Ramin Karimloo Back from Broadway

Another year, another Ramin Karimloo gig – something I’ve been looking forward to for months. After spending time on Broadway performing in the musical Anastasia, he has come back to the UK for a bit. His last Royal Festival Hall gig was back in 2012 – I don’t know where the time’s gone since then!

I can’t find a setlist, but Ramin sang songs from the musicals he is known for, like Phantom and Les Miserables – Music of the Night, Till I Hear You Sing, Bring Him Home – and tunes from other musicals like Oklahoma!The Greatest Showman and Finding Neverland – Oh What A Beautiful Morning, From Now On and Neverland. He also included songs he has written himself and released previously, as well as a number of new songs. One of the reasons I love seeing Ramin live is that I am always being introduced to new types and genres of music.

It was such a good night and I only hope I don’t have to wait for another year to see Ramin live again.

An Evening with Ramin Karimloo – Union Chapel

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Union Chapel

I’ve written before about how much I love Ramin Karimloo, and I’ve been looking forward to his Union Chapel concert for months: he hasn’t performed in the UK for several years, owing to his role as Jean Valjean in Les Miserables on Broadway, followed by a stint in Japan. I was not the only one to be excited by the news, as the concert was sold out really quickly, so I was very happy to have got a ticket.

The Union Chapel is a beautiful venue, a working chapel which also hosts gigs, talks and other assorted events. It can be a bit chilly inside, but you’re allowed to take a cup of tea to your seat and watch the show, which helps create a cosy atmosphere. I must be getting old – this sounds very appealing compared to the traditional concert experience of moshing with a can of lager!

Ramin himself sounded incredible, but then I hadn’t expected anything less. He opened the show with “‘Til I Hear You Sing”, which is one of my favourite Andrew Lloyd Webber songs, and sang several musical numbers including “Oh What A Beautiful Morning” and “Bring Him Home”, which he performed as a duet with Hadley Fraser, who was present on stage for the entire concert. What I love about Ramin, though, is that he is so versatile – over the last few years he has branched out from musical theatre, and his gig included original songs and covers ranging from country and bluegrass to rock.

The concert was such a brilliant experience, and I’m really glad I made the effort to go. Who knows when Ramin will be back in the UK again? I’ve added the setlist at the bottom of this post: I would encourage you to go and look up the list on YouTube, to discover why this man is so amazing.

Setlist

1. Till I Hear You Sing

2. Traveller’s Eyes

3. On The Road to Find Out/Wild World

4. Driftwood

5. Broken

6. Letting The Last One Go

7. Constant Angel

8. State Lines (with Ashleigh Gray)

9. Bring Him Home (with Hadley Fraser)

10. We’re All In This Together

11. Wings

12. Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin’

13. Do You Hear The People Sing?

14. Murder In The City

15. I Wish The Wars Were All Over

16. Will The Circle Be Unbroken

Encore

17. Losing

18. Wagon Wheel

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The Big Reunion Boy Band Tour

Another year, another Big Reunion concert, this time the Boy Band Tour. I went to see this at Newcastle Arena with some friends and we had a great time, although sadly the venue was not full.

It was great to see 911, Blue and 5ive again (although 5ive are sadly now down to “3hree”) – 911 in particular were great, and I can’t believe Jimmy and Spike can still handle those dance moves. I was particularly excited about seeing A1, who were not in the last tour. ‘Same Old Brand New You’ is a BRILLIANT pop song and my friend and I have been humming it for a year solid, so it was great to finally see it live.

I wasn’t too bothered about Damage or 3T – the guys seemed lovely and they can certainly sing, but I didn’t recognise any of their songs (except for Damage’s final track) and they were all dull ballads in any case. 5th Story, on the other hand, were a treat – a “supergroup” made up of solo singers and band members, all of who were one- or two-hit wonders and who were brought together for the second series of BR. Kenzie from Blazin’ Squad, Dane Bowers from Another Level, Gareth Gates of Pop Idol fame, singer Kavana, and teen heartthrob Adam Rickitt made up the quintet – the group’s rendition of former Corrie star Adam Rickitt’s hit ‘I Breathe Again’ was a particular highlight. The gig ended with all of the bands coming on stage to sing Gates’ hit, a cover of ‘Spirit in the Sky’, which I always thought was an odd choice (British pop star singing about Jesus?!) but it proved a cheering finish.

