All posts by andrewstaff@live.co.uk

Twinkles Fancy Dress Open Their New Halloween Room

If you’re looking for a great costume for Halloween then may we suggest a trip to Twinkles Fancy Dress​ at the foot of Isaac’s Hill where Kath Twinkle Summers​ has a whole room full of fabulous costumes for you to choose from. It’s a great place to shop if you don’t mind the howling of the undead and the blood dripping down the walls. But you get over that. One of this trio is Kath by the way, so you’ll recognise her easily enough when you visit.

You can find Twinkles at www.twinklesfancydress.com or on Facebook

Belinda Carlisle Tour 2017

Some artists become part of the soundtrack of your life and if you were around in the early 1980s then there’s every chance that Belinda Carlisle is an essential part of your musical memory of the era.

Having risen to fame in the early 1980s as the lead vocalist of the Go-Go’s, one of the most successful all female bands ever, (they sold 8 million albums in just three years), she went on to have a successful solo career with hits such as Mad About You, I Get Weak, Circle in the Sand, Leave a Light On, Runaway Horses, We Want The Same Thing, Live Your Life Be Free and of course, Heaven Is A Place On Earth.
She’s back on the road with a very special UK tour this Autumn – the Heaven 30th Anniversary

Tour – performing a selection of tracks taken from her 1987 solo album Heaven On Earth, which in the opinion of many critics sets the gold standard for slickly produced power pop.
There’ll also be room in the show for material from other albums and with her impressive back catalogue to choose from fans are promised a great show.

Belinda Carlisle plays Manchester Academy on October 6th. Tickets via the Academy box office on 0161 8321111 or www.manchesteracademy.net

Grimsby’s Urban Arts Festival 2017

There was a colourful and fascinating mixture of art, craft, music and dance on display on Saturday 9th September when the Minster and St James Square played host to the 3rd annual Grimsby Urban Arts Festival.

Titled ‘The Four Elements’ the festival celebrated the four essential components of the culture that originated in New York’s Bronx in the late 1970s, namely rapping, deejaying, break dancing and graffiti writing. Together these phenomena formed one of the most vibrant and exciting cultural movements of the twentieth century – Hip Hop – and their influence lives on and can be heard and seen in urban musical and graphic culture today.

There were nearly twenty graffiti artists from all over the country painting on the day, each with their own unique trademark style, plus a selection of art and craft stalls in the minster and music on the lawns and although the weather wasn’t kind there were always plenty of visitors in attendance to watch the artists at work.

The festival has certainly become one of our favourite events on the calendar and we’ll be keeping our fingers crossed for more next year!

First Among Cannibals

Roland Gift, charismatic front man of the Fine Young Cannibals, is returning to the pop arena with a new solo album, the self titled Roland Gift and he’ll be making a return to the city where he went to school when he plays the Welly Club on Saturday 2nd December. Gift’s career has expanded in recent years to include film acting and musical score work but this album marks a triumphant return to pop music’s front line, where Gift’s talents and unique style have long established him as one of the genre’s trailblazers. A great voice never goes out of style, and Gift’s trademark vocal prowess is both timeless and strikingly ahead of his time.

During the making of the new album, Gift (whose film resumé includes Sammy And Rosie Get Laid, Tin Men and Scandal) took time out to work on the latest entry in his other career, appearing in the forthcoming The Island of the Mapmaker¹s Wife, directed by Michie Gleason. Roland put recording on hold for two months, while on location in Amsterdam with the production and readily admits to aiming for a happy balancing act between the two disciplines.

“When I first started, I wanted to be an actor. That’s one of the reasons I came down to London from Hull. But most people I know have been in a group sometime in their life. The first punk band I was in [the Acrylic Victims] got a bit of notoriety, released a couple of singles,my music focus grew from there.”

Roland Gift was recorded at a variety of locations, from demo studios to front rooms to Mayfair Studios, with producers David Z and Ben Barson. The album is reminiscent of the sparse, classic appeal that typified Roland’s work with the Cannibals, a sophisticated blend of pop and soul with jazz and even gospel flavours, with Gift’s own new spin for the 21st Century.

