Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Darby and Walk The Line - a rising star

The Bloodshake Chorus
Darby, Bloodshake Chorus

 You may have heard me raving about a Norfolk band, The Bloodshake Chorus; my first live show after returning to the UK from California, and I've also caught them at Bearded Theory festival and Cromer Carnival. But last night the entire world (at least, that part of the entire world that watches ITV talent/entertainment shows) saw and heard the powerhouse that is Darby. Vocalist with Bloodshake Chorus, performing on his own - with one piano, no huge production - on ITV's (very strange) new show, Walk The Line. Singing the beautiful song, I Who Have Nothing, covered by many - most famously by Shirley Bassey - but never as strongly as this.

In case you missed it, you can experience Darby's performance here:

 Standing ovation from the judges. Collective gasps from the audience.

No, Darby didn't go through to the next round - he was the one who the previous night's winner, Ella, had to beat. She went through. Don't ask me why. Don't ask the many folks who commented on #walktheline on Twitter either - Darby's performance was hugely appreciated. I just have to put it down to TV "talent" shows not being entirely about the talent, the voice, the performance, the music. We've seen it too often - it's more about the story that a performer tells to give them the edge - Simon Cowan's idea of entertainment, and why I rarely watch these shows (other than the early sessions of The Voice, when the judges have their backs turned... but even that is all sad stories. Every person on this planet has a story to tell - let's hear it in the music, please). I cringe too much when someone sings in that very-slightly-off-key way, tells a sad story, then wins.

In my mind, Darby won this show hands down: not by going through to the next round or by winning half a million pounds (though I'm sure that would have been a very useful sum to put in the bank): rather, by exposing his musical soul and magical voice to so many people. 

My understanding is that there's a single to be released soon:


Listen to it. "Like" it. Follow Darby on Facebook (look out for the wonderful song with RedNek), Twitter, and whereever else you find him on social media. This man is a star. He's rising.

Previous reviews: 

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Cromer Pier Christmas Show 2021: review and photos

Cromer Pier Christmas Show 2021
Cromer Pier Christmas Show 2021

You know it's nearly Christmas when you see the Cromer Pier Christmas Show - it's back and it's fun and it's a fast-moving, traditional variety show with something for everyone. Host Olly Day is hilarious and now I know that I really, really must call the town Croomer if I ever want to be considered any sort of an almost-local-incomer. We really needed the Croomer Barbie outfit walking on the pier to the show on Friday night (thermal undies, waterproofs, and an umbrella that turns inside-out) because it was a cold, damp, and blustery night, but the show and the Pavilion Theatre itself were enough to warm us to the heart.

Rob McVeigh, vocalist
Rob McVeigh, vocalist and director, with the Cromer Pier Ensemble dancers

Instant costume changes and delightful scenery, lighting, and backdrops transported us from one Christmas world to another, and another, and another. Yes, I saw Santa. You have to look out for him: he's very, very fast. Practicing for the big night.

Olly Day and Jo Little
Host Olly Day and comic and singer Jo Little

Comedy, dance, song, magic and illusion; rinse and repeat. All with a Christmas theme. We even went for a ride on the Polar Express. 

Cromer Pier Christmas Show 2021
Cromer Pier Show dancers plus fire-eater Rebecca Foyle

I'm always impressed by the dancers at the Cromer Pier shows: summer or winter, they move from ballet to jazz and rock-and-roll with such supple ease. They make Cromer's Pavilion Theatre feel like it's in London's West end rather than being in the unique situation at the end of a Victorian pier out over the North Sea. Yes, it's the only end-of-the-pier variety show in the world!
Olly Day, comedien and host
Olly Day and his volunteer selection device. And a snowman.

Despite the pandemic, there's still audience participation from a (great) distance: Olly Day chose a volunteer (at least I think she volunteered but I don't think there was much of an option!) using a new Covid-safe device. And then had us all scratching our heads at his sleight of hand with a giant card trick - how did he do that??? 

Hayley Moss, soprano
Soprano Hayley Moss

Beautiful singing from soprano Hayley Moss, vocalist and director of the show Rob McVeigh, and comic Jo Little. I loved the a-capella version of Leonard Cohen's Halleluja (and was delighted to hear the original lyrics - too many covers have messed with them).

