An Interview with Gypsyfingers

Following their critically well-received slot as the opening act on Tubular Bells For Two’s UK tour last autumn, Gypsyfingers now embark on their first ever UK tour, with a brand new single, Half World, released to coincide with the dates. A week before they set off on the road, The Mumble caught up with the band for a wee blether.


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Well hello Gypsyfingers I hope we are all well!  First question to Luke I thought I should clear up the Oldfield question first! Just how cool is your dad and what was it like to grow up the son of a Legend? 
LUKE: Dad is cool in a very down to earth way. He has never enjoyed drawing attention to himself or being in the spotlight and to me he is just my dad. I think people have some preconceptions about what it must be like to have a famous musician for a father but its not like that at all for me. My parents separated when I was very young and whenever I used to go and see Dad we would usually spend some time in the studio. For me it just seemed like a very normal thing that my dad was a musician. When I saw him perform live at The Albert Hall in 1993 was perhaps the first time I realised that my Dad wasn’t like everyone else’s Dad!

What age were you when you first saw the Exorcist? 
LUKE: I was 14 and I stayed up late with a few friends to watch The Exorcist in the dark and were all pretty spooked by it. Obviously the music was very familiar to me though so it didn’t have quite the dramatic effect it must have on most people.

What does Dad think of the band? 
LUKE: He doesn’t listen to a lot of music as he is always writing and creating his own music but he likes Gypsyfingers and is pleased that I have revived his old studio – Tilehouse Studios – where he recorded Five Miles Out, Moonlight Shadow and other records in the 80’s. We record Gypsyfingers there and I produce other there bands as well using lots of nice analogue gear including tape machines.

He has obviously been a major influence on all of you. Do you still work closely with him or are you a completely separate entity? 
LUKE: Victoria started Gypsyfingers as a solo project before I got involved so Gypsyfingers is definitely a separate entity from Mike Oldfield. Obviously I grew up with his latest releases – the Blue Peter “Sailor’s Hornpipe” Theme Tune is the first one I can remember – and I saw him play live several times so the influence on me is probably pretty strong. Everyone in Gypsyfingers has slightly different tastes in music, which I think is what what makes Gypsyfingers sound interesting. Victoria prefers classical and dance music; Pat loves 60’s and 70’s rock and my background is in rock and folk so there is a healthy melting pot of musical tastes and ideas between us.

Do you believe that Gypsyfingers’ star is ascending? 
LUKE: It certainly feels like it is! Victoria and I recorded our debut album “Circus Life” as a duo and it took a while for us to find the right musicians to play live with who could help us translate the album to be performed live. We had a great tour last year supporting Tubular Bells For Two and playing some fantastic venues and shows. The reaction from the audiences and press on that tour was brilliant so that has really spurred us on. We are now working with a booking agent and we want to keep the momentum going behind Gypsyfingers and to get our music out to a wider audience so we have our first UK headline tour starting on 26th April and we are currently booking more shows for later in the year.

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With the launch of your new single, forthcoming gigs at The Isle of Wight Festival and Hyde Park and the recent success of ‘Belle Voci’ reaching the voice finals. Do you believe that it is now your time to be loved by the masses and are you ready for Superstardom? 
LUKE: Our new single “Half World” picks up from where a song like “Circus Elephant” on our debut album “Circus Life” left off and shows off a bigger sound thanks to Pat and Simon who play drums and bass on the record. We really hope people like it and we hope that we are taking folk-rock into slightly new territory with it. Our live shows are getting better and better and more opportunities keep coming up for Gypsyfingers. The important thing for us is to keep putting music out and playing shows as long as there is an appreciative audience. If that leads to superstardom then that would be fantastic and yes we would be ready for it.

This question is for everyone; opening last year with Tubular Bells For 2 must have been immense. How do you keep it real? 
LUKE: We had a great time on that tour and it was an exciting opportunity for sure. We are all good mates so its always fun being on the road with Gypsyfingers. We had Simon’s partner Sally Low with us on tour taking amazing photos so the tour was beautifully documented. We like to have a few beers after the shows to hang out and wind down. Funnily enough during that tour Victoria and I drove the van while Pat and Simon took the train, which they really loved. Thankfully none of their trains were delayed!

What is the one thing that lets you switch off, be you and help keep your feet on the ground? 
LUKE: I meditate a few times a week. It really helps to keep me grounded, particularly when things get a bit stressful. I also have a lovely bedlington-whippet called Bonnie who is constantly reminding me of the simple things in life.

