Review: Rebecca Ferguson at Sheffield City Hall

Upon arrival to the City Hall, seated on row E and very close to the stage, I prepared myself for a certain someone or something called ‘Chelsea.’ I got this information from the group of 20-somethings seated in front of me chanting the name and holding up a sign expressing their love for ‘Chelsea’. Not soon after, all was revealed and on came singer-songwriter, and support act, Chelsea Alice Scott – to an array of cheers, of course. A Sheffield lass herself, it was evident how much this gig meant to her, which was portrayed in her (at times) very emotive music. With a Lucy Spraggan-esque style about her songs, she sung stories of times and struggles in her life. Her set lasted about 30 minutes and the crowd loved her, a great opening act which changed the previously relaxed vibe around the hall (although the bar might have helped too).

Not soon after, four local lads ran on stage, with the frontman introducing himself as Matt Restaino. In all honesty, they weren’t my cup of tea and I found myself bored throughout the set. However, this wasn’t the same emotion from the audience, as they were on their feet and clapping along with the band. Like Chelsea, the band played live, original songs and gave it 100%. However to me, this was the reason I didn’t particularly enjoy the band, as I felt it was very cheesy and unnecessarily over enthusiastic. Although all in all, like Chelsea, the frontman did a great job of creating an atmosphere ready for Rebecca Ferguson to make her appearance.

Thus came Ferguson at around 9pm, sporting an elegant, black diamond encrusted dress and a new blonde look – she immediately owned the stage. Opening with the song Oceans from her new album ‘Superwoman’, this was a great upbeat opener which got the audience hooked. I was shocked by how confident she was, as on the X Factor she stated very openly how shy and nervous she was when on stage. Gone was the woman who just stared at the floor, and in came a powerful and confident young woman who meant business.

This appeared to be the theme of the album and the tour; ‘Superwoman’ is about feminism and strong, independent women, something which Ferguson frequently discussed when she addressed the audience. She informed the audience that ‘Superwoman’ was a song she wrote about her Grandma who had recently passed.  The song itself was well received and quite evidently meant a lot to Ferguson, which she also emotively expressed, was about her journey as a single mother, which has been documented in the media.

Determined to beat the stereotype, it was obvious too how Ferguson inspired women, and one woman from the audience at the front gave Ferguson a bunch of flowers. Her reaction was grateful and authentic, which anchors her humble nature we saw on The X Factor. It is Sheffield, she said, that she thanks her humble nature for, going on to say that she spent a lot of her childhood summers here and had family in the audience from Sheffield. This perhaps the reason she always performs here whenever she tours.

Throughout the evening, Ferguson sang a mixture of songs from the new album and songs from her previous album, ‘Heaven’. One notable song was her top 10 classic Nothing’s Real but Love, which she expressed was about while fame and fortune is all good, it’s only really family and love that you need. The song for me was the best of the entire show, and showed off her raw and unique vocal range amazingly.

My only criticism perhaps would be that at times, there were aspects of her old personality creeping in. For the most part, Ferguson was a confident young woman, however, on occasion it was very noticeable that the nerves and shyness is still in her, which was expressed through her at times physically shaking and tremors in her voice when she spoke – not something one would expect from a professional singer. Despite this, she appeared to completely shed her nerves the moment she sang.

I didn’t know a lot of the songs she performed that well, and some not at all, however, they were so well written and performed one could just enjoy them without feeling the pressure to sing along like you have in some show environments. Ferguson’s style was classier, and she sang to us, as opposed to us singing to her – very fitting of the City Hall.

The show, appropriately, ended with a song which summed up her feminist views and her new album perfectly. And what other than the Whitney Houston classic, I’m Every Woman?!

All in all, I was pleasantly surprised at just how good Ferguson was, and although I wouldn’t necessarily go again, not being the type of music I typically listen to, I would definitely recommend going to see Ferguson live! Especially if you wish to have a relaxed evening with pure, raw and original music.

 

Words by Charley Hussain

Review: Bugzy Malone at Plug

Risen from the depths of Manchester’s darkest slums, comes the Berghaus-sporting, unapologetically-Mancunian, grime mogul Bugzy Malone, touching down in the Steel City as part of his headline tour.

Following the explosive release of his EP ‘Facing Time’, Bugzy has decided to tear the nation in half with a series of appearances across the country.

Appearing almost immediately after Isiah Dreads as if by some sort of magic trick, a shadowy track suited figure took the main stage at Plug, firing lyric after lyric through the microphone at a euphoric Sheffield crowd.

Bugzy alternated from the bitter and reflective tones of his recent release ‘Keep it Movin”, with hynotising synths and dark topics of his past life, to unleashing a flurry of aggressive grunts accompanying his new release ‘Mad’, stirring the crowd into a web of feral mosh pits.

