Thursday, 28 May 2015

Meet The Band: The Undivided - Big Splash Special

South Wales band The Undivided will  play Newport's Big Splash Festival at 9pm on The Riverfront Terrace this Friday. Andy Howells recently caught up with the band to put questions to them.

Who are you and how did you come together?
We are The Undivided. We have been together now for around 5 years. Over that time we have been developing our sound and gigging as far and wide as possible.

  • Joe Disson - Vocals/Guitar
  • Lewis Bray - Guitar
  • Craig Prosser - Bass
  • Rhydian Mason - Drums

Joe and Lewis have been friends since school and in 2007 they were both looking for a new musical project so decided to join up and start a band. The band have been through a few different line ups over the last couple of years but now with Craig and Rhydian we are the strongest we have ever been and every year since has been a progression in our sound and in our career.

Where are you from?
Joe and Lewis are From Gilwern just outside Abergavenny and Rhydian and Craig are from Pontypool.

How would you describe your music style?
We try to encourage people to listen to us and decide for themselves. If we had to describe ourselves though we would say emotional guitar driven rock music. Our passion is connecting with people through our music. We want to make people feel something when they listen/watch us. That's why we do what we do.

What’s been your best live experience?
There's so many great ones. We have just returned from Canadian Music Week in Toronto. It was an amazing festival and the reception to our music was really mind blowing. People connected with us in a way that hasn't happened before. However before we flew out we did a warm-up show in Clwb Ifor Bach in Cardiff. That was a very special show for us as it was the first time people started singing the words back to us. Will never forget that one!!

What are you working on at the moment?
We are currently working on new material to follow up our debut album This New Day that was released last year. We have been lucky enough to have funding from the Arts Council of Wales which has allowed us to go to Canada and also return to Monnow Valley Studios to record new music. We have been working with Dan Weller who has worked with Young Guns, Enter Shikari and Kids In Glass Houses to name a few. We hope to have new music out by the end of the year and also are planning to return to America in the Autumn.

Your playing The Big Splash this weekend - what can we expect from that?
We have been playing sort of the same set for a month or so now so I think we are going to change our set up a little for this one. Also its our first show since returning from Canada so it’s going to be a great show to come back on. Passion and energy is something we always bring to the stage with us… Big Splash will be no different!

What are you all listening to at the moment?
We all have very different music tastes so the music we listen to is Quite vast!!
Joe is listening to Churches and Bring Me The Horizon.
Rhyd is currently listening to Acoda, In Flames & POD.
Lewis is blasting some Oceansize, Sikth & Deftones.
Craig is raving about Jonsi, PVRIS, InnerPartySystem & Samoans.

  • Catch up with The Undivided online by visiting their official website
  • This years Big Splash festival also features music at Newport Riverfront from Jack Perrett, Rogora Khart, Ragsy, Remembering August and 2Rude. For full line-up details visit Newport Riverfront's website.
  • This Q&A by Andy Howells appears in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide on May 29. 2015.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

On Stage: Ballet Cymru's Cinderella, Newport Riverfront

Ballet Cymru’s latest take on a traditional fairy tale is a bilingual interpretation of The Brothers Grimm story Cinderella. Untouched by the constraints of a pantomime plot, stereotypical characterisations are stripped away to return Cinderella’s rags to riches tale to its darker roots told amid spectacular and dramatic choreography by Darius James & Amy Doughty superbly timed to Jack White’s musical score.

The ugly sisters are dispersed with in favour of a matriarch stepmother, Aerona an oppressed father and two step siblings Seren and Cas for Cinderella to contend with.

The production maintains an air of its tradition through carefully crafted costumes by Steve Denton including Cinderella’s rags and Aerona’s distinctive evil stepmother look. This contrasts somewhat to the modern props including sofa, chair, newspaper and Seren’s spectacles which bring an additional surrealism to the productions darker edges.

While Allegra Vianello (Cinderella), Daniel Morrison (Madoc) and Natalie Debona (Aerona) keep the audience focused on lead characters through classic dance moves there is much to be savoured by Krystal Lowe(The bird) and the rest of the company who perform circus elements combined with the finest classical dance.

Lydia Arnoux and Robbie Moorcroft performances as Cinderella’s siblings Seren and Cas are particularly the shows highlight for not only delivering a polished ballet performance but also for adding comedy (and some audience laughter) to what could have been potentially dark scenes when their mother attempts to maim them with a meat cleaver in the second half.

