LIVE: RATS – The Invisible Wind Factory, Liverpool

When I got in on Friday night, I turned on the TV, and there was a programme on BBC 4 titled ‘Whatever Happened to Rock and Roll’.  Well Lauren Laverne and Eric Burdon, if you’d spent the last few hours at Liverpool’s Invisible Wind Factory, courtesy of This Feeling, then you’d know it’s alive and well and kicking-in doors.

First, a few words about the venue.  It’s an old converted warehouse on the docks, it’s a big space, and beautifully designed.  The interior is adorned with dangling lines of coloured lights and industrial, metallic sculptures.  There are rows of shooting steps along the walls, and a number of raised areas dotted around, so even the littlest of gig-goers can have a decent view.  Tonight’s capacity is around 1100 and it’s sold out.

Due to the vagaries of Liverpool venue gig times, I arrive at 7:30, just in time to miss the first band, Sonder.  Judging by the crowd reaction as they leave the stage, they went down well. 

Next up are STONE, a group that has risen from the ashes of former Liverpool band The Bohos.  Opening songs Keep Running and Bank Robbers give the crowd a taste of what they are in for.  Energetic, garage punk-rock with a bit of added spoken word rant and lyrics filled with social realism; The Stooges meet The Streets.  A little of the energy is lost as the band’s guitarist breaks his strap early on and has to to sit on the drum podium for a couple of songs until a replacement can be found.  Lead singer Finn Power makes up for it with his lectures delivered while standing on the monitors, and a judicious use of a steely 1000-yard stare.  They bring a neat set to a close with Leave It Out

Last support of the night are one of Liverpool’s fastest improving bands, The Kairos.  I’ve seen this band three times in the last few months and they just keep getting better and better.  They enter the stage to Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life and launch into previous single Money Mind, a stinging indie rebuke of gold-digger attitudes.  Punters move away from the bars and a mosh pit develops.  If you need a reference point for The Kairos sound, you can’t stray too far away from Oasis with a hint of Arctic Monkeys.  Fast paced indie guitar music that’s heavy on melody and riffs.  There are a couple of new songs, one by guitarist Lewis Chambers, before the set builds to a climax with new single Teetotal.  Teetotal is an anthem to coming of age and newfound freedom.  It’s a proper earworm.  You wake in the money hearing the chorus ‘and I feel it coming over, feel it coming over’ delivered in a Liam Gallagher type drawl.  A winning set finishes with lead singer Tom Dempsey standing centre stage holding his mic stand triumphantly aloft.  Job done.

Coloured spotlights circle the venue and Donna Summer’s I Feel Love pumps out to build the anticipation brilliantly as the four members of RATS take the stage in front of a packed-out crowd.  They keep the upbeat vibe by launching into the buoyant Figure It Out.  Singer Joe Maddocks asks the crowd to ‘help us out with the words’.  They dutifully assist by belting out the chorus, ‘She’s been out all night, Sipping on her white wine’.  The place is bouncing.  There are a couple of new songs The Daily Grind and The Hills; the latter is a beautiful song with a lovely melody.  There’s a couple of mistakes in there but no-one cares.  New Single Dreams gets an airing, this is clearly going to be their festival anthem.  In days gone-by you’d have your lighter out.  Tonight, the Invisible Wind Factory is sea of smartphone lights.

‘This one’s for all the mountain bike riders out there’ is Maddocks introduction to Jack, a well-constructed song that starts off with a jaunty melody and descends into cacophony of riffage.  We follow poor Jack through his own descent from zero hours contract through to drug dealing, jail and homelessness.  I was pleased to see that despite not having Skinnyman’s rap, this song loses none of its potency when heard live.  A scorching set of punchy, indie sing-along songs is brought to a close with the joyous Weekend.  As guitarist Michael Duncalf ends the song with a string of notes Eddie Van Halen would be proud off, red ribbons stream down on the elated crowd from the venues roof.  There’s no encore and Joe Maddocks leaves the stage with the parting words ‘Peace and love to all the ladies and men and everyone in-between.  We’ve been RATS.’.  They certainly had been.                 

As I left The Invisible Wind Factory, the weather on Liverpool docks was filthy.  A perfect metaphor for the evening of dirty rock and roll I had just witnessed.