At the end of the show, Olly Day paid tribute to people lost over the past two years: this includes two stars of shows past, Phil Butler and Paul Eastwood. It showed how much of a close community the members of the show casts are - and how much the pier shows are a part of the hearts of everyone who lives here or visits on holiday.

The new lighting and large backdrop screen that were installed over the pandemic while the Pavilion Theatre was shut really enhance the shows; and the Christmas Show has extra magic, with fairy lights all around the theatre and coloured icicles that echo the stage lighting. Lovely job with the lights and sound! 

Rob McVeigh, vocalist
Cromer Pier Christmas Show 2021

The Cromer Pier Christmas Show continues until 30th December with both matinee and evening shows. The show lasts about two hours with a short interval where you can feast on ice cream or visit the iconic bar at the end of the pier. Check out the days and times and book your tickets here!

Cromer Pier Christmas Show 2021
Finale with confetti!!!

 More photos from the Cromer Pier Christmas Show 2021: photo gallery click here.

 Photo galleries from other Cromer Pier shows: all the Cromer Pier show galleries.

Taylor Morgan, magician and illusionist
Magician and illusionist Taylor Morgan

Friday, December 3, 2021

Marillion, London Hammersmith: The Light was Saved!

Marillion, Hammersmith, London
Confetti... Marillion, Hammersmith, London

And so the tour came to a glorious end: the Eventim Apollo, or as so many still call it, the Hammersmith Odeon or Hammy O, filled with a snowstorm of falling confetti. Crowded with fans - many travelling from afar from the event, travel rules permitting - and watched by many more around the world through a livestream event, Marillion completed their Light At The End Of The Tunnel UK tour.

Steve Rothery, guitar, Marillion
Mark Kelly and Steve Rothery, Marillion, Hammersmith

 With a setlist that spanned the band's repertoire (you'll find all the setlists on setlist.fm including the one for Saturday at the Hammy O), you could see the happiness in the band members faces at being back on stage, back on the road. Happiness is the road, right? A wonderful light show complements the music and delights the audience. The livestream captured the show in a way that I haven't seen any other livestream do - and I've watched and listened to a few since Covid broke our world. Saturday was a superb evening.

Steve Hogarth, vocals, Marillion
Steve Hogarth (Mr H), Marillion, Hammersmith

 As bands start touring again, there are still risks that Covid will get in the way. It's nigh on impossible to obtain tour insurance in the UK right now: so many tours have had to be cancelled due to a member testing positive for Covid, or dates rescheduled. Marillion got around this in a very creative way: they launched a campaign called Lightsavers where the tour was underwritten by fans who contributed various amounts of money to help pay the costs if anything happened to stop the tour. The money wasn't needed: Saturday night proved that it can happen, with the band in a tight bubble throughout. It can't have been easy - but it did work. (The pledged money from Lightsavers has already been returned to the donors!) Is this the way to insure tours for the future, without the big-money insurance companies and bankers? That's yet to be seen.

Pete Trewavas, bass, Marillion
Pete Trewavas, Marillion, Hammersmith

 So what's next? The new album, An Hour Before It's Dark, is scheduled for release early next year (one song played live for the first time during this tour, Be Hard On Yourself - click to listen to it). (The album is already recorded - just waiting for the manufacturing world to get its supply chain act together again.) Then there are the Marillion Weekends in Lodz, Poland; Stockholm, Sweden; Leicester, England; Lisbon, Portugal; Montreal, Canada next year, and then Port Zelande, the Netherlands, in 2023. Videos are available through The Space, Marillion's official video-on-demand service. And if you haven't done so yet, catch up on their entire musical portfolio. There's even a crash course for newbies!

Ian Mosley, drums, Marillion
Ian Mosley, Marillion, Hammersmith

 I was lucky enough to see and photograph four events on this tour: at Hull City Hall, Cambridge Corn Exchange, and both Friday and Saturday nights at the Hammersmith Odeon. Can't wait till the next time.

Marillion, Hammersmith, London
Marillion and the pretty lights, Hammersmith, London

 All Alison Toon Photographer photos from Marillion's Light At The End Of The Tunnel tour: Hull, Cambridge, London.

 All Marillion photos: Marillion photo galleries.

 Prints and downloads are available by permission of the band.