“The Cannibals sort of officially dissolved in 1996 so, in a way, up until then we were trying to do our third record. Then we came out with The Finest, which was a greatest hits set plus three new tracks that didn’t have a home to go to, but, it’s better to burn brightly for half as long than to be a dim lingering light, and I get a lot of good will from people – they say they still play the albums and they’re looking forward to hear what I’m doing next. I was asked to join Jools Holland and his a big band as a guest singer touring with them for a year, it was a lot of fun and made me want to take my own group out to play”.

Gift looks forward to more live shows, where he will perform the new songs from Roland Gift and some classic fan favourites. “There are a lot of people who liked the Cannibals who never saw songs like She Drives Me Crazy in concert, and since I wrote them as well, I’ll definitely do some Fine Young Cannibals songs.”
“It’s a great feeling when you’ve got a big record and you go out on stage and thousands of people have come to hear you play for them. It’s like having a party and loads of people come because they want to have a party with you.”

“Right now as well as the live shows I’m working on a stage musical called Return To Vegas with Bob Carlton who created the show Return To The Forbidden Planet. I’m well pleased by the way the Return to Vegas songs have been received in the live set sitting nicely alongside the FYC classics”.

Tickets can be purchased
via The Welly box office
Call 01482 221113
www.giveitsomewelly.com

Signed, Sealed, Delivered: A Tribute To Stevie Wonder

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Grimsby Auditorium plays host to an evening of the music of the legendary Stevie Wonder.

Stevie Wonder is one of the most successful performers of the century, selling over 100 million records worldwide in a career that has spanned nearly sixty years.
If you love the man and his music then you’ll love Signed, Sealed delivered – A Tribute To Stevie Wonder.
Featuring back to back number ones including the Grammy award winning Signed, Sealed, Delivered as well as Superstition, Higher Ground, Master Blaster, Sir Duke, Part Time Lover, Isn’t She Lovely, and the biggest international hit of all time – I just Called To Say I Love You, plus many, many more!
To ensure audiences are dancing in the aisles the show features American singing superstar Lejaune André who will be joined on stage by a fabulous seven piece band, outstanding backing vocalists and top dancers.

So get ready for the wonder that is Signed, Sealed, Delivered.

To book tickets call
Box Office: 0300 300 0035
Book on line www.grimsbyauditorium.org.uk
Or book in person at the Grimsby Auditorium pay cash for no booking or transaction fees
Or call into the Cleethorpes TIC
*Booking/transaction fee may apply
Restoration levy included

Texas to play the Auditorium in September

Texas are one of the most successful British bands of the past thirty years. They formed in Glasgow in 1986 and since then they’ve released a string of hit albums and singles. They’ve sold 40 million albums, have had thirteen UK top ten singles, three UK number one albums and eight UK top ten albums.

Their debut album Southside, released in 1989, reached number three in the UK and number 88 in the US and in 1997 White On Blonde became their biggest success to date, entering the UK Albums Chart at number one. To date it has been certified six times platinum.

Follow up The Hush (1999) was also successful, topping the album charts again and certified triple platinum. The band’s Greatest Hits album, released in 2000, was another big seller, again debuting at number one and also being certified six times platinum.

Singer Sharleen Spiteri has enjoyed a successful solo career, releasing her debut solo album, Melody, in 2008.

The band’s ninth studio album, Jump On Board was released in May this year. Written and produced by Texas stalwarts Johnny McElhone and Spiteri herself, it’s the first new Texas studio album since 2013’s The Conversation and has been acclaimed as a pop classic.

The new single is Work It Out, with a great video featuring Thierry Henry and there’s another video to watch out for, for Tell That Girl, which features Rory McCann (who plays the Hound on TV’s Game Of Thrones) on drums.

Texas play Grimsby Auditorium on September 20th.

For more information on the tour and on Texas go to their website at www.texas.uk.com. For tickets go to www.grimsbyauditorium.org.uk.

Barton Bike Night 2017

Barton Bike Night, the highlight of East Coast motorbike culture, is usually held on a Wednesday but this year it took place on a Saturday, (July 8th to be exact) and we went along to take a look at the show.

There were, of course, motorcycles of all kinds on show, from vintage bikes to the most up to date, racers and scrambles machines, Harleys dripping with chrome, goth trikes decorated with skulls and even a motorbike and sidecar kitted out for delivering milk door to door.