You should have been there Lauren.

Ian Dunphy.                    

Photo Credit: TBC

Theatre: Crongton Knights – Theatre Royal York – 25-29th February

The world premiere adaptation of Alex Wheatle’s award-winning novel Crongton Knights comes to York Theatre Royal from 25 to 29 February.

Life isn’t easy on the Crongton Estate and for McKay and his mates it’s all about keeping their heads down but when a friend finds herself in trouble, they set out on a mission that goes further than any of them imagined. Crongton Knights takes on a night of madcap adventure as McKay and his friends ‘The Magnificent Six’ encounter the dangers and triumphs of a mission gone awry.

In the adaptation by Emteaz Hussain, the pulse of the city is alive on stage with a soundscape of beatboxing and vocals laid down by the cast and created by acclaimed musician Conrad Murray.

Author Alex Wheatle said: “I am very proud that Pilot Theatre are adapting my novel, Crongton Knights, for the stage. It’s a modern quest story where on their journey, the young diverse lead characters have to confront debt, poverty, blackmail, loss, fear, the trauma of a flight from a foreign land and the omnipresent threat of gangland violence.

“The dialogue I created for this award-winning novel deserves a platform and I for one can’t wait to see the characters that have lived in my head for a number of years, leap out of my mind and onto a stage near you.” Playwright Emteaz Hussain said: “On my first reading of Crongton Knights, I immediately recognised the intricate, multicultural, working class world that Alex Wheatle had vividly created. The unflinching brutality tempered by bighearted grace and the dignity afforded to the characters that I related to.

“I loved how these disparate young people struggled to bond in order to overcome such insurmountable obstacles in their young lives, and I jumped at the chance to adapt this for stage.”

Crongton Knight’s cast will feature Kate Donnachie (Sirens, Edinburgh Fringe ) as Bushkid; Zak Douglas (National Youth Theatre); Simi Egbejumi-David (Shit-Faced Shakespeare Romeo and Juliet, Magnificent Bastard Production and Around the World in 80 Days, Kenny Wax Family Entertainment & Simon Friend) as Festus; Nigar Yeva (Give Me, Soho Theatre) as Saira; Olisa Odele (Ola in Chewing Gum, E4 and PC Merrick in Scarborough, BBC) as McKay; Aimee Powell (Freeman, Strictly Arts and Over The Too, Belgrade Theatre) as Venetia; Khai Shaw (The Lion King, West End, Little Baby Jesus, Orange Tree Theatre ) as Jonah and Marcel White (Freeman, Strictly Arts) as Nesta.

Crongton Knights is the second of four co-productions between Pilot Theatre, Derby Theatre, Belgrade Theatre Coventry and York Theatre Royal who last year formed – with the Mercury Theatre Colchester – a new partnership to develop theatre for younger audiences.

The consortium is commissioning and co-producing an original mid-scale production each year. Each production will play in all the consortium venues as well as touring nationally.  The consortium’s first production, Noughts & Crosses, was seen by over 30,000 people on tour with 40 per cent of the audience being aged under 20.

Crongton Knights is the second of four co-productions between Pilot Theatre, Derby Theatre, Belgrade Theatre Coventry and York Theatre Royal who last year formed – with the Mercury Theatre Colchester – a new partnership to develop theatre for younger audiences.

The consortium is commissioning and co-producing an original mid-scale production each year. Each production will play in all the consortium venues as well as touring nationally.  The consortium’s first production, Noughts & Crosses, was seen by over 30,000 people on tour with 40 per cent of the audience being aged under 20.

LISTINGS INFORMATION

Crongton Nights- York Theatre Royal
25 – 29 Feb
Evenings 7.30pm / Matinees Thurs 2pm and Sat 2.30pm
Age guide 11+
Tickets from £15 (limited availability)
Box office 01904 623568 / yorktheatreroyal.co.uk

LIVE: The Sherlocks – O2 Academy, Sheffield

It’s been a long time since The Sherlocks played their last headline show in Sheffield but on Friday night, it felt like they’d never been away with a sold out show at the O2 Academy.

In 2019, the Sheffield four-piece secured their second Top 20 record with Under Your Sky, the long-awaited follow up to Live For The Moment but unfortunately, they were forced to reschedule their winter tour which meant some of that momentum was lost (or so we thought).

