Review: Andy Fairweather Low @ The Central Hall

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Rock royalty rolled into town on Saturday night when Andy Fairweather Low and the Low Riders gave a concert of such diversity and aplomb that it’s a struggle to find enough superlatives to do it justice. I managed to grab a few minutes with an exhausted but effervescent Andy at the end of the evening and came away with a picture of a man wholly motivated by the sheer joy of what he does.

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Andy Fairweather Low has been a significant player on the British music scene for fifty years. He has played with the crowned royal heads of classic rock including George Harrison, Eric Clapton and Joe Satriani, queens of country Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt, the first lady of blues Bonnie Raitt and countless other luminaries from Pete Townshend to Sheryl Crow. He toured for two decades with Roger Waters, is a regular still for Clapton and is opening for him in New York in a few weeks’ time.

Accustomed to the roar of stadiums and vast audiences, Andy was keen to impress on me how much he loves the intimacy of small gigs, ‘Arenas are about money, playing venues this size is what it’s all about. In an arena the work is done for you. Here you’re in control as a musician. You’re always aiming for the big gig but it doesn’t make you happy. They’re an event, a spectacle and that’s ok but this is what I like to do. This band is about me as musician and working as a team.’

Although it is the name ‘Andy Fairweather Low’ that has the cache in terms of fame, the Low Riders are an impressive ensemble with immaculate pedigrees. Saxophonist Nick Pentelow played in Wizzard in the early seventies and has worked with the great Gary Moore, Elton John, Nick Lowe and Steve Gibbons. Drummer Paul Beavis has credits for Lisa Stansfield, Thea Gilmour and Toyah Wilcox among others and bassist Dave Bronze has an equally diverse background having worked with Nik Kershaw, Barbara Dickson and The Art of Noise.

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In Andy’s words, ‘These guys really can play. They can play anything.’ The Low Riders have been playing together for eight years and have cemented the camaraderie and musicianship essential to a successful band.

From the opening number of the first set, the classic Tequila, the capacity audience in the Roy Kemp suite knew it was in for a rollicking ride. The Low Riders could have shaken the building to its foundations but they didn’t need to.

As the first set built they relied on quality musicianship, interplay and dynamics rather than the force of volume to create a performance of breathtaking sweep and diversity, moving seamlessly between styles from rock to blues to pop and back again.

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Fairweather Low moves about the stage with Tiggerish glee, tearing through solos with that distinctive sound that has featured on so many classic recordings of the past five decades. His showmanship is natural and unforced. He is also an accomplished raconteur, telling stories between songs that recount his history and connections as a musician. He manages to be funny, self-deprecating and entertaining and although he name checks a stellar cast list of contemporaries he does not name drop in that fashion that can be cringeworthy. Throughout the evening he acknowledged those who had influenced him from Jimmy Reed to Hank Marvin.

After performing the beautiful Rocky Raccoon from The Beatles’ White Album he joked that the hardest part of getting older was remembering the words to that song. A couple of times he acknowledged his age and longevity saying ‘We remind myself of who I was. I know who I am,’ as if the music he plays anchors his sense of self and his story. His age and experience are there to hear in his voice, still strong and capable and full of character. When we spoke after the show he said he’d had a bit if trouble with the monitors and had over-sung to compensate. ‘You can’t fake the high notes,’ he said, ‘they expect to hear them.’ He clearly wants to give the audience what they came for and is gracious from the stage and afterwards when he comes out to sign CDs and shake the many hands in a long queue. He has time for everyone and it is humbling to watch a man used to international tours, huge venues and the company of rock demi-Gods posing for selfies with starry eyed fans.

If the first set was a tour of styles and influences packed with treasures from the lovely, gentle Travelling Light to the heavy blues of La La Music with its saxophone driven riffs then the second set moved from what was already a high bar to an altogether new level. La Booga Rooga with its funky and syncopated style was an early show stopper, being the second song in but from there it just got better. I was watching a masterclass in performance and thought how so many young performers would benefit from watching a band of this quality and experience. The energy on the stage was palpable and infectious to the audience who were captivated and who roared in appreciation at the close of each song.

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The biggest surprise of the second set was Lay My Burden Down/May The Circle Be Unbroken. Performed in true Americana style it was given an added dimension with Nick Pentelow’s clarinet adding a New Orleans jazz layer that was quite unexpected. By the song’s climax it was approaching full on Revival style and came to a stop with a flamenco inspired flourish. The clarinet continued to add magic to the set in When Things Go Wrong a cover of the Ottilie Patterson version of the song. Fairweather Low also worked with Pattersen’s husband, Chris Barber.

