Sheytoons at St James Theatre

I’ve already written about Ramin Karimloo on this blog – the singer who I got to know in his West End roles as the Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera and Jean Valjean in Les Miserables, and who has been touring for several months with his own material and and a few covers. He is also part of a musical duo with Hadley Fraser, another West End star who played Raoul in the 25th anniversary production of Phantom at the Royal Albert Hall, and Javert in Les Miserables alongside Ramin. On Sunday I went to see the two of them play the main stage of the St James Theatre in west London.

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I generally like pop music which tends to be performed in huge arenas, so it was a nice change to experience such a small and intimate atmosphere. Ramin and Hadley were so friendly and funny and had brilliant banter between themselves and with the audience – at one point Ramin even pointed out his kids, who were in the audience with his wife, as the youngest had gone to sleep – so sweet! There was a brilliant atmosphere, laid back, relaxed and cheerful.

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I enjoyed the music, which was a mixture of covers and original songs that tended towards folk, country and bluegrass. None of these are styles of music I’d normally enjoy, but my obsession with Ramin has introduced me to many songs I wouldn’t otherwise have listened to! I have to say, I do think Ramin is the more talented of the two. He has a really distinctive voice and his songs were stronger. I don’t want to offend any Hadley fans, but although he is clearly a lovely and talented guy, I didn’t think his voice was particularly distinctive and his songs weren’t as good as Ramin’s, in my opinion. Having said that, the two of them made a great pairing: they obviously get on and they sing and perform very well together.

Soundwave music competition at the O2 Academy, Newcastle

I went home for the weekend,  just for a flying visit so that I could see my brother’s band Public Secret perform in the final of the Soundwave music competition at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Sadly they didn’t win but they performed brilliantly. I was a very proud sister that night.

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Public Secret performing on the O2 Academy stage

I made sure to get right to the front when Public Secret were on. My parents were there too, along with our next-door neighbours, my auntie and uncle who’d driven across from Cumbria, my other auntie, my cousin and her husband who’d driven up from Sutton Coldfield despite a ridiculous amount of snow, and a couple of my friends.

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My brother rocking out during one of his solos

I had a great night and drank waay to much wine… unusually for such a venue, the rose wine was actually really nice, and I went to the bar an awful lot.

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Slightly blurred picture of a poster: Rita Ora, Funeral For a Friend, Train… and Public Secret!

This was the biggest crowd the band had played to, and I thought they did a brilliant job. Hopefully this will bring them some new fans and lead to bigger and better things.

Florence + The Machine at the O2

My day off ended with a Florence + The Machine concert at the O2. Three years ago I saw Blur in Hyde Park and Florence supported them. At the time I thought she was awful and I would never have predicted that three years later I would pay to see her and her band at a gig. Either she has improved or my tastes have changed. Perhaps both. Either way, I had a great time.

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Broadway to Bluegrass…ish – Ramin Karimloo returns to London

I first came across Ramin Karimloo when he played the Phantom in the sequel to the original Phantom of the OperaLove Never Dies. Since then I’ve seen him as the Phantom in the 25th anniversary production at the Royal Albert Hall, sat in the front row to see him play Jean Valjean in Les Miserables, and watched him at a concert in the Royal Festival Hall. He has an incredible voice, seems like a lovely person and is very versatile: the music he plays ranges from Broadway and West End classics through to indie-guitar ballads and American country and bluegrass, hence the title of his two gigs in London on Sunday and Monday.

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I was lucky enough to get a ticket for last night’s show and it was fantastic. The venue was a really intimate one and the atmosphere was friendly as everyone there was an enthusiastic Ramin fan. The presence of a number of guests mixed things up a bit: singer Simon Bailey performed a track with Ramin and then sang one of his own;  Lee Mead and Stephen Rahman-Hughes sang backing vocals to ‘Oh What a Beautiful Morning’; and Hadley Fraser (who performed as Raoul opposite Ramin’s Phantom and Inspector Javert with Ramin’s Jean Valjean) joined the stage so that the duo could perform as the Sheytoons. I had an amazing time, although I managed to consume slightly too much wine.

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This morning I saw that the setlist had been posted on Ramin’s Twitter feed, which is handy as I didn’t recognise all of the songs. Now I know what they are!

Broadwaytobluegrass Setlist

My highlight of the night was when Ramin performed ‘Bring Him Home’ from Les Miserables – absolutely stunning. I can’t wait to see him live again!

Muse at the O2

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The O2, all set for Muse

I went to see Muse on Friday at the O2. It was the fifth time I’d seen them and they were as brilliant as usual. They even played a song from Showbiz (Sunburn) which I wasn’t expecting.

