Monthly Archives: October 2015

Ghost and Purson – The Warfield, San Francisco – 23/10/15

 

Papa Emeritus III of Ghost

Papa Emeritus III of Ghost

While both my previous visits to California have included live music events – Warped Tour in San Francsico in 2006 and Alice Cooper and Marylin Manson in Los Angeles in 2013 – seeing Swedish doom metallers Ghost at The Warfield on Market Street (with support from Purson) is the most comparable to gigs and shows I’ve attended more regularly in the UK.

This comparability is mostly down to the fact that the show took place in an old theatre venue, reminiscent of the Shepherds Bush Empire or Brixton Academy. The Warfield’s vintage neo-classical style was particularly appropriate for this night’s headliners, but before them came support band, psychedelic rockers Purson.

As soon as the band fired into their set the most striking thing was the voice of Rosalie Cunningham. Her vocal style, along with her flares, screamed 1970s rock and that’s what we got for half an hour or so. 

Purson

Purson

At their heaviest the British band had hints of Black Sabbath while it was clear a large part of their influence came from a slightly lighter, more melodic place, with thick layers of organ and fuzz drenched guitars all coming from vintage amplifiers accompanying Cunningham’s impressive pipes.

While the five-piece didn’t do much that was new or innovative they did what they did well and got a good reaction from those who had arrived early, despite some issues with front of house sound – but they weren’t to be the only ones to suffer from that problem.

Ghost are a band with a reputation that precedes them – from the anti-Pope image of frontman Papa Emeritus III to the myths that surround the band’s members and history – but until tonight I was largely unfamiliar with their music.

From my arrival, queuing outside the venue it was clear Ghost are a band who inspire a dedicated following as, amongst the standard metal uniforms, many were bedecked in a kind of Ghost cosplay with facepaint, mitres, wimples and more. 

Ghost

Ghost

As the five masked Nameless Ghouls made their appearance, following an extended but appropriate intro tape of pseudo-religious chanting, the audience was electric and on their feet all around the venue – even up to the back of the balcony from which we were viewing the show.

Bedecked in full anti-Pope regalia with robes, mitre and corpse paint, Papa Emeritus was a charismatic and engaging presence for the near two hours the band spent on stage. The first chunk of the set was entirely based on the religious imagery aping as, while the Ghouls did a sterling if understated musical performance, Emeritus preached from behind his microphone, complete with swinging censer (at times), and the crowd ate it up.

After a brief instrumental interlude Emeritus reappeared without the religious affectations, in a suit but still with the face paint, and for the rest of the show was a more directly engaging presence chatting to the crowd and playing the more conventional metal frontman. 

Papa Emeritus III

Papa Emeritus III

During this Emeritus came across as genuinely funny at times though there were moments where he was guilty of over explaining things and almost pleading the crowd to mosh, though seeing the design of the venue’s lower level I don’t think a huge amount of moshing was ever likely.

Along with this Nameless Ghouls began throwing more conventional shapes and poses, though they remained masked and silent at all times.

Mixing material from new album Meliora with older the material the set seemed to represent their whole career, even including a well delivered acoustic number, before rounding off with a cover of Roky Erickson’s If You Have Ghost. This had the feel of being the band’s theme song and was certainly one of my highlights of the night before encore Monstrance Clock which left the crowd calling for more but seemed to send them off into the night satisfied.

While both Ghost and Purson both put in great performances, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the sound was, at points, near unlistenable as the high frequency tones coming from the stage cut through everything else so much there were times the bass sounds got entirely lost in the mix.

On top of this Ghost’s lighting designer seemed intent on blinding at least the balcony with front facing floodlights making some parts of the show very hard to watch.

Despite this I came away wanting to explore both bands further and generally impressed by Ghost for being far more than the seemingly one diensional most media coverage I’d seen would suggest.

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Rammstein In Amerika

Rammstein in AmerikaAs bands who work to their own rules but go on to major mainstream recognition go, Rammstein are certainly up there. Nowhere is this more evident than in this, their new concert film and documentary package, Rammstein In Amerika.

The first disc of the set is a conventional concert film of their 2010 performance at New York’s Madison Square Garden. From the start, where the musicians break through a wall onto the stage and frontman Till Lindemann appears in a red leather butcher’s apron and red feather boa, with the only light on stage emanating from his mouth, they tear through their ‘theme song’ Rammlied.

