Spice Girls (Spiceworld Tour) – Stadium of Light

Spice Girls concert

The Spice Girls aren’t the first group I’ve seen at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light, but they’re possibly my most anticipated. I’ve been a fan for years, their single ‘Wannabe’ was the first single I ever bought, and their album ‘Spice’ the first album. I never got a chance to see them live when I was younger, so I wasn’t going to miss this one.

They played all the hits and my friend and I had a fantastic time. I was sad that Victoria (Posh) wasn’t there, but frankly she was always my least favourite and the others definitely made up for her absence. I loved the costumes too, especially Geri’s – I really want an Anne-Boleyn-inspired initial necklace like hers!

Setlist

  • Spice Up Your Life (Morales Carnival Remix)
  • If U Can’t Dance
  • Who Do You Think You Are (Morales Radio Remix)
  • Do It
  • Something Kinda Funny
  • Holler (contains elements of ‘MAW Remix)
  • Viva Forever
  • Let Love Lead the Way
  • Goodbye
  • Never Give Up on the Good Times
  • We Are Family (Sister Sledge cover)
  • Love Thing
  • The Lady Is a Vamp
  • Too Much
  • Say You’ll Be There
  • 2 Become 1
  • Stop
  • Mama
  • Wannabe

Marina (Love + Fear Tour Part 1) – Royal Albert Hall

Marina gig

Marina might have rebranded from her Marina and the Diamonds days, but she’s still the same person and still making good music. I went to see her live for the first time, at the Royal Albert Hall as part of her Love + Fear tour.
I was surprised at how good she sounded live – for some reason I’d thought she might be one of those singers who couldn’t sing live, which couldn’t be further from the truth! Most of the songs were from her most recent record Love + Fear, but there were plenty of tracks from her Marina and the Diamonds days, too. ‘Primadonna’ went down very well, as did ‘Hollywood’. My favourite, though, was ‘Happy’.

Setlist

LOVE

  • Handmade Heaven
  • Hollywood
  • Primadonna
  • Enjoy Your Life
  • I Am Not a Robot
  • To Be Human
  • Superstar
  • Froot
  • Orange Trees
  • Happy

FEAR

  • Believe in Love
  • Life Is Strange
  • Soft to Be Strong
  • I’m a Ruin
  • Are You Satisfied?
  • Karma
  • Savages
  • Immortal

Encore

  • End of the Earth
  • How to Be a Heartbreaker

Robyn (Honey Tour) – Alexandra Palace

Robyn gig

I’ve been a fan of Swedish singer Robyn for many years, and managed to get a ticket to see her perform live at Alexandra Palace. I went with a friend and we both had a great time. The atmosphere was amazing and Robyn was so good live. The best moment, naturally enough, was when she sang ‘Dancing On My Own’.

Setlist

  • Send to Robin Immediately
  • Honey
  • Indestructible
  • Hang With Me
  • Beach2k20
  • Ever Again
  • Be Mine!
  • Because It’s in the Music
  • Between the Lines
  • Love Is Free
  • Don’t Fucking Tell Me What to Do
  • Dancing on My Own
  • Missing U
  • Call Your Girlfriend

Encore:

  • Trust Me
  • Stars 4-Ever
  • With Every Heartbeat

Encore 2:

  • Human Being
  • Who Do You Love?

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.

Spiceworld: The Exhibition – Watford Colosseum

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It’s not often I visit Watford, but when I found out that the Watford Colosseum was going to be hosting an exhibition on the Spice Girls during the summer, I knew I had to go. I was a huge fan of the group during my childhood – Wannabe was the first single I ever bought. I managed to drag some of my friends to the exhibition, too!

The exhibition was held upstairs in the building, with plenty of signs to direct the way. It was smaller than I had expected, but there was plenty of stuff crammed in. Among the items on display were signed posters and discs, magazines, costumes and merchandise, including a full set of dolls.

The collection is owned by Liz West, who holds a Guinness World Record for the largest collection of Spice Girl memorabilia in the world. Spiceworld: The Exhibition was previously on display at Ripley’s Believe It or Not! in London, but the only way to see it was by buying a ticket to Ripley’s: it’s free to view in Watford.

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1816: The Year Without A Summer – Study Day

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It might not be the conventional way to spend a Saturday, but I really enjoyed my experience at the 1816: The Year Without A Summer Study Day. Following on from my Friday evening talk and concert, I turned up bright and early to enjoy a day of talks around the consequences of the 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia.

The world’s biggest volcanic eruption caused severe climate change and led to poverty, famine, disease and migration, as well as influencing creativity. The talks were delivered by experts from the various fields of science, medicine, neurology, culture and history, and culminated in a panel discussion.

