Category Archives: Reviews

Live Review: Rich Hall


In the final of our Ventnor Arts Festival reviews, Dom Kureen shares his opinion of American comedian Rich Hall’s sold out marquee stage performance.

 

Rich Hall 2Devotees lined up beyond eyeshot of the entrance, serving as merited recognition for one of America’s most enduringly popular comedic exports of recent years.

The dry, caustic wit of Rich Hall, a humorist synonymous with English panel shows such as ‘Q.I’ and ‘Eight Out of Ten Cats,’ was immediately evident amid an opening broadside at cheese manufacturers Kraft and their hostile takeover of Cadbury.

Transitioning neatly into politics, the real life Moe Szyslak referred to Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich as a couple of glove puppets, consequently shifting his attention to Nick Clegg and David Cameron (“The key cutter and the shoe maker at a struggling Cobblers!”)

Some tongue-in-cheek contrasts between British and American customs were followed by an uproarious skit relating to the trials and tribulations of the world’s greatest trampolinist, Alexandre Moskalenko, who, despite years of dedicated endeavour, still probably doesn’t get noticed in his own neighbourhood.

Encouraging audience participation, Hall chatted to ‘Andy,’ a rose grafter (no, me neither) whose story warranted an ad-libbed ditty, replete with catchy guitar riff.

That breakneck train of thought proved a pivotal weapon in the armoury, with some other members of the front row less forthcoming when spoken to, although a couple of the on-the-spot compositions admittedly fell a little flat.

Lookalike: Rich Hall referred to himself as a "real life Moe Szyslak" (centre)
Lookalike: Rich Hall referred to himself as a “real life Moe Szyslak” (centre)

The variety and authentic warmth of the comedian’s act should guarantee that no two shows are quite the same on this latest sojourn across the British Isles.

More valuably, Hall’s impish aura, which never broached guttural, indicated that there was enough edgy material in reserve to keep things diverse.

A highly amusing parody of a modern day Bob Dylan concert wrapped up his Isle of Wight leg of the tour agreeably, with bounteous guffaws emanating from all corners of the temporarily erected canopy.

 The £16 admission fee was a bargain for a terrific night of comedy.

Written by Dom Kureen

As a young rapscallion stranded on an Island, my time is split between writing, performing spoken word, wrestling alligators and delivering uplifting pep talks to hairdressers before they prune me.
I meditate and wash daily when possible.

Live Review: Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain

Dom Kureen was kindly allowed a press pass for the recent Ventnor Arts Festival – On Sunday the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain hit the strip.

Ukulele Orchestra of GBCorny gags and jaunty cover versions were abundant, as the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain serenaded a sold out Ventnor Arts Festival marquee on Sunday evening.

The 8-piece ensemble, now in their 30th year of live performances, entered the fray composed of seven ukulele practitioners and a single bassist, a set-up consistent since 2005.

In a move that added instant lustre to proceedings, the half a dozen male members took to the stage adorned in black-tie attire, with the two female acts in chic evening dress.

The stimulating nimble ‘Hollywood,’ based on Richard A. Whiting’s 1937 ‘Hollywood Hotel’ soundtrack, got things off to a flyer and was played in tribute to Marilyn Monroe.

Shifting gears, a startling cabaret depiction of Prince’s 1980’s boudoir tour de force, ‘Kiss’ gave the first hints of a tongue-in-cheek theme that ran for the show’s duration.

 

‘Get Lucky’ was given a new lease of life, despite the Daft Punk/Pharell Williams collaboration having already spawned several dozen increasingly naff covers. This effort bypassed the stigma of cliché with a fresh glaze of silliness, including a host of animal noises and on-stage shape cutting.

Missing the mark, a parody of Kate Bush’s ‘Wuthering Heights’ became painstakingly hokey in parts and a couple of overly rehearsed gags played out to a handful of reticent courtesy chuckles.

Thankfully, the purity of ‘Dancing Barefoot’ got things back on track, capturing the spirit of Patti Smith’s canticle without breaking stride.