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Gypsyfingers being interviewed on Polish radio

What is your favourite moment so far with the band, was there one precise moment when you thought we have got something here! Or has it been very much a natural progression and you have realised what you needed to take you to the next level? 
LUKE: When Victoria and I started working together we didn’t have any rules or deadlines so we were able to experiment and find a sound that we liked and that we thought was interesting and fresh. From the start it has been a very organic progression. In 2014, quite soon after we released “Circus Life” we were offered a gig opening for James Blunt in Warsaw by a Polish promoter. The offer was very much out of the blue but it made us realise that we must be doing something right! It was a great opportunity and we rose to the occasion playing in front of 6000 people, selling lots of CDs afterwards and returning the following year to Poland for an 18 date tour!

How have the guys got on joining the band? I bet it was strange at first; Victoria and Luke were already very established, did you go out and actively seek the additional and members. They ‘rock’ let’s go get them or was it some kid of audition? 
LUKE: Victoria and I were playing a few acoustic gigs here and there as a duo and we felt that our folky acoustic set didn’t reflect our studio sound, which is more textured and ethereal. I posted on Facebook asking if there were any drummers or multi-instrumentalists who would be interested in joining Gypsyfingers and Pat Kenneally replied saying that he plays drums and keys sometimes at the same time, which we thought would be perfect! I had met Pat on a recording session previously so I knew he was a talented musician and that we would get on so we went to see him playing with another band so Victoria could see and meet him. We had a rehearsal and it just worked Pat has been an integral part of the band and a great friend ever since. Finding a bass player was more tricky! We had three bass players before we found Simon Hedges, who used to be in a great grunge band in Bristol called Airbus. Simon hadn’t played bass for 15 years since he left Airbus but we were having a beer telling him about how our bassist had spontaneously combusted (by suddenly moving to Japan) and he piped up with “I play bass!” and he was the perfect fit. He is currently working in Brussels for the BBC so we have our fifth bass player Tali Trow playing for us currently, who is also a real asset to Gypsyfingers bringing an extra layer of vocal harmonies with him.

Is there anything that you actually suck at? 
LUKE: Probably lots of things! Being vegetarians we are all terrible meat eaters but I think that is a good thing.

You all seem super talented and can all play multiple instruments and Victoria can even sing while playing everything! Who is who in the band? 
VICTORIA: We can all play a bit of everything! Our arrangements vary according to which song we are playing. Pat plays drums, piano, keys and he sometimes sings backing vocals as well. Luke plays electric guitar, acoustic guitar and sings, mostly backing vocals but sometimes lead.
LUKE: Victoria is the lead singer and she plays piano, acoustic guitar and french horn. Tali plays bass and sings backing vocals.

Who is the funny one, who keeps you going when things get a bit serious? 
VICTORIA: Pat!
LUKE: Definitely Pat.

I really like the preview of the new single ‘Half World’, can I ask who wrote it and what is it about? 
VICTORIA: Thanks so much! I wrote the original demo when I was playing around with guitar and came up the opening riff – the song just came naturally from there. The lyrics were inspired by recent stories about migrants. People and families forced to make the decision to flee their homes, the painful journey, inspired to survive by the hope of a better life. I have no idea whats that’s really like, I can only imagine. The song title Half World and lyric “my worlds been halved” illustrates the sense of loosing almost everything you knew and dreamed about… including loved ones. It was great taking this song from my demo to the band and then recording it in the studio. Once we played it through as a band on tour the form really took shape and that rocky guitar solo outro emerged. I think the song demands it, and its a lovely contrast to the breakdown vocal section. The march like drum rhythm is symbolic of marching footsteps, and the momentum of the song reflects the long relentless and arduous journey. Luke’s production and direction really helped to bring that to life, and adding the mellotron was fun too!

What are you looking forward most to the Isle of Wight festival or Hyde Park and why? 
VICTORIA: I can’t choose… both are amazing festivals and well known to us, and we are incredibly lucky and honoured to be taking part in both!!
LUKE: They will both be great but Isle of Wight maybe has the edge for me because of its history and also we might get to stay on and check the festival out.

You guys are set for a very busy year any holiday plans or is it all just work, work, work at the moment and where would you go if you had the time? 
VICTORIA: We are super busy at the moment, and love every second of it but we realise its important to step away sometimes, take a break and come back to projects with a fresh pair of ears to make sure you are doing good work. Getting out of the studio is essential but holidays and breaks are always spontaneous. I hate making plans in advance as I often find it heart-wrenching having to leave my instruments behind. I’d love to travel round Iceland for a month or two, maybe convert a bus into a little studio and just travel and record along the way… and then carry on driving round the whole wide world for a few years!


