BREVIEW: Blossoms + Cabbage, Rory Wynne (NME Awards Tour) @ O2 Academy 24.03.17

BREVIEW: Blossoms (NME Awards Tour) @ O2 Academy 24.03.17 / Rob Hadley - Birmingham Review




Words by Lucy Mounfield / Pics by Rob Hadley

The show started with Rory ‘this song’s all about how good I am’ Wynne’s brand of indie rock. Wynne’s persona is charming, in an arrogant sort of way, like a budget Mick Jagger.

The only issue being I don’t think he’s got sufficient calibre of music behind him for it to work; he talks the talk, but at this point I don’t think he quite walks the walk. Although his set was fun and the crowd (albeit a bit thin on the ground) enjoyed it.

Next up were Cabbage, a wholly different story. Fronted by Lee Broadbent, heroically hobbling around with an injured pelvis (I initially thought the funny walk was part of the act) prowling about chewing the scenery and spewing beer everywhere.

Additional vocals and fronting duties came from Joe Martin (also on guitar) who was leaping about the place and tearing himself out of his shirt as if it were a straight jacket. Cabbage stole the show here, opening with the ferocious ‘Uber Capitalist Death Trade’ and barely letting up the intensity until their set was, regrettably, over.

Cabbage perform a high-energy post-punk with lyrical content drawing in equal parts on the political and the absurd. Alongside Broadbent and Martin, Cabbage are completed by Eoghan Clifford on guitar, Stephen Evans on bass, and Asa Morley on drums.

BREVIEW: Rory Wynne – supporting Blossoms (NME Awards Tour) @ O2 Academy 24.03.17 / Rob Hadley - Birmingham ReviewThe aforementioned ‘Uber Capitalist Death Trade’ is a breakneck speed punk anthem with a righteous ‘three chords and the truth’ approach, while subsequent tracks slowed things down and brought in more keyboards, played by Broadbent. Another stand out track was ‘Dinner Lady’, played towards the end of their set, with Martin’s rap-punk slur reminiscent of Joe Strummer. This left Blossoms with a hard act to follow, since their more down-tempo sound never quite reaches the same intensity. It felt a bit like the climax of tonight’s show was in the middle.

Finally, after some interlude recorded music (which people were inexplicably singing along to), Blossoms came onto the stage. The O2 Academy main room was absolutely packed by this point; a huge crowd had turned out. Blossoms began with ‘Honey Sweet’ – the fourth track of their BREVIEW: Cabbage – supporting Blossoms (NME Awards Tour) @ O2 Academy 24.03.17 / Rob Hadley - Birmingham Reviewnew LP, which was, like most of their tracks, a synth heavy mid-tempo affair with lots of chugging along on the guitars, topped off with Tom Ogden’s distinctive vocals. Charlie Salt’s bass is prominent and rather good on the funkier tracks like ‘Blow’, which Blossoms played towards the middle of their set.

Towards the end we had the acoustic ‘My Favourite Room’, along with some audience interaction – an intimate moment with Ogden alone on the stage, proving his abilities as a front man who can command and engage with an audience even in larger venues. However this section of the set ended with a medley of various cheesy songs (‘Last Christmas’?) which felt incongruous and like karaoke night down the pub. The audience loved it.

‘Cut Me and I’ll Bleed’ is one of the more interesting songs on Blossoms‘ debut/eponymous album, but played live it lost its psychedelic keyboard section under the wall of guitar and bass – although this might possibly have been the fault of the venue. Blossoms create a wall of sound composed out of the textures of the synths, guitars and bass; on record one can pick out the details, but live at the Blossoms (NME Awards Tour) @ O2 Academy 24.03.17 / Rob Hadley - Birmingham ReviewO2 Academy everything was a little too muddy for me. Cabbage were less susceptible to this, their sound more stripped down and in your face.

‘Charlemagne’ was the last track played, but the intensity produced by ‘Deep Grass’ (the second to last) was not followed through by such a well-known song. I particularly liked the jam section at the end of ‘Deep Grass’, it felt rhythmically interesting and you got the sense the band were enjoying themselves.

