REVIEW: Carina Round, Hare & Hounds – 8.6.11

Carina Round – photo by Paul Ward

It’s been two years since Carina Round performed in Birmingham, with a mid week Hare & Hounds gig one of only two UK shows the singer/songwriter has booked for 2011. Supported by the truly sensational Vijay Kishore and the unfortunately forgettable Dan Whitehouse, the H&H’s main room was wall to wall with anticipation. The crowd murmurs, did someone say ‘homecoming’? Or was it just another loudly whispered ‘I used to know her when…’ commentary coming from the bar.

‘I’m sorry for my pseudo American accent,’ Carina apologises immediately, the aftershock of living and recording in LA apparently following her on stage. Dressed in a bright blue dress with bright red shoes she looks like a confident Dorothy. One preparing to fight her way home with an acoustic guitar.

Opening with the relatively new ‘You & Me’ (a track Carina once admitted makes her cry) and following with ‘Motel 74’ from her 2003 album ‘The Disconnection’, the old/new gauntlet is thrown down immediately. Lyrics like ‘you and me in a park in Kings Heath’ raise a conspiratorial laugh, whilst anger, Americana and what I’m calling acoustic punk (…it exists) prevent anything too twee and comfortable. The chronological hop scotch continues with currently unreleased ‘Girl & Ghost’ and ‘Pick Up The Phone’ paving a return to Carina’s first two records in the shape of ‘How I See It’ and ‘Paris’. Despite the decade of difference, all Carina’s material is relevant, powerfully delivered and surprisingly fresh.

But the first of the evening’s I-was-there moments arrived when, after kicking her band off stage, Carina’s instructs the audience to ‘sing the last lines with me’ during the denouement to Backseat, the beautiful lead track off her ‘Things You Should Know’ EP. Audience participation at gigs can be awful, embarrassing and even a little narcissistic. But sometimes, like this time, they can be a moment of magic.

The second was a duet with Miles Hunt, singing ‘Four To The Floor’- a song originally written by Hunt ‘a gazillian years ago’ before Carina added a female retort to the ‘piss poor male’ lyrics. Apart from the rare chance to see two of the Midland’s finest singer/songwriters play together on hallowed home ground (kind of, sort of), with Hunt on guitar it allowed Carina to do nothing but sing. Something she does frighteningly well.

Carina Round’s debut album, ‘The First Blood Mystery’, has been re-released on limited edition vinyl, celebrating the 10th anniversary of her first studio recording. For more information visit www.carinaround.com

PREVIEW: Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring 3D @ Symphony Hall

Stravinsky's Rite of Spring 3D - photo Klaus Obermaier & Ars Electronica Futurelab

Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring has always been a visual production, from the original French ballet, to Disney’s incorporation of the score in the animated feature film ‘Fantasia’.

Now it comes to the Symphony Hall, performed by the CBSO, in a modern combination of technology, film and dance, with the innovative score and choreography feeding a live 3D projection. One intended to ‘immerse audience members’ in a production that ‘will appear to take place no further than the tip of their nose’.

Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring is the story of a young girl who dances to her death, sacrificing herself to ensure the coming of spring. Inspired by philosopher and painter Nicholas Roerich, Stravinsky composed the Rite of Spring between 1912 and 1913 for Serge Diaghilev‘s Ballets Russes. The Russian’s ‘anarchic use of rhythm and keys’ challenged the musical status quo of the time, even inciting a riot amongst the audience of the ballet’s 1913 Paris debut.

In Stravinsky’s Rite Of Spring 3D, Julia Mach performs the central dance, with Ilan Volkov conducting the CBSO orchestra. The young Israeli was recently named the 9th chief conductor and music director for the Iceland Symphony Orchestra.

Created by Klaus Obermair, alongside members of the Ars Electronica Furturelab, Stravinsky’s Rite Of Spring 3D premiered at the Brucknerhaus in Linz, Austria, in 2007. The CBSO performance is part of the 2010/2011 Birmingham International Concert Season, sponsored by Williams de Broë and supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England. Each performance will last approximately 45 minutes and will be preceded by brief works from Varese and Ligeti.

Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring 3D will be performed at the Symphony Hall in Birmingham on Thursday April 21st. For more information visit www.riteofspring3d.thsh.co.uk

REVIEW: Children of Bodom, O2 Academy (B’ham) – 8.4.11

Children of Bodom

Not too far from the city centre, metal fans young and old (though mostly young) gathered outside the O2 Academy. The reason? To see Finnish ‘melodic death metal’ quintet Children of Bodom play the Birmingham leg of their ‘Ugly World’ tour.

Crowds entered the venue with little else than the clothes on their backs, the tickets in their hands, and enthused excitement for an evening of modern, heavy metal. They weren’t disappointed.

CoB’s audience eventually formed a respectably sized crowd in the O2’s enormous main room. Although a group of teenagers, fuelled by puberty and Monster energy drinks, did manage a mini mosh pit during the opening two acts, Machinae Supremacy and ‘folk metal’ Ensiferum.

By the time Amon Amarth came on, the third band on the bill, everyone was off the sidelines. But as headliners Children of Bodom took the stage the entire floor became a mass of avid head banging.