GYPSYFINGERS – UK TOUR APRIL / MAY 2018

  • 26/4/2018   Manchester @ The Peer Hat:  BUY TICKETS

  • 27/4/2018   Edinburgh @ The Voodoo Rooms:  BUY TICKETS

  • 28/4/2018   Glasgow @ The Hug & Pint:  BUY TICKETS

  • 29/4/2018   Durham @ Old Cinema Laundrette:  BUY TICKETS

  • 4/5/2018     Birmingham @ The Cuban Embassy:  BUY TICKETS

  • 5/5/2018     London @ Sebright Arms:  BUY TICKETS

www.gypsyfingers.com

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Teenage Funkland 1 : The Murder of Kurt Cobain

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Damian Beeson Bullen’s retrospective

adventure thro’ the Birth of Britpop


Ah, 1994, good times! Writing this a quarter of a century later, those sweet, ebullient days of youth hang like foggy blossom in the memories of my mind… my first beers at 14, my first lay at 15, my first spliff at 16, my first rave at 17…. it was a time when everything was exciting & life was filled with promise. Ah 1994, I remember it well… resin was £15 an eighth, pills a tenner in the clubs, acid £2.50 a tab, speed £7.50 a gram & skunk weed £25 on yer eighth. Beyond my little Burnley bubble, it was the year when Robert A. Lopez of Westport, NY State experimented with obtaining ear mites from cats & inserting them in his own ear, carefully observing and analyzing the results. It was also the year when Barbara Windsor joined the cast of Eastenders, taking over the Queen Vic as Peggy Mitchell, mother of the bald-pated Mitchell brothers. Meanwhile, the Japanese Meteorological Society were concluding their seven-year research on whether Catfish caused earthquakes by wigglin’ their tales. And the National Lottery was born.

On the telly you had your usual fare. In the morning GMTV vied with the Big Breakfast to set up the viewers’ day (never saw them myself, far too early). In the land of the soap opera it was Neighbours & Home & Away at tea-time (or twice a day for doleys & students), followed by Corrie & ‘Stenders. The Crystal maze was still on, as was Play yer Cards Right with Bruce Forsyth & his bevvy of sexy birds. Have I got News For You catered for the bankers, while Frank Skinner & David Baddiel entertained the footy fans with their Fantasy Football League! In comedy Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced bouquet) made all the pensioners laugh & a certain fat, mouthy lesbian bird called Jo Brand amused everybody else. At the dawn of his career Alan Partridge gave us Knowing me, Knowing You, & the Fast Show had us in stitches. From across the pond The Yanks were giving us pre-Trump Roseanne Barr at her peak, BBC 2 had imported the mad-dash Ren & Stumpy (Mondays, 6-25) while Channel 4 offered the stony huh-huh-huh’s of Beavis & Butthead. As for the all-conquering Simpsons, the family had invaded every home in the isles. As BBC2 were showed us repeats of the first series, Sky One kept us up to date with the latest hysterical adventures of Homer, Bart, Marge & Lisa.

In the celluloid realm of the movie, dem dere Yanks seemed to be havin’ a good day. With Raiders of the Lost Ark Steven Spielberg had apparently made the greatest film ever, but he called my opinion into question when he gave the world his Schindlers List. A haunting, emotional & yet very entertaining portrayal of the Jewish Holocaust, he brought that heinous crime to life in a masterpiece of cinematic experience & history. His decision to make it in Black & White only added to the atmosphere, excepting one sublime moment. After seeing a little girl wearing a scarlet coat during an urban clearance by the Nazis, we would come across that same coat later in the film… only in a cart full of bodies being hauled through the death camps. Other films that year included the Shawshank Redemption, released to a tidal wave of apathy, soon to become recognized as one of the great movies of all time… & Quentin Tarantino’s follow up to the startling & curiously unsettling Reservoir Dogs… Pulp Fiction! In it John Travolta became cool again, Uma Thurman was proper fit like, dancin away til she overdosed on coke, leadin’ to a wicked scene. Near comatose she was given a direct shot of adrenalin through the breast-plate & into her heart… she sat up with the needle stickin out of her chest… cool! I leave you with a memory of one particular scene. Bruce Willis walked in on his boss being botteyed by a copper called Zed & his rubber-clad gimp… evidence enough to prove that the Yanks are definitely WRONG! Nearer to home Britain produced the interminably silly Four Weddings & a Funeral, where once again Hugh Grant played a slightly embarrassed, yet vaguely cool Englishman trying to get laid.

In 1994 the Nineties at last began to express themselves. Being able to draw on the Sixties for it’s music, the Seventies for it’s fashion & the Eighties for not what to do (man learns from his mistakes) suddenly the age had projected a persona… nothing particularly new, but a subtle blend of all the cool bits that had gone on before. There was definitely something in the air, a sense of escape from the shackles of the Eighties… to be poor was cool, and all of Thatcher’s yuppies were now holed up in Surbiton des-res. From the many tribes came the many vibes, it wasn’t just Mods & Rockers anymore, the fashion industry fragmenting & it seemed that now, as long as you had a style you were cool. Look at Jarvis Cocker… a tall, gangly, thirtysomething, bespectacled geek was now an urban hero. The people were taking to the streets once again, more peaceably than the Poll Tax riots, their agendas more for Gay Pride & against the cutting down of student grants. There was a problem tho. The music scene, which is in the very fibre & blood of the British, was being taken over quite insidiously by America.

