The Levellers




the levellers

As we entered the hall having half-lost at smuggling in our miniature wines, The Selecter had already begun. Seeming quite vitriolic Pauline Black shouts there’s nothing good about nationalism before singing ‘Meanwhile in London’ and bursting into ‘London’s Burning’ with intense anger. She ended this with a relieved remark of, ‘I feel so much better now.’ As a scot who voted yes in the crowd, I felt this was a little harsh on us… luckily my mood was rescued by watching a fellow smuggler being caught with a wine bottle tail. It looks like the security have mellowed at 02 as the offending booze was confiscated as opposed to the usual ejection of said party from the building.

The band then got down to the business of all their bouncy classics. Black clearly feeling a little subdued by the fact that this was a Levellers crowd at the gig stated here’s a song you might recognize and right enough On My Radio got the crowd up the front and the whole room bouncing about albeit it wasn’t the ska professionalism you’d expect at a ska gig. There was definitely a different vibe from the last time I saw them play with the Skatalites in the HMV Picture House in Edinburgh but well worth it, there was some brilliant theatrical keyboard playing that was quite hilarious.

The Levellers came on with an explosion of white confetti and Beautiful Day. From the offing the sound, visuals and lighting are amazing and exactly what you’d expect from a band that have been doing since the early 90’s. Bless them as you get closer up they have aged and are visibly not as elastic as they used to be. But hey I saw the Skatalites one time at a festival and I’m pretty certain that one of them had a zimmer frame. The band played with the brass section of the Selecter and that was great to hear some new sounds to some old tunes. Unfortunately Pauline Black was lost when she dueted with Mark as was the regular female vocalist. Sorry ladies but those were weak performances.

It was interesting that although the Leve11ers have continued making new music that it is still the tunes that drove me out of my hometown in the mid 90’s are the same ones that are liked best today. They managed to create a real movement out of their music back then. We hear Hope Street, One Way, The Boatman….not in that order because I wasn’t taking notes but I was very surprised not to hear Men an Tol and was delighted to hear some one else shout out for it. A wee bit of dissent from the backbenches. Something a little more dark and atmospheric would have been nice to break it up a bit. I heard this tune performed live at the Barra’s during the Zeitgeist tour and it sent you straight out of the room and onto a foggy mystical stone circle, also it is my favorite. Chadwick quipped at this also saying that we the crowd had chosen these tunes…did you do an online thing asking people Mark? If you did I missed it! Regardless the gig was brilliantly performed without visibly tiring the lads out. Fair shout to them for playing the Devil went down to Georgia at the end. I wasn’t sure about the satanic salute that was encouraged throughout…I felt like I was at an 80’s Iron Maiden gig ….in fact I shouted “what the fuck was all that about?” To which Mark responded something like “we don’t get it either!” I was touched to be in a conversation that I don’t even think anyone else noticed. We had brought a wee caped super hero to to chuck at them but that was confiscated by the security. Obviously they were keen to take that home….along with the wine!

Reviewer : Sarah Marshall

The New Wallace Collection

Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

Friday, November 21st, 2014  

There was a full house at the RCS for this Friday lunchtime concert featuring The New Wallace Collection brass ensemble, led by John Wallace, former principal at the Conservatoire and now Emeritus Professor of Brass. They were joined by the Royal Conservatoire Brass and soprano Julia Daramy-Williams. The opening item was ‘Concerto for 7 Trumpets and Timpani’, attributed to the 18thC German composer Johann Ernst Altenburg, though we learned that the piece was probably ‘handed down’ by his students. Fitting then, that the composition was played in sprightly and confident manner by student musicians, conducted by John Wallace, who kept things precise, while still conveying his enthusiasm by sashaying from the waist down – prompting a comment later from my companion that she liked the hang of his jacket.


In the Scottish première of Eddie McGuire’s sequence of five Songs from the North, members of the New Wallace Collection accompanied lyric sopano Julia Daramy-Williams, a singer in her second year of the Master of Music programme at RCS. Greenland, Iceland, volcanic and other northern landscapes provided settings for these musical voyages, as well as more familiar territory in the Hebrides and the River Clyde. There is also an underlying theme of goodwill and friendship, and the beautiful harmonic and counter-pointed interactions, most often with muted brass,  conveyed this well.



