to put it into the shop window to draw-in custom. The moment they do, a woman comes in to enquire about the odd looking plant and, while there, places a huge order.

So the plant, baptized by Seymour as Audrey II [ voiced by Trevor Begley and with puppeteering by Shaun Lati] becomes a permanent feature in the window and its not long before it starts to bring good fortune to the store, and in particular to Seymour.

But, like a malicious genie, the talking plant soon starts to demand a price for the wishes it grants. And, because it’s a carnivore, the price is blood. To begin with, occasionally, its a drop from Seymour’s fingertip. But soon the cultivar gets more demanding and that’s when things get horrific.

An exemplary spectacle, a fun evening, and a slick show…

This was an excellent production with great staging and superior music. We loved the Phil Spector-style Peppermint Lounge singing group comprising of Ronette (Helen Tang-Grosso) Crystal (Julie Antoniou) and Chiffon (Cate Baines) and who drive the story and act as semi-narrative detractors. The dance (choreography by Honor Lily Redman) was spot on. And their inflections clearly accentuated.

Georgie Glover played the bimbo with a heart and she was perfect. She never let us down, although the moving aria, Somewhere That’s Green could have been given more prominence.

But our favourite song from the show, the duet Suddenly, Seymour, was perfectly rendered.

The music is largely rock and roll and doo-wop and seemed to be far more Jewish-sounding at Magna Carta than I recall, making Mushnik a recognisable Fagin character. The voice of Audrey II and the puppet-work was impeccable. The only truly amateurish scene was the final song, where the cast return with petals around their faces and was perhaps supposed to be a whimsical mockery of music-hall troupes, but actually looked pretty lame.

Photo Credit: Concorde Productions

There are several sub-texts lurking under the fundamental premise. One is the proposal that fame and fortune always costs. Sometimes the cost can be dear.

Another subtext is that when a man grows something its not so easy to control that thing and the thing can’t easily be pushed back into its container.

The story is also judgemental about the haves and the have-nots (although I couldn’t help thinking that if the musical was set in May’s Britain neither Seymour nor Audrey would still be employed by Mushnik or they would be signed to zero hours contracts.)

The other vituperative attack is on domestic violence and how, often, it’s the female partner who thinks she’s somehow “to blame” and finds it difficult to escape the brutality.

This was an exemplary spectacle, a fun evening, and a slick show. It had just the right amount of tongue-in-cheek humour and some excellent song and dance. Wonderful.

Words: @neilmach 2017 ©
Link: https://www.facebook.com/TheConcordePlayers/

Formerly known as The Concorde Players the friendly amateur dramatics group called Concorde Productions was initially for friends and colleagues of British Airways. Following the closure of the Concorde Centre in Heston, they have now moved home to the Magna Carta Arts Centre in Staines-upon-Thames, Surrey for their productions.

If you’d like to be part of their team both onstage and off you should contact them.

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MOODY MAAS + GLEN — Live in Staines

This week MOODY, MAAS and GLEN played a tasty selection of emotionally soul-stirring songs from their recent album Black & Chrome live in Staines, Surrey.

We went along to see.

Black & Chrome – Ali Maas & Micky Moody

The collaboration of Ali Maas and Micky Moody started in 2014 as a songwriting project that quickly developed into some excellent album work. Another album is on the way.

Their musical union results from a shared admiration for blues, soul, Americana, palpitating rhythms and captivating melodies.

Aside from his well-documented time with Whitesnake, Micky Moody was also a member of Juicy Lucy, Roger Chapman and the Shortlist, Snakecharmer and others.

Ali Maas was lead singer and writer for critically acclaimed band McQueen.

Their highly accomplished studio band comprised of a group of luminous musicians that included the amazing drummer Jimmy Copley, who sadly died this month.

The British harmonica player Alan Glen — who was a member of Nine Below Zero (1991-1995) as well as The Yardbirds — was also involved.