The weather was gorgeous and thousands of riders and spectators descended on the town for a fantastic celebration of everything two wheeled and even a few three wheelers in the shape of classic Morgan three wheelers.

We’re not expert enough to tell you much detail about was on display so suffice it to say that everyone had a great time and here’s to next year. We’ll get our motors running for that.

The Peoples Visits Duffy’s Chocolate In Wilton Road

It can stop angry delivery drivers dead in their tracks and make them all sweetness and light”, explains Duffy Sheardown when I comment on the amazing aroma in his factory. “They come in all huffy and ‘I’ve just spent half an hour looking for you’ and then suddenly it’s ‘Wow what’s that amazing smell?’ And then they’re smiling like kids. Chocolate will do that to you.”

It’s certainly a rich and almost euphoria inducing aroma. And it seems to stay around. For several days after my visit I feel as if I get an occasional waft of it. In the park. In the living room. In the garden. For a few days it seems like the whole world is full of chocolate.

Duffy Sheardown has been producing high quality chocolate in his premises in Wilton Road for seven years. He’s a chocolate maker, not a chocolatier. Chocolatiers make things out of chocolate.
Before that he worked in the motor racing industry, fabricating bodywork components for teams in Formula 1 and in sports car racing. One wall of the factory is filled with colour photographs of the cars he helped build.

And then one day it just came to an end.

‘I was driving with the boss to look at a house to rent near the team base. He got a phone call in the car and it was the main sponsor announcing that he had pulled out. That was it. No more team. I was unemployed.’

So what led him into the chocolate industry?

‘I was looking for a challenge. I saw a TV programme that said that there was only one firm making chocolate from beans in the whole of the UK. And I thought “I could do that”’.
Did he have any previous experience?

‘No. but I thought “How hard can it be?” I did plenty of research. And then we set up.’

Was it difficult to learn?

‘Not really he says. We buy the best cocoa beans in the world and then we try not to make a mess of them. That’s about it.’

He says it so disarmingly for a few seconds I almost believe him. But not really.

Chocolate is made from cocoa beans, which are actually the dried and fermented seeds of Theobrama cacao, a tall elegant tree that grows in Central and South America, Africa and Indonesia. The best beans are from the new world, especially Venezuela, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Nicaragua. When processed they yield both cocoa solids and cocoa butter, a fine quality vegetable oil.

Of the three varieties principally used in chocolate making the rarest and most sought after (and therefore of course the most expensive), is the criollo. It is grown principally in the Americas but it’s a difficult crop and it makes up only 5% of world cocoa bean production.

Most common is the Forestero, grown extensively in Africa. The third variety of bean is the Trinitartio – a hybrid of the other two, again principally grown in the Americas.

Duffy’s chocolate is made only from Criollo and Trinitario beans. Mostly he produces single estate varieties so that customers know the exact source of the ingredients and he purchases via the Direct Cacao scheme, which is a bit like Fairtrade but better because under the Direct Cacao scheme growers are paid what they ask for their crop, with no quibbling. In return they commit to producing top quality beans that artisan chocolate makers require. Rather like good whisky it’s dark and richly flavoured with hints of vanilla or raspberries or citrus. Each estate’s product has its own unique flavour spectrum and it’s reassuringly expensive. Not arm and a leg second mortgage expensive but expensive enough that you know you’re buying something special. This isn’t lunchbox chocolate, this is artisan chocolate, for treating someone special.

Or for treating yourself.

Duffy’s call themselves ‘bean to bar’ producers which means that they take delivery of raw beans and process everything in house until the finished product is complete. No shortcuts, no substitutes.

The process starts with the roasting, shelling and sorting of the cocoa beans. Then they’re placed in large stainless steel vats where they are ground by rotating granite rollers. As the cocoa butter is released so the ground beans liquify. On the second day organic cane sugar is added and some cocoa butter for texture. At the end of the process a little sunflower lecithin is added to prevent the formation of bubbles. That’s all there is to it.

It takes between two and three days to completely turn to chocolate and for all the complex flavours to come through and each batch of 30kg of beans produces only 300 bars of completed product. Of course they could buy machines to do a lot of the work and increase production massively but you just know from being here that that isn’t the point.