The qualities associated with a lyric soprano – warmth and brightness with a full, rich timbre – are certainly there in Julia Daramy-Williams’ voice; added to that she had composure, a lively sense of energy when the songs moved that way, and she rounded out everything wth clear assurance. The very experienced players, with trumpets, trombone, french horn, tuba (this had a mute about the size of traffic cone), showed how tact and virtuosity can be combined, and as a result McGuire’s fine songs were wonderfully conveyed. The virtuosity, this time on some historic instruments from the John Webb Collection, carried over into Jules Levy’s signature composition ‘Whirlwind Polka’. Here, John Wallace on cornet, John Miller, also on cornet, John Logan on French horn, Simon Johnson on a Sax trombone and Tony George on ophicleide chased us back to the heydays of Philadelphia and other American hotspots in the late 19th century.


Levy had competed with the Scottish-born Matthew Arbuckle and others for billing as the ‘World’s Greatest’ cornet player at the time; but when the white gloves went on and everything kicked off in Glasgow it was evident John Wallace still shaped right up with the best: though whether he was using an A shank and a high pitch slide to speed things on their way I couldn’t exactly tell. The final concert piece involved the Royal Conservatoire Brass group with the New Wallace Collection, conducted by John Logan, to give us Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition arranged for brass and percussion by Elgar Howarth. The composition, which started out as a piano solo, has gone through plenty of arrangements – Ravel’s orchestral one being especially popular – but the colour, and range and vitality of Howarth’s version is immediately attractive.



In the ‘Whirlwind Polka’ we had mischief, quixotic display and astonishing command. In this performance of Pictures at an Exhibition the ensemble playing brought out the full variety of moods and effects suggested in movement titles like ‘Ballet of the Chicks in Their Shells’, Catacombs’, Baba Yaga’ and ‘The Great Gate of Kiev’.  At the same time, the continuing link of the ‘Promenade’ and the conductor’s sure touch provided integrity. There was strength and lightness, there were rumbling undertones and a marche funèbre, then high tremolos, then something else ominous, then passages with squawks and mayhem, straight out of Daffy Duck. When things got solemn and impressive they never were ponderous. All the brass sections (trumpets, French horns, trombones and tubas), and the flugelhorn and the euphonium, and the two percussionists emerged with full credit. Delicacy of tone, drive and impulse, were properly achieved. There is a grand and stately flowering that leads to the finale, and when the conclusion was reached, and applause got underway, you could tell this was an audience that had got full value, that felt something special had come their way. FIVE STARS


Reviewer : Mr Scales

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Edinburgh Quartet : Postcard from Paris

Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh
Monday 17 November


Founded in 1960 The Edinburgh Quartet celebrates an extensive and exciting history as one of the UK’s leading chamber ensembles, having performed frequently at major venues across Britain and toured extensively across Europe, the Far and Middle East, and North and South America. In addition to an eventful concert schedule the Edinburgh Quartet can be heard regularly on BBC radio amongst other stations. The Quartet supports new music and living contemporary composers, such as James MacMillan, Michael Tippett and Howard Blake, however in this concert, ‘Postcard from Paris’, we see they are equally talented in bringing traditional classics to life. Harking back to their origin, they demonstrate what a vast range they can create.

The opening concert of their Queen’s Hall season is entitled ‘Postcard from Paris’, as the schedule is loosely inspired by the growth in Paris’ musical connections. A trio of Violinists Tristan Gurney, Gordon Bragg and Jessica Beeston and solo Cello player Mark Bailey open with Franz Joseph Haydn’s String Quartet in C. Consisting of four movements, the first is light, jovial and playful, the second turns somber, slow but dramatic and the third is a Menuetto. The musicians performed this piece outstandingly. I lost myself in the music, however Haydn maintains to challenge the conventional and throws in the odd unpredicted surprise to keep us on our toes.