After the miracle of Madchester, with the Roses in hiding, the Mondays on crack; with James, The Charlatans & the Carpets past their peak, there came no new band to get us grooving. Suede shone ephemeral for a while, & their first album still possesses that classical guitar swirl which got us all excited. But then came Kurt Cobain. Based in Seattle the ‘grunge’ sound had rocketed round the world, leaving a trail of long hair & dodgy t-shirts in its wake. When Nirvana released Nevermind they were suddenly thrust to the forefront of alternative music, & were pretty damn good, actually. To the world the band’s frontman was the iconic figurehead of grunge, clad in a Freddy Krueger jumper & wielding his gee-tah like a Celtic axeman. Heroin addiction, a dark temperament & being married to Courtney Love was his downfall.

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IMG_20180413_100821915_HDR.jpgThe story begins at the end of March. Kurt was in Rome & Courtney was in London, reviewing singles for the Melody Maker. That night she flew to Rome, & by the morning Kurt was in Umberto Prima Hospital hospital, overdosing. She did make the SOS call, btw, after finding him on the floor of their room in the Excelsior Hotel, but this sharp & conniving sociopath knew what she was doing. Her band, Hole’s, album was being released the next week, & it was time to ditch the stepping-stone-to-fame that had been her attachment to Kurt Cobain. In an interview made a few years later in the film ‘Kurt & Courtney’, Eldon Hoke, or El Duce, describes the background to the Courtney’s murder of Cobain at the hands of as certain ‘Allen’ – ie Allen Wrench. “Let the FBI catch him,” he had said, & it is no coincidence that two days after half-naming Cobain’s murderer, Hoke was found decapitated on the railroad tracks in Riverside, California. In a recent blogpost of mine, the wife described Courtney Love as, ‘an awkward hero. I was there. She’s no hero. She’s a narcissistic junkie who reaped the benefits of her dearly departed to mutilate her body with Hollywood surgery.’

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The discovery of Kurt’s body at his home at 171 Lake Washington Blvd East Seattle, on April 8th 1994, sent shockwaves across the planet. In Seattle, everyone just showed up at the Fountain by the Seattle Centre. My wife is actually from the city, & she remembers going along to the vigil, & was taken aback by a young fellow wearing the famous smiley-face Nirvana t-shirt, to which had been added a red-daubed bullet hole in the head. ‘That’s crass,’ she had told her best friend in disgust. Also quite crass was Courtney Love’s pre-recorded reaction, reading extracts from her own faked ‘suicide note’ & her emotional outburst that Kurt was an asshole for doing this to her family. The ultimate two-faced betrayal of the ultimate two-faced bitch!

 

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So, where were you in Spring ‘94? Some of you were at school, some of you weren’t even born. Some had crap jobs, some had good jobs, some were on the dole. Some were in prison & some were pregnant. Some were in hospital while others were abroad. All in all, everyone was doing something & was somewhere. Me? I was dossing about in Burnley, Lancashire, & that’s where my adventure begins. I had moved into the front room of a two up, two down terraced house in Burnley. The electricity had recently been cut off, forcing me in front of a gas fire for light, heat & cooking (half an hour for toast). All around me lay the unkempt mess of a seventeen year old (messy as fuck)… to top it all off my band had recently split up & mi bird, Jane, had just got spots. For entertainment I was learning bass guitar on three strings of a beaten up acoustic, each one promising to snap at any moment. At this point I could play the entire bass line of Wild Thing & three others… I Wanna Be Adored, She Bangs the Drums & I Am the Ressurection… all by my favourite band, The Stone Roses.

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The author in Burnley, 1994, aged 17

Now then, the Roses. Evidently ace, Manchester’s finest & easily the greatest band since The Beatles, whose influence may not have been as wide as that of the Scousers, but is of a more subtle type that has affected an entire generation. Every decent band since those heady days of ’89 has drawn inspiration from their mix of majesty & groove… Richard Ashcroft of the Verve had their poster shadowing his teenage years, Liam Gallagher was inspired to act after seeing The Roses play, & so on. For me & many others they were the soundtrack of youth, if not life, & whenever I hear one of their tracks, be it on an advertisement or in a club, a special familial moment always occurs. Tracks like Fools Gold are as famous as the National anthem & are as much a part of the country’s psyche as are the drums at the end of an Eastenders episode.