If you have any preconceptions of what ballet is throw them out the window, Cinderella is a live presentation that can be appreciated by the whole family.

Monday, 25 May 2015

In Concert: An Evening With Lulu, St David's Hall, Cardiff

I was incredibly excited late last year when I heard Lulu was to do a solo UK tour and was looking forward to catching her live in her own show and I wasn't disappointed when I joined many other fans at St David’s Hall on Monday evening to catch the music legend on her latest solo tour.

With a set-list that included songs which have inspired her career as well as tracks from her latest album Making Life Rhyme, Lulu got the show off to an electrifying start as with a cover of Republica’s Ready to Go. The pace was kept upbeat as she followed up with her 1990s smash hit Relight My Fire before launching into the soulful I Put My Trust in You.

“I’m very happy and pleased to still be here” Lulu said when pausing to speak to the audience. Reflecting on her fifty years in music she continued ”its something to be grateful for, I live in a place of gratitude and its pretty fabulous not to be searching, rushing and wishing for things.”

Been one of popular music’s most enduring performers, Lulu still has a soulfully rich voice to savor as she revealed delivering renditions of Unchain My Heart, Try A Little Tenderness and her own composition I Don’t Want to Fight, a worldwide hit for Tina Turner and performed in concert as a duet.

There was also a beautiful tribute to the Bee Gees in which Lulu recalled her marriage to Maurice Gibb and how she witnessed the band reform after time apart to record Run To Me of which did an impromptu performance followed by her versions of To Love Somebody and Gotta Get A Message To You.

Lulu also served up a handful of her own classic hits, the Bowie collaboration The Man Who Sold the World, a reggae rendition of To Sir with Love and of course her 1964 debut smash Shout which had the audience on their feet for the finale.

There couldn't have been a better way to liven up a Monday evening with multitudes of class, charisma and coolness from Lulu and her band. Long may she continue and hopefully make a return visit to Wales soon!

  • A version of this review by Andy Howells appeared in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement, The Guide on May 22, 2015.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Boom Boom - Basil Brush Returns To Wales With Newport Riverfront Show!

Basil Brush is a star with an outstanding ability to entertain and make people of all ages laugh and smile. He’s cheeky, irreverent, charming, naughty, quick-witted, scheming and foxy, but at the same time he’s kind, caring and affectionate!

Basil has celebrated over 50 years in entertainment and The Basil Brush Show on BBC TV has been seen by millions of viewers all over the globe from 1968 through to today. The show was BAFTA nominated and voted best comedy show on TV!

Now, Britain's most lovable fox is back on the road with his Full On Fox tour along with his TV chum Mr Stephen (aka Chris Pizzey). Together they will take you on a journey of laughs, storytelling and song in a brand new specially written ‘live’ stage show packed with fun and excitement.

Andy Howells, a lifelong fan of Basil, recently got a chance to put questions to the cunning Brush.

Basil, you're bringing your Full on Fox Tour to Newport in June. Have you been to Wales before or is this your first time?
I cant wait to get to Wales because after watching Tom Jones on The Voice. I realised what brilliant singers they all are and since my voice has been known to make grown cry... Cry “stop we cant take it any longer” and  I sing like a bird, a crow! I think I will be able to learn a lot from the audience when we get them joining in with the songs and our Boom Boom rap song.

I was in Cardiff a number of years ago with my show The Fox Factor; it was so well received I haven't been back for 5 years...BOOM BOOM But it is my first time to Newport and looking forward to seeing my fans and meeting them after the show with our unique meet and greet where members of the audience can meet myself and Mr Stephen and get photos and autographs to tweet and put on Facebook.

What can you tell us about the Full on Fox tour?
Now the Full on Fox tour is called that because when they told me I would be doing over 100 dates I said “that's full on and so the title stuck...” I have teamed up with Mr Stephen aka actor Chris Pizzey, we did several years on the CBBC Basil Brush Show together and we have decided to take our laughter pilgrimage all over the country. We have a huge twenty foot video screen on stage that allows us to go into space, we meet Sherlock Holmes and  as we sing our way through an adventure. Children also come on stage to help in space, and of course there's jokes for both kids and grown ups! If you know what I mean! The reaction from all age groups has been brilliant; in fact we have so much laughter in the show, some of it is in the right place.

What has been your funniest experience when touring?
While touring we have had funny moments where the Sat-Nav in our car led us to an open field and we were greeted by a furry fox. He didn't know who I was and we quietly went on our way, but my Rolls Canardly is brilliant. It rolls down the hills and can hardly get up the other side.