The engaging ’32 Bar Blues’ and convivial ‘Should I Stay or Should I go’ provided a buoyant close to the gaiety, with the string octet receiving not one, but two lengthy standing ovations.

Written by Dom Kureen

As a young rapscallion stranded on an Island, my time is split between writing, performing spoken word, wrestling alligators and delivering uplifting pep talks to hairdressers before they prune me.
I meditate and wash daily when possible.

Live Review: Roger McGough – As Far As I Know

Roger McGough visited Ventnor, Isle of Wight for the Isle of Arts Festival last weekend, promoting his newly published book of poems ‘As far as I know.’ Dom Kureen was on the scene to take in a one hour show from the man dubbed ‘the patron saint of poetry.’ 

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Roger McGough strode to the podium of the marquee stage like a contented Yogi after an extended meditation session, his entrance theme a rapturous cacophony of enthused applause and sporadic yelping.

The bar was set high before a syllable had been uttered, although this kind of reception is nothing outlandish for one of Britain’s most revered wordsmiths, following almost half a century of articulate ode.

Time has only supplemented the poignancy of McGough’s sentiments – ‘A cure for aging’ and ‘A good age’ both revealed his personal introspections regarding the anxious inevitability of getting older, whilst ‘Let me die a young man’s death’ provocatively jabbed at the futility of a peaceful passing.

Large sections of the show resonated with a predominantly sexa-octogenarian demographic that ushered the venue’s attendance towards it’s 400-seat capacity.

Signing on: The poet was happy to sign for the fans.
Signing on: The poet was happy to sign autographs after the show.

The fickle nature of mortality continued to prove a fertile source of material, with some of the afternoon’s loudest pops evident during and after the hilarious ‘Carpe Diem’ and sinister undertones of ‘I am not sleeping.’

Tributes to Charlie Chaplin, Carol Ann Duffy and Enid Blyton ensured that tolls were paid and heroes respected in a one hour set that served as a ‘greatest hits’ composite for a leading light of the spoken word genre.

The pacing of the gig might not have been to everyone’s taste, but the fact that the post-show book signing was halted prematurely due to all works of literature selling out was testament to the enduring popularity of the 76-year old.

Even after that, the author continued to sign scrap pieces of paper, ticket stubs, crisp packets and whatever else people could dig out to be inscribed, McGough seemingly having the time of his life throughout.

 

Written by Dom Kureen

As a young rapscallion stranded on an Island, my time is split between writing, performing spoken word, wrestling alligators and delivering uplifting pep talks to hairdressers before they prune me.
I meditate and wash daily when possible.

Live Review: Ayanna Witter-Johnson

Dom Kureen was at the Ventnor Arts Festival last weekend to check out a host of performances – on Saturday he was present to witness Ayanna Witter-Johnson in action at Ventnor Arts Club. 

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Perhaps the most engaging act at this year’s Isle of Arts festival came courtesy of one of least assuming of all the venues utilised.

Charming and buzzing with bright-eyed vitality, 28 year-old cellist, pianist and singer, Ayanna Witter-Johnson, was an unlikely fit for the Ventnor Arts Club, with its dim lighting and lounge session ambience.

Paradoxically the two unlikely worlds meshed exquisitely, like shiny new shoes gracing worn out feet, with the artist making her second Isle of Wight stopover within 9 months, following an appearance last August at Ventnor Fringe.

Opening her 70-minute set with a serene translation of Bill Withers’ “Grandma’s Hands” was a bold move that instantly presented an unaffected vocal capacity, with the eager cello, named ‘Reuben’ for reasons never divulged, gathering vigour as the melody progressed.

The woman behind the cello: Ayanna Witter-Johnson hasn't ruled out a return to the Isle of Wight in the near-future.
The woman behind the cello: Ayanna Witter-Johnson hasn’t ruled out a return to the Isle of Wight in the near-future.

‘Flowers’ yielded a leisurely, comfortable composition that insinuated deep-rooted compassion, without ever threatening to trigger much emotion from listeners.