So, it was time to do one. It was Easter 1994, the trees were sprouting leaves left, right & centre, the ducklings were clogging the canals & twinkles began to return to the eyes of the birds. Within me I began to feel a stir, which I can now recognise as the Spirit of Adventure, an instinctual impulse that has driven men from the safety of their homesteads on various crazy missions, where death, or at least a serious accident, await. I was first filled with the spirit as a young boy following the adventures of Asterix & Obelix as they took on the might of Ceaser’s legions. Later, in the weekly Sunday morning race with my sister to see who woke up first & got control over the morning’s choice of video, I became addicted to mister Indiana Jones. Over the years I think I edged it, but through my sisters choice of video I now know all the lyrics to every song in Grease, and all the dialogue of Dirty Dancing… Nobody puts Baby in a corner.

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Adventuring is great fun, exciting & educational, a life being led. In early ’93 I left Lancashire for my first proper adventure & had a wild teenage time touring England as far as Minehead, where I got a job as a burger boy at Butlins. Unfortunately my boss was a Bastard Rovers fan, & I was soon sacked. The money I saved up took me as far as Tarragona, near Barcelona, which was then stolen while I slept on the beach. My mum had to fly me home & I found myself back in Burnley… my adventure over but the thrilling taste of the tour still tantalising my essence & I was still only sixteen. So where to go this time. A stint at Butlins had served me well before, so I thought I’d try again…. this time closer to home in Yorkshire, & sunny Skegness.

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It was time to do one from Burnley. Because of the recent success of the town’s football team, the whole world has now heard of my hometown. For those who have never actually been, Burnley is a misty, old industrial centre of about seventy thousand inhabitants nestled under the gaze of Pendle Hill, that lofty mound where the Lancashire witches would gather & cast spells on pregnant cows. Burnley is predominately working class, which means it’s full of good people, pies & pubs. As a teenager it had everything I needed… clubs, drugs & birds. My family lived there also, including the wonder of my life, mi Grandma Joan. Before I left for Skeggy she gave me a good dose of her home baking & a fiver, which coupled with the thirty quid income support money gave me £35 quid for the road. I spent my last evening in Burnley with my girlfriend Jane; smoking weed, making love & chatting about the future, the innocent enthusiasm of youth bubbling beneath our talk. We slept in a warm embrace til morning, when it was time to set forth. Jane’s mum dropped me off at the train station & they stood on the platform waving as my train pulled away. I waved back, not knowing when, or if, I would see them again.

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Of course I didn’t pay on the train. Almost exactly a year previously I became a Fader (Fare Evader), inducting myself into a wonderful art, skill, sport & blag that has been a constant feature of my nomadic life. I remember my first jump well. After spending three hours in the rain at the top of the M1, waiting for a lift down South, I thought fuck it, lets try the trains… & have never looked back (or paid) since. The train wound through the gorgeous green valleys of Todmorden & Hebden Bridge, past the steep slopes of Halifax, the curry houses of Bradford, the grey megalopolis that is Leeds & into view of the stately Minster at York. Now already I’d seen far too many Yorkshiremen for my Lancastrian liking, but the situation was eased a little as we reached the desolate Moors. A little while later, beyond a windswept wilderness, the train pulled into Skegness & I breathed in the salty air of the coast.

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Gary Numan : Savage Part 2

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The Assembly Rooms
Edinburgh
16.03.2018


Prelude : Having caught the first leg of this monumental tour, back in October last year at the ABC in Glasgow, I found yet again the venue was heaving. Numan’s Scottish shows have been sell-outs for years, such is his rebirth and rise in popularity. So when the dates for Savage part 2 were released, seeing the Assembly Rooms as one of the venues, made me think wow, Good Time.

Gary Numan: vocals, guitars and synths
Dave Brooks: keyboards
Richard Beasly: drums
Steve Harris: rhythm guitar
Tim Muddyman: bass

The Event: I arrived early with eager anticipation of collecting the golden tickets for tonight’s capacity show. The Night’s opening act a trio of musicians from Los Angeles. Who took their musical lead from classic goth, The Mission and Sisters era. Nightmare Air played a short but very well received set. that warmed the room up nice. I absolutely loved Savage Part 1. At the ABC in Glasgow. Its darkness complemented the Lyrical feel and the Eastern Menace. within the album and its stage interpretation. Savage (Songs From a Broken World) Punched high and its releases heralded rave reviews everywhere for the first time since the Early 80’s. Numan was back, Sending waves of excitement amongst Gary’s Numanoids. It was a fantastic gig. Glasgow always rocks, but it is a venue built for Rock N Roll Purpose.