I remember watching you on television when I was a small boy, and you look younger now than you did then, have you had any form of plastic surgery? You look incredible for nearly half a century in show business, how do you keep so young and fit?
Any one who thinks I have had a face lift are talking out of their Botox, I look great with my keep fit routine, I work out every morning, work out what I am going to eat for the day, and when I started Yoga last week the instructor asked how flexible I was... I said I couldn't do Thursday but I did lose 35 pounds ... that was the gym membership. But I am not as old as Des O Connor, but I am the same shade of orange.....

What are you looking forward to most about visiting Wales?
I am most looking forward to the hills, the mountains and hopefully a lovely tea shop where I can dunk my ginger nuts in a nice cup of tea and look at the glorious view...

Looking back over your illustrious career what has been your career highlight?
One of my career highlights has to be winning The Weakest Link against the great Biggins... people thought I was daft as a brush, but I was cunning as a fox... I got questions wrong so they didn't think I was too clever... and pulled out the stops in the final.

Do you have a message for all your fans that are coming to see your show in June?
My message to my fans is ...don't miss out on this amazing roller-coaster of a show for all the family....laughter, screaming, and that’s before the show starts...and of course the chance to have our photograph taken with Basil and Mr. Stephen right after the show...and of course ..BOOM BOOM WALES!!
  • Catch Basil when he visits Newport Riverfront on Saturday June 6, and join in the mayhem, along with Mr Stephen who will be continually interrupted by naughty uncontrollable Basil! Call  01633 656757 or visit for details.
  • A version of this Q&A by Andy Howells appeared in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide on May 15, 2015.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Something To Shout About! - The Lulu Interview

Pop legend Lulu will belt out the hits on a night that's guaranteed to give you something to shout about next Monday at Cardiff's St David's Hall. The Glasgow-born star will be performing songs from her 50-year career as well as tracks from her recent album Making Life Rhyme. Andy Howells recently put questions to the celebrated music star.

How did your current tour come about?
It was all inspired when I was in New York playing BB King’s, a highly reputable blues club in Manhattan. The show was a sell out and people were saying “When are you going on tour again?”  I hadn't done a solo tour for so long having performed with Chaka Khan, Anastasia and the tours with Jools (Holland). Then I started writing and recording songs for a possible album and started pouring out. I got fired up and re-energised and then last year we just decided to go for it.

Its interesting you mention re-energised. You always strike me as having so much energy. Back in the 1960s you achieved so much in such a short time including having several hit records, getting to Number one in the US, making the film To Sir With Love, representing Great Britain in the Eurovision Song Contest and marrying BeeGee Maurice Gibb.
I know! How the hell did I do all that? I have got a lot of energy you’re absolutely right. It wasn't easy, I was very protected. I had a very good manager and she had a very close knit family and I lived with her mother and her father. When her father died, I bought a house and took her mother with me and she was very protective of me I think that’s how I survived so long. It was pretty daunting a lot of the time and scary and I missed my parents when I first came to London  and I’d cry myself to sleep at night I had so much success that it carried me but lets face it I came into the music business at an incredible time that will never happen again.

What was it like for you when you cracked America?
It was unbelievable. My parents didn't like British music or films, I was brought up on a diet of America! That’s why I sang with an American accent and I wanted to go to America. When To Sir with Love (the theme from the film of the same name) went to Number One in America and I got a telegram saying “America wants Lulu” I was like “Oh my goodness!” I went there and it was a little bit dreamlike but pretty fantastic, even today when I go to America there’s a very sweet attitude towards me, it’s because you couldn't have made To Sir with Love in America.  Black Americans have a real affinity towards me because I was in love with a black teacher (played by Sidney Poitier). It was a special thing, and it was only when I got older that I realised how much of a part of Sidney’s history I’d always be connected with.

You didn't get a UK Number one until the 1990s when you topped the charts with Take That and Relight My Fire. What was that like for you?
I was never upset that I’d never had a (UK) number one but then to have a number one was a nice surprise!

Many people probably think Shout was a number one.
I think some people do. It was such a powerful song and I've never been able to find a song that was comparable that.

Do you have a particular favourite that you've recorded?
I don’t think there’s one personal favourite. I love doing The Man Who Sold the World and the fact that I was able to write a song (I Don't Want To Fight) that Tina Turner had a hit with. That’s going to be a duet on the tour, that song was written about that situation and doing it as a duet was like kind of poignant.

