The Rising Souls – Electric Circus 21 Feb 15

After years of gigging, last night was, embarrassingly, my first ever visit to Edinburgh’s Electric Circus.

Excuses, I have none, albeit perhaps that my musical junkets in Scotland have predominantly been in Glasgow,
save a smattering of Edinburgh gigs over the last few years.
Electric Circus is a quirky little place, the low slung ceiling giving it that very intimate feel as soon as you wander in. Through the front door and handily the bar is straight ahead. Seating to the right and off left just about 10 metres in front is the small stage.
As we arrived around 1945, Megan D, had kicked off the evenings entertainment (which had been put together by @JuliahMusic to raise money for Radio Forth’s Cash For Kids) warming up the already ample crowd. Following a short set, Ross Arthur and his guitar ran through a few numbers of his own. Fair play to the lad, not many would have the confidence  to cover Jessie J’s Price Tag for the waiting crowd. He pulled it off too, leaving to a well deserved cheer and round of applause.
As The Rising Souls took to the stage we stood up from the comfort of the leather lounge sofa’s we had somehow managed to acquire at the back of the room. The opening five chords of album opener “Don’t Say You Love Me” reminds me somewhat of The Doors Five To One.
Only though until ‘that’ voice grabbed the attention of my eardrums. Sounding far older than his years,
you’d be forgiven for thinking that around 60 Bensons a day were part of his regime. This is the gruff and yet sweet soulful sound of lead singer Dave Archibald. I wasn’t the only one immediately transfixed to the stage.
Three songs in and my personal favourite The Boxer had everyone mesmerised.
Three band members, somehow making the small selection of instruments sounding like so much more.
 To Dave’s right on bass is Kelso.. imagine what what Russell Brand might look like if he got his plentiful locks chopped a bit shorter. Side left, sitting on a box (sorry music peeps…. it’s a cajon don’t you know) was Tom, who hopefully won’t be offended if I say I thought there was a bit of a Scroobius Pip vibe being rocked. Well cool!
The evenings set was executed to perfection. More than one person told me they’d listen to this all night and I found it hard to disagree. Finding the balance between up tempo foot stomping, and laid back grooves seemed to be carried out absolutely seamlessly and with ease.
So what exactly do these guys sound like?
Well, I’d heard the first album the band made as a four piece and it definitely emanated quite a rock vibe. Perhaps with lead singer having the whole Mark Rankin denim jacket going on, I remember thinking a refined GUN, for those old enough…. But wait!
STOP PRESS
The four piece rather rock sounding Rising Souls came back as a three piece with musical direction taking a very, very interesting turn.
The voice contains the same passion and soul as I remember yet there is a definite more bluesy feel to the music.
More than a couple of times I’m sure I hear something a little Doorsey coming into the sound.
But what inspired the change of direction I wondered. It’s always interesting to see bands changing genre, particularly when the result is as satisfactory as this one. The edginess of Dave’s vocals, I thought was perfectly suited to the rock sound but mixed with the bluesy feel just seems… well, so right.
I asked Dave after the gig about the change of direction, which seemed like a natural progression, following a few acoustic sessions he and Kelso had done together, following the release of the first album.
Listening to the likes of Otis reading, Ella Fitzgerald and Sam Cooke he explained that writing music inspired by them is what had become the most natural thing to do.
What happened though is that the rock undercurrents still eminate and the result is something quite rather spectacular.
Opening lines of The Boxer sum this up perfectly for me….
I am a firecracker, I”m going to melt you down.
I’m not a lover, I’m a fighter whose in doubt..
Put on those boxing gloves and I will knock you down.
But the count to 10 aint long enough so throw that towel now.
Man you talk a pretty good game now but it aint so good
When your lying seeing double…..
Like most in attendance last night I could not disagree. This was a group of young men looking very comfortable, natural and thoroughly in love with what they were doing.
As the band name says, these boys have soul.. Watch them rise!Rising Souls

