Sunday, 19 May 2013

Review: Nine Below Zero at The Cluny 18/05/13

Keeping British Blues Alive

For a band, after 4 decades to be able to comfortably fill the Cluny with fans, you have to have a quality live product. Nine Below Zero have been delivering this quality since they reformed for their 10th anniversary in 1990. The crowd clearly loved the band and Dennis Greaves (lead vocals, guitar) provided much cockney banter to fill the gaps between the perfectly-performed blues numbers. It’s amazing (to a novice like me) that a band can manage to have such a diverse repertoire while still working within the Anglo-American blues style. No plodding blues, everything coloured with the individual talents of the band members.

They stormed through such numbers as “Can I Get A Witness”, “Homework” and “Got my Mojo Working” with such enthusiasm, you wonder how they keep it going after so many years, and miles of touring.

Mark Feltham, a very much in-demand master of the harmonica played a blinder of a gig tonight. How he made the sounds he did, I’ll never know, amazing stuff. Brian Bethell,  as a provider of the lower register rhythmic melodies in the music, is not satisfied with playing simple bass but adds something more to the mix, as did his shiny suit, to the visual experience. Brendan O’Neil, on drums helped tie together what is an incredibly tight onstage performance, no wonder their first album was live, it’s where they are at home.

You can listen to Dennis Greaves’ interview with Jo on NE1fm on Mixcloud.

All photos by Jo Oliver.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Review: Alphabetti Spaghetti Unplugged 12/05/2013

Sweet Music at the D&P

Alphabetti Spaghetti Theatre are about comedy, music and performance in the perfectly bijoux surroundings of the Dog and Parrot. Tonight was about music, some astoundingly high quality music.

Meghann Clancy’s performance prompted a tweet to Tom Robinson, a beautiful voice and confident stage presence of a maturity well beyond her actual age. I live her song “Touch Ground” inspired by a bullied friend, and her rendition of Miranda Lambert’s country masterpiece  “Gunpowder and Lead” a song about a jailbird’s getting ready for his return, with a shotgun, is spot-on. She started with her recent single, "Neck of the Woods", and quickly brought a fairly party-minded audience into her worlds of teenage romantic longing, nostalgia for one's childhood and everyday struggles and triumphs. "Give Me Everything" , quite suggestive for a young lady with a guitar, but still lovely!

Sinead Livingston played a combination of folk and modern hits with a great range of vocal skills and confidence. Sinead handled the material and the audience with striking amounts of backbone. I  (gets crystal ball out)  see a great future for Sinead. A voice like this won’t go unnoticed.

Ali and George , the headliners of the night and resident entertainers of Alphabetti Spaghetti were accomplished crowd-pleasers with their covers and own songs providing great fun for the small crowd. A  highly entertaining duo with a canny voice in Ali and a song writing knack in George that makes for a great package. There's something in this act that suggests Ali and George will not be limited to the pubs and small theatres of Newcastle.  A pleasant night had by all. I will definitely return.
Check out their Open Stage night the second and last Sunday of every month. 
and their "3 Shorts" original comedy plays:

Jo Oliver

Nine Below Zero playing the Cluny, Newcastle and the Arc in Stockton

London blues-influenced band Nine Below Zero fresh from another successful tour of Europe and a string of dates along the south coast of England head north to play the Arc in Stockton-On-Tees on Friday May 17 and the Cluny in Newcastle on Saturday May 18.
Nine Below Zero built an almost obsessive following in the early 1980 with their take on American blues, while maintaining the energy of punk in their live performances. It was captured in their first album, Live At The Marquee, which was re-released towards the end of 2012.
Frontman and founding member Dennis Greaves said: “We decided to put it out again after Universal found some film from the night that we didn’t know still existed. They also found the encores we did, which were not on the original album. In those days, you couldn’t get much more than about 50 minutes on a album. So this will be of great interest to our fans.”
Nine Below’s success continued to build during the 1980s. They performed their single 11+11 on the first episode of cult TV show The Young Ones, featured in a South Bank Show and supported both The Who and The Kinks. However, at this point the band split up and Dennis formed The Truth, who enjoyed two UK top 20 hits. But in 1990, Nine Below reformed for their 10th anniversary and sold out the Town and Country (now the Forum) in London.
Dennis said:“It was great to see the fans still had the appetite for what we were doing.”
A sell-out UK tour followed and the band were invited to join the likes of Eric Clapton, Ray Davies and Brian May.
Newcastle has always been a great city for band to play. Dennis said: “There are some places in the UK which have a real music heritage and Newcastle is one of them. What with Animals coming from there, audiences have always appreciated and are so knowledgeable about blues.
“And personally I love coming to Newcastle, because I'm a huge fan of the film Get Carter. If I get the time I love going around the city to see the locations of where it was shot.”
Dennis Greaves will play along side his friend of more than 30 years, also a founding member of Nine Below Zero, harmonica player Mark Feltham.
Mark is regarded as one of the leading harmonica players in the UK and has appeared on albums by by the likes of Oasis, Robbie Williams, Johnny Cash, Texas, Joan Armatrading and Will Young. He has also played on countless movie soundtracks, including Tootsie, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Notting Hill.
Unlike many bands who reform and just play their back catalogue, Nine Below Zero have continually gone back into the studio to record new material. Their last studio album, Never Too Late, released in 2011 gained wide critical acclaim and an album of new material will be released later this year.
“It wouldn’t interest me just to keep on churning out all the tunes and band has to keep moving forward,” said Dennis. “However we have recently gone back to performing tracks from Live At The Marquee and the other early albums.
The band's second and third albums, Don't Point Your Finger At The Guitar Man and Third Degree will both be re-released later this year by Universal, also with extra tracks from live performances.
Nine Below Zero play The Arc, Stockton-On-Tees on Friday May 17. For tickets call box office on 01642 525199. Then the Cluny on Saturday May 18. For tickets go to or call 0191 2304474.
Live At The Marquee is available on Universal now.
Nine Below Zero:  Brian Bethall, Brendan O'Neill, Mark Feltham, Dennis Greaves
Dennis Greaves will be talking to Jo on the Jowheretogo Show on NE1 fm on Monday 13th May.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Review: Burning Condors: Double A Side "Knockout" and "Riot in the Streets"

Blues Punk Noir

When Burning Condors sent me these songs, I had no idea what to expect. I hadn't heard of the band, I hadn't heard their music. Some shocking musical oversight by me.

    Their debut album "Round Our Way" was recorded in Nashville  in the Shack Shakers's  double bassist, Mark Robertson's studio. He was highly impressed with the Condors when they supported the Shakers on a run of gigs last year. Injury (a collapsed lung) for Marcus "Tommy" Thompson the vocalist threatened the completion of the album. The incident happened at a gig at the legendary 12 Bar Club and necessitated surgery immediately after the gig. I must see them intense must that gig have been? But, stuff staying in the UK and recuperating, there was an album to record in Nashville Tennessee. So off they went, the mad buggers! And it's fortunate they did as the album features performances by session legend Dave Roe (double bassist for Johnny Cash’s band Tennessee Three) and Col JD Wilkes (Dirt Daubers) who guests on debut single ‘Honey Trap’.

     "Knockout" transported me right into a David Lynchian dark dreamscape. The blues progression and the tremolo of the guitar joined with Tommy's passionate vocals to create what I can only describe as "blues noir". Fantastic.

     "Riot in the Streets" brings out the Condors' punk sensibilities without losing touch with their wonderful feeling for the blues. It shook me out of my reverie after the rather sexy "Knockout" and made me hanker for a live gig from this band. A bit rockabilly, a bit glam rock, a bit punk, but all blues. Every now and again a band comes along and renews my faith in humanity to come up with something that makes people move, and moves their souls, I'm so glad I got to hear this. I'm looking forward to seeing Burning Condors rocking a northeast stage...again. They were at the Cluny last year, hopefully we can lure them back soon!

The Burning Condors: Smouldering
Find out about the band on their website, their Facebook and their Twitter. And get their music.

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