Archive for March, 2022


Somebody once said to me that there were better Queen tribute bands out there than Queen & Adam Lambert. Now, I rarely do tribute acts, apart from when you can no longer see the real thing like Queen. So, how did Supreme Queen measure up to the dazzling legacy and did it beat the modern-day incarnation of the band?

Well, visually, it took time because obviously, they were not Queen, but the sound! With a voice so like Freddy Mercury, lead singer, Scott Maley immediately had me believing I was listening to the real thing. And that, I guess, is what you need with tributes. For tributes are what they are and to be successful you do need to believe. After a few songs, I forgot the physical differences and I experienced legends of rock.

Starting off with One Vision and Tie Your Mother Down, Supreme Queen treated a packed audience to hit after hit: Seven Seas of Rhye, Keep Yourself Alive, It’s a Kind of Magic and Under Pressure were among 25 instantly recognisable classics. I was also overjoyed to hear the fast (and, superior) version of We Will Rock You.

The set in the main modelled itself on the stadium tour songs of the mid-1980s. I guess when you have such an enormous catalogue, things must give way. Therefore, sparse on the early albums and nothing from the final three. A shame, but it’s probably what the fans want. And to be there, the audience most definitely were fans of Queen. Such energy and enthusiasm from Supreme Queen transferred onto those watching. And not just the oldies who formed the majority. It was also good to see younger members; teenagers with parents next to me and three children all under eleven in front with their family. It was clear all were brought up on the band, gloriously indoctrinated and now having the time of their lives. Brilliant. You see, we form many of our tastes based on those of others. I, myself, was into Queen aged 10, all because my elder sister had Queen albums in 1973 while my classmates went on to like The Bay City Rollers, .

The show divided into two sets, allowing audience and band time to recuperate and then we had more of the same: I Want to Break Free, Another One Bites the Dust, Radio Ga Ga and, of course, Bohemian Rhapsody. Mimicking Queen shows of old, Supreme Queen ended with We Will Rock You (single version) and We Are the Champions.

What we also had were two long drum and guitar solos. Now, I’m not a fan of Brian May and Roger Taylor’s musical masturbations, but they were mainstays of the original shows throughout Queen’s career, so I can see why they’re included.

Supporting Scott Maley’s Mercury was Luke Timmins (Brian May), Alan Wallbanks (John Deacon) and Allan Brown (Roger Taylor). In addition, we had Ben Marshall as the keyboard player Queen didn’t have but contributing the pieces Freddy Mercury would play. All were excellent. Let’s face it, to pull off being convincing Queens, you’ve got to be damn good at what you do, and Supreme Queen were that and more.

A thoroughly wonderful night. I will be back. Long live Queen.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

Tom Bryce finds a USB stick on a train and brings it home to try and find its owner to return it. However, on viewing, he witnesses the murder of a young woman in an online snuff video. Tom is then threatened by the perpetrators to keep silent otherwise it will be bad for him, wife, Kellie and son, Max. However, Max fails to do so and Kellie is taken to be the next star performer.

I’m a huge fan of Peter James, although I only started reading him with the Roy Grace novels. I guess that makes Looking Good Dead the second book of James’ that I read many years ago. I’ve since read them all and am now going through the standalones’ back catalogue.

Looking Good Dead, like many stage productions, had a small cast so roles from the book were reassigned. In fact, Grace wasn’t the main character on this occasion, the Bryce family instead receiving the focus. However, it was nice for a fan to hear references to off-stage police persons like Norman Potting, Cleo Moray, EJ Bountwood and Alison Vosper, among others. It brought a bit more of the books to proceedings.

In the roles of Tom and Kellie Bryce we had Adam Woodyatt and Laurie Brett duplicating their Eastenders soap marriage and the chemistry between them was obvious. Woodyatt had been in Eastenders for 35 years until recently and although Tom was similar in character to Ian Beale, he was different enough to be a person in his own right. Both Woodyatt and Brett delivered strong, believable performances on the night and the same can be said for Luke-Ward Wilkinson as Max. There were some lovely scenes which portrayed the typical lack of communication between parent and offspring.

On the police side were Harry Long as Roy Grace with Leon Stewart in the role of Glenn Branson. Completing the trio of detectives was Gemma Stroyan as one of my favourite Grace characters – Bella Moy. However, I didn’t see any Maltesers on this occasion (You need to read the books to get that one). Supporting, also was Ian Houghton (Jonas Kent), Mylo McDonald (Mick) and Natalie Boakye (Janie).

Looking Good Dead looked good indeed with a main set of the Bryce’s living room with occasional illuminated cellar backdrop behind a gauze and pop-up police station. Transition between scenes were smooth and you did have the feel of everything being bigger than it was.

It was probably good that it has been 15 years since I read the novel as I couldn’t remember many details. I’m now intrigued to learn the differences but will wait for the ITV adaptation as this tale is next in line to air, then I may re-read the book. I’m pretty sure, though, the brains behind the kidnapping differed in the book.

Looking Good Dead was adapted for stage by Shaun McKenna and directed by Jonathan O’Boyle with Joshua Andrews as Producer.

Overall, an enjoyable evening and I look forward to further theatre outings for Roy Grace and Co.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

I shall start with something unconnected to The Coral by stating that the O2 Institute in Birmingham was the most difficult venue to get into (on numerous counts) in over 40 years of attending music gigs and theatres. And with a management policy ignorant of autism.