You’d have thought when the Crooks and the Davidsons walked out on stage to the best track on their latest record Magic Man, it was as if they were halfway through, or ending their tour, rather than kicking it off. They seemed energised, more mature than their last Sheffield show over two years ago, and from the first minute, sounded and looked like the real deal.

Playing a host of tracks from their debut record, Escapade, Blue and Last Night all hit the right marks in the crowd. They were interspersed with lead single from the new record, NYC and Dreams one of my personal favourites, before Kiaran announced a real surprise, a brand new track being played for the first time, titled Wake Up.

It shouldn’t have been, considering this was still the Under Your Sky album tour, but this new song, was by far the set highlight. When putting the tracks from the first two albums together in one set, there is a distinct shift in sound, Wake Up straddles them two perfectly; blending the indie-rock from album one with the more mature sound from the second. Outstanding.

There was no stopping though and Kiaran was on real form signalled by the confidence to sing a Stone Roses cover and a classy ode to Tyson Fury. With the release of the new album, the band now have a nice set of slower tracks, One Day and I Want It All, namely but it’s Nobody Knows, Live For The Moment and Heart of Gold that get the newly bucket-hat laden, sold out crowd really bouncing.

It’s a superb set and whilst not the band’s biggest ever show, signals just how far they’ve come since I first saw them at Ku Bar in Stockton in 2014! Every track an anthem, every lyric sung loud by the Sheffield crowd. This was a night I am absolutely sure the four lads from Bolton-Upon-Dearne will never forget. Time for the rest of the country to Wake Up now, to what’s going on up here.

Adam G

Photo Credit: TBC

REVIEW: Over The Moor – Glass Violet

Band: Glass Violet
Track: Over The Moor
Time: 4:36 minutes
For fans of: Killers, Kasabian, Catfish & The Bottlemen
H2N Rating 81/100

Last month, Bristol based band Glass Violet released their second single Over The Moor, the eagerly anticipated follow up to 2019’s Chemicals.

The four piece (Alex John, Tom Hurdiss, Matt West, Josh Walsh and Declan Pollard) formed in 2018 and since then have been slow to release music, but have built their name on the live circuit across the south of England. Since the release of their debut single Chemicals last year, I’ve been looking forward to their follow up and I’m delighted to say, the lads have delivered far beyond what was expected.

In the most simple form of journalism, Over The Moor is an indie masterclass. If you’re a fan of Kasabian, Foals, Killers, all of the above then this is absolutely made for your ears. From the off, the track kicks in with layered guitars over a crashing drum beat before the song drops into a huge synth-guitar soundscape The Killers would be extremely proud of. But that’s where the comparisons stop, this track is superb in its own right, and is a track that belongs on the main stages of festivals globally.

Have you seen the people move, oh dancing to this certain groove. Walk along in single file, resent the things that make you smile”

The energy is clear from the start; the intention of a band that wants to make this year and decade their own is clear for all to see. I love the vocals, they’re subtle but powerful at the same time. The symbiosis between the music and lyrics on this track is something I haven’t heard from a new band in some time; it’s complex yet simple, and is a song I could listen to over and over.

Each verse and chorus flow really well and the final section of the track is quite stunning. To draw a final comparison, the track feels like it belongs on Kasabian’s last record but it has a certain, 2020 spin on it. Over The Moor bends rock genres whilst remaining wholly current and it’s that variation of influences that makes it a really listenable track. The vocals are charming, the guitars are mesmerising and the drums carry this track right through to the end in some style. I’d love to see Glass Violet grow and improve this sound in 2020 and if this is just the start, there’s an extremely exciting year or so ahead for the Bristol band.

Adam G

H2N Ranking Score
Originality: 15/20
Lyrics: 15/20
Complexity: 16/20
Catchiness: 16/20
Stadium Filler Rating: 19/20

REVIEW: Enemies – Skylights

Band: Skylights
Track: Enemies
Time: 4:11 minutes
For fans of: The Ramones, The Stone Roses, Oasis
H2N Rating 72/100

What a year it’s looking like it’s going to be for York’s Skylights. With a Shed Seven support in Halifax announced, sold out shows in Yorkshire and festivals lined-up nationwide during the summer, the four lads from Acomb have come a long way since releasing YRA!