Little Fire album launch – Oran Mor Glasgow 05 Dec 14

Everyone loves a celebration!
And whilst Christmas celebrations may have started for some, the Oran Mor played host to a very special birthday celebration on Friday night.
But it was really only very briefly a birthday celebration when the crowd that had gathered, burst into song to wish the evenings main event many happy returns.
Little Fire was two songs into the evenings set which celebrated the launch of his debut album High Hopes.
So, it was no surprise then, that the audience and Little Fire were all in the mood for a party.
Support acts  Katie Hitchen and Rebecca Herd set the mood perfectly with their sweet, melodic vocals leaving the stage set for Little Fire and his soulful, love filled, awesomely cool run through of album tracks, crowd requests and a few other gems.
He loves to sing, which shows in spates, both in the emotion expressed in his lyrics and his regular positive interactions with his fans.
‘How’s everyone doing?’ he smiled as telling everyone that ‘Singing is the just the best feeling ever.’
Title track of the album High Hopes sums this young man up. He’s full of positive energy, full of gratitude for those who have helped him along the way, he holds his head as high as his hopes and a nicer guy you could not meet. Oh, and he can sing a fair bit too. I overheard him being compared as the Lionel Richie of Ayrshire by a member of the audience and like everyone in attendance, I wish him as much success as the old commodore.
Whilst Little Fire took his bow, I picked up my own copy of his album and left  the Oran Mor, getting a little emotional myself as I listened on the journey home.
Thoughtful, warming, soulful and positively uplifting throughout, whilst an all rounded relaxing feel leaves us in no doubt.
Little Fire.. Surely a big flame of the future!
Check him out here… http://littlefiremusic.com

Summer Solstice 2014

I’ve always loved these words of George Bernard Shaw. “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” The 21st Jun this year was Summer solstice. It also happened to be the date that 50000 fans descended upon Leicester’s Victoria Park to watch local band Kasabian. It was a massive homecoming gig to celebrate their 10 year anniversary. Most people know Summer solstice as the longest day of the year. “Solstice” literally means stopping, or standing still of the sun. The point in time when the sun is at it’s highest point. And so Saturday proved in more than just in regards to the big ball of fire in the sky. The occasion was as an appropriate reminder that although time can occasionally appear to stand still, the world keeps turning and in doing so changes. Much like people. We are constantly changing and growing, as we embrace new challenges in our lives. Chapters in our lives come to an end, and as quickly, new ones begin. That great big circle of life continues.

Last month, I’d been one of the lucky punters that managed to get a ticket to see Prince perform at Glasgow’s Hydro. What a venue, what an artist and what a performance! In the run up to the gig, I was touched by some of the comments made by Prince in defence of his no photos and no video veto across the entire tour. “Come along and enjoy the show. How can you truly enjoy the show and be in the moment if you are recording or taking pictures on your phone.” Those may not have been his exact words, but it’s what I heard. Around then, it struck me that it had been two years since I wrote my first music related article on my website. An article which proved to mark the beginning of a new chapter in my life. It was a piece about a metaphysical diner created by Tim Burgess of The Charlatans. A piece that would earn me the role of Tim’s very first writer in residence at Kendal Calling festival later that year. And, a piece that opened the door to many wonderful experiences and opportunities, of which I grabbed as many as I possibly could. Band interviews, free entry to gigs, exclusive single reviews, advice and opportunities from fellow poets, singer songwriters and bands. Pretty much a dream come true really. During those two years I’ve released my first book of poetry too. I also set myself the target of writing my first novel. Good times!

It might have easily been 10PM at Victoria Park Leicester on Summer Solstice, when my wife Karen said to me “Why have you still got your sunglasses on?” Hidden in that comment (unlike the usual hammer like bluntness of my dearly beloved) during the longest day of 2014 was a conundrum, perhaps one, only I would see. I thought, maybe, just maybe, there’s more to this solstice malarky than meets the eye!

In 1989, as a starry eyed 17 year old, I set foot in Glasgow’s Barrowland Ballroom for my very first gig. For me it was The Four of Us (Irish indie rockers) and GUN (Scottish rock band and future local legends) supporting headliners Roachford, hot on the heels of Cuddly Toy’s success. Everyone I know that loves their music treasures the memory of their first gig like parents treasure a child’s first steps. As you steadily enter the world of music and gigs, never really knowing the highs and lows they hold for you.