Will you be performing your new album on the tour?
I won’t be doing all the album, only a few songs and some of the hits that I can do today and get my teeth into. There are certain lyrics I did when I was young that I don’t feel I can do today and songs that have influenced my roots from way back. I think of young people today who have been inspired by Motown. Bruno Mars, Calvin Harris, Jessie J who do they love? It’s influenced by the music I love that’s kind of what the whole show will be about - all for rock n roll!

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Q&A With Holli Dempsey Who Joins The Ranks Of Dad's Army In New Film

Actress Holli Dempsey is soon to star in the film remake of iconic British series Dad’s Army.

Dad’s Army is already making waves, not only due to its immense reputation as a series, but also down to its exceptionally boastful cast. Holli joins stellar cast members Bill Nighy, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Gambon, playing the part of ‘Pike’s (‘The Inbetweeners’ Blake Harrison) girlfriend, Vera.

Born and raised in London, Holli has been a guest lead in a multitude of successful TV shows including Doctor Who and Whitechapel. Holli is best known for her performances as Vicky in the award winning Ricky Gervais directed series Derek.

Having always had her eyes firmly set on a career in acting, she honed her craft by immersing herself in school plays from a young age. Holli decided against taking the drama school route into acting, instead she claimed a waitressing job in a local theatre. Naturally this led her to getting involved in as many plays and short films as she could possible, before she took the initiative of writing and performing her own show reel. This prompted her to being picked up by her now agent, Piers Nimmo.

Andy Howells recently put questions to Holli about her career and forthcoming appearance in the big screen remake of Dad’s Army.

How did you get into acting?
I still remember the first time I played a character on stage. It was my first school play in year 7 - Little Shop of Horrors, where I played Detective Bernstein. Year 7's were only allowed to be a part of chorus but I was offered this part by the director as I hung around the rehearsals so much, just soaking up the atmosphere. I suppose that was my first clue as to one of the keys to success in this industry - passion and persistence. After that night I knew all I ever wanted to do was to tell stories through acting. There was no match for the feeling of being in front of a live audience. I started attending a wonderful local youth theatre which I attended once a week for about 7 years. In this time I went from the shy/silent type to knowing 100% that I wanted to make a career out of this. For me, meeting my agent Piers Nimmo in 2010 was when things really started happening for me

What can you say about your character Vera in Dad’s Army?
Vera is a very sweet and loyal girl, I'd call her 'salt of the earth'. She is besotted by her beloved Pike and very much a part of the women in the film who have a much bigger presence than in the original series.

What was it like acting with such a strong cast?
It was never dull. Bill Nighy is a really lovely man with a wealth of stories up his sleeve. Also, when he gives you a compliment, it really resonates. He's very charming. Toby Jones is truly mesmerising, I love watching him 'play with' the character of Mainwaring. He has such a physicality which is fascinating to watch. I loved hearing Alison Steadman and Felicity Montague's stories of the industry. We were all bonded over this classic job - all were lovely and so incredibly talented.

Are you a fan of the original Dad’s Army TV Series and if so what do you enjoy most about it?
I adore the original series now, my uncle bought me the box set for Christmas, and with over 39 hours of footage, it's a good job I do like them!! Admittedly, as a child I avoided it at all costs. The green and grey colouring of the show and subtle humour just didn't appeal to me as a little girl, I am so glad I've had a reason to go back and watch it as it is just genius. The characters and the comedy hasn't aged at all, despite being set in another era. All the characters are so 3D and diverse. Whether you identify with a more jack-the-lad character of Walker or the dry humour of Wilson, there is a character for everyone. When characters are that detailed and strong, you can put them in any situation, with hilarious consequences!

Why do you think the popularity of Dad’s Army has endured?
I think the wonderful characters and basic themes IE; friendship, survival and war are all intrinsic to us as humans so are therefore relatable. The situation may not directly relate to us today but the essence of the characters and their spirit stays the same. The comedy seems as current now as ever. The idea of the men being mostly the 'over-age and untrained' underdogs is inherent in British comedy too. Like Brent in The Office or Basil in Fawlty Towers - We seem to be great at doing things terribly!

Do you think die-hard fans will like the new film version, particularly as everyone is so familiar with the original?
I fully expect people to shout "just leave it be - it was a classic" and I think this is fair enough and a testament to how well loved the series was. To that I would say: Rest assured we aren't trying to remake it, but celebrate it instead. I definitely feel that everyone involved did their best to honour the spirit and vibe of the original series. We even have two of the remaining cast members in the film. Even more reason to watch!