For the next hour and forty minutes we get exactly what you’d expect from the ‘Teutonic titans’ but, if possible, cranked up even further. The band are resplendent, looking like East German steel workers going to a bondage event, with the occasional extra added facial flamethrower or pair of giant flaming angel wings.

The music draws fairly strongly on then new album Liebe Ist Fur Alle Da, alongside the usual range of fan favourites. Rammstein are often criticised for being all about the pyrotechnics and ‘show’, but in this film at least, the songs sound great and Lindemann’s delivery is clearly immensely passionate – even though I have little idea what he’s singing about.

Till Lindemann

Till Lindemann

Despite their intentional lack of inter-band communication on stage and at times stoic delivery, there is a clear sense of fun in the band’s work as well. From the over the top costumes and stage effects to almost slapstick moments between Lindemann and keyboard player ‘Flake’ Lorenz (culminating in Flake’s traditional dinghy crowdsurf) the intense industrial metal is tempered well in performance.

The band’s performance and show combined with some excellent filming and editing, capturing the whole thing in a genuinely vital fashion, make this a real complete package of a concert film, certainly making it feel like a complete product rather than just an interim ‘cash-in’ between ‘proper’ releases as these kind of things often do.

The second disc of the set is highlighted by the titular documentary film. Going right back to the band’s orgins, including some great footage from the late 1980s of the members various previous projects, the first part offers a great insight into what it must have been like making the transition to the (supposed) new freedom of a unified Germany.

Engel

‘Engel’

Across two hours the documentary (which is largely in German) traces Rammstein’s association with the USA from early, pre-band, holiday visits, to their first New York gigs up to the MSG show with all that came between.

While at times it feels a bit ‘standard’ in execution, the stories and interviews with the band really bring it to life and offer an insight into their history I’d not heard before.

Along side this we get interviews with contemporary US musicians, music journalists and music industry types who add context to the scene Rammstein became associated with and some of the issues they faced in the so-called (but evidently not so) ‘Land of the Free’.

While a new album seems to finally be in the works, Rammstein In Amerika is a great package capturing the band at their powerful, over the top best, while giving some background to just exactly what they are all about in a far more open way than I’ve heard in the past while being entertaining throughout with it.

Warning: Trailer is a little NSFW

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Arguments Yard: My Autobiography by Attila The Stockbroker

Arguments Yard by Attila The StockbrokerThe lives of many punks from the late 70s and 80s have been rendered in text in recent years with varying results, I have in the past particularly enjoyed John Lydon’s first autobiography, but none I have read thus far have quite left me with the same feeling as this one.

Attila The Stockbroker, aka John Baine, has been something of a punk journeyman, starting out as a bass player before taking on mandolin, mandola (specifically one called Nelson), fiddle, medieval recorders and it seems anything else that comes his way. But it was his brand of ‘ranting’ performance poetry that made his name.

As well as the stories of gigs and tours, from Harlow in Essex to New Zealand, Canada and pretty much all over Europe, what really stands out in Attila’s story is how everything is related to his strong political beliefs and how these associate with his work.

From the start its clear (even if you didn’t know before, though chances are if you’re reading Arguments Yard you do) that Attila’s politics are, to say the least, to the left of things – I won’t go into detail as I know I’ll just get the specifics wrong. This informed a lot of the choices of gigs and tours he made and leads to us getting a very interesting insight into a side of the world in the 1980s the mainstream media tends not to discuss very much.

Particularly fascinating in this are the chapters on his tours of East Germany (and other Eastern Bloc countries), which paint a far more balanced picture than I’d ever heard. Certainly it wasn’t all wine and roses, and in some places things seem particularly bleak, but there is also a strong streak of free discussion and creativity evident – at least in East Germany.

Attila (seated) with fellow ranter Seething Wells

Attila (seated) with fellow ranter Seething Wells in the mid 1980s

What this serves to show, along with his discussion of his role in miners strike protests, is the level of truth Attila seems to imbue all his work with – again if you’re familiar with his oeuvre this won’t come as a surprise but its impressive to read none-the-less.

