Monday, 19 December 2011

Ken Dodd - Wolverhampton Civic

 How tickled I was on 18th December 2011, I went to see Ken Dodd's Christmas Happiness Show in Wolverhampton. The show started at 7.00pm and ended at 12.30 AM which is quite normal for his performances! In fact I think we got let out early for good behaviour.

Kenneth Arthur Dodd was born in Knotty Ash, a village just outside Liverpool, on November 8, 1927, to coal merchant Arthur Dodd and his wife Sarah. Ken still lives in the same house in Knotty Ash today!
If I see you sneaking out i'll follow you home and shout jokes through your letterbox he warns us! But it is already half past midnight the moment has come and launches into a parting burst of one of his old hits, Absent Friends. It's shamelessly sentimental. And he does it brilliantly getting a standing ovation and there is the feeling that he could go on and on.

It's amazing to think that this guy is in his mid 80's has absolutely no intention of retiring - or even slowing down. Maybe the most amazing thing of all is there has not been one obscenity and a packed audience loved every minute. His late finishes were a constant them, illustrated when he produced his own thermos flask and sandwich box. Catching someone looking at their watch he said it's no good looking at your watch , its a calendar you need when you come and see me.
"She was a big girl," he reflects fondly of his first girlfriend. "You could tickle her all night and never touch the same spot." Impeccable timing and a constant bombardment of gags without stopping to pause.
He genuinely loves every minute on stage - "I'm stagestruck, always have been" - and cannot envisage life any other way. "Retirement is when a man stops doing what he doesn't want to do."

Part of Ken Dodd's act were The Diddy Men of Knotty Ash ('diddy' is northern England slang for 'little'). In fact, he created a whole community of these characters. The Diddy Men, including Mick the Marmalizer, Hamish McDiddy and Dicky Mint, all worked in places like the Broken Biscuit Repair Works, The Jam Butty Mines, The Treacle Wells and The Moggy Ranch, all in Knotty Ash. They wore colourful clothes and tall, furry hats and they even had thair own song! In his stage shows today, Ken Dodd uses a ventriloquist's puppet of as part of his act.

Ken Dodd had a good singing voice and regularly had songs like Love Is Like a Violin and Happiness in the charts. At one time in 1965, he had two songs in the same 'Top Ten'! Tears went straight it at No.1 with The River entering the charts at No.3. Tears sold over two million copies, gaining Doddy two gold disc awards. He is still Britain's only million-selling comedian.
In his furry red "moggy coat"

In 1967, Dodd entered the Guinness Book of Records for the 'Longest Joke-Telling' session, with 1,500 consecutive jokes told to a Liverpool audience, in three and a half hours. There were times when I had the feeling that Ken was going for a new world record as the jokes came thick and fast.

A Ken Dodd 'trade mark' is his feather duster or 'tickling stick'. In fact many of his catchphrases use the 'tickled' idea - as in 'How tickled I am'.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Marillion - HMV Institute Birmingham

Full Set List

A lovely souvenir of the night - Thank You Stephanie!

The encores were equally impressive starting with 'The Invisible Man'from the excellent Marbles album. Then we had a surprise! 'h' said 'we are now going to play you a hit single' and we were treated to a rousing rendition of Kayleigh. Wellit was nearly Christmas after all and a rarity from a modern day Marillion set list for sure. The evening finished with Three Minute Boy.

Fans I spoke to said they had never seen 'h' sing with such intensity- A brilliant night.

The set continued some classic songs including King, Man of 1000 Faces, This Strange Engine and finishing with my altime favourites Afraid of Sunlight and the Neverland. What more could you possibly ask for?

Pete Trevawas joined Marillion in 1982 and also is a member of Progressive Rock supergroup Transatlantic.

Pete Trevawas

The set continued with 'Cover my eyes' and the wonderful and emotive 'King'.

Mark Kelly joined the band in 1981, replacing previous keyboardist Brian Jelliman.

Mark Kelly

Steve Rothery is the only member of Marillion's founding lineup who remains in the band to this day and is regarded by many fans of the band as providing their defining sound of Marillion. He is heavily influenced by Dave Gilmour of Pink Floyd and named Jeff Beck as his favourite guitarist.

Steve Rothery

Marillion opened up with 'Splintering Heart' from the 'Holidays in Eden' album which has a wonderful beat and showcases the emotional power of h's vocals.

Steve 'h' Hogarth

Before Marillion we had Tin Spirits.Formed in 2008 they included former XTC guitarist for some 20 years Dave Gregory. They played a couple of their own songs as well as some covers including a very impressive version of 'Tom Sawyer' by RUSH. Also as you might expect a version of XTC's 'Senses working overtime' from 1982.