Their pruned-back live-show boasts that same trio — Moody, Maas and Glen. We saw their concert at the Staines Riverside Club on May 18th. Other dates have also been announced.

Ali Maas- Frequent cloud-bursting highs…

Ali Maas took centre stage at the Riverside, with the master-musicians at the flank.

Her vocal style was reminiscent of Alannah Myles with many velvety, sorrowful layers and frequent cloud-bursting highs. The light accompaniment from Moody & Glen reminded us of stripped-back Fleetwood Mac.

Moody, who told the audience he suffered from bad back, “caused by a dishwasher incident...” created delicate and fanciful guitar notes.

In particular, his slide guitar-work was skilful. And even though there was no drummer on stage, he frequently provided percussion through clever touches and slaps of the guitar body and picking the strings.

Glen played electric rhythm guitar for the most part, often adding rich and expressive lyrical moments to songs with his blues harp or providing intense emotions via those howling solos.

The show began with the magnificently melancholic “A Change In Everything” with thoughtful contemplations behind every loose-toned reflection and haunting lyrics like, “Sometimes we are better off alone...”

And then we enjoyed “Woman Be Wise” with those warning words: “Don’t Advertise Your Man…

Ali Maas suggested she suffered from “fried egg” after a cold — although her vocal was rich and satisfying, and did not seem fatigued or overly mucoid. Moody remained perched on his stool for the duration — maybe his back felt a little sore.

Excellent covers included the excellent “In My Girlish Days” [Memphis Minnie] and the syncopated standard “San Francisco Bay Blues” [Jesse Fuller] made famous by Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan and more.

Dusty’s “Son of a Preacher Man” went down particularly well with the Staines crowd. The interpretation by this talented trio was lunar and majestic.

The soft-shoe number “Emotional Powder Keg Blues” was apparently written by Ali when she was going through what she described as a “bunny-boiler phase…

This number had pat-a-cake rhythms and expressive guitar-lines provided by Alan Glen.

Towards the finale we had “Big Mama” Thornton’s 12-bar blues song “Hound Dog” that has been recorded over 250 times and is one of the world’s best ever sellers…

The MOODY, MAAS and GLEN rendition had all the impudence & euphoria we appreciated in the original.

This was a thoroughly pleasurable evening filled with artistry and flair.

Words & Pictures: @neilmach 2017 ©
You can read a recent interview with MAAS & MOODY here: https://rawramp.me/maas-and-moody
Black & Chrome by Ali Maas & Micky Moody ‎is OUT NOW via Armadillo Music
Link: https://www.mickymoody.com

Moody, Maas & Glen – expressive lyrical moments…

STAINES LAMMAS BRASS BAND — Springtime Spectacular

This Sunday the STAINES LAMMAS BRASS BAND hosted a superb “Springtime Spectacular” concert of popular songs at the ancient St Mary’s Church in Staines.

We went along to see the show.

Our favourite was probably Ramin Djawadi’s theme from the HBO’s television series “Game of Thrones…”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After an excellent introduction — “The March of the Peers” [ by Arthur Sullivan, from Iolanthe] with skilfully interpreted passages and perfectly controlled rhythms, the band was presented by the experienced musical director conductor / garrulous musical director Lee Woodward who was appointed MD of the Staines Lammas band in 2014.

Lee introduced us next to an overture by Austrian composer Franz von Suppé, “Morning, Noon, and Night in Vienna.” The piece incorporated a pensive solo that overflowed with emotion.

After that, we enjoyed another eloquent solo, this time featuring Steve Burgess [ the principal cornet player.] Steve also plays with Alder Valley brass and the Freedom Brass Quintet. The poignant number was Dvořák’sRusalka’s Song to the Moon.”

This is about a water nymph who falls in love with a prince …” Lee told us before the start. “But, of course this is an opera. So, as you can imagine, it doesn’t end well …

Modern numbers in the entertaining programme included “Baggy Trousers”

Modern numbers in the entertaining programme included “Baggy Trousers” by Madness [arr Alan Fernie.]

