Thursday, 24 December 2015

Nightwish - Wembley Arena

The last Nightwish concert of 2015 the hope and expectation was massive for the sellout crowd of 12,500 especially as it was the only UK show. But before the concert there was the small matter of going to meet the band! I was lucky to get pulled out of the UK Fan Club draw and we all gathered expectantly at the Holiday Inn. It was all extremely relaxed in the meet'n'greet room with everybody well behaved and nobody taking advantage of the freebies on offer. Had a chat with ever band member got a few bits and pieces signed and a few pictures and unfortunately all to quickly it was over. It was a lovely experience and it was clear that the band had been gearing up for the Wembley gig as the 'big one' and the highlight of the tour. We had good seats close to the stage and elevated I would have preferred to be on the barriers but no way was I going to start queuing early morning for that privilege. Finnish band 'Amorphis' were first on stage and were good. They were followed by Sweden's 'Arch Enemy' who are just not my cup of tea i'm afraid. Playing Wembley underlines just how far Nightwish have risen up the heavy metal ladder becoming the first Finnish band as well as symphonic metal band to play the venue. As soon as vocalist Floor arrived on stage she announced that the concert was being filmed for a live DVD next year. From the opening song 'Shudder before the beautiful' to the very end there was no let up in incredible display of pyrotechnics, lights and smoke. As you would expect a large proportion of the setlist came from the latest album 'Endless Forms Most Beautiful'. But there were some less expected songs such as 'Stargazers' and 'while your Lips Are Still Red' with Marco on lead vocals. It was good to hear 'Nemo' back in it's normal format. There is no doubt that both Floor and Troy have added a new dimension to Nightwish. Floor has brought to life many of the songs and Troy is now a vital cog in the Nightwish wheel with what he brings. The second half has its epic heavyweight songs too with the likes of 'The Poet and the Pendulum' and 'Ghost Love Score'. Generally with the odd exception the sound quality is good and the promised DVD is sure to be excellent. For me I prefer a smaller venue than the soulless Wembley but those days are in the past now. The final epic The Greatest Show on Earth‘ saw Richard Dawkins emerge out on stage to speak the final lines of the track was a fitting end to the show even for someone like me who disagrees with his views. A monumental performance that will live long in the memory!

 Full Setlist
      • Shudder Before the Beautiful
      • Yours is an Empty Hope
      •  Everdream
      • Storytime
      • My Walden
      • While Your Lips are still Red
      •  Elan
      • Weak Fantasy
      • 7 Days to the Wolves  
      • Alpenglow
      • The Poet and the Pendulum
      • Nemo
      •  I Want My Tears Back
      •  Stargazers
      •  Ghost Love Score
      •  Last Ride of the Day
      •  The Greatest Show on Earth (Chapter I: Four Point Six; Chapter II: Life; Chapter III: The Toolmaker)

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Fish - Birmingham Town Hall

Christmas had certainly arrived in Birmingham ! The Town Hall is smack bang in the town centre and the German Christmas Market is in town.

Being used to the token offering in Northampton it was quite a surprise and stretched on endlessly a  cavalcade of lights and sound.

I even treated us to a large German sausage ....

But we were not here for the sausage, or indeed the lager or anything else being thrust before us. Oh no we were here for a nostalgic trip down memory lane after some 35 years of it's launch. This would be the last time that the iconic and most well known of Marillion albums 'Misplaced Childhood' would be performed by it's creator as it was intended , in it's entirity. Fish himself came on stage to announce the support band 'Lazuli' warning those still in the bar that they were about to miss something special. Describing them as probably the best support band he has encountered during his career. High praise indeed! Lazuli are a French Progressive Rock band formed in Southern France in 1998 by Claude and Dominique Leonetti.I have to say they were very impressive !The set starts off with a sitar sounding electrical vertical guitar, I have no idea what such a thing is called? They sing in French and are an unlikely collection of multi instrumentalists. The set is completed with all 5 of them around an electronic glockenspiel culminating with a version of Marillion's 'Incommunicado'. Followed by a well deserved standing ovation. “You think you’ve brought a ticket to a gig. You’ve not.” We’re rolling back time Fish tells us. 30 years to be precise. ‘Misplaced Childhood’ Marillion with Fish on vocals was their biggest album reaching platinum status, straight in at #1 in the UK charts, 41 weeks in the actual charts themselves. Marillion only made one more album afterwards with Fish‘Clutching At Straws’ before he went his separate way. Of course Marillion have continued very succesfully since 1989 with Steve Hogarth on vocals. Fish takes the stage with his customary scarf around his neck. He starts off with some offerings from his solo career ‘Pipeline’ from album ‘Suits, followed by ‘Feast of Consequences.’ Of course there is the obligatory chatter, anecdotes and witty observations sandwiched between each song. By the time the opening notes of ‘Pseudo Silk Komono’ begin the audience has warmed up and gone from seated to standing. The fifty minutes flew by on a wave of nostalgia but it was more that that it was part of my growing up. There was still time for encores that included the crowd favourite from 'Script for a Jesters Tear' 'Market Square Heroes'.

 This might be the last chance to ever hear 'Misplaced Childhood' in full but Fish has promised to keep going for at least another two years.