 

Atmospheric Effects of the Mt. Tambora Eruption
Prof Giles Harrison (Professor of Atmospheric Physics, University of Reading)

In this first talk, Professor Harrison gave us a bit of insight into the context of the eruption and what it meant for the atmosphere. Tambora, on Sumbawa Island, Indonesia, had a history of rare but major eruptions. One took place in around 3910 BC. In 1815, there was an initial eruption on 5 April before the ‘proper’ eruption on 10 April.

The immediate consequences of the eruption included whirlwinds, ashfall, a pyroclastic flow and a tsunami. Rock was expelled from the volcano, burying a nearby village. 71,000 people died in the nearby area, 12,000 directly and the rest by starvation in subsequent weeks. The Volcanic Explosivity Index lists the Mount Tambora eruption as 7 out of 8, the largest known historic eruption.

In the wider atmosphere, small particles of sulphur influenced sunlight and temperature. In recent years, ice cores taken from Greenland show that air samples from the time of the eruption contain volcanic dust and sulphur. It has been suggested that the art of the time, such as paintings by Constable and Turner, reflect the condition of the air and the presence of dust, but then again we don’t always know how the paints have aged over time.

At the time of the eruption, a sparse temperature measurement network was developing. Early measurements were usually taken by educated individuals who viewed such observations as a hobby, but their diaries enable us to make deductions about the weather of the period. The evidence suggests that the summer of 1816 was the coldest of the 1810s and the third coldest since 1659. Eastern Europe wasn’t so badly affected, but Western Europe did suffer with the cold and wet. The effects spread as far as North America, with, for instance, snow recorded in New York. Back in the UK, one diarist reported that their cucumbers froze.

 

Frankenstein’s Weather!
Prof Gillen D’Arcy Wood (Professor of English, University of Illinois)

Professor Wood was a particularly engaging speaker and his talk was probably my favourite of the day. He referenced the artistic works mentioned by Professor Harrison in the previous talk, mentioning Constable’s Weymouth Bay of 1816, painted on the artist’s honeymoon, which revealed the state of the sky. Most of his talk was concerned with the myths that built up around the summer at the Villa Diodati.

The summer of 1816 marked the return of British tourists to Europe after the Napoleonic wars. It was Mary Godwin’s stepsister, Claire Clairmont, who persuaded Mary and Shelley to visit Lord Byron in Geneva. Along with Byron’s physician Dr Polidori, they spent a legendary summer by the lake. Dreaming of a summer of picnics, walks and mountain climbing, they were instead faced with the coldest, wettest summer in Geneva for 450 years. Surrounded by starving refugees, the group spent the summer holed up in the Villa Diodati, telling ghost stories to pass the time: Byron’s reading of Coleridge’s Christabel had Shelley running screaming from the room.

Professor Wood drew parallels with modern-day climate change, citing a phenomenon called “climate shock”. He discussed the stages of response to climate shock: creative sympathy, political violence, and the “flight into hell”. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Byron’s Darkness and other works can be read as creative sympathy, but there were other, less obvious consequences: the first bicycle prototype was invented to replace horses, many of which had died, while in a bid to deal with the problem of starvation Robert Peel established the group which would evolve to become the British Board of Health. Still, unrest was common. In Britain in 1816, there were riots and protests by starving peasants. Rural communities all over Europe experienced starvation, leaving their homes and seeking shelter and food elsewhere: hence the “descent into hell”. One wealthy figure gathered 25,000 refugees, travelling around Europe, setting up soup kitchens and preaching the imminent apocalypse. ‘Starvation medallions’ were produced as mementoes of the occasion.

 

‘Not yet saved’: Europe after the fall of Napoleon
Prof Robert Tombs (Professor of French History, University of Cambridge)

Professor Tombs talked about Napoleon, defeated at Waterloo in 1815. Admired by Byron, Beethoven, Shelley and Goethe, he was exiled to St Helena where he acquired much sympathy. His carriage was brought to London, where 100,000 people visited it. Byron bought it and used it to travel around Europe. Wellington, rather oddly, acquired Canova’s statue of the nude Napoleon. It can still be seen in Apsley House. He also “took over” Napoleon’s mistress.

Contemporary cartoons by the French show the English in a bad light, and many of Balzac’s novels featured English characters who were ‘bad’. Back in England, Napoleon was burned in effigy. A ‘geopolitical revolution’ was set in motion.

The fast growth of populations and cities, as well as the influx of newly unemployed soldiers, meant that famine and unrest were common problems. The ‘Bread or blood’ riots in Ely in May 1816 led to the hanging of 83 individuals – an unusually high number. Poor relief was eventually increased, but the consequences of these events lasted many years.

 

Lightness, Darkness and the Creative Brain
Prof Michael Trimble (Emeritus Professor of Behavioural Neurology, UCL)

This was another talk which I found especially interesting, exploring the connection between the weather (of 1816 in particular) and mental health. Professor Trimble started with a brief history, going back to Greek ideas about the four humours, a Platonic theory promoted by Hippocrates. Galen referred to a “Darkening of the mind”, and in later years a number of books on the theme of melancholy were published: Thomas Horclewe’s My Compleint (1420), Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621) and An English Malady (1733) by George Cheyne.