The issue here was a disconnect between entertainer and audience, caused by the piano’s situation necessitating a Miles Davis-esque cold shoulder, with Ayanna now facing away from her admirers.

The calibre of the music on offer remained indisputably excellent despite that minor blip, with the moving ‘Ain’t I a woman’ suggesting shades of a post-Fugees, pre-exile Lauren Hill. The tender grazing of Reuben’s strings created a captivating contrast with the potent verbal delivery.

The highest spots were reserved for the second stanza, with a positively haunting take on The Police’s ‘Roxanne’ and the seductive ‘Unconditional’.

The former’s inaugural sequence was so unapologetically melancholic, that it was easy to temporarily forget the original existed at all. It soon matured into a goose bump inducing, chilling ride that needs to be heard live in these reverberating acoustics to be fully appreciated.

Ayanna was kind enough to pose with Reuben for a few snaps!
Ayanna was kind enough to pose with Reuben for a few snaps!

Concluding with the finger plucked, soul tweaking ‘Black Panther,’ Ayanna assuredly stated: “My strength will be your anchor, like a black panther I’m free to roam without a keeper.”

Expect grand things from a young musician who graduated with honours from the Manhattan School of Music, subsequently winning the illustrious Amateur Night Live at Harlem’s esteemed Apollo Theatre, to follow in the footsteps of luminaries such as Michael Jackson and Ella Fitzgerald.

Comfortable in Ventnor’s diminutive venue, Ayanna will undoubtedly continue to blossom on the exalted stages she’s destined to grace.

Written by Dom Kureen

As a young rapscallion stranded on an Island, my time is split between writing, performing spoken word, wrestling alligators and delivering uplifting pep talks to hairdressers before they prune me.
I meditate and wash daily when possible.

Live Review: Kyle Eastwood Band

Dom Kureen spent the weekend at Ventnor Arts Festival taking in the sights, smells and sounds. On Friday night it was all about jazz, as Kyle Eastwood rode into town!

3992525821_14a1dfd86a_oA fresh bouquet of Merlot and atmospheric, sooty glaze in the air ensured that Ventnor Arts Festival’s marquee stage momentarily drew parallels with Ronnie Scott’s jazz club in London during it’s mid-1970’s, Ella Fitzgerald fuelled pomp.

Friday night’s headliner was Kyle Eastwood, replete with his four-strong band of brothers, who brought a host of invigorating covers and original compositions to the Isle of Wight’s increasingly creative seaside resort.

The eldest son of legendary film actor/director/producer Clint Eastwood, the frontman has happily sidestepped lazy, convenient and misguided aspersions of a nepotistic bunk up since his emergence on the jazz scene in 1990, with his brand of blues, bebop and boogie ensuring escalating acclaim over the course of 24 years and six studio albums.

The evening’s melodies fluctuated between ostensibly ad-libbed bursts and flawlessly executed eulogy, the latter of which was evident in a delicate rendition of Herbie Hancock’s ‘Dolphin Dance’ and galvanising, trumpet-laced adaptation of Horace Silver’s ‘Blowing The Blues Away.’

An addictive riff and high-tempo instantly guaranteed that one of the band’s newer tracks, ‘A Night In Senegal’ was well received – Martyn Kaine’s cartilage-juddering percussion rattled the awning, as Eastwood traded his double-bass for a lesser-seen lime green electric guitar.

Intoxicating jazz: Kyle Eastwood and his band were worthy Friday night headliners
Intoxicating jazz: Kyle Eastwood and his band were worthy Friday night headliners

There was still time for the saccharine dusted ‘Letters From Iwo Jima,’ soundtrack to Eastwood senior’s movie of the same name, which commenced unobtrusively via the gentle chimes of Andrew McCormack on the piano and gripping strains of bass guitar courtesy of Eastwood, now on his third different instrument.

As folk filtered away from the venue, one thing remained crystal clear amongst the gabble – a collective spike in energy, created by the joyful chalk pit of lustrous offbeat melody played out before fans old and new.