Bugzy spins his lyrics with a unique deadpan style that cannot be echoed throughout the entire grime scene, and this comes out clearly in his unfiltered speech on releases such as ‘Pain’. The guttural grunt coupled with the aggressive inner-city Mancunian accent allows for vivid story-telling – unheard in the rhymes of his southern competitors.

Often mentioning his real life stomping grounds in Central Manchester, there is a certain humility and ugly reality that can be felt in his lyrics as he speaks on his personal struggles with family and frequent run-ins with the police.

Representing his city with the iconic 0161 area code, a sea of ‘Manny on the Map’ merchandise appeared to undulate on every drum beat hanging on every word. As he stood facing only the mic and turning away from the crowd, he appeared to be addressing an unknown foe directly with pugnacious flow as if unaware of the audience’s presence.

Six years after the release of his first mixtape ‘SwaggaMan’,  Bugzy shows no signs of letting up from his conquest of the British grime scene, putting out two Top 10 EP’s through his own label, Ill-Gotten Records.

The performance ends on a hungry-for-more crowd demanding an encore from him, prompting a slight pause. Until the fist clenching tune ‘Mad’ is played to accompanying smoke clouds as the man returns to the stage to cause one final moshpit.

Chants of “0161” and “Manny on the Map” bounce across the masses as he darts across the stage, mic in hand,  clenching his jaw with every lyric. The chants continue to Plugs entrance, after an unforgettable performance Sheffield surely won’t soon forget.

Bugzy will appear with Charlie Sloth and friends on December 31st  at the Ritz in his home town. Tickets are now on sale!

 

Words by Daniel Amadi

Review: Crystal Castles at The Leadmill

When I was younger I had an ornate fear of dark woods, of uninhabited forests where things lurk bewildered to my imagination. Fear tended to lurk behind, beyond and within the pines. Simply the fear of the unknown; that’s what being scared of the dark is. As I grow older this fear shrinks but, as I enter the Leadmill, as I drink a gin and tonic, as I wait for the slender shadows of him and her to appear, the duo who make up the notoriously sinister Crystal Castles fear creeps in to the distant unknowing, unwilling abscess of my mind. The grunge, gothic style and appearance of the duo forfeit nothing but unpleasantness to my soul and the obsessive, constant, unnerving strobe lighting as they begin this showbiz ritual scares me into a state of panic. In such a situation of frenzy and panic what is one to do? Any reasonable being would have done what I did; boogie. Let loose those demons and jive, thrive, feeling alive!

Nothing this band do feels normal, absurd is a word fitting for their actions and presence. An old NME interview once told me that they were homeless and toured the UK while also living rough. Looking a little more stylish than your average vagabond they, with their relentless strobe lighting, stick their teeth in to a smooth electronic sound; Concrete and Baptism are the first two songs that are played. The sound of European electric music is identifiable and then it’s coupled with angelic screams from lead singer Edith Frances; both topped off with dark undertones and received with pleasurable responses. The crowd have only been listening for ten minutes and they are already tuned into the mad, menacing, metallic TV channel which is being broadcast on the stage. Edith Frances flaps about the stage like a rhythmic skeleton been thrown out of a burning building while the Wu-Tang Clan played in the background; her movements are intense, jerking her arms, flinging her head, thrusting her hips. The drugs she must have been on to numb the pain are questionable. This ritual styled dance takes the crowd through songs such as, Suffocation, Char, Kerosene, Intimate and Enth. Each song containing a debilitating chorus which gave the overall show a sense of grandeur.

Since the departure of Alice Glass, former front woman, nothing seems to have changed. The sound is the same in the new album ‘Amnesty I’ of which this show is part of the tour. Everything seems to be the same, either that or the blistering light show had blinded me for the full hour and half. Soldiering on through the head banging and cryptic dance-shuffling-goth-twisting lunatics whom occupied the crowd I witnessed the duo perform; Crimewave, Fleece and Frail before untangling myself from the crowd and watching them seal the deal with Telepath/Kept/Untrust us and Celestica. A biblical show, a performance for the unworthy and right bloody fantastic.

 

Words by Will Rotherforth

Review: Johnny Lloyd at The Harley

I am bundled through a small door after climbing the disabled ramp and spun back and forth, to and fro by crowds of teenagers, crowds of quiffs and crowds of eyes peering, waiting, and anxiously debating what is to come. I have entered the snake pit, the gladiator’s arena. I am hunched over the bar at the Harley with its dim lit, miasmic gutter-esque atmosphere. Yet its beauty is hidden in its charm. This beauty will only blossom when the music begins. October 6th. A Thursday. Note book crammed in to my light blue jacket, I’m wearing a hat and I’m wearing it indoors! I’m rude, obnoxious but possibly trendy; because of this I receive distasteful looks across the bar from the punters and gig goers – the kind one receives when you eat your flatmate’s food… accidentally. Vodka lemon and lime, double rum coke and lime double up to get your groove on, it’s nine thirty in the evening and a shabby-haired guitar-bolstering Johnny Lloyd struts admirably on to the stage. The stage is brightly lit, one side green the other side red, anyone under the influence is confused but fixated of this soon to be indie icon. Hustle and bustle ensue and the stalls are crammed, little ones surge to the front and the oldies (anyone considerable over 25 in the situation at hand) weave to the outer edges all in search of a good view. I ponder at the bar with my drink and barge to the centre a little far back but close enough – I can see all, which is a success for my 5ft10 timber frame.