(link to the Quartet on the BBC)

After a brief interlude where Violinist, Tristan Gurney explained the Parisian connections behind the performance, he introduced Claude Debussy’s String Quartet in G minor. Debussy lived in Paris and I truly felt I was immersed in the throngs of Parisian life. High in energy, the piece flows from slow meandering emotion to high-tension drama. Then spirals down to a still hum, a highly emotive journey. The quartet delicately pluck the strings creating a jumpy experimental dramatic energy in the second movement. The theatrical dynamic builds with elements of cine magic. This powerful charismatic piece flows, spins, glides and tingles until finally building into a frenzy of spectacular energy. The daring contrasting movements throughout the composition produces a rich story. Debussy’s revolutionary String Quartet is considered by many to be one of the finest quartets ever written and it was undeniably my favourite of the evening.

Following the interval the Quartet were joined by a solo Pianist Simon Callaghan, to perform Cesar Franck’s Quintet for piano and strings in F minor. Franck was a Belgian composer who lived and worked in Paris. The Piano Quintet is one of Franck’s most comprehensive instrumental compositions. The pianist opens the piece with dramatic vigour. The Quartet follow producing a powerful and wonderfully executed piece with tantalising pauses. The pianists hands effortlessly dance across the ivory keys. The emotionally charged piano Quintet evokes great sadness, elegant peacefulness then rises to a theatrical finale. The varied textures and skill of this composition generates remarkable stimulation.

The wealth of talent here was outstanding and it is beautifully well synchronised, not one note is placed amiss. I find it wonderful to be taken to another place for a few hours, away from the rat race. A moment of escapism from every day and some self-indulgent ‘me time’. To lose ones self in the music and the moment. There were times you felt there was only one instrument playing, which demonstrated how exceptionally skilled the ensemble is. The conversation between instruments took us on a musical journey of heart felt energy and drama. FOUR STARS


Reviewer : Sarah Lewis

King Eider and The John Langlan Band.

Studio 24
The Kelburn Garden Party is a yearly trip into and enchantment of Fairy Tale Castles and Bohemian Splendor. A three day Summer festival held in the grounds of Kelburn Castle and Country Park which overlooks the bonny bonny natural beauty that is The Clyde with a natural view of the Isles of Arran and Bute . The venue itself is worth exploring and is quite simply one of the most beautiful places Divine has had the pleasure to party.The venue itself is worth exploring and is quite simply one of the most beautiful places Divine has had the pleasure to party. Last night the Kelburn Massive, hosted by the very handsome Chris Astrojazz, brought the Garden Party To Edinburgh and with The John Langlan Band headlining tonight’s sonic treat. The night was already off to a winner. King Eider opened the nights live musical feast, with a set of well crafted folk songs performed with a Rock n Roll swagger that instantly brought home flavors of Mumford And Sons. Overflowing with beautiful harmonies and soul. Warming the audience up for the master, John Langlan.
I have had the pleasure of seeing John Langlan and his band of merry men perform their fusion of Folk played with a Rock N Roll intensity, many times over the years, the fusion and chemistry of the three brilliant musicians, JOHN LANGAN – Vocals, Guitar, Foot Percussion DAVE TUNSTALL – Double Bass, Backing Vocals, Percussion ALASTAIR CAPLIN – Fiddle, Backing Vocals, Percussion. They always drive their audiences wild and last night was no exception. Like the glowing embers of a fire waiting to erupt, the Audience primed by the brilliant King Eider, did just that as Mr Langlan took to the stage, sexy and confident this band took control and the Gypsy Folk Punk exploded and the Audience went mental. It was Ace. Acoustic music never sounded so good.

The Dj’s of the night, Samedia Shebeen, Tex Book Tam and Surfin’ Bear. Held the groove through out playing a Soul and Rhythm and Blues selection of floor fillers. The Kelburn Massive brought the party to Edinburgh and it rocked!