The liquid chocolate is tempered on a granite slab and poured into moulds, cooled and then wrapped by hand ready to go out to specialist shops and enthusiasts all over the world.
(If we’ve whetted your appetite for knowing more then there’s some fascinating background information and an excellent video on the Duffy’s website at www.duffyschocolate.co.uk.)

And of course it tastes fantastic and it’s in high demand from chocolate enthusiasts all over the world. The factory only produces about 25,000 bars a year however so it doesn’t hang around. It’s available by mail order and via the Duffy’s website as well as from a select few retailers, including not only Deli-Licious in St Peter’s Avenue and Fortnum & Mason’s in Piccadilly but chocolate specialists all round the world. They have been awarded gold medals twice by the Academy of Chocolate.

We’re visiting the factory on the occasion of its open day, celebrating the businesses extension into the unit next door, in which Lindsay Gardner of Louth’s very own Spire Chocolates will be making her famous chocolate products including boxes of chocolates, chocolate bark, polar bears and alpacas. It’s an ideal tie up – superb Lincolnshire chocolate and delicious Lincolnshire chocolates made on the same premises.

They’ll be offering courses and experience days as well and if you’re a chocolate aficionado then a visit to Duffy’s, for a chocolate making and tasting session is something you won’t want to miss.

And then there’s the smell. Did I mention the smell?


Further information about Duffy’s Chocolate and their online shop can be found on their website at www.duffyschocolate.co.uk

Spire Chocolates are at www.spirechocolates.co.uk

Don’t Let the Robots Eat Me (At Least Not In Hull)

The Flaming Lips
Zebedee’s Yard , Hull
25th May 2017

Hull’s newest music venue is Zebedee’s Yard, close to the quayside. a car park by day, hemmed in by the backs of Victorian warehouses and office buildings. It might sound unglamorous but in practice it works just great, and while it’s probably destined to be a one summer only thing for the City of Culture celebrations it would be nice if it could continue to be used for the future because the city needs an pop up venue like this.

It certainly makes a great and slightly disorientating backdrop for The Flaming Lips,a band for whom great and slightly disorientating are the rule rather than the exception and they give us a show that certainly makes it into my top ten ever, an explosion of music, colour and joy whose psychedelia is only enhanced by the venue’s anachronistic red brick bowl.

Everybody’s favourite young fogeys, Public Service Broadcasting, are the main support, equipped with tech and traditional instruments in equal measure and dressed as if they knew the yard’s buildings when they were young.

It’s the first time I’ve seen them live and I’ll admit to sometimes harbouring grave suspicions about bands that play computers on stage. I’ve vented them in QRO reviews on occasion, so I’m ashamed to admit that I have relatively low expectations of PSB. In my defence I’ll just say that it takes about fifteen seconds to realise that they aren’t what I’m expecting at all. No crouching over the decks gesticulating like they’re communicating in some sort of sign language for the constipated. No dancing on tables. None of the shouting “Come on Hull make some fucking noise” which usually passes for literacy for players of the Apple Mac and related instruments.

Their complex weaving of live music and samples is completely thrilling and even if I’m not dancing, (which puts me very much in the minority), I am completely mesmerised. No good asking me about the first few songs because I’m busy with cameras but I spend the rest of the set getting my head round their sound, which takes some time.

It’s not until The Other Side, which deploys samples from the Apollo 8 mission, that I start to pick the threads from the complexity sufficiently to understand what’s going on. It’s a great track with the tension rising throughout,like a hundred heartbeats woven into one until it reaches a massive crescendo.

Favourite tracks are hard to call because it still all felt very new but Everest, which closes the set, is incredible and when Public Service Broadcasting leave the stage I have a new favourite band.

And then we’re all set for the main event. As a prequel nets filled with huge balloons are manoeuvred into the gangway at the side of the stage but so bijou is Zebedee’s Yard the crew are unable to get them past the scaffold structure. After several minutes of effort, filled with the sound of popping rubber, they give up and the balloons are distributed to the crowd by way of a human chain. It’s an impressive piece of work.

It’s my first live encounter with The Flaming Lips, a band whose shows have achieved legendary status. The previous night they were at Glastonbury, closing things up on the Park Stage. Tonight it’s a car park in Hull. It might seem like a bit of a come down but you have to remember that this year Hull is the official UK city of real, proper culture, and Glastonbury is, as ever, the home of middle class beardy weirdy wannabe culture.

