BREVIEW: Regina Spektor @ Symphony Hall 05.08.17

Regina Spektor @ Symphony Hall 05.08.17 / Michelle Martin – taken for Express & Star

Words by Paul Gallear / Lead pic by Michelle Martin – taken for Express & Star

A man, younger than I am but around the same height, is wondering around the streets of Sheffield, slightly lost. He has recently started university and is still unfamiliar with his surroundings.

Shuffling through the snow, he passes The Leadmill – a long-established music venue in the city. ‘TONIGHT: REGINA SPEKTOR’ proclaims the poster by the door. Amazed at his luck he calls around all of his newly-made university friends, trying to find someone to go to the gig with. Either no one is available or they are unwilling to take a risk on a last-minute invitation to an unknown gig. Undeterred, the young man queues that evening in the chilly northern air to try and get a ticket on the door. His luck is in.

It was 20.02.07 and that was the first time I saw Regina Spektor live, touring her 2006 album – Begin to Hope. Ten-and-a-half years later I again had the chance to see her in concert, this time touring her seventh studio release – Remember Us to Life. Nothing would be left to chance this time; I had signed up to the mailing lists and was ready with my unique verification code when the pre-sale opened at 9am.

I managed to secure prime seats a mere six rows back (not too close, not too far) and just off-centre in Birmingham’s Symphony Hall, a larger and more prestigious venue than The Leadmill. Hosting the likes of Marina Medvetskaya’s Saint Petersburg Classic Ballet and the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Symphony Hall claims to be ‘widely considered one of the finest concert halls in the world’ and their website lists an impressive set of acoustic specifications (all of the venues on Regina Spektor’s six date UK tour are more up-market than they were a decade ago). Sporting my by now vintage Soviet Kitsch album T-shirt from the Sheffield gig, I survey the stage: a black Steinway & Sons grand piano, a monikered drum kit, a cello, a guitar, and a keyboard. Can that be the same piano stool as last time? Am I dreaming? Musicians can be creatures of habit.

Despite this being a show without support and having a tightly-scheduled start and finish time, Regina Spektor takes to the stage half-an-hour late. The room is not quite sold out, but the anticipation has built and Spektor enters stage right to rapturous applause and cheers. She and the band burst into ‘The Calculation’.

Full disclosure. Some of the tracks from Regina Spektor’s latest album haven’t struck a great chord with me; it is the album I have listened to least frequently. The opening half of tonight’s set is, as you’d expect, laden with these new tracks (such as ‘Grand Hotel’, ‘Tornadoland’ and ‘The Light’) which are performed to an enthusiastic audience. I even find myself enjoying these songs live in a way I hadn’t enjoyed recorded. But during these early numbers I pick up on a buzzing sound which is surprising from a venue that boasts about its acoustics – I would have expected perfection.

The set is diverse. Regina Spektor is of course always present, but she is either backed by the entire band whilst she plays piano and sings, or abandons the piano and sings more like a pop star with a backing band. Her playing has few audible mistakes and the cello playing is, I’m reliably informed, very good. For other tracks, such as ‘That Time’, she abandons the piano all together and picks up the guitar. But for me some of the best and most successful tracks are when the band leaves and Spektor plays such song as ‘Après Moi’ unaccompanied (how many songs can you name which feature three different languages?).

The quiet nature of the audience between songs is not something I’m used to (being a frequenter of more rock-orientated concerts) but Regina Spektor manages to hold the atmosphere. That’s not to say that she is entirely silent in these short gaps. “Do you have a train to catch?” she sasses when an audience member calls for ‘Samson’, a track which would be played (inevitably) as part of the encore.

There is even an endearing moment of humour at the beginning of ‘Don’t Leave Me (Ne Me Quitte Pas)’ a favourite track of mine from  Begin to Hope, when Spektor forgets her own lyrics; cue a great moment of audience interaction as she calls out for prompts. But I do get the feeling that a lot of these songs have stories behind them that I would have loved Regina Spektor to have gone into, giving us a little insight into her life and writing process.

Nor does she forget where she is; giving a nod to the Birmingham audience by mentioning that local boy Jeff Lynne (of E.L.O fame) had been a producer on her album Far, Spektor bursts in ‘Folding Chair’ – a bouncy crowd-pleaser.

