Cathal Smyth – Wilton’s Music Hall, London, 7 October 2014

chas01For a long, silent while it looks like the man in the white suit can’t go through with it. Sitting onstage in a beautiful antique wooden armchair, he faces the dimmed, hushed, ornate hall, trying to compose himself, swigging water to quench his dry throat, rubbing a nervous hand along his jawline.
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Dexys – Shepherds Bush Empire, London, 8 May 2012

Opening your first London gig since 2003 by playing your first album in 27 years in its entirety takes balls. But then Dexys (they’ve dropped the Midnight Runners) frontman Kevin Rowland has never been short on cojones.

And as the band come to the end of the soon to be released ‘One Day I’m Going To Soar’, it’s clear that the self-belief has paid off – the all-seated audience rising to an overwhelmingly emotional standing ovation, droves of Dexys devotees clearly relieved that this long-awaited comeback is a triumph and not an embarrassing disaster. Continue reading

Double Dr Robert? Well I’ll be blowed!

Typical isn’t it… you wait ages for a Dr Robert album and then two come along at once. The head Blow Monkey’s collection of new material ,‘Flutes and Bones’ is out this week as is ‘Acoustic Blow Monkeys’,  a stripped down set of selected tunes from his band’s back catalogue.

Dr Robert’s (aka Robert Howard) ability and ambition as a songwriter and soulful singer have never been in doubt, as any fan will tell you. Sadly though, neither his solo efforts nor those of the recently reformed Blow Monkeys have troubled the charts in years. These two albums might not serve to reverse the trend but they will definitely keep the good doctor’s devotees happy.
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Rowland back the years: my three decades with Dexy’s

Back in ’79 in a sweaty club…. well, a youth club disco in Somerset actually, is where I first fell for the mighty sound of Dexy’s Midnight Runners.

Amazingly this May, a whopping 33 years after our first encounter, will be the only time I have seen the band live.  Back in 1999 I did see Kevin Rowland, the band’s leader, performing solo material in a fetching summer dress and a pair of patent leather of Mary Janes. But it just didn’t feel right.
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Paul Weller – The Roundhouse, London 20 March 2012

There have only been a few fleeting moments of doubt in the 32 years I’ve been a Paul Weller fan: His 1979 announcement that all members of The Jam were to vote Conservative; the band’s worrying funky disco departure ‘Precious’ appearing on a new-fangled 12” with ‘A Town Called Malice’; the sudden end of The Jam; The Style Council’s very patchy, never properly released garage/house album ‘Modernism: A New Decade’ and the ill-advised moustache of 1995.

Not bad going really when you think about it. And in the end those worries were all proved to be groundless. Weller wasn’t a Conservative; rather he dedicated a substantial chunk of his work and life to socialism, the Labour Party and Red Wedge. ‘Precious’ turned out to be quite good actually. Calling time on The Jam, while distressing at the time, cleared the way for another impressive body of work. The garage tunes, while sounding tinny and dated now, show a man nobly trying something new rather than resting on his laurels. And the ‘tache is but a distant, vaguely troubling memory.
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