Birmingham’s Essential Entertainment Guide
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Posted on Sat 20 May
With a number of the UK’s biggest and most impressive venues in our patch, we Midlanders are guaranteed a chance to see some of the music industry’s brightest stars as they tour the country. Our grass-roots music scene is super-cool, too. Here’s a selection of gigs worth grabbing a ticket for over the next few weeks...
‘Life, living and the gritty reality of our era’ is the subject matter of UK Grim, the latest album by Sleaford Mods - aka Andrew Fearn and Jason Williamson.
The Nottingham duo’s working-class rage has found an outlet via a sound that’s proved resolutely hard to pin down across the years.
Recent times have seen them producing grooves that are increasingly dancefloor-friendly - and Jason’s lyrics are somewhat less ranty nowadays, too.
“I try and broaden the palette,” he explains, “adding more melody to the talk-type thing, or whatever you want to call it.”
O2 Academy, Birmingham, Wednesday 22 November
Nottingham-raised alternative singer-songwriter B-ahwe fuses soul, jazz and trip-hop to create a unique sound that’s seen her emerge as one of the UK’s most promising young artists.
Blending rich vocal arrangements, lush instrumentals and poetic lyricism, her music explores themes of femininity, relationships and mental health whilst simultaneously challenging societal ideals.
The Sunflower Lounge, Birmingham, Wednesday 22 November
THE LEISURE SOCIETY
Folk-rockers The Leisure Society have never wanted to be the kind of band that simply creates a particular sound and then attempts to reproduce it ad nauseum.
Instead, they perform sets that veer all over the place; from very quiet introspective ballads, to real balls-out rock numbers.
“Playing live, we try to be sophisticated,” Christian Hardy told nbhap.com, “but Nick [Hemming] and I started out in rock bands, so that’s a kind of sound we like too.”
Naming among their influences The Beach Boys, The Kinks, The Beatles and Paul Young, the band was formed by Burton upon Trent boys Christian and Nick back in 2009. They have since received ringing endorsements from major music-industry names - including Brian Eno and Ray Davies - and visit Birmingham this month as part of a short tour showcasing brand-new music.
Hare & Hounds, Birmingham, Wednesday 22 November
Cucamaras certainly didn’t step into the limelight fully formed.
The Nottingham indie band freely admit that they’re nowadays less than impressed with some of their early music, which they bluntly describe as ‘**cking soulless’.
A ‘bit of a sit-down’ together saw them taking a fresh approach to songwriting and musicmaking. The change in direction has resulted in them becoming one of the hottest emerging bands around.
The Sugarmill, Stoke-on-Trent, Thursday 23 November
Scottish award winners King King have been described as ‘the living, breathing here-and-now of classic rock music’.
With a reputation for creating a fantastic chemistry with their audience, the band boast an outstanding back-catalogue, a full-blooded style, technical brilliance, and impassioned vocals from lead singer Alan Nimmo. This is a must-see show for rock and blues lovers alike.
Queens Hall, Nuneaton, Thursday 23 November
Singing powerful, uplifting songs reflecting the lived experience of being a young woman in the modern world, Izzie Derry has been described as ‘the love child of Laura Marling and Alanis Morissette’.
“I see music as a form of emotional release,” explains Coventry-born Izzy. “Turning potentially negative experiences into songs in which people can find joy feels like such a positive experience.”
The Tin Music & Arts, Coventry, Friday 24 November
Fuzz-pop four-piece The K’s are set to swap their cult status for the magic of the mainstream - a journey made possible by the quality and popularity of their escapist anthems.
“We’ve crafted our own sound,” says vocalist & guitarist Jamie Boyle. “Even if I’m not singing, you’ll know it’s a K’s song. We want to leave a legacy, to be more than just a band. I’ve seen it with my dad’s love of The Jam, where it becomes a lifestyle for people. We want to be about so much more than just listening to the music.”
hmv Empire, Coventry, Wednesday 29 November
THE WEDDING PRESENT
British indie rock group The Wedding Present have been gigging since 1985, when they formed following the demise of the Lost Pandas. With influences including The Fall, Buzzcocks and Gang Of Four, the band is best known for playing fast-paced indie rock. There have been numerous line-up changes down the years, with vocalist and guitarist David Gedge being the band’s only constant member. Their Coventry concert sees them performing a selection of songs from across their 38-year career.
hmv Empire, Coventry, Saturday 2 December
BEANS ON TOAST
Self-confessed drunkard Beans On Toast selected his name because he wanted to be called something basic and simple - to reflect his music!