More fascinating stories are told of Attila’s formative years on the punk circuit delivering his left-wing message in the face of the National Front and the British Movement, far right organisations that had a worryingly large following in the early 1980s (and sadly seem to be raising their ugly, likely shaved, heads again today – boneheads though, not skinheads).

Much like the East German passages, these shed a new light (for me) on a period I’d only really ever heard one side of.

All these stories could be rather heavy going, but, in the deft words of Attila, they are engaging and absorbing throughout – even when he’s talking about football!

Having seen Attila perform a few times (and I’m proud to say having supported him once as my musical alter-ego) its clear he writes very much as he speaks. Throughout his voice came across, making it almost like having the audio book playing in your head, or Attila there telling you these stories first hand.

Dropped in at appropriate times across the book are some of Attila’s poems and the lyrics to some of his songs that help in telling the stories and setting the scene. Many of these are out of print elsewhere and are no longer performed making Arguments Yard the only place you can easily find them and again, through Attila’s writing style, they really leap off the page if his voice is kept in mind while reading.

Attila The Stockbroker on stage with Barnstormer

Attila on stage with Barnstormer at Vale Earth Fair 2014

The final third of the book deals with much more personal matters but again these are rendered in fascinating and truly open style, and still run through with a (mostly) more relaxed string of gigs and tours. This all culminates in Attila’s most personal and emotionally effecting work, in many ways his masterpiece, The Long Goodbye.

As a fan of Attila already, and sharing some (if not all) of his political ideals – I think it was Fat Mike from NoFX who said if you agree with everything someone else says it’s deeply suspicious – I very much enjoyed Arguments Yard, but I think for anyone with an interest in punk rock, performance poetry, and life in Britain and Europe in the last half century there is a lot to enjoy, all told through the unique, honest and powerful voice of a true ranter.

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Love & Mercy

love and mercy posterThe Beach Boys are a band that have always been a part of my pop music landscape. With their songs of sun, surf and teenage Californian life as a youngster living at the beach this all seemed to click. Then later Good Vibrations was clearly a pop anomaly that stood alongside the work of The Beatles in their psychedelic era – and of course what music fans hasn’t heard of the critically acclaimed Pet Sounds album.

The story behind all of this however was something new to me; there were familiar names and urban legends – who was Dr. Landy? Did Brian Wilson really spend two years in bed? How did a sandpit fit into proceedings? – so going into Love & Mercy I was intrigued to find out just what did happen and why did it take the best part of 40 years for the album SMiLE to get completed?

Bill Pohlad’s film opens with a montage ending on a brief shot of a man (Wilson) in bed before sending us back to the mid-1960s, when The Beach Boys were at the height of their powers, and 20 years later, when Wilson was a recluse under the guardianship of Dr. Landy.

Brian Wilson - Love and Mercy

Wilson with the film’s Beach Boys

Throughout Pohlad cuts between these settings telling parallel stories of the beginning of Wilson’s troubles and his the start of his eventual return.

The crossing between the two eras is very well handled and, throughout, makes perfect sense in telling its story showing many aspects of Wilson.

From a troubled youth with an abusive father (which amazingly left him all but deaf in one ear) to a troubled, creative genius in the studio in one era and a reclusive, over medicated shut in to someone taking the first steps in rediscovering themselves and the world in the other all revolving around this image of him in bed.

The 60s set scenes do a great job of evoking their era with real attention to detail, particularly in the studio session scenes, including the use of 60s era cameras and film stock, along with what look to be genuine props of the time and of course the band’s music that defined a certain portion of it.

Paul Dano as Brian Wilson

Dano in the studio as Wilson

Paul Dano is uncanny as the young Brian Wilson and does an expert job in getting across the internal strife he is undergoing, coming across variously, awkward, relatable and, as it goes on, seemingly entirely lost in his own mind.

Certainly there are parts here that condense time and come across as fictionalised for the purpose of the movie, though at no point does it feel as if the meaning and spirit is not true. As these sequences reach their crescendo Dano’s portrayal of the conflict between paranoia and creativity in Wilson is genuinely affecting.

For the 1980s sequences Love & Mercy brings out the star power with John Cusack taking on Wilson, Paul Giamatti in excellent form as Dr. Eugene Landy and Elizabeth Banks as Melinda Ledbetter.