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Concert finale

Katy B at the Roundhouse

The other night I went to see singer Katy B at the Roundhouse in north London. I booked my ticket ages ago and I nearly didn’t make it – I’d arranged to meet a friend I hadn’t seen for ages on the same night and had decided to miss the gig, but as it happened our evening ended earlier than I’d anticipated, and I had time to get to Chalk Farm before Katy was on stage at 9.

Now although I do like Katy’s music (or else there wouldn’t have been much point in me booking this show at all), I wasn’t really expecting great things. The ticket was cheap (under £20 for a gig – I’m not used to these prices!) and I thought it might be a nice night out. However, I really enjoyed myself. Katy has a great voice and gave an impressively good performance, singing loads of her hits and really playing to the crowd.

I was also pleasantly surprised by how good the view from my seat was. I got the last ticket remaining, and the seat was in the circle, right at the end. However I could see everything really well and the atmosphere was still great. I also found myself admiring the architecture in the building – the Roundhouse is a former railway shed and many of the original features are still present and visible.

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Even up in the circle, the view is good

Paloma Faith at the Roundhouse

I went to see Paloma Faith at the Roundhouse in Chalk Farm on Tuesday. The last time I saw her was at Glastonbury 2010 when I am sure she was high – she kept giggling madly and acting all spaced-out. Maybe that’s just her though? Anyway, she definitely seemed more with-it on Tuesday, performing tracks from all three of her albums, particularly her most recent record, ‘A Perfect Contradiction’.

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I loved her first album and really like her most recent one, which is more grown-up and soulful. I think my favourite track is ‘Can’t Rely On You’ which is really catchy (that’s the extent of my ability to analyse music I’m afraid). I was pleasantly surprised by the songs she performed from her second album: I was really disappointed with that one but I thought the songs sounded better live, and encouraged me to go back to the album and listen again.

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The venue itself was great: I’ve been to the Roundhouse to see Shakespeare but this was the first time I’d attended a gig there. The space worked really well and was a perfect size. A good night indeed!

Adventures in Northamptonshire

I left Somerset on the train back to London, travelled from Paddington to Euston, and hopped on another train, this time to Northampton. I was staying with my friend Elizabeth for the weekend, and she met me at the station.

The title of the above post is slightly misleading as we spent very little time in Northampton at all, at least on the Saturday. During the day we visited Coventry, which is a short distance on the train. I last visited Coventry in 2003 to stay with my cousin who was studying at the University. I didn’t get a chance to look around the cathedral then, but I made up for it this time.

Coventry Cathedral was heavily bombed during the Second World War and only the shell remains. However it has been turned into a lovely place to remember and reflect on the consequences of war, and it stands for the importance of peace. The new cathedral is very modern, but also beautiful in its own right. It stands alongside, and is connected to, the old cathedral and the two fit surprisingly well together.

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We then visited the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, which had an interesting exhibition about the history of Coventry, a fascinating art exhibition, and a lovely café.

In the evening we went to see Justin Timberlake at the Birmingham LG Arena. This concert was the main reason for my trip. We both have fond memories of his tunes at University and always said we’d like to see him in concert. I normally go for standing tickets but for this gig they were £100 (!!) and I would never pay that much, so we chose the cheap seats at the back. However, the venue was small enough for us to still have a great view. I wouldn’t have gone for the cheap seats at the O2 in London; you are so far back you might as well not bother.

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Justin didn’t disappoint, playing all his classic hits rather than focusing solely on his recent album. I was surprised at how genuinely talented he is – I thought I would just have a bit of a dance to the songs I knew but I was unprepared for how good his voice was, how awesome his dancing was and how well he played instruments, including the guitar and the piano. He commanded the stage and completely charmed the audience.