Marillion, Hammersmith, London
Marillion, Hammersmith, London, 2021


Wednesday, December 1, 2021

On tour and in Norwich tonight - Tigercub


Hot off a tour with Royal Blood and riding on top reviews from their release As Blue As Indigo earlier this year, Tigercub have just begun their first headlining tour in four years - including a date in Norwich, at the Waterfront, tonight and culminating on December 14th at the Lafayette in London. There may still be a ticket available - check them out - it's going to be a fun show!

Here's their latest single, “I.W.G.F.U.”:

... and an example of Tigercub's live show:

Tigercub tour dates this December:

01: Norwich, England -  The Waterfront
02: Leeds, England - Brudenell
03: Sheffield, England - The Leadmill
04: Glasgow, Scotland - King Tut's Wah Wah Hut
05: Newcastle, England - The Think Tank
06: Birmingham, England - Dead Wax
07: Nottingham, England - Bodega Social Club
08: Manchester, England - The Deaf Institute
10: Cardiff, Wales - Clwb Ifor Bach
11: Southampton, England - The Joiners 
12: Exeter, Devon, England - The Cavern 
14: London, England - Lafayette

Monday, November 22, 2021

Marillion, Cambridge Corn Exchange: The Light At The End Of The Tunnel tour 2021

Steve Hogarth, vocals, Marillion
Marillion, Cambridge Corn Exchange, 2021

Another wonderful show on the Marillion "Light At The End Of The Tunnel" tour. Beautiful lighting too!

Full photo gallery here: Marillion in Cambridge, 2021
More Marillion dates from this tour: Marillion Light At The End Of The Tunnel UK Tour 2021 

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

There is light at the end of the tunnel! Marillion at Hull City Hall, 14 November

Marillion, Hull, UK
Marillion, Hull City Hall, 14 November 2021

Marillion opened their Light At The End Of The Tunnel tour on Sunday night at Hull City Hall. The happiness in performing live after more than 700 days was palpable - both from the band, and from the fans who had travelled from near and far for this first event of the tour - and for the first live playing of the new song, Be Hard on Yourself, from the upcoming studio album An Hour Before It's Dark.

Energetic, beautiful, inspiring performance from the band. A joyful event; people together in music after so very long in the dark.

Steve Hogarth, vocals, Marillion
Steve Hogarth, Marillion

Without sharing the setlist here - many who follow the band want to be surprised as the tour unfolds - it's a journey of memorable, favourite songs from the band's extensive catalog. All met by standing ovations, again and again.  

Steve Rothery, guitar, Marillion
Steve Rothery, Marillion

The tour - underwritten by fans through the Lightsavers campaign, a groundbreaking replacement for impossible-to-obtain tour insurance - continues until 27th November. There are a very few tickets left: catch one of these shows if you can, it's a wonderful experience and there are fans around the world who have contributed to making it happen, even knowing they cannot be here in the UK themselves.

Mark Kelly, keyboards, Marillion
Mark Kelly, Marillion

Ian Mosley, drums, Marillion
Ian Mosley and Mark Kelly, Marillion

Happy and moving music. A celebration of the return to live performance. There really is a light at the end of the tunnel that we've all been struggling through for the past two years. 

Be Hard on Yourself's debut performance met by great appreciation from the audience; huge new song and now the anticipation for the new album grows. An Hour Before It's Dark will be released early in 2022: look out for updates here. And if you haven't already, place a pre-order to receive the album as soon as it's released. There are some cool bundles!

Pete Trewavas, bass, Marillion
Pete Trewavas, Marillion

It's a new day for us all - a couple of very small bloopers during the show made the event so very human.  People in the audience not knowing quite how to greet longtime friends, hugs or no hugs? Elbow bumps, fist bumps, waves and cheers and smiles; photographer-me no longer used to the weight of the kit when moving around the venue and rusty at just-about everything. 

(Just to be silly, I clocked my activity on my sports watch: over a mile inside the venue, up and down, and that was taking it easy - yes, wearing a mask after climbing from the stalls to the top of the gallery felt tough, but it's part of the photo-ninja kit these days - and part of our responsibility, surely, to keeping everyone as safe as possible.) 