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Unlike The Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh. Rhe last time I was there was in my professional capacity of Clairvoyant. I had a table on the stage that Gary was performing on. I always did love the chandeliers. So I wondered beforehand. Would Savage Part 2 work in The Assembly Rooms? Well that is a really good question. Having been a long-serving Numanoid myself and seen him perform live regularly since the first time in 1983. I have to say that he has always cut the mustard live, no matter how dodgy some of his mid period musical output was. Live, he was always awesome. But The Assembly rooms is just not built for Rock N Roll. The sound engineer deserved a medal last night, I didnae envy his job. It pushed Gary though he had to put that bit more effort in to deliver, Savage Part 2, I was expecting the tunes he didnae play on part 1. It was pretty much the same, Only without the Sound production of a purpose-built Rock N Roll venue. And more like Gary on the stage of the church hall. The venue swallowed the sound. It is very nice to look at, but it distracted from the reason we were their man.

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Numan’s touring band are brilliant and they are part of the reason Gary has risen up the Rock N Roll ranks, in recent years his stage performances have seen the dark lord of gloom become much more fluid. The album before Savage (Songs From A Broken World) was Splinter (Songs From a Broken Mind) As the titles suggest, the work that they embody is nae joy and salvation, But it is very good. The band perform them with musical dexterity and complete rock n roll grace. Dripping Darling, soakin’. The chemistry of the band is very evident, It was hard work for all the members because they knew the limitations of the sound..The overall tune selection was captivating and yes it was exciting. But yet it wasnae The ABC in Glasgow. Interestingly, the last time I saw Numan in Edinburgh, was at the HMV Picture House, on The Pleasure Principle 30th Anniversary tour. that felt flat too.

So the Divine Verdict…

Performance effort: 5 stars
Venue (although very pretty): 2 2tars 
Stagecraft: 5 stars
Lighting: 5 stars
Overall Enjoyment: 3 stars (It was the wrong venue for the show)

Overall

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Edinburgh’s Hogmanay 2017-2018