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The next day we stayed in Northampton. Elizabeth took me to a local Sikh temple, as one of her friends had invited her. I admit I knew next to nothing about the Sikh religion but everyone was very welcoming. Later we visited the museum where she works: there was an exhibition of art inspired by John Clare’s work, and another on underwear through the ages, with a beautiful selection of corsets!

I caught the train back to London, sorry that my long weekend was over, but looking forward to the Easter break.

Haim at the O2 Academy Brixton

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Brixton Academy

So I went to see Haim last night and they were ace. I booked my ticket a few months back on a whim and was super glad I did. I love their album but if anything they were even better live!

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Haim rocking out on stage

I was also impressed with the venue. It’s roomy and has a kind of crumbling grandeur. The floor is spacious and if the queues at the toilets and the bar are a bit big for my liking, at least they’re not out of the way of the stage, so you can still hear what’s going on. I love how the floor slopes towards the stage so you get a really good view even if you’re right at the back.

Sporty’s Forty – Melanie C’s one-off gig at Shepherd’s Bush Empire

I never did get to see the Spice Girls live, and they were my favourite band once upon a time so this saddens me. Most of them aren’t even making music any more, but Melanie C (‘Sporty Spice’) has had a steady solo career since leaving the band, which in recent years has even encompassed musical theatre – she had excellent reviews for her role as Mrs Johnson in Blood Brothers and has recently been touring as Mary Magdalene in Jesus Christ Superstar.

In a move that made me feel very old indeed, Mel announced on Twitter that she was about to turn forty and was hosting a one-off concert at Shepherd’s Bush Empire to celebrate. I thought it might be fun to see Mel sing live, so I went ahead and bought a ticket. Just as well I bought it when I did, as the concert was sold out.

I wasn’t sure what I would think of the concert: I know of Mel’s early solo stuff (Northern Star, I Turn To You) and I have her most recent album The Sea, but I hadn’t paid much attention to her solo career in between. I needn’t have worried, though: I knew most of the songs she sang, and even the ones I didn’t know were catchy enough for me to like them instantly.

Mel sang with several guests during the night, including Ben Forster and Chris Moyles from the recent Jesus Christ Superstar production, and collaborators such as Adam Argyle. The biggest surprise came when she sang Pure Shores with Natalie Appleton – given the big rivalry between the Spice Girls and All Saints back in the day, this is something I never thought I’d see. Right at the end, Emma Bunton, who’d been watching the show from the circle all night (and waving to fans below) came on stage to sing 2 Become 1 with Mel. Maybe I never got to see the Spice Girls, but at least I got to see the next best thing!

Setlist

  1. Think About It
  2. Stupid Game
  3. Weak
  4. Northern Star (featuring Andy Burrows)
  5. Burn
  6. Loving You (featuring Ben Foster)
  7. Be The One (acoustic)
  8. Don’t Let Me Go (featuring Adam Argyle)
  9. Four to the Floor (featuring James Walsh)
  10. One By One (featuring James Walsh)
  11. Only Girl (In The World)
  12. You’ll Get Yours (with Peter Vetesse)
  13. Drown
  14. Ga Ga
  15. Beautiful Intentions
  16. Never Be The Same Again
  17. When You’re Gone (featuring Chris Moyles)
  18. Goin’ Down
  19. Next Best Superstar
  20. Enemy
  21. Pure Shores (featuring Natalie Appleton)
  22. I Turn To You
  23. 2 Become 1 (featuring Emma Bunton)

I loved the show and it has inspired me to buy Mel’s other albums. Another awesome thing about the show was the chocolate cake we all got at the end, handed out by aproned staff as we left the venue!

The Big Reunion at Newcastle Arena

I watched the Big Reunion show on TV and loved it – it really took me back to those 90s/early 00s days of cheesy pop music when I was a teenager. When the tour was announced, my friends and I snapped up tickets for the Newcastle show on Sunday 5 May, and I’ve been excited about it for months.