Marillion, Hull, UK
Audience celebrating Marillion's return to live shows, Hull

Full photo gallery from the show in Hull here: Marillion Hull 2021 

More Marillion photos: Marillion photo galleries

Further shows from the Light At The End Of The Tunnel Tour will appear here

Friday, October 8, 2021

The Covid Effect: How do you insure your tour/festival? Marillion solved it.

Marillion with Friends from the Orchestra, Southend Cliffs Pavilion
Marillion and Friends from the Orchestra, Southend, UK, 2019

If you've experienced the frustration of paying for a ticket to a concert or festival since the pandemic began - and then had it cancelled, or postponed, you've probably lost money. Unrefundable tickets aside, there's hotel bookings, travel plans, days off work that you weren't able to readjust, etc. etc. etc. From a fan's perspective it's upsetting - especially if it's for a band you've hoped to see live for years, and have no clue if you'll get the chance again. But it isn't likely to bankrupt you.

Imagine the costs involved for the musicians and their management. Upfront costs booking/reserving venues, lighting equipment and sound engineers, and everything involved in the logistics. It all costs a fortune to set up - with a lot of expenses that must be paid before the performers sell a single ticket or play a single concert. And if a show is cancelled, it's not just refunded tickets and logistical costs that must still be paid, but also loss of the all-important merch sales that make up so much of musician's income since streaming decimated the value of their music revenue. 

In the past, touring bands and festivals have been able to arrange insurance just-in-case something happens - it was a low risk for insurance companies to underwrite. Then COVID. And now, with the world gradually starting to open up again, it's difficult, unimaginabley expensive, or even totally impossible, to obtain this essential insurance.

Bands are touring; bands are taking all precautions - full vaccination, "bubbles" for the band, no meet-and-greets - but we're seeing tours affected by the virus on a daily basis. Musicians or their touring team testing positive and having to miss a few dates (Korn, Corey Taylor, From Ashes to New, Genesis - the list goes on) before returning to their scheduled dates. Festivals have been rewriting their lineups with great flexibility (Aftershock, Louder Than Life). Entire tours cancelled or delayed due to other health reasons where the pandemic has played a part, or simply because the time doesn't feel right or the risk of cancellation is too great (My Chemical Romance, Ministry, Faith No More). How can musicans survive financially if they must take on the entire burden of the cost of touring without insurance?

Marillion - crowdsourcing pioneers - and their manager Lucy Jordache came up with a solution. Their Light as the End of the Tunnel tour kicks off in November, but was impossible to insure. This week, they launched the aptly-named Lightsavers campaign: fans pledge money and act as a crowd-insurance fund, indemnifying the losses if the concerts are affected by COVID. The money is going into escrow: if all goes as expected and the tour rocks around the UK without a problem, then the fans receive their pledges back. If the money is needed to pay unavoidable costs due to a COVID issue, then Marillion uses the pledge account to pay.

All pledgers receive something in return (in addition to feeling good about helping the band out and making sure the tour goes ahead). Depending on the pledge amount there are gifts ranging from seeing your name in a tour program to a personal meeting with the band through Zoom. 

Guess what? The highest-price pledges sold out within hours. And within 24 hours, the band were well on their way to raising their target amount. It seems to be working, incredibly well.

Marillion with Friends from the Orchestra, Royal Albert Hall, London
Marillion at the Royal Albert Hall, London, 2019

Is this the tour insurance model for the future? Marillion have an incredibly loyal and global fan base, some of whom have pledged to the Lightsavers fund without a hope of travelling to the UK for this tour. It is going to work for this band. Whether it's a sustainable long-term model, and one that can be adopted by other musicians or festival organizers - or rather, if it really should be how bands must procure insurance from now on - has yet to be seen.

Maybe it's time to displace the New Kings of banking and insurance. Maybe this is one step in the right direction.

Full details of the Lightsavers campaign - and how to participate: Marillion Lightsavers

Marillion tour dates: Marillion Light at the End of the Tunnel tour

Marillion photo galleries: http://www.alisontoon.com/-/galleries/music/marillion

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Cromer Pier Show is back - and it rocks!!!

Cromer Pier Show summer 2021
Les Miserables, Cromer Pier Show

 Now open and performing throughout the summer until the beginning of October, Cromer's famous and unique end-of-the-pier variety show is back! New cast, new acts, new production, and a lovely new lighting rig and large screen too - the show opens with a video montage look back over the past eighteen months and the return to the stage. It's been a long time coming.