Interestingly, in terms of their music, Blossoms bear little or no resemblance to those mighty Mancunian bands to whom they have been compared: The Stone Roses and Oasis. Instead they came across as a kind of clean cut ‘mum friendly’ band performing a solid sort of indie rock. I feel the better moments were when they embraced the bassier, funkier aspects of their sound and they seemed to riff off one another – however these were the bits that seemed to bore the rest of the audience. Blossoms (NME Awards Tour) @ O2 Academy 24.03.17 / Rob Hadley - Birmingham Review

All in all, a good night. Blossoms, the main act, were certainly giving their fans a great time. But for me they were upstaged by the supporting act, Cabbage, whose frantic performance left little room to up the ante.


For more on Blossoms, visit

For more on Cabbage, visit

For more on Rory Wynne, visit


For more on the NME Awards Tour 2017, visit

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

For more from SJM Concerts/Gigs and Tours, visit

BPREVIEW: Blossoms (NME Awards Tour) @ O2 Academy 24.03.17

Words by Lucy Mounfield / Pics courtesy of APB

On Wednesday 29th March, Blossoms perform at the O2 Academy (Birmingham) as part of the NME Awards Tour 2017 – with support from socio-political punks Cabbage, and Rory Wynne

Doors open at 7pm; the minimum age for entry is 14 with under 16s requiring adult accompaniment. Tickets are priced at £20.25 (+bf) – as presented by SJM Concerts/Gigs and Tours. For direct gig info, including full venue details and online ticket sales, click here.

N.B. At the time of writing the O2 Academy (Birmingham) is one of the last remaining venues on the NME Awards Tour 2017 to have tickets to sell.  Please check availability before attending or click here for more info from the NME.

On the back of three years touring, and a string of singles and EP’s released, Blossoms hit the road again to promote their eponymous debut studio album. A bit of a warm up before they visit mainland Europe, North America and Canada, Blossoms will be back in the UK for festival season and a potential place in the hall of fame of Mancunian indie rock.

Blossoms arrived onto the music scene in 2014 with their singles ‘You Pulled a Gun On Me’ and ‘Blow’, the video for the latter being shot at the Fitzpatrick Scaffolding yard in Stockport that was their formative rehearsal space (owned by the grandfather of bass player, Charlie Salt). After building up a back catalogue of singles, Blossoms established an almost cult following with tunes like fan favourite ‘Charlemagne’. Their latest single, ‘Sweet Honey’, was released in February this year – once again featuring a who’s who of Stockport locations.

Blossoms‘ synth-rock sound has been labeled as ‘psychedelic’ by some critics but the band themselves arguably prefer to bask in the pop mainstream, cultivating a more mass appeal. Their nostalgia of The Stone Roses has brought older fans to this new band, whilst their sun blushed melodies found favour with today’s pop luvvies and teenage dreamers.

Blossom’s Mancunian roots are a big part of their music (and name – ‘Blossoms’ being a pub in Stockport) but can they be the sound of a new generation, or will their nostalgia tinged indie rock forever remind us of 00’s indie? A dichotomy which was arguably cemented by their support slot at one of The Stone Roses’ homecoming concerts last June.

But with Blossoms‘ debut LP already hitting the No #1 in both the UK and Scottish album charts, alongside a string a plaudits from artists including Johnny Marr and Ian Brown, Blossoms seem to be on their way to fulfilling their dream of being ‘massive’. And if their tour manager tweeting ‘I don’t think @BlossomsBand can fly economy anymore’ is anything to go, they’re becoming at least as recognisable as their musical heroes.

Support band on the NME Awards Tour 2017, Cabbage, will no doubt bring some heavy opinions and political clout to the O2 Academy (Birmingham) – alongside the self/social media professed doctor of music, Rory Wynne.

The five-piece Cabbage display ‘a penchant for juvenilia’, look childish (nappy wearing stage costumes) and seem a little… unhinged at times (check the official video to ‘Kevin’) but their appearance is deceiving. Often described as ‘Manchester’s next great…’ (I’m not sure how the headliners feel about this!?) Cabbage take their musical influences from band such as The Sex Pistols and Joy Division; their darker punkier sound with manic drums tackles Brexit, poverty and the boredom of everyday life. It will be interesting to see how Blossoms respond to such a rousing start.

‘Sweet Honey’ – Blossoms

Blossoms perform at the O2 Academy on Wednesday 29th March, with support from Cabbage + Rory Wynne – as presented SJM COncerts. For direct gig info and online tickets sales, click here.