The lads would say it’s down to luck, knowing vocalist Rob Scaz, last time we spoke he said plainly, we’re just four lads having a bit of fun, it’s mental what’s happening right now. But I don’t think it’s just luck, with 2019 releases, Britannia and Lifeline, Skylights have changed and improved their sound and with their ever-present social media graft, they’ve been proactive in finding an audience and it’s reaped huge rewards already for them.

Their new track Enemies is another big step away from the sound many know them for. 18 months ago, Skylights looked like being the next big Yorkshire based Britpop band, but with Enemies and previous release Britannia they’ve taken a step back into the late 80s rather than late 90s and have a much more punk-based sound; think The Who or The Ramones, rather than the Gallaghers or Blur.

“Dream those dreams don’t let ’em go.”

Now they haven’t completely lost their Oasis-britpop twang. The guitars courtesy of Turnbull Smith are clearly heavily influenced by that era but it’s refreshing that Skylights haven’t just become a carbon-copy of 90s bands and have tried to create a sound influenced by the era, but made for 2020. The more you listen to it, the more genres and styles you hear; unlike other Skylights tracks Smith’s guitars aren’t overpowering and you hear the full range of talent on show across the band; especially during the Roses-esque instrumental section.

The song is about dreaming dreams whilst saying f**k you to those who doubt you during school years and even after that. What the guys in Skylights are doing is exactly that. They had no expectations when starting this band, even releasing Enemies I doubt they expected they’d get the chance to play it live on Soccer AM…Their connection with Leeds United has helped and they’re becoming house band down at Elland Road. All the signs are good for Skylights and I bet right now those dreams they have, are as real as they’ve ever been.

Adam G

H2N Ranking Score
Originality: 14/20
Lyrics: 13/20
Complexity: 13/20
Catchiness: 15/20
Stadium Filler Rating: 17/20

STAGE: The Three Musketeers – Theatre Royal, York

Written in 1844, The Three Musketeers is a 700 page epic novel that tells teh story of d’Artagnan who leaves home to join, hopefully, the Musketeers of the Guard in Paris. Since being published, the story has been world renowned on stage, with an epic run on Broadway from 1928 the pick of the shows. Largely performed with mass casts and, as John Nicholson (Writer & Director) says in the programme, a focus on the first half of the book this adaptation of the classic aimed to cover the entirety in just 2 hours and 30 minutes.

Le Navet Bette are a theatre company beginning to really make waves on the UK theatre scene. The award-winning creators of smash hit shows Dracula: The Bloody Truth and Dick Tracy chose The Three Musketeers as their next show due to the fact it had a wealth of material to put a comic spin on and it gave them a challenge of performing over 30 characters worth of lines between just the four of them.

The show opens with the four of them on stage, introducing themselves to the warm York crowd. From there, it’s a raucous 150 minutes of fun with multiple costume changes, belly laughs and clever word play and acting to make for an enjoyable show. John Nicholson said that “the play began life with a two week process developing a framing device and (importantly) tackling the logistical question of how to tell this epic tale with just a cast of four.” It was certainly a challenge and for 75% of the show, it worked a treat. The four have such a chemistry, this kind of show wouldn’t work with people who had been thrown together as a troupe, but at times the show did move a little quick for the audience and some of the key bits of the story were missed.

The set design did however lend itself wonderfully to the acting and the telling of the story and if anything, was more important than the script itself in ensuring four men could act out this epic. It allowed for a really flexible show with costume changes never feeling too forced despite their being 112 changes in 150 minutes!

Was The Three Musketeers the funniest show I’ve seen? No. Was it the best acting I’ve seen? Certainly not. But there was something about it that ensured I left the Theatre Royal with a smile on my face. It’s hard to doubt the hard work and tenacity of the four actors and their exceptional assistant. The four are energetic and immediately likeable and even when The Three Musketeers fell short on quality, you wanted to enjoy it for the guys if anything. At 2 hours 30, this was a short show, but could have happily being just 2 hours as at times it ran very slow and when long periods without a laugh came, it wasn’t as good as show as it perhaps could have been.