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Edinburgh’s Hogmanay is massive and spectacular in many ways, stretching the full mile of Princes St. The Gardens of the East End and the gardens of the Westend. The Bustling market on The Mound. The Waverly Stage, built at the Junction of Cockburn St and Waverly Train station. (Its always been a wind tunnel and it was baltic) The Castle Street stage with massive sound system turning the street into a nightclub with visuals projected onto the walls of the buildings, that was really cool. The East End Stage with an equally punchy sound system. that was to house the very brilliant Colonel Mustard And The Dijon Five.
 I had arrived early so that I could take it all in, I headed into The Westend Of Princes Street Gardens and the main stage for The Concert In the Gardens, I listened to the sound check of Edinburgh’s own Nina Nesbit.and meditated under a tree. The arena was still empty and the revellers were still to arrive, this was also very cool. I was using my reviewer credentials to full effect. The plan was to see Colonel Mustard And Dijon 5 and then The Human League. Which was the schedule I had been given. I was walking back to Waverly and on one of the big telly’s it said The Human League 10pm on The Waverly stage and Colonel Mustard and The Dijon 5 also at 10pm on The East End Stage. Divine was a torn girl and The Eastend Stage was 3/4 of a mile away from The Waverly Stage I realy really wanted to see both bands. What to do, what to do.
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 It was cold it was damp, but the sky was clear and the near full Moon bright in The Heavens above shone its Supermoon beauty. The Castle illuminated a lilac glow. A majestic fitting backdrop. But bye eck it was parky. So I made a compromise with myself. Get down to The Waverly Stage and get a good position. The Human League have been in my life since I was about 13. I have always loved electronic music and The Human League were the God fathers of Electro and Phil Oakley influenced my style aesthetically. Making Men look fit in make-up and they are from Yorkshire. So to not have been there would have been just plain rude.
 The only way to ensure prime position at gigs as well subscribed as this one is to get there an hour before. The Waverly Arena was filling up. So I found my spot and looked at The Clock on the Balmoral Hotel, Bugger. 40 minutes in this wind tunnel. The stage itself with the back blowing free in the wind, revealing the Gothic splendor of Cockburn St. I couldnae help thinking that this was an uncomfortable Gig. I had been on feet for four hours, there was absolutely no where to sit. My old hip was nipping. Luckily I had my big cashmere black dress coat on, so was well cozy with sufficient layers to fend off the deepening chill of the Winter night air.And the only way to warm up was to dance. I looked behind me and 1000’s of people were anticipating the retro boogie that was coming. The minutes soon flew by. And Sacred Paws, a young soulful collective of rhythm and Blues. One could feel how appreciative they were to be playing that stage. Aye Very Very Cool. A lovely warm up.
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Then the white synths were unveiled, and an excitement rippled through the arena as the keyboard players took position and Love Action was the opening tune. Joanne and Suzanne came on stage wearing skimpy black dress’s. The bitter wind was howling in gusts of ice. I couldn’t help thinking, aye Yorkshire lasses are built of tough stuff. The Audience went mental as Phil took to the stage wearing a plastic man dress, that at once made me think “Is that a good look?” bitchy I know, its a Yorkshire New Romantic thing. The boogie was on. The sound production as on all of the stages was fantastic and there was no soundclash at all. The Human League played a greatest hits set with a nod to Jo Callis who collaborated on the production of Dare and was part of the band at its most celebrated time.He also wrote The Human Leagues best known song. “Don’t You Want Me” It would have been nice to see him on stage with his old band members and he is a Local lad.
I have seen The Human league many times and in places a lot more welcoming than this one. So every tune I knew by heart and so did the audience. Boosting everyone’s spirits. The encore drew me back as I was heading to grab some of The Mustards Debut Hogmanay performance. The opening synth licks of my fave. Being Boiled. I was hooked back in. Groovy boogie. I tore myself away during the last number, Electric Dreams. Which technically isnae a Human league tune. But everyone loves it.
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Colonel Mustard & The Dijon 5 are a band that Divine champions most highly having watched them on many occasions. They are mainstays of the festival circuit and for good reason. In Scotland, they have played almost every one going. Eden Festival, Kelburn Garden party, Knockengorroch World Ceilidh, Electric Fields, ButeFest, MugStock, Rockerbie, Deoch an Dorus, Scribblers Picnic, Doune The Rabbit Hole, Jocktoberfest, Linkylea, Stereofunk, Brew At The Bog, XpoNorth, T In The Park, Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival, Party At The Palace, March Into Pitlochry, and Audio Soup have all been sprinkled with their unique brand of anarchic Dijon Mustard mayhem, mirth and merriment. Their talents have even taken them on an epic journey to South Korea to be one of the Zandari Festa highlights in Seoul and, reciprocating the love and affection shown to them on the other side of the globe. they helped two bands from Seoul, Wasted Johnnys and 57, secure gigs and a festival slot in Scotland. 2017 saw them play their biggest audience to date with 9,000 6th Dijons (their fond name for those who come along and support and party with them) at the Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival in August and a trip south of the border to arguably one of the greatest festivals around at Boomtown Fair.
Joining them on stage tonight were other rising stars of the Scottish music scene in Mark McGhee (artistic entrepreneur and Girobabies/Jackal Trades frontman), Jay Supa (lead singer of SUPA & Da Kryptonites) and Glasgow based MC David KayceOne. Edinburgh’s Hogmanay was treated to a Scottish super group and, yes, the capacity audience filling out Prince Street from side to side and back to front went mental for it! Will David “Dijancer” Blair go down in history as the only person to “crowdsail” on a Dijunicorn down the East End of Princes Street? We think so!
After Colonel Mustard, I headed to the much more conducive environment, the Party In The Gardens to capture The Rag And Bone Man’s headlining performance. I was lucky enough to have access to the press pit. with space to boogie and prime position for the perfect viewing experience. It was a performance that blew me away. This guys voice is superhuman a bit like the male version of Adele. At Midnight the Fireworks started. The most spectacular firework display and the conditions were perfect for it. A clear night sky with a bright near full Moon. Brilliantly choreographed to the music of The Isle of Skye band. Niteworks. Who composed a fitting House, pumping masterpiece Ear candy and eye candy to the max. And to be directly in front of the Castle in the Gardens. it was nothing less than fantastic. a truly majestic experience. Then the Rag And Bone Man, came back on stage and delighted his audience even more. Bringing to a close a first experience of why this is the biggest and best Street Party in the World.
Reviewer : Mark ‘Divine’ Calvert

Hear and Now – Scottish Inspirations

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Glasgow City Halls
December 9th, 2017


Another free concert and another great treat. Two of the featured composers were born in Glasgow, three were in attendance, two of the pieces were BBC commissions and three were world or Scottish premieres. The Gokstad Ship by Aberdeen born John MacLeod was inspired by a Viking ship in a museum which had previously lain buried in Norway for around 1000 years. At his composition’s climax its beautiful keel could easily be imagined, cutting through the spray on a fine morning, even though MacLeod envisaged the journey being to the Viking underworld. Throughout the work, conducted and unconducted sections alternate. To me this evoked the fine balancing involved both in boat building and sailing. Also the uncertainty of where now the boat really exists – in the past or the present, in reality or in myth?

