Call me Russ L

A month is a long time in politics, part one

Posted in Music, Stage by Russ L on 6 January, 2006

Originally posted on 17/7/4.

Bugger. I have (unusually) done quite a lot by my own standards over the last month or so, I have (even more unusually) actually enjoyed most of it, and I have (less unusually) continually procrastinated when it has come to writing about it. Now I can’t remember any of it. Nonetheless, I will persevere and try to get through the lot. The lack of detail shouldn’t matter; it’s not as though anyone actualy reads this.

Mary J Blige/Chaka Khan – NEC, Birmingham, 16/6/4

This was five weeks ago to the night and I can barely remember a thing other than that it was a great concert. Hmmmmm. We were unaware that Blackalicious were the opening act and so missed them, which was a shame but there you go, these things happen.

Chaka, obviously, is a legend, and the trouble with seeing legends is that they so rarely turn out to be quite as fantastic as you want them to be. That’s not to suggest (in the slightest) that she wasn’t really good. Her manner was pleasingly looney, madness layered on top of an unimpeachable soul cool. Her more uptempo songs went over better with the crowd at large, which is fair enough considering that they’re generally better, but the mass sit-down of most of the audience during ‘Through The Fire’ surprised me (especially given that song’s recent revisit by Kanye West). Massive support was quickly regained, though, enjoyment was had by all, and now I can truthfully say I’ve seen Chaka Khan live. Damn, I’m cool.

Mary was spectacular, as well you might imagine. She manages to seriously give it some whilst still remaining entirely cool and laid back, which is obviously quite a nifty trick if you can manage to pull it off. I recall no specific details other than that ‘No More Drama’ was absolutely titanic (and I don’t mean it sank, fool).

Some slight unrelated awkwardness took a tiny bit of the shine off the evening, but a wonderful concert nonetheless.

‘The Woman In Black’ – Alexandria Theatre, Birmingham, 17/6/4

I’ll be honest, despite hearing nothing but good things about this beforehand from everyone who’d heard of it, I was still expecting an ooh-scary-dary-roll-your-eyes-and-sigh-ghost-story-type-thing. Once again, the lesson about preconceptions is hammered in violently.

This play worked on few different levels. I don’t want to spoil anything, and if you want to know the plot I’m sure you won’t have too much difficulty obtaining it somewhere on the internet, but… it certainly made you jump out of your seat, yes. It created a genuinely eerie atmosphere. On top of the things you would expect it to try and do, however, it felt like a love letter to theatre itself (yes, I know it was a book originally). ‘Consider your audience’ indeed.

Add that to the sterling performance by the two actors involved and it all turned out rather nicely. This particular production is well going out for if it happens to end up anywhere near you – looking at the programme, it was directed by Robin Hereford, starring Paul Webster and Damien Mathews, and it seems that ‘PW Productions’ are the theatre company.

My only complaint (and I have to complain every few paragraphs, it just wouldn’t be me otherwise) regards the audience (no change there…). This night was attended by what I’m assuming was a school trip, thus bringing out the more-frightening-than-any-Woman-In-Black spectre of the screaming teenage girl. The screaming in itself isn’t the problem – people react to things, that’s fair enough – but is it then necessary to giggle about it with your friends for a couple of minutes, forcing others to strain to hear dialogue? Every single time? Yes, you fell for it again. So did everyone else in the theatre. Please, please, please shut up now.

I’m increasingly of the opinion that everyone younger or older than me should be shot. Humanely, of course, I’m not cruel.

Sean Paul/Big Brovaz – NEC, Birmingham, 19/6/4

Big Brovas’ set was uncannily similar their career so far – they made a really strong start with ‘Nu Flow,’ and then went rapidly downhill. That’s all there is to say really, although the two new songs they played possibly offered some hope for the future, one of them in particular sounding like it had a bit of the boom-bap about it.

Sean Paul was so… much… fun. Seriously. I have never danced so much as I danced in that tiny space between my seat and the seat in front. I don.t usually dance at all. It was one of those gigs where you could feel the energy coming from the stage so strongly (even when positioned sixteen miles away from it at the NEC); having songs that make you want to dance anyway is just a bonus.

He did a fair mix of material, and the ‘Stage One’ era stuff actually seemed a lot more familiar to the audience at large than I expected (is that me being snobbish? It was hardly deep underground I realise, but I still wouldn’t have thought the majority who’d picked up on his recent singles would have been all over it. Oh well), and he did ‘Infiltrate’ which makes me happy. The biggest bill on the tour must have been towels, judging by the amount he threw out to the audience.

Prior to the Espanol version of ‘Punkie,’ one of his sidemen asked if anyone in the crowd spoke Spanish. A huuuuuge cheer went up, and my companion for the evening and I raised our collective eyebrows and wondered about the likelihood of quite so many people having this talent. Afterwards, on the escalators going back to the train station, we realised that the group of people behind us were actually talking in Spanish. Co-incidence, obviously, but you can’t help but feel a little bit small in such situations.

I shall leave it here, I think, and continue with my chronicles very soon. In the next thrilling instalment expect to hear tales of Beverly Knight, Dilated Peoples, Motley, Usher, Smujee, Deadsunrising, Harpies, D-Rail and brutal MMA combat. Won’t that be nice for you?

– Russ L

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