Phil Butler and Max Fulham, Cromer Pier Show
Host Phil Butler and ventriloquist Max Fulham

Compere and host Phil Butler brings comedy, magic, and artistry to his fifth season on the pier. Rubik's cubes, playing-card-mind-reading, and painting with sand plus making us laugh? Yes, you have to see it!

Max Fulham, ventriloquist, Cromer Pier Show
Max Fulham and Grandad

In a slight change to previous years' summer shows, this time there's a new special guest each week - so if you're in Cromer for a two week holiday go to the show twice to see the different acts! Last night's special guest - ventriloquist Max Fulham and his monkey, grandad (fully clothed and cover-my-eyes, in a red Speedo), pedal bin, and fly were exceptional. Funny, clever, and so talented. Look out for Max (and all his friends) - they will be going far.

Duo Fusion UK, cirque, aerial and acrobatic, Cromer Pier Show
Duo Fusion UK

For the first time at Cromer Pier, Duo Fusion UK: an aerial and acrobatic show of flexibility, strength, agility, beauty, and - ultimately - trust. Suspended above the stage performing moves that would have graced the Olympics gymnastics floor, with no net, Connor and Tiffany made us all hold our breaths. Incredible!

Reiss Thomson, dancer, Cromer Pier Show

Cromer Pier Show summer 2021
Cromer Pier Show dancers

The dance that's a big part of the Cromer Pier Show is beautifully choreographed throughout. Such a big show fits onto the end of a pier in the North Sea is always intriguing to me. The Irish dance set was stunning; nothing like any other Irish dance I've ever seen, this was dark with a touch of menace and totally brilliant. 

Rob McVeigh, lead vocalist, Cromer Pier Show
Marina Lawrence-Mahrra and Rob McVeigh in a scene from Mary Poppins

This season's lead vocalists are Marina Lawrence-Mahrra and Rob McVeigh who together with the show's dancers Chris, Emily, Georgie, Luke, and Reiss and the rest of the cast take us on a musical adventure, with the first half of the show being scenes and songs from Mary Poppins and the finale, after two hours of wonderful family entertainment, from Les Miserables.

Rob McVeigh, lead vocalist, Cromer Pier Show
Rob McVeigh and the ensemble, Les Miserables

Marina Lawrence-Mahrra, lead vocalist, with Emily Hardy and Georgie Cox, Cromer Pier Show

Each part of the show is a gem. As a whole, it's the crown jewels - and what shines throughout is the comeraderie and friendship and hard work of the performers. Performing arts - perhaps more than any other profession - have had to overcome enormous challenges since the beginning of the pandemic, just to be able to come back now that the world has started to open up again. We as the audience have missed them - now's the chance to take back the theatre, take back the concerts, support the performers - and just get out and have fun. That's exactly what you'll do at Cromer Pier Show!

Cromer Pier Show summer 2021

All Alison Toon Photographer photos from this summer's show: Cromer Pier Show summer 2021

Previous Cromer Pier Shows: Cromer Pier Shows

Book your tickets here: https://www.cromerpier.co.uk/cromer-pier-show/the-cromer-pier-show-2021/


Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Old Buckenham Airshow 2021

Union Jack Typhoon diving
Typhoon, Old Buckenham Airshow 2021

 This past weekend, July 31st and August 1st, saw the return of the Old Buckenham Airshow. Pilots making their planes dance against a background of spectacular clouds and breakthrough blue skies. Click on the links for the full photogalleries or go here to see them all.

Little and Large Extra Duo
Little and Large, Old Buckenham Airshow 2021

A wonderful, family-friendly sold-out-in-advance event, close to Norwich, England. With acts ranging from the huge Sally-B Flying Fortress - the only 'Fortress regularly seen in Europe - and a zooming, Union Jack Typhoon jet to stunt aerobatics from the Matadors (the guys who fly through hangars), Fireflies with lovely synchro, to a reenactment of the last dogfight of WWII (it involved spotter planes and a service pistol).