News reports indicated a wider spate of melancholy during 1816, but was the weather responsible? Esquirol’s French Maladies of 1845 suggested that climates and seasons can have an effect on melancholy, while Henry Morselli’s study of suicide in 1881 suggested that the dreariness of the northern climate might be more likely to influence such actions. Weather was seen as a proxy for the human condition.

The influence of the weather on mental state declined as the science of meteorology advanced. However, Seasonal Affective Disorder was first described in 1984. A recent study suggests there is no association between seasons, sunlight and latitude, but a recent review of psychiatric hospitalisations confirms a seasonal pattern, especially for bipolar patients. A literature review from 1979-2009 suggests that the highest number of suicides occurs in the spring and early summer.

Professor Trimble moved on to speak particularly about Beethoven and Schubert. Beethoven’s father and grandmother were alcoholics, his mother a melancholic. A lonely child with few friends, he hated authority and suffered greatly when his mother died. He suffered from depressive episodes in 1812-13 and 1816-17 when his productivity vastly decreased. He may well have been bipolar.

Schubert might have suffered from cyclothymia, being possessed of a bright side that coexisted with a morbid aspect. He tended to experience increased productivity during the spring and autumn, composing very little during the summer. Evidence seems to suggest that while there is no direct link between mood and weather, those already suffering from a condition such as bipolar might be more likely to be affected by it.

The day ended with a panel discussion featuring Judith Bingham, one of the composers featured in that evening’s Byron in Switzerland concert, and chaired by Ian Ritchie. The day as a whole was incredibly interesting, and if I felt like I was back at university again, this is all to the good. I enjoyed the chance to stretch my brain properly.

1816: The Year Without A Summer – Introductory Talk – King’s Place

Kings Place is an arts and conference venue just north of King’s Cross. It only opened a few years ago, but has already gained a reputation for hosting high quality music, spoken word and arts events. Recently, a weekend of events took place entitled 1816: The Year Without A Summer. It consisted of two concerts and a study day exploring the events of this momentous year, the result of the 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia.

Before the Friday evening concert Beethoven and Schubert in Vienna, which I reviewed on my theatre blog Loitering in the Theatre, I attended the introductory talk, delivered by curator of the programme Ian Ritchie. He summarised the exceptional climatic, cultural and historical contexts in which Beethoven and Schubert were living in 1816 and explored how their work might have been affected.

Ritchie explained that all of the music in the evening’s concert had been composed in 1816 by either Beethoven or Schubert, both of whom were living in Vienna at the time. The period was already a time of great change, with the growth of Romanticism after the Enlightenment and the recent defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo. Prometheus, inspiration for Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, was a popular cultural figure: Beethoven wrote a piece of music on the subject, initially dedicating it to Napoleon, but after becoming disillusioned with the French leader he crossed out the dedication (Byron was another figure who wrote in praise of Napoleon – composing an Ode to Napoleon – but who later became disillusioned). Inventors, such as George Stephenson, Humphrey Davy, and Michael Faraday, were making new scientific discoveries, and Luigi Galvani was attempting to reanimate corpses using electricity (from whence we get the term “galvanise”.

The Mount Tambora eruption of April 1815 was the biggest volcanic eruption for hundreds of years. It caused a shifting ash cloud leading to crop failures from Ireland to the east coast of the USA, the coldest winter since medieval times, and the development of a new strain of cholera in India. When Byron decided to go into exile from the UK, he arrived in Switzerland to find a country suffering from crop failure and famine. Along with Percy Shelley, Mary Godwin (later Mary Shelley) and Doctor Polidori, he spent the summer in the Villa Diodati, experiencing terrible weather instead of the glorious summer he had hoped for. Byron wrote a poem about the experience, called Darkness:

I had a dream, which was not all a dream,
The bright sun was extinguish’d, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless; and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air
To be continued…

As meterological science was in its infancy, people didn’t know why the weather was so bad: some predicted the end of the world. In such circumstances Beethoven and Schubert wrote music in Vienna.

Schubert was only 19 at the time, compelled to write even though he had only one paid commission this year (a cantata, now lost, coincidentally also called Prometheus), composing over 100 lieder in 1816. Unable to marry his fiancée as he couldn’t support her, he was also rejected by his hero Goethe, so it is understandable that his work from this period sounded rather melancholy. His lieder from this period rarely use poems relating to summer, and his music is often sad and reflective.

Beethoven also faced disappointment at this time, partly owing to the death of his brother. Though this was a fallow period for him, he did produce the first recognised song cycle. Did the pair of composers ever meet? Possibly not – Beethoven was an established composer at this time,  and moved in higher circles, while Schubert was still a student and relatively unknown at this stage.

The short talk was really enlightening, and whetted my appetite for the evening concert and the next day’s events… on which more in the next post.

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