John Cusack as Brian Wilson

Cusack as Wilson

While not as physically similar to Wilson as Dano, Cusack still portrays him excellently with another affecting performance that shows both the troubled paranoid young man (albeit in an older body) and the drug dependent shell of himself Landy created in a supposed attempt to cure the former Beach Boy.

Giamatti is genuinely scary but believable as Landy, portraying him as an almost cult leader-ish figure controlling every aspect of Wilson’s life which, going by accounts of the time, is entirely accurate. While Banks is our route into this story that, if it weren’t known to be true, would be almost unbelievable and really does need a civilian route in for the uninitiated.

Of course a big part of this film is the music and the studio session scenes are particularly impressive at recreating the essence of what it must have been like in the studio. Elsewhere it seems composer Atticus Ross has taken The Beach Boys and Wilson’s music and used it to create a score that entirely fits the mental state of the film’s protagonist.

Paul Giamatti as Dr Eugene Landy

Giamatti as Dr Landy

Though untraditional in structure Love & Mercy uses this to tell a story unconventional even by the at times weird and wonderful world of the music industry. In doing so it is succesful both in terms of telling a true life story that is compelling for a music fan while being genuinely moving and, at times, troubling on an emotional level for any viewer – a combined feat which is undeniably impressive.

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Zardoz

Zardoz posterThe period of American movie making between the late 1960s and mid-1970s was a strange time. With the so-called death of the studio system and the birth of the ‘New Hollywood’, films were made that never would have been before. In this we got the early brutality and potential criminal glorifying Bonnie And Clyde, the gritty drama of Taxi Driver and, ultimately, the surreal sci-fi that is John Boorman’s Zardoz.

Following Boorman’s acclaimed, Academy Award winning, Deliverance the director was given somewhat of a carte blanche by 20th Century Fox. What emerged was a kind of post-apocalyptic vision-cum-parable drawing on pretty much all dystopian literature that came before it.

From the opening monologue of Arthur Frayn (Niall Buggy), aka Zardoz, telling us that this is a story of a story and a parable its clear that this isn’t going to be entirely straightforward. That though seems to be part of the point, while the film does have a message and clearly many meanings can be drawn from it, it seems the best way to deal with it is to let it wash over and around you and take from it what you want.

Sean Connery and Charlotte Rampling - Zardoz

Sean Connery and Charlotte Rampling

The plot revolves around Zed (Sean Connery) a ‘Brutal’ hunter from the barbarian wastelands of 23rd century Earth who finds his way into the ‘Vortex’ – world of the immortal, psychic, ‘Eternals’, who represent a future peak of humanity.

From there the film explores the notion of immortality and a kind of ‘perfection’ in human society with, for me, one message at least being that there is no such thing as perfection. Beyond this it becomes thematically even more abstract as Connery’s hunter goes on to become a beacon of rebellious hopeful destruction for the Eternals who are bored with immortality, leading to a fairly shocking dénouement that really is unlike any I’ve seen in a generally positive film – a kind of bleak positivity, if you will.

Probably the most well-known thing about Zardoz is Sean Connery’s costume, amounting to little more than a red pair of trunks for the majority of the film, but when seen in context they lose something of their sense of ridiculousness (as much as they ever could). The overall production design and look of the film very much fits in with the aesthetic seen in other films of the time, notably Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange and Ken Russell’s Tommy – Zardoz just takes it a level further, as ‘space opera’ tends to do.

Zardoz

Zardoz

Special effects wise it also stands up remarkably well for 1973, certainly a sign that, despite its reputation, this wasn’t a low-budget b-movie. Again, while hugely surreal in places elements like the giant flying heads and humans being grown in sealed bags all still look as convincing as they ever could without modern photo realistic cgi – but what would a photo real giant flying stone head actually look like?

With Connery playing it surprisingly straight and the whole film having that same tone despite its evident surreal nature, Zardoz belies its reputation somewhat and, while clearly a flight of self-indulgent fancy in many ways and being far from ‘a good film’, it is also not quite the abomination that is often suggested and, in my mind, could work as a companion to David Lynch’s Dune in baffling sci-fi with more money than sense.

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The Martian

the martian posterDirector Ridley Scott and science fiction have a long association, from breakthrough Alien and Blade Runner in his earlier days to Prometheus and its upcoming sequels he has (arguably) a fairly good track record in the style. So, it was with some anticipation that I headed into his slightly more factually styled new sci-fi movie, The Martian.