Formally of the band Tribes, renowned for anthemic songs such as Sappho, Corner of an English Field and How the Other Half Live. Two slightly successful albums, then the break up. The Camden quartet entered unknown areas of the musical realm. Johnny Lloyd goes solo but brings Miguel Demelo, Tribes former drummer, along with him.

Silence. Coughs and splutters, the occasional drunken jeer and then lift off. First we are greeted with a song I am unfamiliar with and by the placid but happy faces of the crowd, they are too. C.Y.L.A is played. Loud, brash and uncontained it’s an opener making a real statement. No pause needed he begins to play Like I did and then to the crowds’ elation he slides in to the melodic, fuzzy and perfectly subdued Happy Humans, a song he wrote nearly over a year ago and released at the same time. This is the first song of the night that features on the EP ‘Dreamland’ which dropped on the 10th June 2016 via Extra Mile Recordings. The crowd sways and the quiffs are waving slowly and energetically in the distance, commanding a skyline of indie ruffians enjoying themselves. Boys Don’t Dance and Dead Beat crashes from the stage like the tide of a violent sea. The crowd, little or large, jackets or tight jeans are all in unison. Now at the half way point Johnny begins to play the leading song from his new EP, Hello Death. Sinister undertones ensue as he says in a salty voice: ‘Mother I’ve been as wicked as the rest’ and the guitarist to his right and bassist to his left begin an ominous hum to play their part to his pinnacle statement ‘Hello Death’. This track was produced by friend and singer songwriter Jamie T, even though I can’t quite hear the influence, it is still tremendous. The evening flutters on and next are Up on a Mountain, Traffic and You On a String before the night closes with two songs from his newly released EP Pilgrims and Dreamland and a new one Running Wild. The sweat-drenched teenage Johnny Lloyd fan club are elated, singing along to these tracks and belting out the verses – Johnny Lloyd can only possibly look back on this sold out Sheffield gig as a pleasantly thrilling success. The bar empties. I exit. Head in the clouds, hat still firmly on, I strike a cigarette and walk towards the blackness that has encapsulated the outside as for inside the colour still shines and the music still rings the spectrum of some impressive rainbow. I am pleased, agreed and proud of an artist I watched a year earlier in Leeds perform one of his first solo shows.

The next show is last on his headline tour in Newcastle then he joins the Goo Goo Dolls as support. If you have the chance, go see him! He plays the Picture House Social March 4th – I’ll be there.

 

Words by Will Rotherforth

Review: Lonely The Brave at Plug

Lonely The Brave’s UK tour got underway in Sheffield on Friday 30th September with an impressive performance at the Steel City’s Plug venue.

On the back of releasing their second album, ‘Things Will Matter’, in May followed by a successful festival season which saw the Cambridge quintet hit the likes of Latitude and Y Not – Lonely The Brave finally headed out on a full 15-date UK tour across September and October.

The Sheffield date already felt like an unmissable occasion for fans of this exciting alternative group, but the fact that it was the very first date of the tour just made it extra special.

Support was provided by two local bands – the female-fronted ‘ambient rock’ quartet Eden Haze, and then the Rick Astley-covering Seconds Apart, whose energetic frontman Martin Cartlidge spent almost as much time on the floor as the stage in the intimate surroundings!

Lonely The Brave, fronted by singer David Jakes, finally arrived on the stage to a big ovation at around 9pm.

The second track of their new album, ‘Black Mire’, introduced the set and then a mixture of old and new material was performed through the evening as the band filled the venue with their impressive rock sound.

‘Blue and Green’ proved the highlight of the first half of the set, as the crowd sang along loudly with Jakes’ emotional vocals.

Following a cover of Pink Floyd’s ‘Comfortably Numb’, the performance was raised to another level as the band powered through fan-favourites ‘Diamond Days’, ‘Trick of the Light’ and ‘Backroads’ before leaving the stage.

But the fans weren’t done with them yet and, after screaming for an encore, their wish was duly granted as the band returned for an encore of ‘Call of Horses’ and ‘Black Saucers’.

It was a truly faultless performance from one of the most exciting up-and-coming alternative rock bands of the moment which sent every person in attendance home with a smile on their face.

If you haven’t already, then I would highly recommend listening to Lonely The Brave and, if you can, catching a live performance! You won’t be disappointed.

 

Words by Ryan Watterson