Reviewer : Mark ‘Divine’ Calvert


7-8 Nov
The concept of this piece was nothing if not original. A live band playing various songs on stage while performing, often at the same time, a trio of short plays related to the music but with no particular underlying theme. The only set being the instruments themselves. Kind of a cross between a gig, a sketch show, a theatrical compilation and a musical. And I can’t deny that the quality of the musicianship was superb, each of the performers switching effortlessly between instruments. And the acting was also of a good caliber. The main thing that let it down was that it all seemed rather light-weight. The most intellectually daring element being the format but unfortunately not the content. And after all is the content not the most important element?
The piece also struggled from a lack of any real coherency. Yes the last two skits were kind of about city living and modern romance but where did that leave the first one? A piece about a 15 year old asthmatic who wanted to play netball…? If I didn’t know better I’d have thought that they just tagged it on because they’d ran out of ideas about urban romance. There also seemed to be a slight confusion in tone about the plays. Which, in fairness, could have been the one element that tied them together. They would each start off in a quirky, slightly sickly fashion, then, as if the writer wanted to prove they had some sort of emotional depth, would veer off into a wistful melancholy. Kind of like starting off as Something About Mary and ending with The Graduate. But never managing to be as good as either.
Still a noble attempt at originality and the audience were largely receptive. So maybe I’m just becoming cynical in my old age. Make your own mind up if you want. You’ve still got one night left. THREE STARS
Reviewer : Steven Vickers.

The Audio Soup Halloween Bash

Studio 24


31st October

Audio Soup, is a yearly festival that has recently found a new home an idyllic oasis of calm in the borders of Scotland, Having been personally involved in the evolution of the festival over the course of the last four years I have always delighted in the diversity of the entertainment that this home grown grass roots three day party has to offer. The Audio Soup Massive brought the essence of this festival to Studio 24. Transforming the venue with the creative spirit that makes all of the Soups events so special, It always attracts a good looking creative crowd and the opening Dj’s set the mood perfectly as the grace of dance engulfed me. I knew this was going to be a good night.

The first band, Supa And Da Kryptonites have been brought to my attention a lot recently, apart from performing at the same venues as Divine, Jay Supa the brain child behind this budding Rock N Roll and Hip Hop blend, is also a very talented poetic rapper that can sing. And an MC that can cut it, Jay blew me away at The Beat Master Generals Drum N Bass gig. Now with an added Horn section.(The trumpet player had the best hair on a man I have ever seen, That alone deserves five stars) And the other vocalist also playing lead guitar..Weaving vocal styles Rock n Rap, With a brilliant Saxophonist and a brilliant drummer, powering the words of wisdom and observation, The Journey of Jay Supa. . Something brilliant is forming with this band. They get bigger and better every time. tonight was no exception. The up for it audience got the groove straight away. And I smiled a smile of knowing. Yes Supa And Da Krypyonites are gonna be very successful. They are touring all over Scotland this coming month. Well done Lads.
The head lining band of the night The Mickey 9’s. A Divine first and a Divine delight. The Mickey 9’s. Rocked the house with a confident performance of original songs played with a certain mastery of experience and stage craft. With echos of Franz Ferdinand, this tight band deserve the recognition that they are currently getting. With songs as good as this played with an indisputable funk that elevated and thrilled this capacity audience. Another example of a band on the rise and a fitting climax to the Live part of this musical experience.
The Dj’s of the night, PJ Coyle Ziggy G, and B2B Era. Kept momentum with groovsome tunes keeping everyone dancing for the duration.
Corn Dolly also brought her creative face painting skills to the party, complimenting the bohemian nature of the night encouraging the flamboyance of everyone.
All in all a very entertaining evening and the perfect tonic to shift the winter blues.
Reviewer : Mark ‘Diviner’ Calvert

‘The Circle is Unbroken! / Ceol ‘s Craic

 CCA, Glasgow,

November 1st, 2014

Ceol ‘s Craic – ‘music and banter’ – puts on events to highlight contemporary Gaelic culture, and wants to draw a general audence as well as Gaelic speakers. ‘The circle is unbroken!’ (or, ‘Tha an cearcall neo-bhriste!’) featured a mix of generations and performers, and brought together emerging singers and musicians with established artists a good bit longer in the tooth. That worked fine for the most part – the near capacity, though fluid, audience (in and out of seats at times like a local hall) responded well, and was dished up a lively mix. A fairly impromptu session set from Neil McDiarmid (fiddle), Thomas McCabe (box accordion) and Alistair Cassidy (guitar), relaxed and chirpy at the same time, popped on through jigs, reels and polkas and launched the thing off fine.