Back at Vick-eh Park Leicester during Summer Solstice, as Kasabian triumphantly left the stage and the fan led chorus’s of Lost Souls Forever (La, la la, la la la la la, laaaaaa) faded into the night, I realised I’m celebrating my very own milestone. Yes, the 25th anniversary of my first ever gig. A quarter of a century old love affair with live music. Who else is in this boat? That’s longer than married life, longer than most friendships have lasted, longer than the kids have been around, and most certainly longer than the time spent in a single job. Longer than any period lived in a single location, longer than even the most beloved item of clothing has lasted definitely longer than any single hair do has lasted! A few other things have changed as well. The one that trouble found has turned peacemaker, the over indulger has become sensible and responsible, the crowd surfer has turned dad dancer. No longer at the front swigging enthusiastically from the lead singers offered 1.5l bottle of JD. Gone are the days of not remembering the details of a gig and thinking that made it even more special. Chest bumping, mosh pitting, mud bathing, friend losing and much much more are all in the past. But happy to have experienced all of it, happy to be able to look back and happier still to move forward. Hundreds of gigs have come and gone, some more memorable than others. And of course we have our favourites. But the most important thing of all is that the love of music remains.

So, it is with a nod and a cheeky wee wink, that, to those who uphold the time-aged traditions of rock n roll, I salute you. To previous, current and the next generations of music makers and gig goers I say simply this
“Enjoy YOUR solstice…for when you’ve experienced your highest point in the Sky sun, (or daughter) you will know when the time is right to stand still and when the time is right to move on.

[youtube id=”t-l91O9VxN0″ width=”600″ height=”350″]

Embrace Come Back to What They Know – King Tuts Glasgow 12 Feb

Embrace’s first gig back in nearly eight years took place on Wednesday night.
As they took to the stage, arms aloft, lead singer Danny McNamara told the crowd
“First gig back in nearly eight years, where do we want to go first? We want to go to fucking Glasgow don’t we.”
And then, (not that the King Tut’s crowd needed any more encouragement) the roar inside Scotland’s finest small venue would have easily filled places 5 times the size.
They were off and running as new track Protection opened proceedings.
It’s dark mysterious beginning, rather in keeping with the mood of new single Refugees, gave way to Blue Monday esque drum machine beats being dropped on the crowd. A new direction for the band known for their anthemic sing along tunes? Perhaps only time would tell.
Second new track In the End is more up beat and reminiscent of the Embrace everyone remembers. As it closes, just in case any of the crowd were wondering, Danny chipped in,
“It’s fucking good to be back.”
Comeback single Refugees with Richard McNamara on lead vocals was given its first live treatment and received a tremendous King Tuts reaction, before red glow sticks ( a neat little touch the band had added to great effect, building atmosphere at one of their now infamous ‘secret’ gigs) were introduced for another new, slower number, again well received.
In traditional King Tuts style, the small space directly in front of the stage was packed full of the Glasgow faithful, known for their banter and ability to let the band in attendance know exactly what they are thinking.
As the opening chords of Ashes sprung to life, the low black walls and ceilings might have been mistaken for sweating themselves.
By this point, it was clear the band were not only relaxing into the task at hand but also starting to realise just how much they had missed the feeling they were so clearly enjoying.
Veciferous Scottish chants of “T in the Park” “Come on” “ya Beauty” amongst others were met with equal response from the band who were all well and truly strapped into the emotional roller coaster they’d been missing for so many years.
As the tempo shifted from song to song, each member of the band had on show, emotional displays ranging from sheer exuberance to that of thoughtfulness and contemplation.
Before ‘Gravity’, Danny caressed the microphone and closed his eyes briefly in a moment where a picture said more than a thousand words could. Likewise were the glances of sibling re-assurance that he frequently shared with brother Richard.
For a band who’ve been away so long, it was alway going to be an emotional return..particularly in a city world famous for the emotion and passion they put into everything they do.
The band showed there’s a new direction.. It’s not a million miles out of kilter from that which everyone previously knew but clearly they have been inspired to add enough of a smattering of experimentation combined with raw emotions to cement the new sound.
Set closer “Thief” Summed the night up nicely.
With its haunting intro, before the tempo was upped and some hefty reverberation on the keys gave way to crashing huge beats… Then another final twist of sheering, sawing guitar and the sudden closing thuds of the drum machine left the Glasgow crowd shouting for more.
Eight years out has revitalised the band, who appeared invigorated and inspired. What we have is a darker sound, but Embrace are emphatically Back!