The second set built and built as the band entered that state of play when the music is the master and everyone in the room is in thrall. It is thrilling to experience that kind of magical transcendence at a gig and it is what all musicians hope they will achieve. It is the point at which the synergy between the musicians undergo an alchemical process and for a time everyone is in a state of euphoria. Songs that might be cheesy in less accomplished hands such as Bend Me Shake Me became anthems to the hey-day of sixties pop. The spirit of Bill Hayley romped across the stage in If I Ever Get Lucky. The smooth tones of Wide Eyed And Legless contained jazzy and Latinesque romantic nods to give it a sweet charm.

From there the band launched into Gin House which was smoky, dramatic and sexy in places with Nick Pentelow playing in the sultry style of the legendary Ben Webster. The dirty tones of Fairweather Low’s Stratocaster made the song viscerally exciting. The sound built to an explosive finish and then once again acknowledging his influences Fairweather Low launched into a medley of Peter Gunn/Apache/Hide Away. Apache was just gorgeous with the rich chocolaty deep notes resonating deeply around the room.

The final trilogy of the evening started with Route 66 sounding as fresh as if it had been recorded yesterday. He said, ‘my Dad used to buy records. It’s only later that you realise how important they are to you,’ and went into Lonnie Donnegan’s Putting On The Style to which the hall sang along sweetly. The band finished with Half As Nice and left the stage to a room cheering and on its feet.
He did say the band would like to come back to Grimsby and Grimsby will welcome them with open arms when they do. Backstage after the show I expected Andy to be tired out. His supper was waiting for him and I didn’t want to take up to much of his time but he was generous to a fault. I asked him about his previous visits to Grimsby.

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‘We came a few years ago with Dennis Loccoriere (formerly with Dr Hook) and The Low Riders played a gig in Cleethorpes last year and there was just one table of about fifteen in. Oh it was difficult, but those fifteen, they had a great time.’

I asked him what it was like to face those kinds of gigs. ‘It’s not what you want, but everyone has them. Doesn’t matter how many people come, you give them the show, but it’s not great.’

I told Andy that I had first seen him in 1983 at the Royal Albert Hall at the Ronnie Lane ARMS (Action for Research into Multiple Sclerosis) concert. The bill that night was stellar featuring Eric Clapton, Bill Wyman, Steve Winwood, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page and of course Andy. One or two of those notables arguably ‘phoned in’ their performances that night but Andy stole the show. When I told him that he laughed and batted away the compliment modestly. ‘It was one of those gigs, when Ronnie rang, everyone said yes. Of course he was very ill at the time. The show toured, did nine dates in America. Ronnie did what he could. He was a great songwriter. His songs remind me of George (Harrison). He was beaten by that you know, the MS.’

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I leave him to his supper and the tedious business of the get out. He strikes me as the kind of musician who still loads his own gear into the van at the end of the night, part of a generation of musicians who refuse to fade away and whose music is still being discovered afresh by young people today.

What a legacy, and what a gift.

This review appears in The Peoples Issue 32 Web Edition.

Review: Love’s Labour’s Lost live stream @ the Whitgift Film Theatre

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Never been to a live screening of a theatre performance?

Not sure it’s for you?

Tracey Edges went along to try it out and now she’s a fan.

BIG TIME

On Wednesday I was invited to Whitgift Film Theatre to view a Live Screening of Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost by the prestigious Royal Shakespeare Company.
It was absolutely brilliant and an utter delight.

I went with an open mind but with a couple of slight reservations. I have never been to a live screening and going to see one at a cinema just seemed an expensive way of seeing a film. I couldn’t see how it could compare with actually being in the audience at the theatre where the play was being performed.

In fact it was most certainly the next best thing and, as it was practically on my doorstep, there were not the associated costs of travelling to, and staying at, a major town or city. My comfortable seat was snug, I’m fairly wide, and I had enough legroom, I’m fairly long, and my neighbour and I didn’t encroach on each other.

Christopher Luscombe’s production of Love’s Labour’s Lost was simultaneously screened live from the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford Upon-Avon, in over 300 cinemas as well as being available in North America, Australia, Japan and Northern Europe.

With ticket prices, at the theatre, reaching as high as £52.50 it made my £15 ticket feel a bargain in comparison.

To enhance the experience, prior to the performance, and during the interval, the footage kept cutting to the actual audience and, throughout, the audience noise was piped through the cinema speakers: the oohs, the aahs, the laughter and the clapping. This did tie you into the event itself and helped to negate the unavoidable remove.