“I’m not the greatest guitarist in the world,” he once admitted to Listen Up Manchester. “I play simple three-chord folk songs, but if I see something that interests me, something that intrigues or angers me, I pick up my guitar and I write a song.”
Emerging from the London folk scene over a decade ago and mainly singing about sex, drugs and politics, Beans On Toast is a surefire bet for an entertaining evening out.
Albert's Shed Bar, Shrewsbury, Sunday 3 December; St Swithun's Church, Worcester, Tuesday 5 December
Although 21-year-old Katie Gregson-MacLeod cites Amy Winehouse and her mum’s love of Joni Mitchell and Motown as her main influences, her dream duet would be with Tim Minchin. “I was 13 or 14 when I fell for his wordplay,” she reveals. “Both his comedy and serious stuff blew me away. I felt the same at 18 when I heard Phoebe Bridgers. And when I discovered Leonard Cohen. But if I had to choose one, it would be Tim. He’s my dream. I’m waiting for our TikTok duet!”
Hare & Hounds, Birmingham, Tuesday 5 December
Celebrating 20 years since the release of debut album Fire - featuring the hit single Danger! High Voltage - Detroit rockers Electric Six here make a welcome return with their unique blend of garage-rock, disco and punk.
The boys are no slouches when it comes to putting on a show, so this should definitely be a night to remember for Midlands-based fans.
O2 Academy, Birmingham, Wednesday 6 December
Described by Total Entertainment as ‘the man who specialises in conveying the emotional complexities of love and loss in sparse, warm-hearted acoustic songs’, Wolverhampton singer-songwriter Scott Matthews’ ground-breaking debut album, Passing Stranger, earned serious critical acclaim, with his first single, Elusive, winning the Ivor Novello for best song musically & lyrically.
He’s since gone on to produce a further eight albums, the latest of which, Restless Lullabies, he is here touring to Shrewsbury.
Shrewsbury Abbey, Thursday 7 December
THE URBAN FOLK QUARTET
The Urban Folk Quartet are like no other folk band. With Birmingham’s vibrant and diverse music scene having a significant influence on their work, they dabble in all kinds of sounds, from funk grooves and Middle-Eastern melodies, to afrobeat and north Indian rhythms. They tug their collective forelock in the direction of more-traditional folk too, describing their music as ‘fiddle-led’ and drawing heavily on ‘celtic dance forms and traditional song’. The band are touring in support of their seventh album.
Huntingdon Hall, Worcester, Thursday 7 December
Julianna Riolino’s Americana-indebted songs put the pain, love and healing that she’s experienced in her own life very firmly under the spotlight.
“If I was a painter, this would be my blue period,” says the Toronto singer-songwriter, whose output has been likened to ‘Dolly Parton hanging out in Laurel Canyon in 1972’. “I’m looking at my life, all my decisions lined up, and either atoning for them or laughing them off.”
The Tin Music & Arts, Coventry, Thursday 7 December
JAH WOBBLE & THE INVADERS OF THE HEART
John Wardle began his music career at the age of 18 as a founder member of Public Image Limited (PiL), performing alongside John Lydon, John Grey and Sid Vicious. His distinctive ‘low end’ bass became the backbone of PiL’s pioneering sound.
Following his split from the band, he formed Jah Wobble’s Invaders Of The Heart, receiving a Mercury Music Prize nomination in 1991 for the Rising Above Bedlam album. Wardle’s heavy, hypnotic bass lines defined the post-punk era and have influenced a significant number of musicians across the last 30-odd years... Expect a gig that brings together dub, world, ambient and avant-rock music to excellent effect.
Foxlowe Arts Centre, Leek, Friday 8 December
The high-energy Gogol Bordello are a well-established gypsy punk rock ensemble from Manhattan who’re much admired for their theatrical stage performances.
Having enjoyed a career featuring numerous movie appearances and an impressive nine albums (not to mention various side projects and compilations), it’s fair to say that they’re an extremely busy and much-in-demand band. They’ve also amassed a not-inconsiderable number of former band members - which may or may not have something to do with their heavy touring schedule!... Support on the night is provided by Peat & Diesel and Puzzled Panther.
O2 Institute, Birmingham, Friday 8 December
After the better part of a decade spent plying their trade at festivals and around the folk clubs of the North East, the Young’uns are established as one of the country’s most popular folk/acoustic acts.