My hope is that a younger generation of people are drawn to see the film, maybe by the younger cast ie; Blake Harrison or Emily Atack. I believe if they like the film, they are going to LOVE the original series. Like me, they will then realise they were foolish to dismiss it as a child. It's OK, we all make mistakes!

You’re no stranger to Sitcom having appeared alongside Ricky Gervais in Derek which has been known for its controversial and sensitive matter, what was working on the show like for you?
Derek really was a dream job - like no other! Series 2 was my favourite to film as my character was really integrated into the Broadhill family and Vicky had finally found her place. I am really proud of this as her character was originally only ever meant to be in one scene! Ricky and I took it from that and managed to expand her story and take her on a journey. My memories of filming are just laughing all day long, and finishing before 4pm. No complaints there then!

I am really proud of the show on a whole too. It came up against criticism at first, mainly by people who hadn't watched it! (Funny that!) But I could stand by the fact that I thought the show was really important and sweet. It made people react emotionally and think about how they treat others. That is a pretty rare and powerful thing for a 24 min TV show to do. The main theme is kindness and I think that's a thing we could do with a lot more of in the world.

You've had experience in both drama and comedy, what do you enjoy most?
I genuinely love doing both, for different reasons. Comedy has such a big pay off when people enjoy it. Life can be tough, we need to laugh. I still remember those who made me laugh as child, it really stays with you. Drama is a chance to get my teeth into a script, find out what makes the character tick. It is likely to stretch your emotional range too ie; The Ice Cream Girls was sometimes tough to film, when it came to violent scenes.

But I have to do both. I really admire Julie Walters' career in that sense. She has gone from wild and outlandish stage comedy to true-to-life, gritty film characters. THAT's my dream! You can't have sunshine without a little rain!

What’s your favourite comedy movie or television sitcom and why?
When I'm at home with the family and we want to watch something we have a few faithful box sets to rely on. I have always loved Only Fools and Horses as the jokes and characters never get old. I also believe it is particularly relevant now, as we have experienced a Recession and everyone wants a bargain - everybody knows a Del Boy! As I mentioned, we have so far only watched about 4 out of the 39 classic hours of the Dad's Army box set!

As for my favourite comedy film, Four Lions by Chris Morris is definitely 'up there'. I can draw comparisons between the hapless, wannabe British terrorists in Four Lions and the similarly unfortunate boys in Green from Dad's Army. The characters in the film are all so individual and strong. There isn't an actor in that film that I wouldn't love to work with!

Who makes you laugh?
Who makes me laugh? My best friend! Also, Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse never fail to surprise, amaze and of course, make me chuckle!!

Beyond the Dad’s Army film do you have any other projects lined up?
I gave birth recently on Call the Midwife. I will be appearing in an episode of upcoming DCI Banks series and an episode of new comedy show The Delivery Man. I'm flying off to South Africa next week to film a part in a new comedy show for Sky. Watch this space! But more importantly I will be supporting Wales in the 6 Nations Rugby!
  • A version of this Q&A by Andy Howells was published in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide on May 1, 2015.

CD Review: Ultimate Sinatra by Frank Sinatra

In celebration of Frank Sinatra’s centennial year, Ultimate Sinatra is a 25 track career-spanning collection of the King of Cool’s greatest recordings ranging from 1940’s All or Nothing At All to 1979’s New York New York.

Do we need another Sinatra compilation when there are so many available already?

In the case of this release, a big “Yes”. Digitally remastered, each track pretty much runs into the other with sparking quality. His Capitol records hits such as I've Got You Under My Skin, and Fly Me to the Moon (In Other Words) sit nice and easy between early recordings including Saturday Night and later material featuring the reflective It Was A Very Good Year.

The real bonus of the release is listening in to a Sinatra recording session via an alternate take of Just in Time.

Ultimate Sinatra is a brilliant overview and if you have a few extra pounds you can plummet for a four disc collection or crank up the record player with a 24-track 180-gram heavyweight 2 LP vinyl for the full-on Sinatra sound.

Gemma Hayes Discusses Her New Album and Touring

Following the release of her new single Palomino boundary pushing Irish singer-songwriter Gemma Hayes is to commence a tour of UK & Ireland, kicking off at The Globe, Cardiff on May 14. The nine date run will see the maverick alt-folk musician air tracks from her acclaimed 2015 album Bones + Longing at the shows.