Setlist: Pipeline (Fish – Suits)
Feast of Consequences (Fish – Feast of Consequences)
 Family Business (Fish – Virgil in a Wilderness of Mirrors)
 The Perception of Johnny Punter (Fish – Sunsets on Empire)
 Misplaced Childhood (Marillion) in it’s entirety:
 Pseudo Silk Komono
 Bitter Suite
Heart of Lothian
Waterhole (Express Bongo)
 Lords of the Backstage
Blind Curve Childhood’s End?
White Feather

Encore: Market Square Heroes (Marillion – Script for a Jesters Tear)
 The Company (Fish – Virgil in a Wilderness of Mirrors)

Saturday, 14 November 2015

The Steve Rothery Band - The Stables MK

Guitarist and founder member of Marillion, Steve Rothery is touring his long awaited solo album “The Ghosts of Pripyat”. As you would expect the album is packed with his trademark guitar solos.An instrumental album taking the listener on an epic journey through demonic dreams, to an eerie post-Chernobyl ghost town via oceans and icy wastelands. The band is made up of some extremely talented musicians including fellow guitarist Dave Foster (Mr So and So).Dave also released his own solo album 'Gravity' in 2012. The first half was compromised of the first 5 tracks from the new album 'The Ghosts of Pripyat'.

1 Morpheus
2 Kendris
3 Old Man of the Sea
4 White Pass
5 Summer's End

 For the second half the band were joined on vocals by Martin Jakubski from the Marillion tribute band 'Stillmarillion'.

The set was made up of the classic album 'Misplaced Childhood' in it's entirety. It's amazing to think that the album was celebrating 30 years since it's release in 1985. The album was the band's "most accomplished" and "streamlined" work to date, while Ultimate Classic Rock has called it "the cornerstone of the entire 'neo-prog' movement". I have to say that I do however prefer the first two albums; 'Script for a Jester's Tear' and 'Fugazi'.  

Misplaced Childhood

Pseudo Silk Kimono
Bitter Suite
Heart of Lothian
Waterhole (Expresso Bongo)
Lords of theBackstage
Blind Curve
Childhood's End?
White Feather

The encores were an absolute treat for any fan of the 'Fish' era Marillion.

Encore 1  

Cinderella Search
Sugar Mice

The second encore was an even bigger treat with part of  the rarely heard epic 'Grendel'

Encore 2

Grendel (Final guitar solo)


Sunday, 1 November 2015

Autumn Colour and Carpetbaggers

It was a nice Autumn sunny Sunday afternoon and just about perfect for a wander in thee countryside. Using a local map we set off from the car park at Draughton village next to the Brampton Valley Way. The route would criss-cross the old disused railway line that runs to Market Harborough initially taking us up to the village of Maidwell. Always a favourite time of the year for me as the leaves begin to lose the fight but their farewell provides a fantastic array of colour before the ground takes them. The journey continued uphill and the hum of the ever busy A14 (M1-A1 link road) which itself rises to a pounding roar as we navigate the perimeter fence. Walking away from the A14 we soon came to the Carpetbagger Aviation Museum at Harrington. Operation Carpetbagger was a general term used for the aerial supply of weapons and other supplies to resistance fighters in France, Italy and the Low Countries by the U.S. Army Air Forces that began on 4 January 1944. In late 1943, the 22nd Anti-Submarine Squadron of the Eighth Air Force was disbanded at RAF Alconbury and its aircraft used to form the 36th and 406th Bomb Squadrons. These two squadrons were placed under the provisional 801st Bomb Group at RAF Harrington at the beginning of 1944 and the first "Carpetbagger" missions were carried out. In April 1944, the group moved to RAF Harrington (Station 179), a more secluded and thus more secure airbase. It's a cracking little museum with photographs, maps and exhibits and unique film footage describing the secret missions flown by the Harrington Airmen. Other displays show the vast secret agent and supply network masterminded by the British Special Operations operated from RAF Tempsford. Alongside the Carpetbagger Aviation Museum is the old Paymaster General's Nissen Hut and the Northants Aviation Museum. This museum contains the remains of recovered World War II aircraft including parts of a Lancaster, Hurricane, Wellington, Tiger Moth, B17 Flying Fortress, B24 Liberator and other WWII aircraft. Leaving the museum we walked back along the old runway which eventually took us back in the direction of the Brampton Valley Way. Lots of unusual funghi on display as you would expect at this time of the year. With the clocks going back last night the afternoon was drawing in quickly and soon got cold. A really good walk of about 5and a half miles!

Friday, 2 October 2015

Walton Hall

Set in 65 acres of grounds in the heart of Shakespeare country with a river 'Walton Hall' was our location for a one night break. A four-star hotel, split into two sections. The Hall a seventeenth century Grade II listed building (pictured) and the hotel. The Walton Hall is a 16th-century country mansion at Walton, near Wellesbourne, Warwickshire, once owned by Lord Field and the entertainer Danny La Rue. La Rue spent more than £1million on the purchase and restoration of the country house hotel, and sold it in 1983. Controversy with the two Canadians who had bought it and agreed to retain La Rue's name on it led to a police investigation where La Rue eventually was cleared of any suspicion but discovered he had lost more than £1million. In the mid-20th century, the property was owned by the M.O.D. and used as a training camp for Army Cadets prior to being sold to Lord Field, who restored the main building to be used as a family home. Plenty to do apart from walking the beautiful grounds as there is a full gym, swimming pool and health suite. So definitely worked up an appetite before dinner was served. The next day after a bit of panic when I lost my mobile phone and had to return back to the hotel where it was found was spent in Stratford Upon Avon. Surprisingly I was made Mayor for the day !