Kasabian – Newcastle Metro Arena (Evening Chronicle)

ROCKERS Kasabian were back in the North East, blasting out their high energy  indie rock tracks to a massive crowd. The tour coincides with the release of their new album Velociraptor! which  debuted at number 1 in the UK album  charts.

Supporting them was local band The Smokin’ Barrels, who grabbed their  opportunity of playing to an arena crowd with both hands. This was their biggest home gig to date, and they didn’t disappoint despite  the atmosphere being a bit flat due to the crowd filtering into the arena as  they performed. However, songs like Stella in the Starlight seem purpose-written  for such a stage.

When Kasabian took to the stage, the sound in the arena was deafening as they  launched into their first track. Every member of the band started pumping up the crowd, and looking sincerely  grateful to be in such a position. Guitars, drums, bass and into vocals. No messing around. They were here for  business, and their business is awesome rock tracks, with sizzling vocals and  blazing guitar riffs.

What you forget about Kasabian until you see them live is just how many great  songs they’ve got, from guitar-shredding hard rock, to dance-infused indie  rock. Underdog, Vlad The Impaler and Shoot The Runner, were just some of the  highlights in a quality set, turning an already excitable crowd into a bouncing  mass of ecstasy.

The opening guitar riff of Clubfoot is instantly recognizable  due to its use on match days on Sky Sports, and sparked like electricity  throughout the crowd.It’s an arena anthem if ever I’ve heard one and the rhythmic bass beat is  emphasized by frontman Tom Meighan’s vocal skills and vibrant energetic persona  on stage. Other highlights included the track, Fire, which closed the set in amazing  fashion. Every person in the crowd went wild as the simple slow build-up started. The  soft lyrics meant the entire crowd worked as a human amplifier, before the song  kicked in, sending the crowd into raptures.

It was the perfect way to end a cracking live show, sending everyone away on  a soaring high.


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The Nutcracker – Theatre Royal Newcastle (Evening Chronicle)

Nutcracker is second only to Swan Lake, when speaking of world famous ballets. The traditional story, which starts at the Edwards’ family home at Christmas time. Excitement fills the home as Uncle Drosselmeyer unveils his magical powers, treating the hall to a dance by living dolls. Before he presents Young Clara with a wooden soldier nutcracker. During the night, unable to sleep, she returns to the dining hall where the uncle is again working his magic. Where what I encountered was a beautiful and magical set of events which left myself and the whole audience spell bound.

The musical score which runs throughout the production is utterly stunning. Unsurprising when you find out that it is down to the genius Tchaikovsky. The choreography has been crafted around this so the dancers are given a perfect platform on which to broadcast their vast talent. A perfect example of this is during the beautifully choreographed battle between the now living man sized nut cracker and his army of soldiers, and the mouse king and his minions. The physical interaction between the dancers combined with the passionate music creates a vivid living story.

The rise and fall of the score creates tension, building throughout the act before reaching a crescendo which causes the stage to explode into life. Whilst the staging and lighting added another dimension to the story, working as a living piece of the production, rather than a backdrop. The stage was host to a stunning display of dancers representing Arabian Princesses, Russian dancers and beautiful flowers amongst others, giving the whole production a larger scale.

The sugar plumb Fairy, played by Martha Leebolt and her partner Javier Torres who played the Cavalier stole the show during the second act. Their passion for dance was on display for all to see, and their skill and talent exceeded even that. The rest of the performers should be just as proud, with every one of them adding to a beautiful production.


Tinie Tempah – Newcastle Metro Arena (Evening Chronicle)

TINIE Tempah is the biggest thing in the UK R’n’B scene right now.

Every song he lays down is becoming chart gold. His debut album Disc-Overy  was released to critical and public acclaim, heading straight to the top of the  UK Album Charts. Though its success hasn’t just been limited to the UK. Last  night I was lucky enough to catch the Newcastle show of his current UK arena  tour.