That said, I attended with my dad this time, who was a fan of the silliness and the slapstick so maybe I’m just too young to fully appreciate the fun these guys had on stage. The best way to sum up the show is with the word “fun” – overall I enjoyed what I watched and I will definitely go and watch a Le Navet Bete show again knowing what to expect now! Good effort, just missing the mark but enjoyable all the same.

LIVE: Faux Pas with Brooders & Bloodhound – Victoria Vaults, York

Faux Pas blow roof off local York venue Victoria Vaults during Independent Venue Week show playing alongside Brooders & Bloodhound.

Independent Venue Week is one of the best weeks in the musical calendar and this year, York’s venues embraced it more than ever before. During the week, on a cold Wednesday night, I headed down to the Victoria Vaults, the fantastic venue that sponsors my radio show on Jorvik Radio, to see Brooders and Bloodhound support H2N favourites Faux Pas.

Kicking off the show were the rowdy Bloodhound who I’d never seen before, somehow. Having listened to some of their tracks before heading down to the Vaults, I was looking forward to their set, but sceptical over whether they’d be able to carry the same quality of their track music into their live performance. Luckily I was proved wrong as the guys came out with one hell of a noise; not just noise though, there was some real melody in what they were performing and after two songs I was sold on them.

At times I was pleasantly surprised with what I was listening to. Labelled as grunge-rock, there was much more depth to them than that. Hailing from Hull, the three-piece often sounded like they were a band with many more members than that. It was powerful, raw and full of huge riffs that left you well in the mood for what was coming up, two masterclasses in music from Bloodhound and Faux Pas.

I’ve heard a lot of good things from Brooders, no less from Joey and Ru in Faux Pas who are always complimentary about their music so I was really looking forward to their set. You can tell their comfortable playing on a bill with their mates and from the off, they bring the noise, and that noise doesn’t die for the full 30 minute set.

Brooders are a band that have a real defined psychedelic/grunge style. Not many bands utilise their bass player to such an extent, but live, it is the bass that really shines through, and runs right through everyone in the audience. Whilst 80% of their tunes are fast, riff heavy, bass driven, grunge belters, they have a knack for writing a killer slow track and when they slow things right down, vocalist Adam Bairstow really makes his presence and quality on stage known. It’s safe to say these guys have a unique sound and I look forward to seeing them grow further in 2020.

It was then the turn of Faux Pas to do exactly what Faux Pas do. I have run out of unique words for this band I’ve reviewed them that much, but it’s probably testament to the guys that I never have a negative to say about them. Ru was on form too which makes for a really enjoyable set. 45 minutes of some of the Faux Pas classics were just what was needed on a dreary Wednesday night and that’s exactly what was delivered. With new music on the horizon, this felt like a final hurrah to the old Faux Pas tracks and signalled the end of this era for the York band.

Set highlight That’s My Ego, was one of the greatest tracks released by an unsigned artist in the 2010s and it stands out on the live Vaults stage. The crowd were energetic and I can honestly say I could have listened to another hour of their set. Joey Leyland on drums always impresses and is probably the best young drummer on the circuit right now so I’m very excited to see how he and the band evolve on their new tracks this year. Huge huge talent and I urge you to catch them live sometime.

Great gig, great representation of IVW in York and a great way to kick January into touch. Here’s to a top 2020 for local artists and venues!

Live: The Clockworks – The Jacaranda Club, Liverpool

There is definitely something in the water, over the water.  The quality of the bands currently coming coming out of Ireland is first rate.  Inhaler are a band whose name is on the lips of many.  Fontaines D.C. album Dogrel was on countless album of the year lists.  The Murder Capital are playing to larger and larger crowds.  Well to that impressive list add The Clockworks.

One of my London spies, that’s where the band are now based, got on to me and said ‘you have to see theses boys’.  So that was how I found myself on a very wet and windy Saturday night, in the basement of Liverpool’s Jacaranda Club.

There was a big line-up of bands, and first up were Liverpool trio Incipio.  They kicked the evening off with a cover of The Beatles Come Together.  Can’t go wrong with a Beatles cover in Liverpool. Intriguingly this band seemed have three lead singers as lead vocal duties swapped between member on a song-by-song basis.  The bass player was tall, skinny and wearing a US cavalry style cowboy hat.  Very Lemmy.  I wondered what Mr Kilmister would have made of his emulator’s fingerless gloves?