And Hans Zimmer’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.

Our favourite, though, was probably Ramin Djawadi’s theme from the HBO tv series “Game of Thrones.”

The band managed to perfectly convey the expectations of the show, all those dead-reckonings and impressive crownings.

Bohemian Rhapsody” by Freddie Mercury [arr. Darrol Barry] was magnificent and perhaps we don’t entirely realize what an incredible achievement this piece of music this is until it’s heard performed this way.

And just before the interval we enjoyed a little game of “guessing the melody” when the band played “The Lone A-ranger” by Philip R. Buttall.

Many thanks to Staines Lammas Band for offering us a very pleasant afternoon of masterful music. And also thanks to the Reverend and staff at the Church of St Mary’s for making us feel welcome.

The next Staines Lammas Brass Band concert is on Sunday 25th June 11.00 at the Staines Upon Thames Day, Thames Street.

Also see them perform on July 9 at the Staines Lammas Park, at 2 pm.

Words & Pictures: @neilmach 2017 ©
Link: http://www.staineslammasband.co.uk/

CASE HARDIN — Live in Staines

You didn’t see it. You weren’t there. You can only imagine — You shoulda been there, man…

For those people who still support live music in Staines, last night’s show at the RIVERSIDE CLUB was a treat.

The terrific CASE HARDIN were in town — they are signed to Clubhouse Records, named after a character in Boston Teran’s thriller “God Is A Bullet” and onto their fourth album “Colours Simple.”

This was the standout gig of the year.

We had already seen this band [whose main songwriter Pete Gow has been described by Q magazine as “a songwriter like no other”] at the “Down By The Riverside” blue-grass night. Then we were totally immersed in the Vermilion River muddiness, and the sweetly drooled guitar. We thought their songs “convinced and anointed us...”

We have been looking forwards to the return of these Americana & country rock paragons.

Case Hardin - lyrics were filled with potential heartache. Every note shook us with emotion upset... Photo Credit: @neilmach 2016 ©
Case Hardin – lyrics were filled with potential heartache. Every note shook us with emotion upset… Photo Credit: @neilmach 2016 ©

After a rousing start, the band brought us into a private world of feverish imagination — “Fiction Writer” — one of a selection of numbers from the new songbook.

This brushed across the room, soft yet edgy. The lyrics were filled with potential heartache. Every note shook us with emotional upset.

We also enjoyed “First to Know”  — the ever-building song from the “Every Dirty Mirror” album that includes the scrabble word “stanchions.”     The choppy texture of guitar on this number reminded us of Denny Laine.

After discussing the merits of Scottish gin [Isle of Harris is apparently taken with a slice of pineapple on the Outer Hebrides ] we savoured the hoppy upbeat number “The Streets are Where the Cars Are (The Bars are Where the Girls Will Be.)

This has super-efficient keyboard work from Roland and schmaltzy lines of guitar from the talented Jim Maving. This band’s sounds are distinctively dry with a peppery aftertaste and gooseberry hints. Maybe HARDIN CASE are the musical equivalent of a sip of gin on the bitter Western Isles

“Warren Zevon is a great inspiration and influence for us.”
“Warren Zevon is a great inspiration and influence for us.”
After the break the band returned to treat us to a selection of acoustic covers. They ventured “into the crowd” — up-close and personal. It was a moving experience. The first song they played was “Carmelita”.

Warren Zevon is a great inspiration and influence for us.” Said vocalist and frontman Pete Gow. “And if you don’t know who he is — then maybe the last hour has been a complete mystery to you…

This number was brilliantly performed and properly ardent.In fact, it was the most exciting song of the night. Tim Emery played upright bass [“Cor that’s a big one...” shouted one wisecracker) while Roland Kemp, the band keyboardist played timbrel and provided sweet backing vocals.