As I mentioned, Regina Spektor ends her encore with perhaps her most famous and most enduring song, ‘Samson’ (after ‘Us’ that is, which was performed with aplomb just before exiting the stage for the first time). I’m not a fan of the trite modern assumption that artists will play always an encore at the end of the set, but nothing could have pleased me more than to have seen Spektor’s ruby-red shoes patter across the stage once more to retake their place on the piano’s sustain pedal. The audience are on their feet at the end of the show and it is thoroughly deserved.

Adding a band to her live shows, Regina Spektor has developed a more complex and mature sound in the last decade. But I can’t help wonder if something of the arty rawness and fun of her earlier performances might have been lost along the way. Spektor has come a long way since emerging from the anti-folk scene in downtown New York’s East Village, and she does concentrate on her work from the previous three albums rather than delving into her archives.

Back in Sheffield we stood in awe as Regina Spektor, bandless, thwacked out a rhythm on her piano stool using a drumstick; in Birmingham we sit as she and her band play through a largely flawless set. Though I don’t leave disappointed, I am greedy. I would like a second show, more stripped back without a band and with a smaller audience, during which she could reconnect with her roots. A boy can dream.

Thoroughly satisfied that my high expectations have been met, I leave the venue clutching a new t-shirt. Hopefully I won’t have to wait another decade to wear it to one of her concerts.

For more on Regina Spektor, visit

For more from the Town and Symphony Halls, including full event listings and online ticket sales, visit

For more from SJM Concerts/Gigs & Tours, visit

BPREVIEW: Regina Spektor @ Symphony Hall 05.08.17

BPREVIEW: Regina Spektor @ Symphony Hall 05.08.17

Words by Ed King

On Saturday 5th August, Regina Spektor comes to the Symphony Hall – performing in Birmingham as part of a six UK tour dates.

Doors at the Symphony Hall open at 7pm, with tickets priced between £30.50 and £38 as presented by SJM Concerts/Gigs & Tours. For direct gig info, including venue details and online tickets sales, click here.

So at the beginning of the week you’re making jokes about holding your heart for a Jewish redhead who can play the piano…

Born into a musical family, both performers and professors, Regina Spektor began playing piano as a young child growing up in Moscow. After her family left the USSR, as it was back in the late 80s’ perestroika, Regina Spektor eventually settled in the Bronx and began performing around the clubs and cafés of downtown New York. Piano based storytelling is perhaps one way to describe Spektor‘s style; socio-political and self analytical narratives, delivered over strong melodies with ivory at their heart is another. The classical training is there, the Jazz influences were there, and watching Regina Spektor’s finger work is like a master class in appropriate pressure. But there’s fun, self deprecation, the occasional horror story and above all honesty. So it’s a win.

After a few years grafting through the suitcase sales and self promotion of a truly DIY artist, Regina Spektor signed to the Warner’s subsidiary, Sire Records, to release Soviet Kitsch in 2004. But it would be the flurry of singles from her 2006 LP, Begin to Hope, that would start attracting the more mainstream success – although the album tracks such as ‘Samson’ and ‘Après Moi’ would be picked up and performed by Gwen Stefani and Peter Gabriel respectively.

The production partnership on Begin to Hope, with David Khane, would carry onto Spektor’s third album for Sire Records – releasing Far in 2009, with (…wait for it) Jeff Lynne also sitting in behind the glass (BOOM, a regional connection… Trinity Mirror’s click bait merchants would be proud). But Far would also deliver arguably some of Spektor’s most memorable songs, with the singles ‘The Calculation’ and ‘Eet’ backed up, even beaten, by the delicious ‘Folding Chair’ and personally pertinent ‘Laughing With’.

Two albums and eight years later, Regina Spektor is back globetrotting to promoter her latest LP Remember Us to Life – released in 2016 on Sire Records, the label Spektor has stuck to since first signing to them in 2004. The debut single from Spektor’s seventh studio album was ‘Bleeding Heart’, let loose into the world in July last year.

An official ‘Steinway Artist’, endorsed by the piano manufactures in 2012 (although having played on/preferred Steinway pianos throughout her career), Regina Spektor at the Symphony Hall is a promising marriage of artist and venue. It also gives me allows me to come up with a suitable pun for the one Sire Records album I haven’t mentioned yet.

