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