If you can imagine something like the poetry of Bob Dylan peformed with the heart of Tom Petty and, perhaps, the merest hint of super-dry Johnny Cash with the fruitful finish of Leonard Cohen, then you might get somewhere near to the angled beauty and detailed instrumentation of CASE HARDIN.

But, in reality, these guys are like nothing else …

It’s a shame — you were not there!

Words & Images: Neil Mach 2016 ©
Link:
https://www.facebook.com/casehardinband

 

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The Ali Maas Band Live in Staines

The gorgeous and talented vocalist Ali Maas has guested for bluesman Papa George and our favorite guitarist Micky Moody at the Raffles Club Staines. But this was her first headline appearance at the Riverside club with her incredible band.

Kicking off with Don Bryant’s “99 lbs.” (made famous by The Black Crowes) :  “Twenty-five pounds of pure cane sugar… She’s got in each and every kiss…” This was passionate black-powder blues with hearty scatterings of jazz (especially from keyboardist Rob Millis, who has also been seen at the club with the Nigel Bagge Band) and those amazing smoke-and-flames vocals from Ali.

Ali-Maas-rect-@neilmach-201

Her new self-penned number “Emotional Powder Keg Blues” was a slow slider, with neat rat-a-tatty drum-work from Peter Miles and some slinky rhythms established by Rob. The vocal was thick and greasy as sump-oil as it slid down, smooth and syrupy, and across that cool-silvery bass-play from Glynn.

Superb guitarist Alan Glen (who was a member of ‘The Yardbirds’ between 1996 – 2003) provided an elegant yet thoroughly mesmerizing lead break on this great song.

Drown in My Own Tears” is a blues song written by Henry Glover way back in the day… but the Johnny Winter version was re-created by Ali Maas and her band. This was a sweet waltz, with chirpy-chip organ sounds and the ever-emotional voice of Ali that begged and pleaded.

After a jazzy intro on the second half (Ali was hit by ‘frogs in the throat’ and needed a break — we were informed by her fans that she was only performing “at 33% of her normal volume…” ) we were treated to “Woman Be Wise” with those “Don’t Advertise Your Man…” lyrics.

This song is also as old as the world. But Ali’s voice was pure and perfect for it. The right side of cynical without losing any of the  sweetness.  And, of course, Rob’s keyboards were enormously entertaining, as he madly plonked along to this adorably earnest ditty.

Once again we were offered Blues Salvation in Staines.

And once again, as an audience,  we were grateful to receive it. The Riverside Club, Raffles has experienced a reversal of fortunes in recent weeks — and now hosts incredible music nights like this on Thursdays and some Fridays. And we are sure that Ali Maas and her talented band will be back very soon. What a memorable night!

Words: @neilmach 2015 ©

Link: http://www.thebarcodes.co.uk/Pages-Barcodes/AliMaasBand.html

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Raffles/675514245797621

ONE FOR THE ROAD

I have said it before and I’ll say it again. “They don’t know how good they are.”

But when you don’t have any conceit or any pretensions to grandeur then this is what you get … honest-to-goodness hard-working fun … all the enjoyment you could imagine. The quality of the session shines through.

These individuals clearly love to work together – they enjoy producing a sound that works really well for them – and because they’re
entertained …  well,  it means we are entertained too!

It’s a simple formula but it’s surprising that some bands don’t quite ‘get it.’  But with “One For The Road” you always get the fun and the energy. That is why bands like this help remind you that it’s always best to experience music played live.

Kenny Mann - harmonica - one of his last Surrey gigs...
Kenny Mann – harmonica – one of his last Surrey gigs…

Sadly, the Staines Riverside show was one of Kenny’s (harmonica) last gigs.

The tall, hairy, congenial Scotsman has been a regular sight at the club for many years – not just playing with the ‘One for The Road’ band – but also supporting other bands and coming to the club to watch shows with the rest of us on Thursday nights. We will miss him a lot – but he hasn’t given up music all together – it’s just that he lives “A million miles away, now” and so he cannot keep making the journey back to Surrey.