Kyle Eastwood and his band continue to evolve apace, providing a rush of adrenalin to those fortunate enough to witness their live act. It seems implausible to feel burdened after being graced by their captivating brand of calypso-jazz.

 An exhilarating jazz tour-de-force.

Written by Dom Kureen

As a young rapscallion stranded on an Island, my time is split between writing, performing spoken word, wrestling alligators and delivering uplifting pep talks to hairdressers before they prune me.
I meditate and wash daily when possible.

Cate Le Bon: ‘Sisters’ (Single review)

Our chief music man, Jonathan O’Shea, has been busy taking in the new sounds recently. This time he turns his attention to folky Welsh singer-songwriter Cate Le Bon’s latest release ‘Sisters.’

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An ever-more sleek and sinuous stage presence, Welsh troubadour-ess Cate Le Bon returned from a recent US sojourn with a new look and refined sound; evidenced on her third album, ‘Mug Museum’, where the beguiling ‘Me Oh My’ ploughed fertile folksy terrain and ‘Cyrk’ took a tender step towards a new direction. Released on the Wichita label – this was a tighter, more coherent set.

‘Sisters’ is both recognisably inventive and comfortingly strange, but Le Bon’s signature sound has certainly matured and is more satisfyingly direct here. Her renowned vocals – often erroneously likened to those of the Velvet Underground’s Nico – are as sumptuously enunciated and dexterously delivered as ever, while H. Hawkline’s frantic, insistent keys drive the track through to a thrillingly demented climax.

‘I won’t die, I’m a sister; I won’t die!’ is the immortal resolution declared throughout, as Manics collaborator Le Bon laconically unfurls lines like: ‘She will set my hands on fire/ hands on fire over again/ her to me and me to them’.

That swirly, hooky keyboard input and a punchy, pulsing drumbeat underpins four minutes of delightfully off-kilter lyricism from the pencil of an underrated songwriter.

Stepping out of the shadows: Cate Le Bon is destined for big things.
Stepping out of the shadows: Cate Le Bon is destined for big things.

All the while, it’s impossible not to consider the influence of one-time tour-mate St Vincent on this ascendant ‘alternative’ star-in-the-making, as she journeys from her early career of melancholic folk meanderings to today’s peppy psych-pop gems.

‘Ah-ooh’-ing all over the crazily kaleidoscopic outro in typical fashion, Cate Le Bon presents a fully-formed potential hit, which could raise her profile far above and beyond her sterling work with the Manics and Welsh alt-doyen Gruff Rhys. It’s an attention-grabbing paean to sisterhood, which should insinuate itself into any self-respecting indie summer playlist.

Written by Jonathan O'Shea

A keen student of sport, music and life. Can generally be found educating small people, bitterly damning Aston Villa’s latest attempts at football, or writing nonsense about ephemera.

Kelis: Rumble (Single review)

Jonathan O’Shea returns with a review of the latest cut from Neo-Soul, hip-hop Diva Kelis, Rumble, the second helping from recently released album ‘Food.’ 

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Black. Keys.

Immediately, those are the two words which leap out from the speakers as the intro to this Kelis comeback slides incongruously ear-wards. Only when she hits us with the opening line does it become apparent that this tune isn’t another from the non-stop hit factory of the boys from Akron, Ohio.

Incidentally, Kelis will share the stage with the authors of ‘Next Girl’, to which ‘Rumble’s intro bears at least a passing resemblance, at the much-awaited Latitude festival this summer.

The laid-back, tumbling brass refrain also recalls Mark Ronson’s mid-noughties output, as the ex-Mrs Nas (or Ms Rogers, or whatever she puts on her library card application form these days) departs markedly from the floor fillers of previous release ‘Flesh Tone’.

On the second release from new album, ‘Food’, Kelis grudgingly ‘welcomes’ a spurned lover back into her life: ‘I’d just got used to my space’, she laments before regretfully documenting their troubled joint history.

Naturally, she then dredges up the requisite melodrama we expect from one of pop’s most eccentric spirits, conflictingly belting out: ‘Baby, don’t go!’ in her trademark raspy soulful holler.