It’s difficult to know how to approach a Flaming Lips review. If you’ve seen them before you won’t need a description. If you haven’t then you probably won’t believe me.

The balloons having been pretty much eliminated by the end of Race For The Prize, Wayne Coyne, dressed in crimson velvet, is joined on stage by several large inflatable manga characters for a glorious Yoshimi. For the first time ever I miss loads of shots because I am too busy singing along. When There Should Be Unicorns trots in Coyne rides a ten foot luminous equine monocerous into the crowd. It’s a dangerous thing to attempt and the only safety gear with which he is equipped are some inflatable rainbow wings and a pair of fluffy green crocodile feet. If it all sounds a bit predictable then all I can do is promise you that it’s great. The unicorn completes a full circuit of Zebedee’s Yard and Coyne dismounts.

After that it all gets a bit weird.

The hamster ball comes out for a strangely poignant Space Oddity and there’s a giant rainbow, more confetti cannons than you can shake a stick at, and a large inflatable Fuck Yeah Hull sign which has a much more pleasing symmetry than the previous night’s bottom heavy Fuck Yeah Glastonbury.

What’s most important though is that at no point in the whole bizarre process does the quality of the performance ever slip below fantastic. There may be a lot of nonsense in the air but it isn’t allowed to compromise the music.

The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song is a huge singalong and Coyne seems pleasantly surprised at how many people are able to join in with verses as well as chorus. The show winds up with a storming She Don’t Use Jelly and a tender and lovely Beatles tinged Do You Realize, which has the crowd singing as they leave.

JEFF LYNNE’S ELO DAZZLE AT THE KCOM STADIUM

Sometimes you leave a show with a review almost written in your mind already. Sometimes you can’t think of a word to say. And sometimes you just leave shaking your head gently and thinking did I really just see that and how am I going to describe it to people who weren’t that lucky.

The visit of Jeff Lynne’s ELO to the KCOM Stadium in Hull on Saturday July 1st was one of the latter kind, not just great music but a light show that would have been worth going to see in its own right plus excellent support from the Shires and Ben Chaplin, formerly of Keane.

The good people of Hull turned out in force to welcome a man who has become synonymous with a sound, achieving a celebrity not unlike that of Brian Wilson, as the guiding light and chief creative force behind one of those bands who had maybe slipped our minds for a while but for whom the zeitgeist has returned so that they’re probably bigger now than they ever were in their heyday.

Nostalgia? We’ll leave that for another night. This was simply a joyful celebration of everything that’s fine about great pop music. Yes the hits kept coming. Yes mums and dads, and some of their mums and dads too, were up and dancing away, (in many cases pretty well) but there were plenty of kids and grandkids present and many times the biggest cheers were for lesser known songs from the ELO canon, such as Rockaria or Can’t Get It Out Of My Head.

When I Was A Boy from 2015’s Alone In The Universe wass well received, as were The Travelling Wilbury’s Handle With Care and Xanadu, which most of us remember as an Olivia Newton John song (although ELO wrote and played the soundtrack and Lynne provided paranthetic vocals on the original).

Technically it was a masterpiece. How do they get the music to sound almost exactly like the original album cuts in a football ground? Heaven knows, but they do. As for the staging, well what can you say. One of the widest stages I’ve ever seen, so much so that they set it along one side of the stadium and not a the goal ends, equipped with huge davits full of lights, screens that towered into the night sky, and surmounting it all the red, yellow and blue disc of the ELO spaceship which emitted lights and clouds of steam as appropriate during the course of the evening.

Of course the hits are what people have come to see, and why not, and there are plenty of them from Evil Woman, near the beginning of the show to closer Mr Blue Skies, for which we all stand singing ‘the sun is shining in the sky’ into the blackness and while it’s true that there isn’t a cloud in sight that’s because it’s too dark.

By the end of the show Lynne and the band have done just about enough to remind us what a unique sound they have/had and so they finish with a neat and dirty version of Roll Over Beethoven. It’s like saying “Look I fooled you all. It’s just rock and roll really.” And it may well be, but it’s great rock and roll.