The only slight awkwardness was: To clap, or not to clap, that is the question! However, there were sprinkles of sporadic applause throughout from the audience who were of sufficient quantity to create enough of a genial atmosphere although there were seats still available.

The demographic was, primarily, an older one and I found this to be a shame as this play would easily appeal to a very wide age group.

Writer and BBC Broadcaster, Suzy Klein conducted a live interview with Director Christopher Luscombe and there was also an extremely interesting pre-recorded feature with set designer Simon Higlett. The sets, on mechanical trucks, for ease of movement, were based on Charlecote Park, a National Trust property, overlooking the River Avon, just outside Stratford. I was fascinated by the level of detail in the beautiful set models and found this to be a riveting addition to the performance.

My second slight reservation was that, although I am a fan of Shakespearian plays, I was unfamiliar with this particular story and wondered if that would make it hard to understand.

Not at all. In the initial live interviews it was suggested that you didn’t need to understand all the meanings of all the words and if you just relaxed and let it happen you would understand more than enough. Those were very wise words and it was an extremely accessible play, very easy to understand, both the language and the plot.

All the cast were exemplary and reminded me what heights real acting could achieve. By sheer exuberance the stand out performance was by Nick Haverson as Costard and his farcical antics in a boat had the audience crying with laughter.

Love’s Labour’s Lost is a comedy and whether with devices or props such as a teddy bear or misdirection the whole play exemplified Shakespeare’s mastery of the spoken word. It was all about language: the use, the playing with, the misinterpretation and the pronunciation.

From the initial premise where the king and three of his friends, take an unrealistic oath to swear off women during the course of their three year studies, to the arrival of four beautiful and tempting women, and the ensuing farcical scenes, to the end where a year apart is agreed upon, the performance delighted and entertained and invoked a continuing discussion long after it had ended.

The production was set in 1914, just before the start of World War 1, with the potential lovers unaware of this, they leave you wondering what will happen next.

With the same wonderful cast returning in Love’s Labour’s Won (a renaming of Much Ado About Nothing), broadcasting live on March 4th, I am sure than many of the audience will be booking their tickets for more excellent entertainment.

As a venue, the Whitgift Film Theatre is delightfully uncomplicated with very friendly and helpful staff, complimentary biscuits and the interval discussion was bubbling. My fellow audience members were friendly and chatty and one chap enthusiastically said that he couldn’t believe that this was the first time that I had been to one of these live screenings as they loved them so much and go to them all.

If Love’s Labour’s Lost was an indication, I can see why they are so popular and I am a convert.

An excellent and hilarious evening. 5 stars.

From The People’s Issue 32 web edition

Gordon Wilson – The Cod Smack: Charity

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Grimsby Bound is Gordon Wilson’s poetic account of the experiences of boy apprentices in the C19th fishing trade.

The poems recall how boys were recruited from workhouses, orphanages, charitable institutions and city streets in every corner of the nation to crew the ships that brought the wealth that made Grimsby the world’s premier fishing port.

Grimsby Bound tells of how some flourished while others endured abuse and misuse at the hands of ruthless pioneers in the developing trade. It tells of life at sea and ashore, of daring and blame, of courage and shame, of imprisonment and career advancement. It illustrates how and why three Parliamentary enquiries into the treatment of the apprentices made headline newspapers and magazines of the day.

Our thanks to Gordon for sending us one of the poems from the collection, The Cod Smack: Charity to use in the magazine.

The Cod Smack: Charity

Brightness slips behind the lips
of grey swell and black cloud
and the ice wind rises.

So I submit, again, to this old master’s
callused hands and foul mouth
as tops’l snaps, stays’l shivers
mains’l claps and me boom swings wanton
tearing at me sheets.

And all is twist and roll,
battered to starboard and port
for’ard and aft
as wind screams in the dark
mast and decking groan
while down below are frightened boys
in the charge of experienced hands.

Thanks to Gordon for the poem – it’s also in The Peoples Issue 32 Web Edition

A Welcome return For The Candlelight Cafe – featuring Driftnet & The Keep

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The Candlelight Cafe season made a welcome return to the Minster last Friday night for its first show of the year, featuring Celtic folk heroes Merlin’s Keep, who performed three sets starting with Grimsby Bound, their collaboration with poet Gordon Wilson who joined them on stage. By turns harrowing and exhilarating the piece is based on the experiences of the apprentices whose exploitation helped to the Grimsby fishing industry achieve world renown.