Dave Gregory

Brilliant to see Marillion again who constantly keeping evolving yet remain below the radar for most people. Having said that there is an amzingly loyal and knowledgable army of fans who follow the band. It is very hard to actually pinpoint their genre of music; progressive rock possibly is the closest but there is so much more to them. In Steve Hogarth (h) you get amazing vocals, rich with power and passion. Wonderful guitar artistry from Steve Rothery. A rhythm section (Pete Trewavas on bass and Ian Mosley on drums) was really strong complementing the guitar and vocals well. Keyboard wizardy provided as always by Mark kelly.
There is a previous Marillion review in the blog archive July 2010.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Deep Purple - LG Arena Birmingham

Full Set List
  • Highway Star
  • Hard Lovin Man
  • Maybe i'm a Leo
  • Strange kind of Woman
  • Rapture of the Deep
  • Woman from Tokyo
  • Contact Lost
  • Guitar Solo
  • When a Blind Man Cries
  • The well Dresed Guitar
  • Knocking at your Back Door
  • Lazy
  • No One came
  • Keyboard Solo
  • Perfect Starngers
  • Space Truckin'
  • Smoke on the Water
  • Hush
  • Bass Solo
  • Black Night

This has to go down as my favourite concert of the year... so far. It was just an exhibition of wonderful musicianship and wave after wave of fantastic songs. The crowd just couldn't get enough and left very happy indeed,

A conductor (who also plugged in an electric violin) travelled with the band on tour and regional musicians made up the orchestra. They really got into it and there was even some headbanging and waving of violin bows in the air.

Ian Paice is the only founding member of the band who never stopped performing with the group, and the only member to appear on every album the band has released. He is one of those rare left handed drummers. After Deep Purple split, Ian Paice went on to form a new supergroup, Paice, Ashton & Lord in 1976. The band, comprising also singer/pianist Tony Ashton, organist Jon Lord, guitarist/vocalist Bernie Marsden and bassist Paul Martinez.

Ian Pace

Don Airey joined Deep Purple in 2002 and has played with virtually all the big names in Rock. The massive list includes, Black Sabbath,Gary Moore,Rainbow,Michael Schenker Group,Jethro Tull,Whitesnake and Judas Priest. he joined Deep Purple in 2002 to fill in for an injured Jon Lord, who has since retired. We were treated to a couple of fantastic keyboard solos.

Don Airey

Roger Glover is the Bassist and lyricist and has produced countless albums and written lyrics for other bands including, Rainbow, Rory Gallagher,The Spencer Davis Group and Judas Priest.

Roger Glover

Steve Morse joined Deep Purple in 1994 with the unenviable task of taking over from the legendary guitarist Ritchie Blackmore. Ritchie created amazing guitar riffs that fused Rock,Blues and classical music. Steve has fitted in beautifully and appeared on the last four studio albums and is an amzing guitarist in his own right. He has used a signature model Music Man guitar made to his own specifications for more than 20 years (the guitar has been refretted eight times and is still the first original one).

Steve Morse

It's hard to believe that Ian Gillan is 66! He still has an amazing wide range of vocals and an energy that belies his age. He has literally been there and done it all in his career including the original Jesus in Andrew Lloyd Webbers Jesus Christ Superstar.

Ian Gillan

Deep Purple .. Where do I start? Along with Led Zepellin they are true legends and pioneers in Heavy Metal music. But yet there is so much more to them than that. Formed in 1968 constantly touring and producing fantastic music that crosses several genres despite numerous line up changes. They are simply huge in all respects with a massive back catalogue of classic albums and instantly recognisable anthems.
This tour features the backing of a 38 piece symphony orchestra featuring clasic members Ian Gillan (Lead vocals), Roger Glover(Bass) and Ian Paice the only constant original member of the band (Drums). Gillan pointed out that this was more about the orchestra provided extra texture to the songs rather than totally orchestra based.
Steve Morse (Lead Guitar) added that he doesn't see a line between musical styles, Rock and classical styles blend very well.

Cheap Trick - Birmingham LG Arena

Cheap Trick were superb and I would go as far as saying they were the best support act I have seen since Anthrax supported Metallica at the old Birmingham Odeon way back in 1986. By the end of the set the whole crowd were on their feet cheering and waving- Brilliant !

Some of the tracks played were instantly recognisable like the classic, 'I want you to want me', 'Dream Police' and a brilliant rendition of 'Gonna raise hell'. They also did a Beatles cover of 'Magical mystery tour' which went down a storm.

Robin Zander has played a 1950s Rickenbacker Combo 450 Mapleglo since the late 1970s, as well as a Hamer 12-string guitar, a Gibson Firebird, and various Fender Telecaster-styled guitars. He has a fantastic voice and is a top front man for sure.

Robin Zander

Rick Neilsen is a larger than life character! An avid collector who has over 250 guitars in his possession. He has collaborated with Hamer on trademark 'themed' guitars, some based on Cheap Trick albums such as "Rockford," "The Doctor," and even songs such as "Gonna Raise Hell." Hamer has also made unique five-necked guitars and electric mandocellos for Nielsen. I've never seen anyone throw so many guitar picks into the crowd. I was sitting 20 rows back at the NEC, sorry LG Arena (old habits die hard) and got 3 of em !!