Tinie entered the stage, the same way he entered the UK charts, with a  massive explosion. Being fired up from below the stage, he flew straight into  the first track and sent the crowd wild. As usual he performed in his trademark  black glasses, and used every inch of the stage to play up to the sellout crowd.  I was surprised at first by the inclusion of a full rock band, to back the main  man. But the decision was proved to be a perfect one, within the first couple of  songs.

The new live sound gave a different feeling to tracks such as Frisky and  Wonderman – boy did they go down well.

Tinie’s stage presence is second to none, he is a supremely confident  performer who feeds on the energy from the crowd, he doubled it onstage before  exploding, sending shockwaves throughout the euphoric masses. The electricity which coursed through the crowd during his standout track, Written In The Stars,  was one of the best moments of the night. The pulsating dropkick broken beat let  the crowd know it was coming before the vocals began. This was followed by a  full-on rap choir, fronted by the Tinie himself who strutted around the stage he  now owned.

Part of the reason why Tinie’s songs are so popular are the collaborations  which have been made on various songs. Kelly Rowland, Ellie Goulding, Swedish  House Mafia and Eric Turner all featured on his debut album. Resulting in a much  larger public reach, and a much more commercial album, than what he would have  received if he’d set out to produce a pure rap album.

The album has thus far earned Tinie two Brit Awards, Two UK number ones and a  host of other hits and awards through the world. This is an amazing feat for a  first time album from a relative unknown. I am in no doubt that this is only the  beginning for what is a very talented young man. This is his first Arena tour,  but it definitely won’t be his last if he can keep up this sort of  performance.


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Grease Is The Word – Empire Theatre, Sunderland (Evening Chronicle)

GREASE is best known as the iconic film, starring John Travolta and Olivia  Newton John.

But it started and continues today as a theatre production, altered to  include the best loved songs from the film, so the tunes could be enjoyed  live. From Greased Lightning to Beauty School Dropout, they are all in there. This resulted in Grease being voted the number one greatest musical of all time.

For this production, the stage opened showing the live jazz band which was  going to be playing the music behind all of the tracks, and already had the  crowds toes tapping before a word is sung. Then the floor exploded into colour as the show began, the stage filled with  the greasers, girls and nerds of Rydell High School.

The cast are so good together. I wouldn’t have noticed that the leads were  played by understudies if I hadn’t been informed beforehand. It’s a testament to the quality and depth of talent within the cast, that I  can’t imagine the original actors could have done any better. Ricky Rojas, who played the ultra-confident lead man Danny, was genuinely funny.  His stage presence meant all eyes were on him, and his dancing skills during the  High School Hop were as exciting as they were technically awesome.

Lois Urwin, who deputised the part of Sandy for the night, played the part  with every drop of innocence and dignity. Her vocal talents on display during  the ballad, Danny, sent shivers down the spine. They both managed to portray two of the most well-known characters in cinema without seeming like theatre copycat versions.

Rhydian Roberts as Teen Angel is about as perfect a casting as you can get.  He provided the angel with all the over-the-top arrogance and confidence in the  world, which caused laughter throughout the crowd as he gestured to the  audience, before his voice blew the audience away. The man can sing, that’s for sure, bringing a note of classical almost  operatic tone to the song, High School Drop Out.

The dancing was choreographed to perfection, with the girls in their brightly  coloured dresses swinging around the dance floor in perfect unison. The dynamic lighting and staging in combination with pyrotechnics and an  orchestra of sound, brought a Broadway feel to the entire production. They have  gone the extra mile and it really shows.

The show has been polished to a vibrant shine. From young to old, whether  you’ve seen the film or not, it is exhilarating, toe-tapping, singalong fun for  the entire family.


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Charlie Simpson – o2 Academy2 Newcastle (Evening Chronicle)

Charlie Simpson has come a long way since his days in multi-award winning boy band Busted. Firstly with rockers Fightstar, which he formed in 2003. Where he gained critical acclaim and yet more chart success, through their first three studio albums. This was a stark change from his pop roots, trading kid friendly tunes, for hard rock and metal.

Now Charlie is changing paths and genres again with his first solo album, Young Pilgrim which is due to be released on August 15th. An acoustic,l yric driven album with an essence of folk. To compliment this, he is currently on UK tour and I had to the pleasure of checking him out at the Newcastle date.