Until then I’m going to make jokes about Donald Trump and Stan Kroenke being sat on by an escaped rhino… lets see if this universe stuff really works.

‘Bleeding Heart’ – Regina Spektor (from Remember Us to Life – look out for 3mins 46sec)


‘Samson’ – Regina Spektor (from Begin to Hope)

Regina Spektor comes to the Symphony Hall on Saturday 5th August, as presented by SJM Concerts/Gigs & Tours. For direct gig info, including venue details and online tickets sales, click here.

For more on Regina Spektor, visit

For more from the Town and Symphony Halls, including full event listings and online ticket sales, visit

For more from SJM Concerts/Gigs & Tours, visit

BREVIEW: Cabbage @ O2 Institute 30.06.17

Cabbage @ O2 Institute 30.06.17 / Aatish Ramchurn - Birmingham Review




Words by Lucy Mounfield / Pics by Aatish Ramchurn

When I last saw Cabbage they were supporting Blossoms at the O2 Academy and, I felt, they stole the show with a brief, explosive set. Now they’ve announced a new EP, The Extended Play of Cruelty, and their biggest headline tour to date. Can the energy of their supporting act scale to a full set?

The venue was the upstairs room at the O2 Institute in Digbeth; a small room, which made for a more intimate experience. The first band on were Strange Bones, a Blackpool outfit who deserve a special mention.

Frontman Bobby Bentham was an absolute madman, jumping off the stage and into the crowd with a technician frantically spooling out the microphone cable after him. At one point he donned a balaclava shouting “BIG SISTER IS WATCHING YOU”, before approaching various members of the audience chanting “behead the despots” Strange Bones - supporting Cabbage @ O2 Institute 30.06.17 / Aatish Ramchurn - Birmingham Reviewwhilst waving his finger across his throat in a slitting motion. The confrontational manner of his lyrics matched his onstage presence – it was a cross between a bank raid and a political rally – with Bentham often addressing the younger members in the audience as the future “kings and queens”. He certainly had them on his side by the end of Strange Bones‘ short set.

Next up were The Blinders who calmed things down with their psychedelic guitar focused set. If Strange Bones brutally confronted the audience with political agitation, The Blinders came out with a more reflective approach. The lyrics took the form of poetic musings on life and society whilst the dream-like quality of the guitar produced a trance effect, which in a way deflated the audience who had been provoked into a frenzy by Strange Bones. Consequently this made Cabbage‘s entrance less bombastic, after being lured into a sedative mood by The Blinders.

There’s an elephant in the room. Cabbage have been embroiled in controversy over the last couple of months after it was alleged that lead singer, Lee Broadbent, had sexually assaulted a concertgoer as part of his performance whilst supporting Kasabian. These claims are denied by the band.

The Blinders - supporting Cabbage @ O2 Institute 30.06.17 / Aatish Ramchurn - Birmingham ReviewIt’s tempting in these situations either to jump on the Twitter hate train or to leap to the defence of your favourite musicians, but I think we should do neither – we should refrain from indulging in speculation. I mention it because Cabbage made a point of thanking the audience for their commitment in the last “tough three months”, hastily adding that things can “get them into trouble”.

There was an overwhelming atmosphere of reciprocal gratitude and love between the band and the audience. Making such references indicated that perhaps Cabbage had lost a bit of confidence, something I felt with their quiet entrance and slow start, and clearly this allegation (and the negative media attention) has made the band more tentative . But by the end of the night Cabbage were back on form with the energy of the audience seeping into their set.

When I saw them last, Cabbage opened with ‘Uber Capitalist Death Trade’, which is a belter and probably their most recognisable track. This time they opened with ‘Terrorist Synthesiser’ which combines punk sensibilities, thumping drums with a funk edge, proving their dynamic range. They played a few new songs from their upcoming EP, including their new single ‘Celebration of a Disease’ which brought the audience to more of a quiet rumble instead of Cabbage @ O2 Institute 30.06.17 / Aatish Ramchurn - Birmingham Reviewthe loud cheering and singing which they did on Cabbage’s more memorable numbers.

The next new song (apologies, didn’t catch the name) proved more of a hit than the official single and could end up a fan favourite with an incredibly up-tempo drum beat and a good head banger. To keep up with the pace, singer Joe Martin raced through the lyrics half rapping them like a Streets song, which was fun but ultimately made it really difficult to understand the lyrics which are an important part of Cabbage‘s appeal.