Next on the bill were Chester fourpiece The Kendos.  They are amazingly young and remarkably talented.  I had seen these guys before when the supported The Kairos at Jimmy’s, Liverpool.  Their evolution is astonishing.  They played a great set of their own indie inspired material; battled manfully with equipment problems during new song I Can’t See; and produced a stomping version of The Libertines Don’t Look Back into the Sun.  I was particularly taken with the ability of lead guitarist Isaac Grover.  I was lucky enough to see The Lathums a couple of weeks ago, and witness a stunning performance from Scott Concepcion, who is being hailed as the Johnny Marr of his generation.  Given time, and a good head wind, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that similar plaudits could be heading Isaac Grover’s way.  I understand that The Kendos will be be playing Kendal Calling in the summer.  If you’re in the fields go and see for yourself.

Final Support for this evening were Stoke-on-Trent outfit, Jupiter’s Beard.   They opened their set with the catchy Robot Soul.  They put me in mind of some of the mid-nineties’ brit-pop outsiders Ocean Colour Scene or even local favourites Cast, melodic vocals and layered guitars with indie rhythms.  It was the rhythm section that most interested me.  They weren’t there just to provide a foundation for lead guitar and vocals to show-off, they were given their own space to express themselves.  Judging by the mix of beats and drops used by drummer Simon Lowe, Reni must have been an influence on his style.  He doesn’t bang the drums, he caresses them.  Best example of this would be with their wonderful track Vicar’s Daughter which teems with Stone Roses influences.  Sexy Lookin’ Loser allows the band to flex their heavier muscles and brought me a more up to date reference point, with a nod to Dirty Laces, another band who see all instruments as equal.   New song Stella has a similar shouty, sing-along feel to the Jordan Allen track R.O.S.I.E.  Ones to watch.

Our headliners walked out on to the small stage of The Jacaranda to an excited, if not packed crowd.  The Clockworks have conquered the capital and are moving out into the provinces.  Signed to Creation23, Alan McGee has said of the band, ‘The Clockworks are the best band to come out of Ireland since My Bloody Valentine…thank god I signed them.’.  Big words from the Big Man. 

Well McGee’s hype is to be believed.  From the first bars of Future, to the dying echoes of Can I Speak To A Manager I’m transported into a post-punk, New Wave heaven.  Short, sharp, energetic, spikey, angular tunes with lyrics tackling subjects that mean something.  My reference point bucket runs over.  Bass player Tom Freeman with his long, flowing, curly locks and bass strung high across his chest, has the energetic style of a modern Norman Watt-Roy from The Blockheads.  Guitarist Sean Connelly paces aggressively across the small stage like an Airwair shod Wilco Johnson.  Singer James McGregor angrily spits his lyrics like a more coherent Mark E. Smith.  Musically I’m getting the pace, power and aggression of The Wedding Present.  I can even relate to some of the lyrics, which doesn’t happen often these days.  During the frantic Stranded at Stansted, I can see myself, ‘There’s the dad that brags that he’s calm and collected, losing his rag when his bag is inspected,’.  That’s me that is.

The only problem with fast-paced spikey tunes is that the sets seem to be over before they’ve begun. They say that time flies when you’re having fun.  The Clockworks set flew by in the blink of an eye.  They saved the most recognised songs until the end, Bills and Pills, a pounding indictment of the twin nightmares of debt and drug abuse, is followed by one of the songs of last year, the tribute to poor consumer service that is Can I Speak to A Manager.

I can’t wait to see The Clockworks play Liverpool again.  And just like their compatriots mentioned earlier, they will be back, playing bigger venues to larger crowds.

Ian Dunphy.  

Review: The Night We Ran Away – The Joyride

Who doesn’t like a bit a synth-pop?  Well nobody judging by the current playlist of our nations radio stations.  And who doesn’t like a bit of synth-pop with added guitars?  Again nobody.  Except perhaps Neil Tennant.  But he’s wrong.  Newest cab off the synth-pop rank are Merseyside based The Joyride.

The Joyride are Felix Shipton (vocals, guitar and synths) and Justin Hanna (synths and programming).  They met while studying Music Production at Edge Hill University and describe themselves, rather disarmingly, as ‘bedroom producers’.  I’d say there’s a bit more to them than that, and their latest single The Night We Ran Away is an old school electronic-pop belter.