Oh… They still have a sense of humour though.
“It’s like riding a bike” Danny told the crowd as they came back for an encore.
“What shall we play” he asked
The reaction was unanimous as King Tuts burst into its own chorus of Come Back to What you Know.
“Ah” he said “we’ve not rehearsed that, “We may fuck it up”
They didn’t, they rocked it, and as everyone left King Tuts, it was more than the odours of Glasgow sweat and beer that lingered…
Glasgow reeked of an emotional, triumphant return. A comeback? Yes, but to much more than what they or we knew.

20140215-115350.jpg

Celtic Connections – A Concert for Alliance – Glasgow Royal Concert Hall 20 Jan 14

As part of this years Celtic Connections, Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall played host to a concert for Alliance this evening.
Some of Scotland’s finest musicians, both young and a little less young had come out to support a number of charities including Age Scotland, Sense Scotland, Carers Trust, Quarriers and Unity.
A celebration of all caring in Scotland, it was all about Letters life and Love.

Host for the evening Cathy McDonald spoke of how humbled she had been whilst reading some of the stories that carers from across Scotland had shared. And although the night was a celebration, bringing together some fine musical talent, it was evident to see just how much the cause meant to everyone. And of course, what would a concert celebrating caring be without carers.
In numbers, carers from Ayrshire, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Dundee, Skye, Shetland and Orkney but to name a few places from across Scotland came and made their presence felt. After all, this concert was for them.

The music started with Little Fire. Hailing from Ayrshire, his acoustic melodies were just the ticket to kick start the night. Keep an eye out for his debut album later this year. Such a packed line up meant only time for two or three songs for each act and next up was the hypnotic voice of the mesmerisingly talented Siobhan Wilson. Simply put, her first track The Terrible Woman was acoustic bliss.
The guys from Kassidy followed, a sound, which rightly or wrongly reminded me of The Beach Boys meets kings of Leon with John McEnroe on bass. (Check them out, you might see what I mean) Their guitar sound and energetic drumming provided a really good groove. They gave way to Horse MacDonald, who started by sharing a story about caring that was very close to her heart. She told of the gift she had given to her own mother when she was dying… then duly shred the song “Carefully” with the audience. A very emotional rendition reminded everyone just why they were there.
Scottish favourites Hue and Cry then took to the stage and closed the first half of the evening performing Labour of love, Violently and the song they encouraged us all to make the opening song of the 2014 Commonwealth Games… Mother Glasgow.
Following the interval, Joe Nisbet Jr kicked things off with a few songs from his new album that took 4 days to record but he reckoned had been 30 years in the making. His blend of easy bluesy sound and sing along toe tapping had everyone back into the swing of things.
Next, Emma Pollack performed three numbers with the Cairn string Quartet including Don’t make me wait.
Tommy Reilly started off by fooling the light technicians by taking his seat at the piano for his opener, Out There Somewhere. Just Woken up on acoustic guitar was next. A super cool sound from a super cool guy.
Admiral Fallow then shared a couple of songs about friends, family, self evaluation – real life really, including Beatle in the Box.
And so Eddi Reader took to the stage, donning apparel we have come to know and associate with her so well. As had many before her on this beautiful evening she shared a few stories of caring, of ownership and of the love that makes the Scots such magnificent people. She closed with a fantastic rendition of Mona Lisa, delivered in the true style of that cigarette yielding Scottish Auntie that everyone knows and loves so well.
Finally, the whole gang of artist were then reunited on stage for one last song. And, as if anyone needed any reminding what the evening was all about, the closing number summed it all up perfectly. Lean on Me!
And who better than Tommy Whitlelaw, the man who organised the evenings event, to give the closing words.
Asked to be introduced simply as carer and son, Tommy told the audience his mothers life had been a love story.
And that the night had felt like a love story too.
I doubt anyone in the audience would disagree!

#icarewecare