The film, based on the book of the same name by Andy Weir, is the story of astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) accidentally marooned on Mars and of his subsequent attempts to survive and the mission to rescue him – which all sounds like it might be pretty heavy going.

Thankfully as soon as Watney fires up his video diary its clear this isn’t all going to be serious and worthy. Throughout the film a surprising streak of humour remains intact, which, if anything, makes the whole thing feel all the more real (despite it being about a man stuck on mars).

Matt Damon in The Martian

Matt Damon as Mark Watney

Damon is alone on-screen for a fair chunk of the film and his performance is flawless. Despite the humour at no point did it over step the mark and he created a perfectly balanced delivery with genuine moments of jubilation and despair along the way.

Away from Watney on Mars we get the efforts of NASA and their associates on Earth to rescue their lost man. Again these keep the streak of humour going despite the serious story and there are more solid performances to be had.

Sean Bean is a surprisingly cast flight director, but brings a human element to proceedings to counterpoint Jeff Daniels’ NASA boss. Many have referred to Daniels as the films ‘bad guy’ and, while he is the man with the tough decisions to make, and he doesn’t always make the ethically best ones, I never felt he was really a ‘bad guy’ as such.

The Martian landscape

The Martian landscape

As the film goes on tension is ratcheted up more and more building to an expertly staged attempted rescue sequence that genuinely left me unsure which way it was going to go – quite a feat in mainstream cinema.

Aside from the general tense adventure side of things there was a mild undercurrent of a vaguely political message running through the films second half. While an interesting idea this never really felt properly explored so was just a bit of a strange addition that gave the movie a nice positive send off message, but little else.

That’s a minor quibble though as for the rest Scott delivered possibly his best and most consistent work since his 1980s heyday with great performances from all involved and some very impressive, but all not typical blockbuster ‘spectacle’ style special effects that made the whole thing feel real. Added to that at no point in films more than two hours did I feel the need to check the time as I was immersed in the story and world so expertly rendered on the screen.

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The Electric Shakes, Gay Army and Ray & The Guns – The Fermain Tavern – 03/10/15

The Electric Shakes

The Electric Shakes

Rock ‘n’ roll and garage was out in full force last weekend as Thee Jenerators delivered a stripped back, chaotic and powerful performance at the De La Rue on Friday followed, on Saturday, by the return to the island of Bournemouth’s The Electric Shakes at The Fermain Tavern.

The night started out with Ray & The Guns kicking off their set with a spirited take on Imelda May’s Psycho. Now without a trumpet player it gives some of the songs a bit of a different feel, but one that for the most part, works well and brings out their rock ‘n’ roll vibe much more, especially as they segued into Vince Taylor’s Brand New Cadillac.

After a storming outing at The Vault in August, here the five-piece were a bit less energetic, though that may be down to opening the show to an interested but not as enthusiastic audience. As the set went on the energy picked up a bit, with a particular highlight being their take on Please Don’t Touch (previously made famous by Motorhead & Girlschool and originally by Johnny Kidd & The Pirates).

Ray and the Guns

Rosie and Nick of Ray and the Guns

As always Nick Dodd was understatedly excellent on guitar and his playing, described by one gig goer as having the style of “stoner rockabilly”, was a highlight and linchpin of the band’s sound, while Rosie Allsopp’s punkier streak added a nice vocal counterpoint Rachael Cumberland-Dodd’s more traditional style.

Much like the aforementioned show at The Vault, also on the bill here were the recently revived Gay Army. Once again frontman Rolls Reilly was all over the stage and dancefloor, and doing his best to get the crowd engaged, but it just seemed to have the effect of keeping them back in the shadows – though they seemed content to stay there anyway.

While as tight as they ever are Gay Army’s performance lacked something of the intensity their style of post-punk/indie requires and it left things feeling a bit weak and at times reminiscent of the less inspiring bits of U2’s oeuvre.

Gay Army

Gay Army

This in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but for a band renowned for their dangerous, edgy performances it was something of a disappointment.

Later in the set Cut The Wire did start to show more of Gay Army’s usual style but it was too little too late and, while a technically solid performance, it didn’t reach the heights of the two other outings since their revival.