Myth and ritual ran all through the final work, Beltane, by Anna Clyne, with its long programme note describing the Beltane Fire Festival events which take place in Edinburgh every year, around which the music was composed. There was great charm in the second movement, as the piece progressed through changing lighting colours and the recorded sound of birdsong. This allowed emotional engagement, whilst the first movement had left me impressed but somewhat uninvolved.  The triumphant end certainly hit a sweet spot in every way and demanded a rousing cheer. Hopefully someday Beltane will be performed in a context which directly involves live dance, film or fireworks to help the grandness of this music truly to come to life. Then I’m sure the cheer will be unstoppable.

Oliver Knussen was one of the composers born in Glasgow, though his family left soon afterwards. His Symphony no 3 is listed by the Guardian as one of the 50 greatest symphonies ever written, and as soon as it began one was aware of its compelling urgency. Here was a living musical world being presented to the audience. It had somewhere musical to go, and it took the audience with it.  In order to explore the destination and fully enjoy the trip, repeated listenings are needed, and at only about 15 minutes, this is perfectly possible. As with the other concerts in the series, the whole concert was recorded for Radio 3 and will be broadcast, and made available by the BBC in February 2018.

If a symphony involves creating and presenting a musical world, then a concerto is more about dialogue. William Sweeney’s concerto involved internal dialogue as well as interplay between orchestra and soloist. Brilliantly played by Yann Ghiro, it was intriguing and personal, with the clarinet encountering and incorporating ceòl mòr, jazz and romantic classical music. These musical styles, apparently so far apart, found their way together and the concerto made complete expressive sense. At one point the whole string section, on a strummed pizzicato seemed to taunt the soloist – perhaps to get him to come up with a ‘tune’? (And how often do people who otherwise completely accept the ‘modern’ in art or poetry, have difficulties with ‘modern’ music?) Thinking about the whole concert, conducted by Thomas Dausgaard, I enjoyed The Gokstad Ship the most at the time, but most look forward to hearing the Knussen and the Sweeney again. (By the way Sweeney was the second of the concert’s sons of Glasgow, having been both born and educated there.)

Reviewer : Catherine Eunson

BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra: Kozhukhin plays Tchaikovsky

Denis Kozhukhin

Glasgow City Halls

Nov 30th 2017


Take any class of schoolchildren (not that last night’s near-capacity audience contained more than a couple of kids); say from p5 upwards, and ask them what leads an orchestra. The answer might emerge, ‘The conductor’s baton’. Continue, in teacherly style, ‘But what leads the conductor’s baton?’ ‘The composer’s score? The conductor’s musical skills?’ Yes and yes, but the best answer might also mention the conductor’s ears! Throughout last night’s wonderful concert Alexander Vedernikov’s listening often seemed almost to physically lead the sound, ensuring entries blended in so that the story of the music could best unfold. Vedernikov showed himself to be a great story teller, and what marvellous stories Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich had given him to tell!

It was just the sort of night which might inspire a lifetime’s enjoyment of the sound of the symphony orchestra. There really wasn’t a dull moment, and after countless highlights (including an encore in the first half) the music ended with much cheering. The City Hall’s acoustic helped considerably, and I have to again mention it; one was constantly aware of being in the same room as every sound, whether it be a lyrical flute solo over pizzicato strings, or the terrifying dynamism of the orchestra at full pelt, loaded up with and deploying tam-tam, cymbals, bass drum, tympani, snare drum and tubular bells. You don’t get the sort of excitement I’m talking about in a recording, and as I’m writing this I’m wishing I could hear all of it, all over again. (It will be on, in Edinburgh’s Usher Hall on Sunday 3rd Dec 2017 at 3 pm.)

The attentive audience was thrilled (despite one sniffy comment I overheard – there is an attitude, best ignored, that you will always get), and went out for the interval, several voices humming the tunes almost involuntarily. Then came the Shostakovich. His symphony 11, subtitled ‘The Year 1905’ is really quite extraordinary. Very briefly, it was ostensibly based on the 1905 massacre of unarmed citizens of St Petersburg by Tsarist troops. But it was actually composed the year after the brutal suppression of Hungarian uprising of 1956. The story goes that one lady at the premiere said, ‘That wasn’t people being shot, that was the tanks rolling in and people being squashed.’ When relayed to Shostakovich he acknowledged the accuracy of the observation. In truth the reason that the symphony was able to face in two directions simultaneously is because of the terrible engaging dynamism of the theme of war. Instead of being sent to prison Shostakovich received a Lenin prize for composition. But the music isn’t too much, is not unpalatable. Children would like it, and I really wonder why there were not more young people there. There were a good number of students, but surely music teachers, tutors, musicians, parents, all those involved in the whole business of instrumental education can’t think that such musical experiences are unimportant? On the upside it only takes one such concert to be remembered for a long time. But this was one of the really special ones.

Reviewer : Catherine Eunson