“In the past, songs have been inspired by history - of where we’re from, of the landscape,” says the trio’s singer & accordion player David Eagle. “But then we became more inspired by things now. We approach folk music as stories and songs and anecdotes. Every gig is about storytelling, so our songwriting has become more sophisticated. We’re talking about things that are actually in the now. We know what we like, we’re more unabashed, we know who we are.”
Expect plenty of that heart-on-the-sleeve storytelling, along with beautiful lyrics, warm harmonies and relentless repartee, when the trio stop off in Coventry this month with a special Christmas show.
Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry, Saturday 9 & Sunday 10 December
rish singer-songwriter Hozier burst onto the music scene with the 2013 release of his single, Take Me To Church, which made it to number one in Belgium and peaked at number two in the UK, the US and Ireland. Subsequent performances at prestigious events including Glastonbury and Billboard Music Awards saw his career go from strength to strength... The 33-year-old is visiting Birmingham this month in support of third studio album Unreal Unearth.
Resorts World Arena, Birmingham, Wednesday 13 December
NOEL GALLAGHER'S HIGH FLYING BIRDS
Formed in 2010 by ex-Oasis star Noel, the High Flying Birds are widely credited with creating music that merges the melodies of The Beatles with the power of The Who. Nowadays bringing together former Oasis members Gem Archer, Mike Rowe and Chris Sharrock with one-time Zutons bassist Russell Pritchard, the band earlier this year released fourth studio album Council Skies to great critical acclaim.
Utilita Arena Birmingham, Friday 15 December
Passionate purveyors of a southern-rock vibe, Ramblin’ Preachers bring their ‘arena-like power, relatable songwriting and face-melting live show’ to Leamington Spa in the run-up to releasing debut album Sins & Virtues in the spring. The record will follow on from a clutch of acclaimed singles, including Mind Your Own Business - boasting a very southern-rooted rock approach - the ‘modern rock’-influenced Better Than Me, the ballady Jester, and the groove-driven Separate Ways.
Temperance, Leamington Spa, Friday 15 December
Surely the UK’s most popular pianist and bandleader, Jools Holland continues to dazzle in the company of his brilliantly talented Rhythm & Blues Orchestra.
Jools and the ensemble have been touring the country on and off for many a year now, but there’s no sign yet that they’re growing tired of living out of their suitcases.
Indeed, this latest road trip sees them playing 30 shows, including these two mid-month Birmingham dates.
They are joined for the shows by Pauline Black and Arthur ‘Gaps’ Hendrickson, founding members of influential Coventry two-tone band and ska pioneers The Selecter.
Ruby Turner, Louise Marshall and Sumudu Jayatilaka also contribute.
Symphony Hall, Birmingham, Friday 15 & Saturday 16 December
The Twang were signed back in the mid-noughties and lauded by NME as Britain’s best new band.
Hailing from Quinton in Birmingham, founders Phil Etheridge and Jon Watkin came together musically after meeting at Kidderminster College. Originally called Neon Twang, the band enjoyed great success with debut album Love It When I Feel Like This, reaching number three in the charts.
They followed up with Jewellery Quarter (2009), 10:20 (2012) and Neontwang (2014) but have since released material at a slower pace.
Recent times have seen them play numerous festivals and headline shows, support Shed Seven on a mammoth tour and perform alongside the likes of Doves, Johnny Marr, The Coral and the Kaiser Chiefs.
The Civic at The Halls Wolverhampton, Friday 15 December; O2 Institute, Birmingham, Friday 22 & Saturday 23 December
To me, this record is a massive ‘F**k you’ to Brexit,” says Steve Mason, in talking about latest album Brothers & Sisters. “And a giant ‘F**k you’ to anyone that’s terrified of immigration, because there is nothing that immigration has brought to this country that isn’t to be applauded. Can you imagine what this place would be like without that? I mean, what would it be like? Cornish pasties and morris dancing?!”
Newhampton Arts Centre, Wolverhampton, Thursday 14 December
English pop duo Go West took the 1980s music scene by storm. Within four short years of forming, lead vocalist Peter Cox and rhythm guitarist & backing vocalist Richard Drummie had bagged a coveted Brit Award for best British breakthrough act...
Still going strong 41 years after coming together, the boys will no doubt use their Bilston gig to revisit some of their greatest releases, including We Close Our Eyes, Call Me, Faithful and King Of Wishful Thinking.
The Robin, Bilston, Saturday 16 December
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