The band cite one of their influences as The Human League.  For The Night We Ran Away I’d go a step further back down the electronic ladder.  The Human League were big devotees of Giorgio Moroder: and the sequencer and drum sounds at the start of the song immediately brought Moroder’s work to my mind.  The song has an early eighties authenticity about it. 

Once the drumbeat, guitar, and sequencer drop and the vocals kick-in we are bang up to date. Shipton’s crisp, occasionally breathy, heartfelt vocals are very 2020.  His singing style, on this evidence, is not dissimilar to that of Matty Healy from The 1975.

As the song moves forward, it expands and moves in different directions.  There’s a throbbing synth bass line that holds the song together.  It allows other synths and guitar melodies to play around and fill the spaces.  It’s hard to believe it’s just two guys making this much sound.  There is one section where the synths are acting as almost wraithlike backing vocals to Shipton’s lead. 

 The song is filled with all the right drops and lifts and you can see it being a real crowd pleaser if it makes an outing in a festival tent.  Towards the end of the song we are treated to another eighties staple, the screechy guitar solo.  It fits beautifully.  This song is a handsomely crafted piece of synth-pop.          

If you’re a fan of Pale Waves, The 1975 or APRE then The Joyride might be the next trip you want to take.  Go listen at all the usual places. 

Ian Dunphy    

STAGE: Once The Musical – Review, Grand Opera House York

This week, the incredible musical “Once”, arrived in York for the very first time. Following critical success in 2012 on Broadway, to acclaim on the West End in London, Once is billed as a must see show, and it did not disappoint. Once embarks on its first major UK tour after acclaimed runs on Broadway and in the West End, and having won awards across the world including the Academy Award for Best Original Song, a Grammy for Best Musical Theatre Album, eight Tony Awards and an Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Music.

First a cult, micro-budget Irish film written and directed by John Carney in 2007, then a Broadway, West End and Dublin show, Once The Musical tells the uplifting yet yearning story of the hopes and dreams of two lost souls, a jilted Dublin street busker and a more positive Czech musician, who unexpectedly fall in love across five short days in the Southern Irish capital city.

The touring cast of 16 was led by Scotsman Dan Healy as Guy and Emma Lucia, from Durham, as Girl. The busking musical tells the story of their mutual love and talent for playing and singing musical numbers. They embark on a journey to record a set of their original songs, and whilst at the start, Guy is ready to quit music, his meeting of Girl renews his energy and makes him realise his dream. It’s a story of love, heart and music.

And it has to be said, the music is just outstanding; with many of the tracks from the original movie soundtrack. Billed as a “musical”, I was sceptical as to the quality of the music, as ironically, musicals often produce artless, heartless music, but this was completely different. With 16 musician/actors on stage, all talented individuals, this felt more like a Friday night in central Dublin rather than a Tuesday in York’s theatre.

As mentioned, Once does retain songs written by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova they’re expanded on by the brilliant. Enda Walsh. Before the show even starts all musicians are out on stage playing their celidh style music, having fun and warming the crowd up for what was to come. Then from the opening moments of “Falling Slowly” right through to the finale, it was a genuine delight to be in the crowd. The staging, the bar, and the way the musicians are placed mean every song feels wholly natural and not forced into the storyline. One of the big criticisms I’ve made of modern “musicals” is they don’t allow music to tell the story; in Once, this just isn’t the case and I wanted, for the first time, more music than dialogue.

Healy and Lucia are superb, their chemistry, vocal ability and musical prowess make for excellent viewing, but the entire cast contribute to the entertainment. Through all of the individual brilliance on stage though, Healy in particular, it is the a capella reprise of ‘Gold’, which stands out the most to me. Every single voice shone through in the song, and the audience was encapsulated by what they were witnessing. This didn’t feel in that moment like you were watching a touring show, it felt like you were watching the greatest piece of musical theatre ever written.

I have one criticism though; I am scared I’m going to become a Once addict! Whilst it isn’t the fastest paced musical, the way in which the story is told, and the music is performed made me want to immediately watch it from the beginning again. Once was superb; humour, musicianship and top quality acting, nothing more needs adding here.

Photo credit: Mark Senior