Rick Nielsen

I was so excited about seeing Deep Purple I had totally forgotten that Cheap Trick were supporting! CT are a band I have heard of for years yet know next to nothing about. A friend of mine is a huge fan and always raves about them.
Hailing out of Rockford Ilinois they actually released their first album in 1977 although Robin Zander (lead vocals) and Rick Neilsen had been together previously in different guises.
Cheap Trick is well known for their four decades of almost continuous touring.
They have often been referred to in the Japanese press as the "American Beatles".

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Lacuna Coil - Northampton

Full Set List:

Our Truth
To the Edge
I wont tell you
Im not afraid
Kill the Light
Fragmentsof Faith
Heaven's a Lie
Daylight Dancer
Wide Awake
Without Fear
Enjoy the Silence


Trip the Darkness

The set concluded with the crowd favourite and Depeche Mode cover of 'Enjoy The Silence'. A 'wag' in the crowd shouted out 'we've already had that' ! Referring to the powercut earlier. I think it was the same 'wag' who had shouted out 'can you play the air guitar'? again during the power cut. It's true you always get one in every crowd.

Really good set list from LC which drew drew mainly from Komalies, Karmacode and the more recent Shallow life. Also good to hear new material from the forthcoming 'Dark Adrenaline'. As always the crowd were loving every minute and a good cross section of all ages were present. All was going very well until out of the blue we had a powercut! However we were treated to an unscheduled drum solo from Criz while power was restored.

Dual lead singer Andrea

Before LC we had 'Straight Line Stitch' who I confess I had never heard of ? They are based out of Knoxville Tennessee and were formed in 2000.I know all this because I was speaking to singer Alexis Brown afterwards. On stage she was crazy and swore like a trooper however afterwards she was softly spoken and meek and mild as a church mouse. In fact she was like a different person .. maybe it was?
Not really my cup of tea but they put a lot into the performance and they will have their fans. In fact there was some serious hardcore moshing going on around me.

With Cristina

Great to see Lacuna Coil again in Northampton ! Was really impressed last time and there is a review of that gig if you search hard enough on the blog history. This tour is in support of their upcoming album "Dark Adrenaline" and the "Darkness Rising Tour". They are always very loyal to the English fans and again a lot of UK dates are included on the . It's great that they are happy to play smaller venues such as 'The Roadmender' as not many groups would. Made sure I had tickets for the meet 'n' greet this time. Despite getting soaking wet waiting to get in it was great to catch up with the band especially Criz who is a top guy as well as being a fellow Sloe Gin maker.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Short Eared Owls - Bike Ride

With the light fading fast the mist was beginning to rise off the fields and the sun was going down fast. It was so calm and peaceful and the air had a magical fairytale feel about it. Sounds odd I know but that the only way I can describe it.

As I made my way around the fields quite a crowd was gathering in places as word was spreading. I had had a brilliant couple of hours loving every minute. I would conservatively estimate that I saw at least a dozen Owls maybe more?.
With one eye on the light it was time to pedal home. Managed to link up with the Brampton Valley Way cycle track which is one of my favourite places.

The Owls nest on the ground hidden among grass, heather or reeds. They are one of the few owls to make a nest. The female makes a scrape which she lines with whatever vegetation is available. One brood is usual, but when voles are plentiful may have two broods.
voles are this owls' most important prey, but other small mammals such as wood mouse and shrews may be taken. Birds, usually between the size of finches and thrushes particularly young ones, are also caught.

This year there is a really large influx of Sort Eared Owls and have spread further into the country rather than coastal areas. I understand that they have been really doing well in Scandanavia hence the large numbers. They really are a beautiful bird and bigger than I expected. In flight it is paler, more stocky and longer-winged than the long-eared owl, and the tail and wings are more boldly barred. Its body plumage is brown, spotted and streaked with yellow and white. It is pale beneath with a boldly streaked chest. There is a yellowish facial disc with bright yellow eyes set in black patches which makes it seem like a cross expression.

It was only a matter of minutes before my first sighting and it was amazing.Before long there was a pair together as if they were palying , and making quite a racket too! Brilliant to see them through the binoculars however trying to capture with my little digital camera was another matter...
My thanks go to Joe Tanner (Joe Tanner Photography) who very kindly gave me permission to use some of his lovely photos included here. More can be seen of Joe's work by following his flickr link

I did manage to capture this Short Eared Owl as it settled on a branch.

The weather was a little overcast to start with but as I arrived around 1 PM the sun was doing it's best to break through the cloud. Really are some superb views out that way and somewhere I tend to neglect a little bit. Spoke to a couple of birders who said that they had been watching 2 pairs of SEO's in one of the fields.
So made my way towards the farm and upset a couple of dogs who let me know they were not happy! Decided to leave the bike under a tree and have a wander under cover of the hedgerow.

I read on the Northants Birding site that An amazing 22 Short-eared Owls were counted at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell on Friday.
This was too good an opportunity to miss despite suffering all week with a heavy cold.
Blueberry Farm is a cracking location for a variety of Owls as many fields are left untouched to attract Voles and other small mammals in an open setting.
I decided that the best way would be by mountain bike, which certainly tested my lung power after the cold. Slightly underestimated the actual 10 miles I clocked up.