Joe Martin got the crowd going with his ‘Dinner Lady’ and ‘Kevin’, the lyrics being chanted back by the audience and showing that Cabbage can dissect anything and everything to make a great song that resonates with both the disaffected youth and the beleaguered workforce.  ‘Tell Me Lies About Manchester’ was a particular favourite of the set – the hypnotic chorus and bass rumbled along with ska inflections, creating a fevered sense of anticipation for the frenzied ending. One more song was dedicated to their drummer, Asa Morley, and was a great show-piece for him and his kit.

Cabbage @ O2 Institute 30.06.17 / Aatish Ramchurn - Birmingham ReviewCabbage put on a good show. Both front men were dynamic, moving about the stage and interacting with the crowd;Joe Martin did his striptease routine and ended up in just his trousers. And I am pleased to report that the only groping I saw was from the audience, after Martin and Broadbent climbed up on the barriers and everyone in the the crowd went somewhat mad. By the end of their last song, ‘Uber Captalist Death Trade’, it was clear that Cabbage are adored by their fans; a relaxed and confident grin appeared on the band’s faces.

Cabbage‘s new songs may not be as rough and ready but they have shown that the band can evolve musically and challenge their punk roots.  However it can be hard to make out the words in their new material (which don’t have as much bite) and even the performances seemed tame – it doesn’t matter how much you’ve sharpened your rapier wit, if I can’t hear what you’re saying in a crowded room reverberating with amplified guitar chords then it falls flat.

Obviously these songs are new to both band and fans alike, so with practice and time they may well become more defined. Plus it’s all part of being the main act on the bill; I’ll just have to keep going to more Cabbage gigs to find out.

For more on Cabbage, visit

For more on The Blinders, visit  

For more on Strange Bones, visit


For more from the O2 Institute, including full event listing and online ticket sales, visit

For more from SJM Concerts/Gigs and Tours, visit

BPREVIEW: Cabbage @ O2 Institute 30.06.17

BPREVIEW: Cabbage @ O2 Institute 30.06.17

Words by Lucy Mounfield

On Friday 30th June, Cabbage will take over the main stage at the 02 institute Digbeth, with support from The Blinders and Strange Bones. Doors open at 6pm with tickets priced at £11.50 (advance). For direct gig info and online ticket sales, click here.

This summer the Manchester five-piece are taking to venues across the UK in their biggest headline tour to date, following their recent stint with fellow Manchester band, Blossoms. Coming from the Scala in London (June 29th) to the 02 Institute in Birmingham (June 30th) and then onwards North to the Ritz Manchester (July 1st), expect to see Cabbage to pitch up at some major venues.  For full tour details from SJM/Gigs and Tours, click here.

Cabbage have recently announced their new The Extended Play of Cruelty EP – set for a digital release on July 21st, with a physical release on August 25th via Skeleton Key records. Cabbage have previously released their new single, ‘Celebration of A Disease’, which is out now and the opening track from the EP. The Extended Play of Cruelty EP comes after a short recording session with producers James Skelly and Richard Turvey at Liverpool’s Parr Street Studios. According to a post Cabbage’s Facebook page, “The Extended Play of Cruelty is our revisited conquest to our pop psychological platitudes. The deceit of man tests all in a moment of clarity and we deliver our position in a long search for Utopia. Our blend of fervent disdain is focused on local frustrations, whilst celebrating those who shall rise through the ashes.”

What looks like Cabbage’s thoughts on their The Extended Play of Cruelty EP does in fact read like a cultural and musical manifesto. Certainly, their new single is a seething comment on society’s unnatural fixation with social media that spreads like a ‘disease’ with ‘the corruption of technology’ breaking our ‘dreams’. Deep stuff, but not unexpected from a band who are known  for their politically and socially charged lyrics, and during the run up to the 2017 general election had the words ‘Vote Jeremy Corbyn’ on their drum kit.