Standing under an array of coloured lights and tremendous applause, CoB launched into ‘Not My Funeral’, the first track on their recently released ‘Relentless, Reckless Forever’ album. The song, an ode to frontman Alexi Laiho’s past battles with alcoholism, set an energetic and speedy pace for the rest of the night. Grinning defiantly onstage, the band led the crowd in to favourites ‘In Your Face’, ‘Blooddrunk’, ‘Follow the Reaper’ and then a sing-along to a CoB fan anthem, ‘Hate Crew Deathroll’. Even the more cynical, older metal lovers at the back, were soon clapping and bobbing along.

Regardless of the O2’s place in the mediated mainstream, the metal scene’s etiquette translated well into the venue. From the fringes of the crowd, where free cups of water were passed around, to the enthusiastic interaction from the bands themselves, everyone was here to enjoy a brilliant night of Nordic metal.

And in the most endearing sign of metal scene loyalty, the Birmingham crowd even sang an impromptu ‘Happy Birthday’ to honour CoB’s Laiho; who turned 32 on the day of the gig. I wonder what people sing at the end of Drum & Bass parties..?

REVIEW: Chalet Girl

Chalet Girl - courtesy of Momentum Pictures

Review/interview by Ed King

‘Its got snowboarding, Bill Bailey, and girls in hot tubs…’ was Chalet Girl director’s defence of ‘this year’s Bridget Jones’ to the UK’s male population. Sitting in the cinema, roughly a decade older than the rest of the audience, I was not short changed on the snowboarding. 

Chalet Girl is the UK’s new coming of age comedy. Basically Cinderella on a snowboard, 19yr old Kim Matthews, played by Bournville born and Ambridge raised Felicity Jones (Jones played The Archer’s Emma Carter until 2009), sets off to earn her fortune ‘speaking posh’ on the slopes of Austria. Following the obligatory montage of etiquette jokes and South London colloquialisms, we learn Kim’s also coming to terms with the death of her mother. Oh, and she’s an ex-professional skateboarder. Which comes in handy, being ‘a Chalet Girl who can’t ski?!?’

“Felicity is very down to earth,” says Phil Traill, Chalet Girl’s LA based director, “and she was more than happy to put in the hard hours to learn to snowboard – which I thought was a great attitude for her to have. Not sure if that’s simply from her brummie background, but perhaps it helped?!” Dodging broken glass and stones on the dry slopes of Ackers..? Perhaps not.

What Jones certainly can do is act. Despite some shockingly sparse narrative in parts, including a tragically under written emotional denouement, Chalet Girl’s leading lady is utterly convincing as a corked bottle on ice. The line ‘I live to prep veg’ was never delivered with such aplomb.

Equally as engaging is Tamsin Egerton, playing the cheek kissing Georgie, who’s quickly the most likeable person on screen. In fact Chalet Girl is stolen by women, with Brooke Shields and Sophia Bush as the elitist dragons with subtle perfection. The only male role model is Bill Nighy, as the satirically wealthy owner of the eponymous Chalet.

Chalet Girl is an obvious film. Fun, but obvious. If you’re young, into snowboarding (or girls in hot tubs… kind of, sort of) then go and see it, you’ll have fun. Obviously. However Helen Fielding it is not. But as Traill points out from the off, ‘It’s much more of a coming-of-age movie than a ‘romcom’, kissing a sexy guy is really just a nice reward’.

Chalet Girl is out now on major UK release. For more information visit www.chaletgirl-movie.com

PREVIEW: Ben E King & Gary U.S. Bonds @ The Jam House

Ben E King - Courtesy of The Jam House

This month Ben E King comes to Birmingham. On March 16th, the man responsible for one of the most revered, recognised and replicated songs in history, the simple and poignant ‘Stand By Me’, will be performing at The Jam House inSt Paul’s Square.

In an evening hosted by R’n’B vocalist Gary U.S. Bonds, these two musical foundation blocks of 60’s Americana will be performing signature tunes from their own portfolio’s, alongside classic tracks from inspirations and peers.

Ben E King, who was also a Drifter for 10 recorded songs (including the first cut of ‘Temptation’), has been the creative force behind a bevy of soul classics including ‘Spanish Harlem’, ‘Save The Last Dance For Me’, ‘Here Comes The Night’, ‘It’s Amazing’ and ‘Don’t Play That Song (You Lied)’. His over 50 year musical career started from the grunt work of studio Doo-Wop to becoming one of the most important signings on US based Atlantic Records, inspiring artists including Areatha Franklin, Shirley Bassey and Tom Jones, all of whom have paid homage to King through high profile covers of his work.

Gary U.S. Bonds, who is probably best known for his 1961 studio album ‘Quarter to Three’, started life as a gospel singer before joining unknown 50’s rock and roll group, The Turks. In 1960 he had his first solo release, ‘New Orleans’, which reached No6 in the US Billboard charts. His following single release ‘Quarter to Three’ reached No1, and, despite several following top ten positions, was the only premier position of Bond’s career.

Both Ben E King and Gary U.S. Bonds are also both prolific humanitarians, working closely with world wide aid organisations such as the Global Village Champions Foundation www.gogvm.com

John Bunce, Jam House General Manager, says, “The delight of The Jam House is that we can stage such classic performers on a regular basis and to see such pedigree artists is something that we all look forward too.”

Ben E King and Gary U.S. Bonds will be playing at The Jam House in St Paul’s Square on March 16th. Full event details, including ticket information, can be found at www.thejamhouse.com