For more on Blossoms, visit

For more on Cabbage, visit

For more on Rory Wynne, visit


For more on the NME Awards Tour 2017, visit

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

For more from SJM Concerts/Gigs and Tours, visit


BREVIEW: Laura Marling @ O2 Institute 14.03.17

BREVIEW: Laura Marling @ O2 Institute 14.03.17 / Rachel Mason - Birmingham Review




 Words by Damien Russell  Pics by Rachel Mason

Hot on the heels of her album release, Laura Marling embarked on a 32 date international tour  – playing to a sold out show at the O2 Institute on 14th of March.

It’s a gig I’ve been looking forward to. I like the album, Semper Femina (although it’s not perfect), but my friend is a long-term fan of Laura Marling and is mad keen for the show. I’ve not seen Marling before but hear good things, so I ignore the fact it’s been a long and stressful day and commute up from Basingstoke to be there just as the support band are starting.

Said support are a four piece country/soft rock group who are melodic but slow. The singer’s quite quiet and in-between songs I have no idea what he’s saying, so I must confess I never got their name. They unfortunately fail to get my enthusiasm, and I see pockets of people chatting who seem equally disengaged.

The band are clearly competent but just a bit too slow and a bit too laid back. Their last song, before clearing the stage for Laura Marling, is an up-tempo number and exactly what they should have been doing the whole time. It’s a shame as you can see they recognise that song is the best received, but just don’t seem to have made the connection.

BREVIEW: Ethan Jones – supporting Laura Marling @ O2 Institute 14.03.17 / Rachel Mason - Birmingham ReviewI notice there doesn’t seem to be much activity preparing the stage. It seems odd but I don’t have to wait long to find out why; out with Laura Marling come the bass player and drummer from the support group, as part of her backing band. A nice touch and something that must make the tour more efficient. Additionally Marling has two backing singers and an electric guitarist.

The first song of Laura Marling’s set is ‘Soothing’, the opening track from the album. In fact the first five tracks tonight are the first five off Semper Femina, played in tracklist order. ‘Soothing’ is my favourite song off Semper Femina and while I feel it’s only right that it has such a prominent place in tonight’s set, I am disappointed that the double bass I’m certain must have been used on the record to get that fantastic deep sound is nowhere to be seen. The double bass does feature on later songs in Laura Marling’s set tonight, but not on the one I feel it really needed (to read Damien Russell’s Birmingham Review of Semper Femina, click here).

BREVIEW: Laura Marling @ O2 Institute 14.03.17 / Rachel Mason - Birmingham ReviewThe five track Semper Femina section is followed by a tri-song treat of Laura Marling on her own, performing tracks #7 and #8 (‘Next Time’ and ‘Nothing, Not Nearly’) again from her latest LP, alongside ‘What He Wrote’ from the 2010 album I Speak Because I Can. The final new track, ‘Nouel’, finishes off this section of the set with the full band again. I like the split and the way all of the new tracks are performed together, it has a touch of the dramatic about it and is something I rarely see done.

The tracks themselves are lovingly reproduced from the album to the stage, and although I pick up a couple of small arrangement changes for the live setting each track is easily connected to the studio version. But when Laura Marling takes the stage alone, it’s a real highlight of the set; her stripped down version of ‘Nothing, Not Nearly’ is, in my opinion, much better than the album version. Her solo performance of ‘What He Wrote’ is the best song in the set by far.

BREVIEW: Laura Marling @ O2 Institute 14.03.17 / Rachel Mason - Birmingham ReviewFollowing the new material, Laura Marling and her band run through some of her best known other songs – including ‘Daisy’, ‘Don’t Ask Me Why’ and ‘Darkness Descends’ – before ending the set with ‘Rambling Man’ and her trademark announcement that she doesn’t do encores.

Musically, the group were solid and the songs are obviously good, but there’s something missing in the band’s performance tonight that makes me wonder if they’re as well rehearsed as they could be. There have been a few minor slip-ups tonight; nothing major, but coming from either inexperience in the musicians (hard to believe) or a lack of preparation time.

Laura Marling herself is excellent musically but spends the gig gazing into the middle distance, leaving me feeling a she’s not entirely with us tonight. We get a couple of “how are you?” but little in the way of other banter or engagement.BREVIEW: Laura Marling @ O2 Institute 14.03.17 / Rachel Mason - Birmingham Review

On the whole, it was a good night but it was far from a great one; even the reactions from the other crowd members seemed muted. I think next time I see Laura Marling (and yes, I think there will be a next time) I’ll make sure it’s at one of her solo shows. Otherwise I’ll stick to the albums.