Bones + Longing is now the Tipperary native’s fifth album and the third to be released on her self-established Chasing Dragons record label (along with former albums Hollow Of Morning in 2008 and Let It Break (2011)).

Andy Howells recently put questions to Gemma.

Bones + Longing is your fifth long player in 13 years, how do you feel you have progressed since your debut release?
For me creativity doesn't necessarily go in a straight line or in forward motion. In some ways the naivety of the first album was closer to who I am as an artist than anything else I've done. However life experience has enriched my work in my opinion. What I'm very content about is the marriage between the fresh, naive approach to my new album and the weight of the emotions and subject matters I sing about.

Can you give us some background on how you approached your new album and what inspired it?
I didn't want to labor over it too much as sometimes it knocks the freshness out of it. That was number one on my priority list. So I chose lots of first vocal takes as they were the ones I felt most. It's hard to pin point what inspires me. It's life really. I wanted my album to be quite varied in soundscapes, so going from acoustic to loud chaos, folk to electronics to rock. Life is varied.

Tell us about your new single Palomino.
Well it's a song about a horse!;) It's a song about a girl on a horse rescuing a boy from being bullied. It has a plodding rhythm and a nursery rhyme style melody which is not what I usually do. I'm really into it for that reason. It's a new approach.

What have you enjoyed most about putting Bones Longing together?
Working with (producer) David Odlum. I enjoy his company in the studio. He is incredibly talented and good fun to be around. We always go on such intense creative journeys together. He gets what I get, if you know what I mean.

You've defied genres by releasing songs in various styles from folky ballads to lo-fi rock pop. Do you enjoy having that freedom within your work?
Yes I do. Music represents different aspect of who I am, different moods and life experiences. No one is just one mood or one aspect of themselves. Music has always been about expressing and celebrating that.

You're also touring with the album, do you enjoy playing live?
I enjoy it when I'm in the mood for singing and performing. I wouldn't be a natural entertainer … so it's something I have had to work at through the years. I love it now.

What's been your best live experience?
I can't think of any one in particular but I love that moment when it all comes together and everyone is locked in to the moment of the performance, including the audience.

What can fans expect when you play your Cardiff show?
Well, it will be loud and quiet at times. I'll be playing songs off all my five albums with my new four piece band. It will be our first gig together !! So I’m dead excited.

Finally what are you enjoying listening to at the moment?
I've been listening to some Bombay Bicycle Club songs off their new album and also rediscovering the Blue Nile.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

In Concert: An Evening With Texas, St David's Hall, Cardiff

“You’re getting a bit of a different show tonight” announced Texas’ Sharleen Spiteri to the bands St David’s Hall audience on Tuesday evening “ because it’s the 25th anniversary”.
To me, this was my first attendance at a Texas concert; I’d longed to see the band live for several years.  This concert was therefore quite a treat, with Sharleen opening up with a solo acoustic rendition of the bands most recent hit Start a Family before been joined on stage for a bluegrass tinged rendition of Texas debut hit I Don’t Want a Lover.
Between tracks Sharleen shared stories behind some of the bands songs including working with Serge Gainsbourg and TLC producer Dallas Austin (where she broke into a stunning brief rendition of the hit Waterfalls). With frequent audience interaction and at one point making an 8 year old fans evening by posing with her for a selfie Sharleen clearly loved the audience as much as they loved her.
With such a fronts person as Sharleen Spiteri it could be easy to overlook the rest of the band, but they were just as prominent in driving forward the evening’s music and getting the audience out of their seats with electrifying accompaniment on classic hits Black Eyed Boy, In a Lifetime and Say What You Want aided by a fabulous brass section. 
There was also a performance of two tracks from Sharleen’s much overlooked solo album Melody, a release which was personal to her but not out of place at a Texas concert, indeed the renditions of Stop! I Don't Love You Anymore and All The Times I Cried were both welcome and enjoyable.
25 years of Texas it may be, but the music still sounds as fresh as ever, here’s to the next 25 years!
  • A version of this review by Andy Howells appeared in the South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide on May 8, 2015.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

CD Review: First Ladies Of Country by Various Artists

Country music, love it or hate it there's a chance that at some point you've been subject to it by a loved one or a friend.

First Ladies of Country Music stamps out any modern day criticism about the lack of females in the music genre. There are 43 examples her showing how the ladies have kept a stronghold on the country music genre since the early 1960s.