And talking about rehearsals – last night’s show at the splendid Staines Riverside Club was not rehearsed. “That is how we do….” Kenny told me.

But so what? It may have been a bit rough around the edges. And Keith needed to read some of the more tricky song lyrics – maybe the ‘transitions’ were not as super-smooth as they should have been. But it was an authentic, entertaining, rock show. And rock is not about precision. It’s about attitude.

As unusual, we got a tidy collection of good old rock and roll, roots rock and heartland blues – all performed with the swagger we have come to expect.

Keith Beasley - Keith needed to read some of the more tricky song lyrics...
Keith Beasley – Keith needed to read some of the more tricky song lyrics…

Popular covers included “I Won’t Back Down” (Petty and Jeff Lynne) and “Folsom Prison Blues” (Cash.)

These were weaved in with some wonderful choices. From Steve Earle numbers, and songs written by JJ Cale and Dylan – and Keith’s own very memorable songs like “I Wanna Be An Outlaw”.

(Keith told the audience he had just returned from a huge road-trip around Arizona and Texas – he visited Earle’s childhood hometown of San Antonio and he saw Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers perform at Houston.) So we had a rousing version of the “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” as a celebration.

We have been waiting for someone to do a good cover of “Bad Things” ( the theme song for the HBO series True Blood.) This Jace Everett number – played by One For The Road – had all of the fetid ooziness and sweaty mire of a Louisiana swamp – you could just imagine it being played on the jukebox at Merlotte’s.

Wagon Wheel” is a song originally sketched out by Bob Dylan on his ‘Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid’ sessions. It was re-drawn and thoroughly
re-invigorated by the Old Crow Medicine Show and describes a hitchhiking journey down the East Coast of the States. It is one of those songs that is really infectious – it demands to be sung out loud -preferably by the whole congregation. The One For The Road Boys played a darned good version of this.  With twinkling guitars and stunning percussion.  They confessed to preferring the ‘Darius Rucker’ version. [See below] It was an inspired  choice for their show.

So, this was another great evening spent with some bona fide talent. In a great little club. So here’s to another chorus:

“Rock me mama like a wagon wheel…
Rock me mama anyway you feel”

@neilmach © 2014

Link:

http://www.lemonrock.com/onefortheroad

 

Shifty Little Sister

Shifty Little Sister is a 4 piece band from Surrey.

Comprising of Christina Al-Wakil (vocals) Moby Pomerence (guitar) David Knowles (bass) and Tony Chick (drums).

They play an eclectic mix of jazz, blues, and fruity Latin grooves.

Christinas voice is deep and mysterious. And so damned slinky.  It sizzles
Christinas voice is deep and mysterious. And so damned slinky. It sizzles
The first time we saw this band was at the Riverside Club, Staines.

It was an experience that we have not forgotten!

The organizers were very happy that SLS just slotted in at the last moment (for another band) – but they played a wonderful show.

The centre piece of the performance was the curvaceous voice of Christina.

But if that wasn’t enough … she also played some wonderful twisting, yielding trumpet. What a star!

Songs like ‘I Said It’ have tidy rhythms and agile guitars.

These enhance the super-smooth vocal performances of Christina.

Her  voice is deeply mysterious. And so damn slinky. It sizzles.

As pure as a black negligee – the vocal hangs around the accompaniment – before temptingly dropping lower – to reveal even more bendsome and voluptuous charms.

You’ve got to check this band out.

@neilmach © 2014

Link: https://www.facebook.com/shiftylittlesister

THIS THURSDAY JULY 31st
Riverside Club, Staines,
6 Laleham Road, Staines, Surrey TW18 2DX

Also check them at Jagz Ascot, Berkshire SL5 9EG
FRI 8TH AUG