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Muse rocking the O2

I haven’t actually listened to their new album yet, but I quite liked the tracks I heard here, so hopefully I will be impressed.

Kelly Clarkson: Stronger Tour 2012 at Wembley Arena

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I went to see Kelly Clarkson on Saturday night at Wembley Arena. She was absolutely amazing. It was the first time I’d ever seen her live and she was fantastic. Her voice was brilliant of course and she had a great rapport with the audience – she came across as so lovely and really down to earth. I feel a bit guilty that I missed my friend’s birthday night out to go to the concert, but in my defence, I booked this back in May and I didn’t know the two events would coincide.

I’m slightly disappointed she only sang one song from My December which is my favourite of her albums. However, that album was her least commercially successful record so I wasn’t really expecting it.

Here she is singing Because Of You which is one of my favourite of her songs.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LatSGkLoETk]

Richie Sambora at Shepherd’s Bush Empire

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I was at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire last night to see Richie Sambora (the guitarist with Bon Jovi). I had a brilliant time. Naturally enough he mainly performed songs from his new album, Aftermath of the Lowdown (which I haven’t got hold of yet; I really must, it sounds brilliant) but played a few others too, including a cover of ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ by Oasis, which was most unexpected. I was a bit gutted he didn’t perform very many songs from his first two albums, but at least he did ‘Stranger In this Town’, which is my favourite.

He played quite a few Bon Jovi tracks, including ‘These Days’, although personally I’d have preferred him to perform more of his solo songs. I love Bon Jovi, but I’ve seen them before and I’m sure I’ll see them again, and there were several songs I would like to have heard that weren’t performed. I still had a fantastic time though.

The Empire itself is pretty awesome too: a converted theatre with the seats taken out of the stalls for standing/moshing purposes. There wasn’t a great deal of moshing going on last night, despite the surprising plethora of younger people there; I’d expected the audience to be mostly older. I found it quite amusing that the older people hung around at the back while the younger ones pushed forward into the crowd.

POP! Design Culture Fashion – Fashion & Textile Museum

I have a National Art Pass, which means I get discounted or free entry to lots of museums and galleries in and around London. I also make the most of the handy website, http://www.artfund.org/, which lists all the places at which you can get a discount, in order to plan where to go next. The website was the place I learned about the Fashion & Textile Museum in Bermondsey, south London. It is a small museum and only open when there is an exhibition on, which is probably why I’d never come across it before.

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Museum entrance on Bermondsey Street

I visited the museum on Saturday and only paid £3.50 to get in with my Art Pass. One of the first things I saw when I entered the museum was this utterly stunning Dior dress. It looks like something that would have been worn by Grace Kelly.

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The current exhibition is entitled POP! Design Culture Fashion, and explores the impact of music and art on fashion in the fifties, sixties and seventies. It begins with the rock n’ roll culture of the 1950s, the world of Elvis Presley and circle skirts. This was the era that appealed to me the most; I was lusting after several of the items on display.

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I loved this circle skirt

The exhibition then moved on to look at ‘Swinging London’ and the mods and rockers culture, with displays of Mary Quant fashion and the short dresses of the time. These clothes didn’t appeal to me so much (I don’t have the figure for a minidress) but I liked this monochrome maxi:

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Subsequently, the exhibition examined the hippy styles of the late sixties and seventies, with bright colours and dramatic accessories. There was something of a Fifties revival around this time, and this dress in particular caught my eye.

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Finally, POP explored the punk era, with clothing designed by Vivienne Westwood and worn by the punk rockers of the day. These clothes weren’t particularly to my taste, but I could imagine the dramatic impact they would have had at the time.

Alongside the outfits, accessories and other items from the relevant periods were shown to further illustrate the styles of the times. A Fifties jukebox, a clothes hanger with Jimi Hendrix’s face on it and an original still from the Beatles’ movie Yellow Submarine were just some of the articles on display, along with several household items. My favourites were a set of three cushions which together made an Edwardian-inspired, Mucha-esque picture of a woman.

POP! Design Culture Fashion is on until the 27th of October. The museum is open Tuesday to Saturday, 11am – 6pm. The next exhibition, which opens on 16 November and runs until 23 February 2013, is about London fashion by designers to the Queen and is called Hartnell to Amies: Couture by Royal Appointment.

FACTS

Address: 83 Bermondsey Street, London, SE1 3XF

Website: ftmlondon.org

Opening Hours: Open Tuesdays to Saturdays, 11am–6pm; Sundays, 11am-5pm; late night Thursdays until 8pm.

Prices: Approx. £8-£9 adults, £7-£8 concessions; under 12s free