Then we had singer Alasdair Whyte, who has a debut album Las from Watercolour Music, working with Margaret Macleod – a key figure with ‘trail-blazers’ Na h-Òganaich from the 70’s on. Alasdair’s voice is rich, true and strong (swallowed just briefly in lower register) and Margaret was on very good form, especially on puirt-à-beul and a contribution later on to that sexy classic ‘My Husband’s Got No Courage in Him’. I missed or didn’t catch some Gaelic titles here, but the blend of Mull marching (and rowing) songs, and tributes to a range of dark haired lads and lasses was delivered with confidence and warmth. Alasdair shared a duet wth Lavinia Blackwall (who featured later with Trembling Bells); Alex Neilson, Ross Wilson and Teddy Balfour backed up well, even the main man of the night parachuted in to the Gaelic choruses, and the first half ended in a rattling ensemble with ‘Canan nan Gaidheal‘.

Mike Heron’s ‘world music’ contribution, right from The Incredible String Band’ and his ground-breaking 1971 album ‘Smiling Men with Bad Reputations’, has lasted and lasted. Here he was in puckish, smiling, focussed and energetic nick: getting in a lot of numbers with little fuss but close attention. The musical connection between him and his daughter Georgia Seddon was a pleasure to follow, and the ‘Trembling Bells’ around – adding Michael Hastings, Simon Shaw, John (‘Frog Pocket’) Wilson to those not tagged before – chimed in entirely as required. We got the whole shebang: ‘This Moment’, Feast of Stephen’ (Georgia subbing for John Cale); ‘Spirit Beautiful’; the long-legged (Arlo, the Carters) ‘Black Jack David’; Robin Williamson’s ‘Cold Day in February’; one of the most beautiful ever short lyrics in the anthem ‘Air’: “You kiss my blood/And my blood kiss me”; then “slithering and squelching on” to ‘A Very Cellular Song’ before two welcome encores – ‘Sleepers, Awake!’ and ‘Log Cabin Home in the Sky’. Wished I’d heard a bit more singing from Georgia; but Lavinia Blackwall is already beautifully in orbit. Mike Heron is, of course, out beyond Arcturus. Drive on Ceol ‘s Craic!

 Reviewer : Mr Scales

Edinburgh’s Black History Month

.Friday 24th October.
I am blessed to be friends with some amazing creative entrepreneurs. Emma Elizabeth brain child of the wonderful Charity “BB United” Together with the Senagelese Society. A musical and creative partnership with that brings the musical talent of South Africa to Scotland, to create awareness of culture and dismantle barriers of ignorance.
To celebrate Edinburgh’s Black History Month. Be United held an event called “Remembering Our Past, Creating Our Future.
A festival of world music and creativity. The night began with a catwalk fashion show, Senagalese outfits and swimwear beautifully Modeled by the ladies of Culture Inspired. Indeed it was very inspiring and exotic, which set the tone for the anticipated musical delights of Makossa, Ska and Dancehall groove ignited the dance floor and the band had us in the palm of there hands. Infusing us and dazzling us, doing everything rock N Roll should do. Yes Makossa stoked the fires of dance in all of us.Good Time.
Next on the bill of delights Sun Cat brought us his amazing Didgeridoo, it was huge and boy could Sun Cat play it. Whipping his audience into fevered frenzy. Moving and meditative. Closely followed by the drumming brilliance of Tam Tam 2000 a troop of Senaglese percussionists presenting a Master Class in the music of African rhythm. This was exactly the infusion of culture that we all needed. The quality of performance presented in this showcase was a bit like Womad in a night.
The final live act of the evening was the very brilliant Samba And Diwan bringing the sound of golden beaches a palm trees with exotic tinges of Reggae, Jazz and Ska, reproducing the dance hall greats, the bands chemistry and musicianship took us on an exotic musical journey. And we lapped it up.
The DJ’s of the night were James Combe, Danso and special guest Mark from Samedia Shebeen, Divine takes his hat off to you, you had us swinging our hips and cutting our grooove into the early hours.
All in all a brilliant and very entertaining night. “Be United and Edinburgh’s Black History month”
Reviewer : Mark ‘Divine’ Calvert



27-28 August




As a poet I’m always excited to be exposed to an exponent of mine art ancient art which I have never come across before. I was delighted, then, to find myself sat down in Edinburgh’s Playhouse immersed in the poetry of the seminal 20th century polymath, Frederico Garcia Lorca. Poet, musician, playwright & lover, he grew from humble rustic beginnings to become one of the most beautiful poets to elucidate the culture of Spain. Alas, his life was cut short by the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), his outspoken liberal views making him the target of the Fascist murder-gangs on 19 August 1936.