The Red Sparrows
The Red Sparrows, Old Buckenham Airshow 2021

Matadors Aerobatic Team
Matadors, Old Buckenham Airshow 2021

There were the Turbulent Team planes chasing balloons and limbo-dancing a few feet from the ground, and a stunning display of synchronised flying by Little and Large - a full-sized plane flown by the human pilot, and a scale model flown remotely.

Beechcraft Staggerwing
Staggerwing, Old Buckenham Airshow 2021

 Spitfires and a Hurricane and a lovely, plum-coloured Staggerwing. A here-comes-the-baddie Messerschmitt. An American AT-6. Even the Red Sparrows!!! (Yes, you heard that right.) Many more... brilliant day out!

Boeing B-17
Sally-B Flying Fortress, Old Buckenham Airshow 2021

Old Buckenham airfield was built as the wartime home of the US Airforce 453rd Bombardment Group and there's a museum on site (which I must go back to explore). Today it operates as an airfield and training school and an event venue for just about anything you need space for

As always, any errors in naming these planes are mine - please send any corrections!

Many more photos from this, and other, airshows here on the airshow gallery page

California Capital Airshow stories here and here.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Live music is back!!! The Legends Festival, Cromer

CROMER, UK: 17 and 18 July 2021, people having fun at the Legends Festival, Cromer Hall, Norfolk, England.
People having fun at the Legends Festival, Cromer, 2021

 The return of live music - after many, many months without it - is something to celebrate. My last festival was Aftershock 2019, last concert Insomnium in January 2020 and I know everyone has similar stories to tell. So this weekend's Legends Festival at Cromer Hall, Cromer, Norfolk was a delight. Well organized, lots of space, a natural festival setting with a gentle slope allowing everyone to see the stage. Everyone brought seats, picnic blankets, even tables laden with food for all the family. Some of the photos taken with the long zoom look like everyone was close together - not so, we sat, stood, and danced in groups with lots of room between. So happy for people to be together again, enjoying the music, and having loads of fun - that's really the point of festivals, right? 

Birthday parties, hen parties, and general happiness. People of all ages from tiny kids suitably equipped with ear protectors right through to seniors rocking out to the music of Queen, the Beatles, and ABBA. The festival is all tribute bands; singalong, dance-along music.

Day one began with Cloneplay, a Coldplay tribute - one of those bands where, unless you're a major fan, you don't always remember all the many hits that they had, until you hear them again - at least, that's how it is for me. Of course! Yellow! and then of course! the next and the next and the next.


Then Wildboys were scheduled to play but had to drop out due to someone testing positive for Covid - that's going to happen these days - but the festival organizers brought in the Amazing 80's at short notice, and they really, really shone. Non-stop high energy hits from all of the 80s, from synthpop and new age to two-tone and hairbands. 

Amazing 80s

And the icing on the cake: UK Queen, with vocals and sound so very reminiscent of the real thing. Made me want to hear UK Queen and Queen Nation play a tribute show together. 

Alexander Koronka, vocals, UK Queen

Day two kicked off with Jimmy Love as Elton John. He really looked like Elton while making the songs his own. 

Jimmy Love as Elton John

Next: The Upbeat Beatles - so very cool. Paul McCartney with those eyebrows and playing Hofner bass left-handed? Check. George looking occasionally morose but playing beautiful guitar? Yep! John over on stage left with his famous glasses and sound? Right! And Ringo rocking the drums? Of course! Complete with a video history of Beatlemania they took us through the days of the Beatles, from rock'n'roll in the Cavern, the Sergeant Pepper days, through to the band's breakup. I'd absolutely go see Upbeat Beatles again.

The Upbeat Beatles

Final act of this year's festival: ABBA Mania. All the ABBA hits, all the moves, all the on-stage relationships between the band members.

ABBA Mania

It was a very memorable weekend and I'm already looking forward to next year's. The grounds at Cromer Hall are such a natural place for all sorts of festivals - not just tribute bands - I wonder if we can persuade them to hold more. A local Danny Wimmer Presents festival would be a joy! Cromer has lots of holiday accomondation, there's local camping, and the access to parking was easy - at least with this past weekend's dry and sunny weather. We couldn't have ordered a better two days of sunshine - it was just right. 

Live music is back, and it's so good.

Photo galleries:

CROMER, UK: 17 and 18 July 2021, people having fun at the Legends Festival, Cromer Hall, Norfolk, England.