Whilst I was expecting a one-man show, just Charlie with his acoustic guitar on stage, what we got was entirely different. He was surrounded by a full live band, including guitar, bass, keyboard and even a backup vocalist. This meant there was an entirely new sound to some of his tracks. A more robust and deeper sound which had a stronger rock flavour. This combination in the live setting was perfect and filled the venue, enveloping the crowd in a complex arrangement that has been exquisitely put together. By now, he has been performing live in various ways for over 10 years, and it shows. His presence on stage is that of a veteran performer, commanding focus at all time, whilst at the same time seeming quite shy when actually speaking to the crowd between songs. He wasn’t afraid to push himself either. He sang every word of every song like he meant it, filling every song with the emotion which it deserved.

Down down down, the first single released from the album, and its rousing chorus and toe tapping beat went down well with the ravenous crowd. As a piece of music it is beautifully crafted and in a live setting its stunning lyrics resonate with every member of the crowd. Parachute was another highlight, Charlie whipping the excitable crowd into a frenzy with his distinct low growly vocals. Vocals that have previously fit his rockband Fightstar perfectly, here have been wrapped around radio friendly soft melodic verses and sing along choruses. It is that versatility, combined with his talent that allows Charlie to be successful in any genre he tries his hand at.


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Alistair Griffin – Just Drive: Single Review (Evening Chronicle)

Just Drive is the newest single by singer-songwriter Alistair Griffin. F1 fans may already be aware of the song, as it was used during the montage of highlights of the 2010 season. If not, this tune is definitely one I would recommend to fans of Take That’s newest tracks. Alistair has that same upbeat style, which always seems to building up to a crescendo. Before letting the melody take back over and sink back down. If it were written by the Take That’s boys I would be predicted a number one. As it is, I’d definitely be more reserved, but It’s a wonderfully crafted song, and certainly one to look out for.

The Good Lovelies – Let The Rain Fall: Album Review (Evening Chronicle)

Canadian Country Trio The Good Lovelies have been around since 2006 and their newest album is Let The Rain Fall. So what are they like? Well, they are definitely different. They would certainly have no competitors in the genre they seem to have crafted for themselves. It’s just all a little too dated. That’s not to say it isn’t an enjoyable listen. As the girls have a beautiful tone to their voices and during the harmonies it can be truly spine-tingling. Best I Know is the pick of the bunch as it is just their voices cutting through a simple background and works well.

Zac Brown Band – You Get What You Give: Album Review (Evening Chronicle)

You Get What You Give is the latest album by American country ensemble Zac Brown Band. With it, what they have created is an upbeat foray into the ole American staple.Whilst many of the tracks are nothing new, and follow the same old mid tempo formulas that American country singers have been following for 30 years, there are some tracks with a little more to them.  As She’s Walking Away, is a well written emotional story-led track which ebbs and flows with a real passion. Whilst the up-tempo Whiskey’s Gone has a toe tapping rhythm and hoothat stays with you.

Asa – Dreamer Girl: Single Review (Evening Chronicle)

Dreamer Girl is the latest single to be released from Asa’s album Beautiful Imperfection.  It’s a swaying pop track which is a combination of soft spoken lyrics and bouncing upbeat sections that set your feet to a tapping beat whilst the warmth within it surrounds you. It has the feel of an African inspired alternative to Katie Melua’s style. There is a little more bounce, and flair whilst always staying easy-listening.

WU LYF – Go tell fire to the mountains; Album Review (Evening Chronicle)

Go Tell Fire to the Mountain is the debut album by Wu Lfy, and boy is it an enigma. A beautiful score runs throughout the album, with unending depth of percussion providing the base and soft chimes and slow eerie organs rhythmically adding their textures. It sounds nothing like anything else which is out at the moment. Focused on combining the music and echoed minimalist vocals, the tempo and positioning of the various elements is dependent on the emotion of the particular song.  Such a sad puppy as a track isn’t main stream enough to feature in the charts, but as a piece of music, and art, is truly beautiful.