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After the interval the Keep (who have now joined the likes of the mighty Quo and the Gees in being instantly recognisable from the second half of their name only) took the opportunity to air some of the songs from their popular folk opera Havelok The Dane and to offer a selection of favourites from their back catalogue.

Second half poetry came from Caroline Burton who showed the diversity of her work with poems which dealt affectingly with the closure of Caistor Asylum and also touched hilariously on the joys of embarrassing one’s children.

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The next Candlelight Cafe will take place on Friday 6th March and will feature poetry and music from Audrey Dunne and Edina Molnar, classical guitar from Ron Burbella and poetry from Driftnet. £5 on the door. Doors open at 7.00 for a prompt 7.30 start. Supper is £4 and the bar will be open for hot drinks plus a selection of wine and beers.

Since you’re passing why not check out The Peoples Issue 32 Web Edition?

All That Jazz – Josie Gray Talks To Shannon Reilly

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Jazz songstress Shannon Reilly talks to Josie Gray about music, style and balancing two demanding careers.

The Shannon Reilly Trio is one of the area’s most admired and talked about acts. Comprised of guitar legend Pat McCarthy and equally renowned bass player Warren Jolly, they’re fronted by Shannon Reilly whose crystalline vocals mark her out as something rather special.

Singing is in the genes in the Reilly family – her dad is a singer and encouraged her from an early age. She first sang in front of an audience when she was seven but it wasn’t until she hit her twenties that Shannon found her jazz voice and it wasn’t by a straightforward route. Her friends were involved in the cabaret and burlesque scenes and she wanted to get involved but she couldn’t dance.

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‘I started singing Peggy Lee and Doris Day songs to become part of the scene,’ she explains.

Shannon has a broad repertoire and is influenced by singers as diverse as Ella Fitzgerald and Cara Emerald. She seems equally at home with classics such as The Nearness of You and more contemporary and funky numbers like Big Bad Handsome Man.

The band is always busy and singers need to take care of their greatest asset, the voice. Shannon’s tips for taking care of her voice are to soothe it with
honey and lemon, to avoid eating dairy on gig days and to ensure she warms up properly.

As the front woman of the band, Shannon is very image conscious. She combines classy and vintage to unique effect and has a style that is all her own. Her talents as a hairdresser also come in handy. As well as singing Shannon is a successful businesswoman with her own salon on Freeman Street market. I asked her how she managed to balance the two jobs.

‘It’s tough on weekends,’ she says, ‘but I’m hoping the gigs take over so I can give up the day job.’

She’s ambitious but she’s also a realist. She loves working on original material with the band and would love to get a record deal but in her own words admits the ‘industry is such a hard nut to crack’. She’s looking forward to touring in February and says she would settle for a full time singing career if that proves possible.

When I ask if she had any advice for women looking to make a career in music she replies modestly.

‘I’m not really qualified to give advice as I haven’t achieved all my dreams yet but I would say the best thing I ever did was step out of my comfort zone to try something new. Singing pop songs got me nowhere. It’s only when I got into jazz that things started moving for me. Dare to be different.’

If you haven’t caught the band yet, make sure you catch them at a gig soon. You won’t be disappointed.

From Mouth Almighty Issue 1 – online here

World Book Day At Twinkles Fancy Dress

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What’s the busiest time of the year for a fancy dress shop owner? Halloween of course. You guessed that right? So what’s the second busiest?

That’s a bit trickier. Christmas? Easter? Nope, it’s World Book Day. I bet you didn’t get that one but it’s an important date in some quarters and nowhere more so than at Twinkles Fancy Dress of Cleethorpes.

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Twinkles has been in business for fifteen years now, based in old electricity showroom building at the foot of Isaac’s Hill, one of the area’s most beloved buildings. It started out as a retro clothing emporium but proprietor Kath Summers got so many requests to hire her stock for theme nights that she bought some purpose made costumes in and the rest is history.

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Nowadays she has thousands of outfits, ball gowns and accessories and it’s non stop, not just for her but also for daughter Melanie and grand daughter Tiffany, both of whom assist in the shop. Most requested costumes are Pirates Of The Caribbean, Frozen, 60s and 70s themed costumes, cartoon characters and mediaeval but Kath has to stay constantly on the look out for new trends. New films, TV and books will always create new favourites and the costumes need to be ready in advance!

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For World Book Day they stock up on favourites from children’s fiction and throw open their doors to entire classes of schoolchildren (and their teachers) who come to choose their costumes for the big day but word about the event is starting to spread outside the classroom and demand for adult sizes is rising as the event gains popularity.

This feature is taken from Mouth Almighty Issue 1