The Extended Play Of Cruelty comes hot on the heels of their collection of early EP’s, called Young, Dumb and Full of… in January 2017; twelve songs of hard-hitting post-punk that bubble away with an energy that is not so far removed from The Sex Pistols. However, the darker, more punkier sound is somewhat lacking in their new single, ‘Celebration Of A Disease’ which still retains the heavy throng of the drums but lacks the slicing guitar that made some of their classic songs like ‘Uber Capitalist Death Trade’, ‘Necroflat in the Palace’, ‘Indispensable Pencil’ and ‘Terrorist Synthesiser’. But Cabbage are proving they have a lot more material to give and are by no means a flash in the pan. It will be interesting to see how their new song fares when played live, especially as Cabbage can deliver a ferociously intense set on stage.

(Lucy Mounfield last saw Cabbage playing at the O2 Academy in March, as part of the NME Awards Tour with Blossoms and Rory Wynne. Read her BREVIEW here)

Support band The Blinders are a three-piece alternative group from Doncaster who are now based in Manchester. Combining political punk-rock with ‘psychedelic poetry and tones’ to create visceral ‘punkedelic’ sound, the band seem an equal match for Cabbage’s raw yet thought provoking punk. Equally so, Blackpool rockers Strange Bones are putting a modern twist to punk with their stand out tune ‘God Save the Teen’ – a nod and a wink to The Sex Pistols’ punk anthem.

‘Celebration of a Disease’ – Cabbage

Cabbage play the O2 Institute on Friday 30th June, with support from The Blinders + Strange Bones. For direct gig info, including venue details and online ticket sales, click here.

For more on Cabbage, visit

For more on The Blinders, visit  

For more on Strange Bones, visit


For more from the O2 Institute, including full event listing and online ticket sales, visit

For more from SJM Concerts/Gigs and Tours, visit

BPREVIEW: Maxïmo Park @ O2 Institute 05.05.17

Words by Ed King / Pics by Ed Taylor

On Friday 5th May, Maxïmo Park will be playing at the 02 Institute. Doors open from 7pm, with tickets priced at £20.50 + booking fee – as presented by SJM Concerts. Minimum age for entry is 14.

N.B. At the time of writing this gig has been ‘Sold Out’, so check with reputable ticket providers for spares and returns. For direct gig info, click here.

Maxïmo Park will be playing further UK dates in Newcastle (6th May), Aberdeen (8th May), Glasgow (9th May), Sheffield (10th May), London (12th May), Bexhill-on-Sea (13th May), Cambridge (15th May), Cardiff (16th May), Falmouth (17th May), Manchester (19th May), Margate (27th May). For direct tour details, including online ticket sales, click here.

Maxïmo Park will be back in Birmingham on Saturday 16th September – co-headling the main stage at the Beyond the Tracks festival on Eastside Park, Birmingham City Centre. For direct festival info, click here.

Schlepping up, down and around the UK, Maxïmo Park are on the headline trial with their new album, Risk to Exist – released on 24th April through Cooking Vinyl. To read the Birmingham Review of Risk to Exist, from Damien Russell, click here.

Named after a park dedicated to the Cuban Generalisimo Máximo Gómez – a key military figure in Cuba’s war of independence – Maxïmo Park have never been too far away from the murky world of socio-political-meets-pop-rock.

And whilst the-man-in-the-hat, Paul Smith (not that kind of hat, not that Paul Smith), was once quoted as saying ‘I think it’s people who change the world but music can influence people’Maxïmo Park have arguably used their sixteen years of creative endevours to do just that. Plus they’ve made their own beer. So, on the road during the UK’s local elections and campaign trails for the general… that’s going to be some green room to tidy.

But with a front man you’d rip your granny’s teeth out to get, Maxïmo Park also have a reputation for pretty electrifying stage shows, no matter what your political leanings. Expect strutting, jumping, the occasional strobe, and the band’s name (sometimes literally) up in lights somewhere. And with a new album to hock at the merch stand I wouldn’t expect too many pulled punches, even with two fingers extended in the face of totalitarian capitalism.

Birmingham Review last saw Maxïmo Park, again at the 02 Institute, in December 2015 – click here to read Helen Knott’s Birmingham Review of the gig.

‘Risk to Exist’ – Maxïmo Park

Risk to Exist by Maxïmo Park is out on general release from 21st April, via Cooking Vinyl. For more on Maxïmo Park, visit

For more on Maxïmo Park at the O2 Institute, including venue details and online ticket sales, visit


For more from the O2 Institute, including full venue details and online ticket sales, visit

For more from SJM Concerts/Gigs and Tours, visit