We had really good seats, pretty near the front. Seven bands were involved – 5ive, B*Witched, 911, Blue, Liberty X, Honeyz and Atomic Kitten. Apart from B*Witched, I wasn’t a major fan of any of these bands at the time – I didn’t own any CDs or go to any concerts – but over time I’ve come to realise that they all made some brilliant pop music.

First on stage were 5ive, sadly minus original member J, who didn’t want to take part. The rest of the band made up for his absence, however, belting out ‘We Will Rock You’ with gusto and following with ‘Everybody Get Up’.

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5ive

B*Witched were up next. Now in my early teens I completely loved them, and in fact my first ever concert, here in Newcastle Arena back when it was named the Telewest Arena, was a B*Witched show. I didn’t double-denim it this time, but I loved singing along to ‘C’est La Vie’ and the follow-up ‘Rollercoaster’.

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B*Witched

Up next were 911, who launched into ‘Party People’ and got the crowd screaming straight away. It was good to see that the passage of time hasn’t stopped Lee, Spike and Jimmy from being able to execute impressive dance moves including a couple of backflips. During ‘A Little Bit More’ the band got everyone to light up their phones and wave them in the air – the result was actually quite beautiful.

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The crowd
The crowd

The Honeyz slowed things down with their most famous song, ‘Finally Found’. I was actually surprised to find out just how many hits they had, as I had always thought of them as one-hit wonders. When they sang ‘End of the Line’ I was reminded that I used to love this song and I had it on a mix tape!

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The Honeyz

Atomic Kitten bounced on to the stage next, singing their hit ‘ Right Now’. I felt sorry for poor Kerry as she’d been put into what looked like a boiler suit while Tash and Liz were wearing pretty skirts. The band sounded really good though.

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Atomic Kitten

Liberty X came on next, performing ‘Thinking It Over’. Some of the bands on this tour are planning to release new material and embark on their own tours, but Liberty X announced that they were going to break up for good after the Big Reunion tour finishes. This is a shame as they did a really good job.

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Liberty X

Finally, Blue took to the stage to perform their hit ‘All Rise’. Blue were a little after my time – they were popular when I was in the sixth form – but I do like several of their songs and I enjoyed their performance. They finished off with a powerful rendition of ‘Breathe Easy’.

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Blue

After an interval – during which I purchased a B*Witched mug from the merchandise stand – the bands took to the stage again, this time in a different order. The Honeyz sang their hit ‘Take It Lying Down’ which I really like, while 911 performed ‘Bodyshakin” and ‘More Than a Woman’. Blue sang ‘Sorry Seems To Be the Hardest Word’ while B*Witched came out with umbrellas for the brilliant ‘Blame It On the Weatherman’.

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Blame It On the Weatherman

Liberty X pleased the crowd with ‘Just A Little’ while 5ive got everyone singing along to ‘Keep On Movin”. Finally, Atomic Kitten performed ‘Whole Again’, before everyone got back on stage at the end.

Finale

Finale

It was a brilliant night – would it be wrong of me to go to one of the Christmas shows too?!

Beyoncé: the Mrs Carter Show at the O2

From Pink to Beyoncé in less than a week – two concerts at the O2, but two very different experiences. I was amused by the differences in the crowds for the two gigs – at Pink all the misfits with crazy hair showed up, at Beyoncé everyone was dressed up to the nines with ridiculously high heels and I felt rather underdressed.

Beyonce

The energy and anticipation in the arena were unlike anything I’d ever seen before. When Beyoncé stormed on stage to sing her opening number ‘Run the World (Girls)’, the screaming was incredible. This woman is a brilliant performer, a great dancer and a very good singer.

Beyonce

I did enjoy the concert but not as much as Pink’s last week. It felt a little disjointed in parts and it annoyed me that Beyoncé would often only sing parts of songs before launching into others. Having said that, I did have a good time.