His story, & of course his wonderful creative muse, made him a perfect choice to be included somewhere in this year’s war-themed EIF. Giving himself the job of truly elucidating Lorca’s lyrical genius, flamenco genius Paco Pena has weighed heavily on Lorca’s reclamation of Andulusian folklore & songs, & converted them into a wonderful two hour show. While his group strummed guitars & clapped their way through the material, a man & a woman danced elitely to the music, & i really did feel as if I was sat in an olive grove, the fire burning, the wine flowing, & the panorama melting into the sunset & teh Meditteranean Sea.

An excellent addition to the show was the epic visual projection at the back of the stage, which showed in grimy shadowy detail scenes from the Civil War. Then occasionally, Lorca’s poetry would be read out in English, its translated text shimmering in & out of the backdrop. This is perhaps the most powerful performance of poetry I have ever seen, & I know Lorca would wonder at modernity’s ability to eke out the ambrosia of his soul.

Reviewer : Damo Bullen

The Royal Concertgebouw

Usher Hall

Wed 27th August





 Having just returned from Blackford Hill, sunbathing and reading my new copy of Q magazine., I got a call from Damo, asking if I would go to the Usher hall to review the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. as part of The Edinburgh International Festival. Reviewing bands, ballet, comedians & theatrical performances is one thing. – but reviewing a hundred piece orchestra is another. The Usher Hall was packed to the rafters. Having press allocation ensures the best seats in the house. For a moment I felt guilty at the privilege of this blues-busting experience. Then the Orchestra arrived, taking their positions on stage, the ladies dressed in the most elegant of dresses, long and black. The gents in traditional tail-coats. They all looked very nice. Then the star of the show arrived, Mariss Jansons. The Usher hall erupted with excitement as the orchestra tuned into this Grand Master of the Baton. Interestingly, Violin seemed to be a girls thing and Cello a boys thing. I’ve always associated Cello with Girls, because of the instrument’s sensual nature and the way it is held between the legs. (Think Susan Sarandon in “The Witches Of Eastwick.”) Then Mariss Jansons waved his Baton and waves of sonic fidelity bathed me in bliss. The first piece, Symphony No1 in F minor., composed by Dmitry Shostakovich, was such good medicine, and I was transfixed by the conductors control and power to conduct who played what and where.His moves were ever graceful and Divine sank further and further into Classical heaven.

It was a catch 22 position. Did I close my eye’s and drift off into the world that the music wanted to take me.or did I keep my eye on the conductor and marvel at the way he controlled the talents of his orchestra. Multi-tasking was key; there was so much going on upon the stage, & I didn’t want to miss anything. My senses were engulfed to the max, as a smile spread across my face I realized that I was really, really enjoying this. During the interval, there was an old man sat next to me who had been following the musical script in a book he had with him. Reading the musical notes as though he were reading words from a book. I asked him if he could hear the music in his head as he read the music. His reply was, ‘sometimes.‘ Then I discovered that he had been a conductor for the Leeds Symphony Orchestra up until 1976. I was engrossed with his tales of conducting in Yorkshire.

The second half of the performance.Ravel. Piano Concerto in G major. 
I had been so engrossed in my conversation with the old master that was sat next to me, Tthat I hadn’t noticed that a Grand Piano had taken center stage. Aside from African hand drums, piano is my second instrument and now was my chance to see Jean-Yves Thibaudet in action. As he took to the stage, the audience’s applause nearly took the roof off. To have this close a view of this genius at work really was a blessing. The almost psychic link between pianist and conductor as the piece began with a crack of a whip and then the skill and dexterity of the fingers that brought Ravel back to life. I was amazed ,inspired and very very entertained. What also amazed me was the pianist’s ability to perform this dramatically complex piece without sheet music. The atmosphere of the Usher Hall was multi-orgasmic as the concerto reached its climax. I was speechless.

This wasn’t a Master Class. This was a Professor class.

Divine Loved Every Moment. 



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