Following well-received shows both at The Tav and on the main stage at Chaos earlier in the year, The Electric Shakes have been on something of a roll with great outings on their visits to Guernsey thus far.

The Electric Shakes

The Electric Shakes

If there’s one word to describe their performance here though, the only one I could go with is ‘LOUD!’

Unfortunately a side effect of the sheer force of volume was that it all became a bit muddy which drained the songs of some of their power.

Despite that the three-piece gave it their all on stage with bass player Eric being a particularly energetic standout.

While the dancefloor was busy most seemed content to stand and watch with only a handful getting moving and much of the rest of the venue emptying out.

As the set went on we got treated to a lot of new material alongside songs from the band’s self-titled debut record and it certainly seemed that the new numbers have the same kind of retro-rock ‘n’ roll appeal as the more familiar tracks.

The Electric Shakes

The Electric Shakes

Highlights of the set were Stereotypical Girls and The Doctor and the new song debuted in the encore that had great bouncy ‘pogo’ potential but unfortunately in the face of a wall of ear-splitting volume few got moving to it.

While again well received and well delivered I could only feel that, much like with Gay Army, something of the power and energy I’ve enjoyed of The Electric Shakes in the past got lost in translation somewhere on this occasion.

You can see more of my photos of the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page here.

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The Rocky Horror Show Live – 17/09/15

rocky horror live posterIn mid-September 2015 The Rocky Horror Show was mid run at The Playhouse theatre in London.

Having been a fan of the show since I first saw the movie in my teens I was hugely excited when I found out there was a live screening of the show happening at Guernsey’s Princess Royal Centre for the Performing Arts.

Despite not having any suitable fancy dress I went along with a couple of friends and we had a great time along with the others who’d come along making for a not full, but busy enough, theatre.

My review of the show was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 3rd October and you can read an extended edition below the clipping.

Rocky Horror Show Live review scan - 03:10:15

Extended review

Richard O'Brien

Richard O’Brien

42 years into its life (and believe me, it is a life) Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show continues to go from strength to strength and this was very much in evidence as many fans, along with a few ‘virgins’, headed into the auditorium at the Princess Royal Centre for the Performing Arts for a special live screening of the latest incarnation of the show from the Playhouse Theatre in London’s West End.

This was my first live stream screening and it was a bit strange going in to a theatre for not quite a live stage show, but not quite a film.

With a few members of the audience in costume (though none seemed to have been brave enough to dress as Frank N. Furter) and all with a sense of general enthusiasm, there was a good atmosphere from the start, as we were welcomed by ‘Bake Offs’ Mel Geidroyc’ on the screen and given a bit of an intro to just what the show is.

Added to this was a brief interview with O’Brien explaining that this was a special charity event for Amnesty International with a host of guest star narrators (a part usually currently filled by the creator themself).

David Bedella

David Bedella

The show itself was ingeniously staged with a lot of manual prop and scenery work all brilliantly melded into the run of the show with high-tech ‘west end’ stage wizardry also present but not distracting from the performances as often seems to happen with some of the bigger shows.

With such a well-loved and well-known show (particularly thanks to its film version) anyone stepping into the roles of Brad, Janet, Frank, Riff, Magenta, Colombia, et al would have their work cut out but all did a great job. For the most part they stayed away from totally aping the movie bringing something of their own to the performance while keeping enough of what made previous versions of the show so popular.

Particularly impressive was David Bedella as Frank N. Furter who combined aspects of Tim Curry’s iconic performance with an extra knowing level and a bit more of the ‘serious actor in a b-movie’ style intended by O’Brien. On top of this, appearances by Stephen Fry, Adrian Edmonson, Anthony Head and (somewhat bizarrely) Emma Bunton as the narrator (or Criminologist) added something extra, with Fry in particular being a stand out and playing up the audience’s ‘partici….pation’ (sorry I couldn’t resist).

Ben Forster and Haley Flaherty

Ben Forster and Haley Flaherty

Audience participation is a big part of the Rocky Horror experience and, while the Guernsey crowd was a little on the quiet side, those in the theatre in London were more than game and added an extra level of laughs to the original script with what has become a series of traditional, often lewd, heckles.

The actors played along with these excellently and lead to a few moments of corpse-ing that the actors took in their stride and were enjoyed by all on and off stage.