Kelis has never had a no.1 UK single, can 'Rumble' remedy that?
Kelis has never had a no.1 UK single, can ‘Rumble’ remedy that?

She eventually resolves: ‘I’m so glad you gave back the keys’, but it’s all a little underwhelming lyrically and lacks the innovative bite we’ve come to expect from this relative veteran of the R&B-pop scene.

It’s a long old time since Kelis so compellingly yelled “I hate you so much right now!” into the waiting abyss, so it’s natural that her style should progress, if not exactly mellow.

The reviews for ‘Food’ are predominantly positive – the strutting ‘Jerk Ribs’  is a more promising taster for what’s to come – so it’s far too early to fear that the milkshake has soured.

Those whose appetites are not satiated by this new direction should seek out the Breach remix, which more resembles her earlier output and tellingly has more YouTube hits than the original mix.

Written by Jonathan O'Shea

A keen student of sport, music and life. Can generally be found educating small people, bitterly damning Aston Villa’s latest attempts at football, or writing nonsense about ephemera.

Lana Del Rey: West Coast (single review)

Jonathan O’Shea gives his verdict on sultry trip-hop singer-songwriter Lana Del Rey’s newest single, West Coast, set for UK release on May 18th.

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Worthless, tuneless scenester junk? That’s the predetermined tag many cynical pop pundits have readied for Lana Del Rey’s return to the fold. In truth, expectations are divided – some imagine the release of forthcoming album ‘Ultraviolence’ will herald a genuine and concerted push at establishing Ms Del Rey as a credible pop queen for the foreseeable future. Others confidently predict the unravelling of sumptuous style over sonic substance.

It doesn’t help to refute the naysayers when a generic-sounding song title such as ‘West Coast’ pops its head above the parapet. And, naturally, the track was written by previous collaborator Rick Nowels (whose past clients include: Stevie Nicks, Dido, Lykke Li, Belinda Carlisle, and, erm, Ronan Keating) rather than by Lana herself. So far, so what?

Yet the stir created by ‘Born To Die’s release and subsequent mega-success left open the latent possibility that the idyllic package of style and substance could be within her command. And as the first single from the imminent second album (recorded in Nashville; produced by The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach), radio-waves have long been primed for the opening tumbling drum intro of Lana’s latest ‘joint’.

Upcoming album: Lana Del Rey's 'Ultraviolence' is set for UK release this summer
Upcoming album: Lana Del Rey’s ‘Ultraviolence’ is set for UK release this summer

There are faint echoes of both Tori Amos and Feist in the delivery of Nowels’ languid lyrics. She’s even brazenly nicked a bit of The Beatles’ masterful ‘And I Love Her’ riff. And the intermittent ‘You got the music in you’ refrain unfortunately brings to mind the New Radicals late-90s slagging of Courtney Love, Beck and Hanson.

Fortunately for the pouting princess of murk-pop, it all hangs together quite wonderfully. Typically atmospheric, with Del Rey’s trademark breathy vocals, ‘West Coast’ is capable of woozily insinuating itself with even the most jaded listener. ‘Ooh baby’s are ten-a-penny across the vast and all-encompassing tides of music history, but can still sweetly enrapture when delivered with such lushness. Mentions for west coast movies and rock ‘n’ roll groupies inevitably ensue, before curious cadence changes and swooning guitar solos bring the track to a crescendo, with Del Rey crooning devotion to her ‘boy blue’.

Derivative? Naturally. A mind-blowing musical metamorphosis? No. Still, the essence of what intrigues and entices listeners into Lana Del Rey’s harmonious honey-trap remains intact. An air of mysterious otherworldliness underpins a perfect pop sensibility, honed by years of vain endeavour as plain old Lizzie Grant. The release of ‘West Coast’ only intensifies the intrigue.

Written by Jonathan O'Shea

A keen student of sport, music and life. Can generally be found educating small people, bitterly damning Aston Villa’s latest attempts at football, or writing nonsense about ephemera.