Patsy Cline's Crazy had the distinction of charting again some 30 years after the singers tragic death while Dolly Parton's Jolene and Tammy Wynette's Stand By Your Man have become popular music crossover classics helping to make country music more accessible to the masses.

This musical history tour brings the genre right up to date including Kelly Clarkson's Mr. Know It All, Kacey Musgraves Follow Your Arrow and First Aid Kit's Master Pretender.

An instant country music collection - which can only be equaled perhaps by a male equivalent?

  • A version of this review by Andy Howells appeared in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide on April 25, 2015

CD Review: The Ultimate Collection - Paul Simon

A few years ago when reviewing Songwriter a double CD collection of solo Paul Simon songs, I made the observation that the tracks You Can Call Me Al and Me & Julio Down By The SchoolYard were omitted.

Paul Simon - The Ultimate Collection  not only features those tracks but also several greatest hit collaborations cherry-picked from Simon's collaborative partnership with Art Garfunkel.

Hearing solo hits such as Graceland and Boy In The Bubble alongside S&G classics The Boxer and Bridge Over Troubled Water certainly gives a broad overview of Simon's half century career but not the complete story by any means.

If you want several of Simon's solo and collaborative Greatest Hits in one place, this is a good place to start however and a first for attempting to bring both sides of the music legends career together on one album.

  • A version of this review by Andy Howells appeared in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide on April 25, 2015.

Eggsy Discusses Goldie Lookin Chain's Greatest Hits 2

Goldie Lookin Chain are back for 2015 with a UK tour this summer and the sequel to the third best Greatest Hits compilation ever released.

Back in 2004, GLC put out the multi-platinum Greatest Hits and now ten years (and a bit) on they have released the imaginatively titled Greatest Hits 2 which contains some of the best Goldie Lookin Chain songs from 2004 to 2014. Greatest Hits 2 includes such classic tracks as YouTube smash hit Fresh Prince of Cwmbran, live classic Time and Space, a drum and bass reworking of Your Missus Is A Nutter and the internet smash Baneswell Express. Andy Howells recently put questions to GLC's Eggsy about the album.

What brought about Greatest Hits 2?
We've been gigging, recording and releasing music every year since the release of the original greatest hits album on Atlantic records back in 2004. The album was a collection of the most popular tunes we had released unofficially through homemade CDs and tapes.
The past ten years has seen another body of work that has been popularised via YouTube and our live shows and we felt it would be great to bundle everything together and get it out there; especially after the response we get from fans online worldwide - one guy in Cambodia was so excited about the album his entire family got GLC tattoos - now that’s dedication.

Will there be any new tracks on the release?
There’s a collection of old classics, tunes that have only ever been performed live and some tunes only ever released as YouTube videos. This means, for a lot of the tracks, this is the first time they are available as an official release either on CD or as a digital download.

What do you think has been GLC’s best track over the years and why?
Everyone who knows the power of the GLC has a different idea of which track they think is the best.
As a member of the band I can never make my mind up. I think my favourite tracks from Greatest Hits 2 are either the Eastenders Rap or Newport BouncersSaying that, I’ll probably change my mind ten minutes from now! I just love writing and recording the tracks and the excitement of performing them live on tour is awesome. It makes me feel like Phil Collins or that fella from One Direction who left to become a full-time teenager.

What has been your best GLC moment?
There have been so many good times over the years, playing the Millennium Stadium, meeting Paul McCartney or hanging out backstage with the likes of Neil Young and Kraftwerk at Bestival.
It all becomes a blur but I think one of the best moments was probably hanging out at Kanye West’s House in LA a few summers ago. We didn’t even go near the studio, for the entire two weeks that we stayed, even though Kanye insisted we try and lay some tracks down. It was so much fun, at one point we had a water fight that lasted two days. We hooked up a 200ft long slip and slide that lead straight into his plunge pool. I don’t care what they say about him being an ill tempered rap midget I genuinely saw the fun side of one of the worlds brightest stars. You can’t buy memories like that. #fact

Are you touring with the new album?
Yes, the tour starts in May. We’re now into rehearsals and dates can be found on Twitter @theglc, our Facebook page goldielookinchain(glc) or the website,

Any other projects on the horizon?
As a band we are getting yet another album together as we speak. There are also some whisperings of a few very interesting side projects but I don’t want to say too much just yet. I do know that all the new stuff we have in the can at the moment is mind blowing, but right now we are focusing on a great new tour and the Greatest Hits 2Get me on that tour bus!