In seeing the show live the climax took on something of a bigger meaning as the ‘floor show’ descends into chaos and Bedella delivered a particularly impressive, at points even moving, rendition of Frank’s torch song I’m Going Home.

Dominic Andersen

Dominic Andersen

For the curtain call Time Warp and Sweet Transvestite were reprised and at this point the Guernsey audience joined their London compatriots in the ‘Transylvanian folk dance’ and, while it felt slightly odd clapping a screen, it felt like part of the whole experience.

And a great experience it was, for both the initiated and the virgins Rocky Horror Show Live was the perfect mix of fun, great performances and some cracking ‘teenaged, three-chord, rock ‘n’ roll’ all in the name of a good cause.

P.S.

A week later I took the chance of a free night in London to go and see the show ‘in the flesh’ and was not disappointed. The cast delivered a performance with the same energy and enthusiasm that made it feel that they loved this show as much as the audience, many of whom were in costume, even in the dress circle.

O’Brien was particularly impressive as the narrator throughout playing off the crowd with a dry style.

Kristian Lavercombe and Bedella

Kristian Lavercombe and Bedella

The whole show had the feeling of being somewhere between a stage musical and a rock ‘n’ roll concert with every character and song receiving wild applause and appreciation while the audience participation took on something of a life of its own with the cast revelling in this somewhat unconventional West End musical that seemed to allow the performers the chance to cut loose much more than others might.

While seeing a screening was great, I would recommend anyone who likes a fun show packed with positivity to catch this live when it tours and if you’ve not seen it, track it down, either live or as the film as its message is one I think everyone could do with hearing and living by.

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The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing – Not Your Typical Victorians

Not Your Typical Victorians album coverOn paper The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing could easily be perceived as something of a novelty. Combining the now somewhat hipster associated style of steampunk (though this four-piece is far from hipster) with songs about Victorian inventors, aristocrats and life in general and delivered while wearing suitably pseudo-Victorian costumes and featuring a man playing the saw.

On third album, Not Your Typical Victorians, they manage, for the most part, to transcend novelty and have created a dark, brooding, extreme metal tinged, steampunk record that not only has its literal basis in Victorian themes and iconography, but could also be seen as a reflection of today – oh! and despite all this it’s still fun as well.

After their now traditional introduction that gives a feel of travelling back in time (with at least two former Doctors included) the opening title track is very much what we’ve come to expect from the awkwardly abbreviated TMTWNBBFN – thrashy punk music and back and forth call and response vocals from frontman Andy Heintz and guitarist Andrew O’Neill.

The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For NothingFrom there though A Clean Sweep (child labour), Turned Out Nice Again (pollution), Miner (horrific working conditions down the mines), Third Class Coffin (class divisions) and How I Became An Orphan (general conditions of working class life), take things in a much more serious direction dealing with the sort of issues Dickens tried to highlight in his work.

But, as you can see, most of these have links with current society in one way or another – though whether this current political side is the intent of the band I’m not sure but its something that has been laced through their previous albums (to a lesser extent) as well.

Within all of this is a blackly comic nod and a wink (not surprising considering O’Neill’s other career) makes tales of sweeps dying up chimneys and freak shows the likes of which housed The Elephant Man, Joseph Merrick (The Worst Sideshow Ever) genuinely funny as well as being good songs and far more digestible than they might otherwise be if they were delivered entirely seriously.

Album boxset

Album boxset – complete with chocolate and gin

Musically the album develops TMTWNBBFN’s sound with O’Neill’s extreme metal influences particularly coming to the fore. Alongside punk-metal sounds that have been their consistent stock in trade thus far, there are accomplished black and death metal moments coming from O’Neill’s guitar as Heintz and O’Neill’s vocals at times head into more extreme areas as well.

Steampunk has never been a genre with a consistent sound but certainly here it goes into heavier places than I’ve heard from any other bands in the past.

With Not Your Typical Victorians The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing have taken quite a step forward in terms of being a serious musical act, but keeping what made their past records so enjoyable intact while managing to neatly sidestep novelty pigeonholing by being entirely their own thing and true to that. In that regard, while musically entirely different, they stand alongside another steampunk favourite of mine, The Crowman – well, that and songs about drink.

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