So, I was in a bad mood before we started, and I was looking for The Coral to lift me. Thankfully, they did, although I was not particularly a fan of the show format, being a 20th anniversary celebration of their self-titled debut album.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the 2002 offering; it has great tracks. But I also like songs from the subsequent nine, therefore, when the opening 11 numbers come from one album, the remainder only average one per subsequent release in a shorter set than most gigs with just 19 numbers in total.

From the first album set and following Spanish Main, standout numbers were Shadows Fall, I Remember, Dreaming of You and the epic Goodbye. I say epic because played live, the extended instrumental break during Goodbye is out of this world. Bisecting the album and second set was the hidden track Time Travel while the band took a short break. And then we had the best of the rest.

Starting off with Bill McCai and Pass it On, The Coral also treated the crowd to a couple from the 2021 release, Coral Island. Now this is where I felt the most disappointment because Coral Island was one of the best releases of last year. To only get two tracks from it, and a double album at that, left me feeling short-changed. The two on the night were Faceless Angel and Lover Undiscovered, but I would dearly have loved to hear Vacancy, among others. Still, of the remaining offerings we did get In the Morning, Holy Revelation and my own personal favourite Coral track, Jaqueline.

The Coral produce original music with a touch of nostalgia, sometimes harking back to the psychedelia of the 60s and fluctuating between melodic and raw energy. The sort of music you can lose yourself in, and long may it continue. In addition to the full-time current line-up of the band (James Skelley, Paul Duffey, Nick Power, Ian Skelley and Paul Molloy), Zak Mc Donnell and Danny Murphey join live proceedings to achieve a massive sound which in a smaller venue like the O2 Institute, makes for something special. I just wish we would have had more from them, even just a further 10 minutes.

So, not the most enjoyable Coral gig I have been to, due to the set content, but still a great night out.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

First and foremost, I’m a Stranglers fan. So much so, in my 2015 novel, Dead Girl Stalking, my protagonist had a poster of them on his bedroom wall, and he defended the band from the derision of his girlfriend whose tastes were probably more R&B. I even acknowledged the band at the front of the book as having provided a running soundtrack while writing it. So if you ever do read Dead Girl Stalking, have a little Don’t Bring Harry or Baroque Bordello at the back of your mind.

My own love affair with The Stranglers began in 1977 with a BASF C-90 taped recording of Rattus Norvegicus. A multitude of albums and 21 gigs attended, that dalliance long ago became a full-blooded relationship. I have many favourite bands but if I’m honest, the one I could not live without are The Stranglers.

The last two years have affected everyone in varying ways, none more so than the Family in Black. The loss of Dave Greenfield in 2020 was that of a family member. A constant companion, friend, and lover, all through the years I have followed the band.

Yeah, I admit, when I first heard the news of Dave’s passing, I thought, “Well, that’s it.” I couldn’t see how the band could continue. Members, some of them huge, have departed over the years but along with the trademark bass of Jean-Jacques Burnel, Dave Greenfield’s keys are the sound of The Stranglers. So I was glad when the tour still took place in memory of Dave and ecstatic when the 18th studio album, Dark Matters, was posthumously released with Dave’s keyboards present. Within the opening minute of Water, I fell in love with Dave and The Stranglers all over again. But how would they be live without the great man on stage?

The answer was – superb. From the opening bars of Waltz in Black, I had that buzz I’d not felt for so long. Then the euphoria as the band took to the stage and launched into Toiler on the Sea. The Stranglers were back.

One massive change as Toby Hounsham had the unenviable task of taking the keyboards and was described by guitarist/vocalist Baz Warne as having massive balls to do so. Toby was brilliant, in fact, reproducing Greenfield’s arpeggios and sounding just as good as any other Stranglers gig I have attended. It was also nice to see Toby well received by the faithful, thankful, like myself, that the magic is not over. As JJ Burnel stated in the past, The Stranglers are a brand, not a band, so there is no reason they should ever end. I guess it’ll happen one day but aged 58 myself, I can be selfish and hope they don’t go just yet.

On the night we were treated to classic after classic: Something Better Change, Always the Sun, Strange Little Girl, Go Buddy Go, Golden Brown, Hanging Around, Sometimes and Skin Deep among many others. But we also had six new songs from the brilliant Dark Matters. Water, Last Men on the Moon and This Song, fans are already familiar with, having done the circuit on the last tours before Covid. But there was also a debut for White Stallion, which I believe will become a permanent fixture in future tours like Relentless has been since 2006.

It’s always good to witness The Stranglers gel. I’ve followed them from near the beginning but can honestly say in recent years they have never been better live. JJ and Baz come across as two who are on the same page. This also applies to the newer recruits. Jim Macauly on drums has been with the band several years now and even contributed to songs on Dark Matters. And along with Toby Hounsham, provided great backing vocals on several numbers, just as Mr. Greenfield did for many years.

The other two new songs were performed as a JJ/Baz duet during the first of two encores. The short acoustic, The Lines was excellent before a poignant and highly emotional version of And if You Should See Dave. Written as a tribute, there was many a watery eye during the line, “This is where your solo would go.” The empty keyboard lit to all round applause and cheers.

As the case is so often, The Stranglers finished with No More Heroes, always guaranteed to bring the house down. Thankfully, I do still have heroes and hopefully, mine will be here for some time yet.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

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