  • For more information on GLC’s forthcoming tour and the new album visit
  • A version of this Q&A by Andy Howells appeared in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide on April 17, 2015

Friday, 1 May 2015

On Stage: Disney on Ice Presents Magical Ice Festival, Cardiff Motorpoint Arena

Summer might be around the corner but there’s still plenty of opportunity to stay cool and enjoy an ice show as Disney on Ice proved as it returned to Cardiff Motorpoint Arena on Wednesday evening hosted by eternal favourites Mickey Mouse, Minnie, Donald Duck and Goofy.

Mickey and co's presence may have been there to pacify older members of the audience however, as it soon became apparent that the real pull of this latest ice spectacular are the colorful characters of The Little Mermaid, Tangled, Beauty and The Beast and Disney’s latest box-office smash Frozen. Served up in 25 minute segments colorfully choreographed sequences re stage to popular songs and dialogue from the films.

For The Little Mermaid Sebastian the crab is accompanied with a dazzling array of sea life friends including starfish, seahorses, Ariel, Flounder and wicked Ursula the Sea Witch.

Beauty and The Beast revisits the tale of Belle and The Beast while bringing to life the characters Lumiere the candlestick, Cogsworth the clock and good old Mrs Potts the Teapot and her son chip.

Tangled tells the familiar tale of Rapunzel and features a comic ice dance routine with the characters brandishing frying pans to the song I've Got a Dream. This sequence particularly stands out as the skaters portraying Rapunzel and Flynn Ryder really get into their roles while the addition of Maximus the Horse adds a certain comic value to the set.

The real pull of the show has to be Frozen, not only because of the tales wintry setting which lends itself to the ice show format but also for the wonderful performances of the skaters filling the roles of the already iconic Elsa and Ana. The real gasps of amazement from the audience came when both Sven The Reindeer and Olaf the Snowman skated into view.

In Concert: Albert Hammond Songbook Tour, Newport Riverfront

Albert Hammond has written, sung and produced hundreds of songs over the years, and it’s a fair bet that one of those songs forms part of a soundtrack in your life without you even realising it. Many of those songs were performed to great effect at Newport Riverfront on Tuesday evening as part of Albert’s current Songbook Tour. Among the tracks performed were It Never Rains In Southern California, Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now, Little Arrows, When I Need You, One Moment in Time, and I’m A Train.

The upbeat pace set by Albert and his four-piece band flowed from spiritual (Praise The Lord) to blues (Smokey Factory Blues), as Albert peppered each track with an anecdote about song inspirations or collaborations with greats such as Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison and Joe Cocker .

Rounding off the two hours the audience were pleasantly surprised when Albert put down his guitar and stepped off the stage to shake their hands as he performed When You Tell Me That You Love Me, a song written for his wife. A fabulous encore followed including his worldwide smash Free Electric Band and a rendition of The Air That I Breathe.

Versatile and uplifting, Albert Hammond’s Songbook Tour is an unmissable music treat, be sure to catch him the next time he visits the UK!

On Stage: Bruce Forsyth Entertains, Cardiff New Theatre

There’s still a huge demand for one-off performances as Sir Bruce Forsyth proved on Monday evening as he played his one-man show for one night only at Cardiff’s New Theatre.

From the moment Sir Bruce stepped onto the stage with musical accompaniment from the Dave Arch Orchestra the audience was his. “I've done shows where they closed with the opening number,” he joked, before commenting it was 32 years since he had last performed in Cardiff, “I was there!” shouted a member of the audience, “ I remember you, you were a nuisance!” Bruce replied, the audience laughed. Bruce was in charge!

Featuring a combination of song, dance, jokes and impressions, interspersed with comic interplay with Dave Arch and the orchestra, the real key to the shows success was Bruce interacting with audience members. This was utilised to full effect when he recreated a dance routine from the musical Top Hat by enlisting help from four random audience members. In true Generation Game style they consisted of a coffee shop owner, a quality engineer, a psychiatric nurse and a bin-man, the latter constantly reminding Bruce that he’d seen him in pantomime back in 1963. “I wish I was there now,” said Bruce after the dance routine began to comically fall apart.

The two hour show brought back many fun memories of Bruce’s many decades in show business. Rounding off the show with an audience Q&A he commented “When you've got an audience that lifts you up so much it makes it all worthwhile.” A voice from the audience shouted “You’re a legend Bruce” and the audience applause echoed the sentiment wholeheartedly. We had indeed been watching a show business legend – Mr Entertainment himself. Didn't he do well?