For more on Laura Marling, visit

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

For more from SJM Concerts/Gigs and Tours, visit



ALBUM: Semper Femina – Laura Marling



Words by Damien Russell

Laura Marling performs at the O2 Institute on Tuesday 14th March, as presented by SJM Concerts/Gigs and Tours. For direct gig info, including venue details and online ticket sales, click here.

Laura Marling, having lived in both the UK and the US, has a breadth of experience to draw on and has undoubtedly been exposed to a wide variety of musical genres, styles and eras. I say ‘undoubtedly’ because it’s all here for the listening in her new album, Semper Femina.

Over the course of Semper Femina we are treated to the jazz and blues undertones of opening track and first single ‘Soothing’, British folk stylings on ‘The Valley’, ‘Always This Way’ and ‘Wild Once’, Southern rock and blues on ‘Wildfire’ and ‘Don’t Pass Me By’ and a definite country twang to ‘Next Time’ and ‘Nouel’.

A wide and varied mix – one that would be easy to make jarring, but Marling flows from track to track without difficulty. Not seamlessly and certainly not in any kind of concept album style, but making the nine tracks feel like an album, not just a collection of songs.

One of the things that helps with that is the well crafted instrumentation; the string section, double bass, harmonies and guitar take turns in the limelight, rising and falling between tracks and making way for the next ‘lead’ in turn. This means that while the styles move quickly, the instrumentation moves more slowly creating a sense of harmony between the tracks. If deliberate (and I see no reason why it wouldn’t be) it’s masterful and great to see real thought put in to making an album in a world of single track downloads.

Of course nothing’s perfect, and while I absolutely appreciate (and support) the artistry and craftsmanship of Semper Femina I couldn’t help but feel that some of the tracks were too long. I hate to be the guy who complains about track length, and I will sit and listen to 7/8 minute songs when the content is there, but some songs felt more like a set sequence of sections repeated just one too many times for me. If we could have lost thirty seconds off a few of the longer tracks and got one more song on the album; that would have been preferred.

When it comes to individual songs, in so many ways, the album opener is the most important and ‘Soothing’ is a fantastic choice for Semper Femina. One of the strongest tracks on the album, it channels a funky vibe that I could only describe as being what I imagine a Morcheeba/Gotye collaboration might be like. A total winner for me.

Contrastingly, the last track on the album, ‘Nothing, Not Nearly’, is jarring and not to my taste. It comes so close to working itself out but still, unfortunately, so far. I found myself ending Semper Femina and playing ‘Soothing’ again just to keep that positive vibe in my mind. And while each track has its own merits the other outstanding song on Semper Femina for me is ‘Wildfire’, which gave me a real Janis Joplin vibe underneath the definite Laura Marling vibe.

Overall Semper Femina a cracking album; in no way do the few bad points outweigh the good. It’s a fantastic demonstration of Laura Marling‘s talent and feels like considerable effort and thought have gone into the bigger picture, as well as each individual song. Semper Femina is certainly a record that will stay in my playlist and I can’t wait to see some of these tracks brought to life on the O2 Institute stage.

‘Soothing’ – Laura Marling (directed by Laura Marling)


Laura Marling performs at the O2 Institute on Tuesday 14th March, as presented by SJM Concerts/Gigs and Tours. For direct gig info, including venue details and online ticket sales, click here.

Semper Femina by Laura Marling was released on 10th March 2017 by More Alarming Records via Kobalt Music Recordings. For more on Laura Marling, visit

BREVIEW: Band of Horses @ O2 Institute 20.02.18

BREVIEW: Band of Horses @ O2 Institute 20.02.18 / Reuben Penny - Birmingham Review

For the full Flickr of pics, click here

Follow Birmingham Review onFacebook - f square, rounded - with colourTwitter - t, square, rounded - with colourinstagram-logo-webcolours - RGB






Words by Damien Russell / Pics by Reuben Penny

I’d largely forgotten what it was like to be so focused on a band that you let your pint get warm. Especially at what is rapidly approaching six quid a time.Birmingham Review

I walked into the Band of Horses gig with an open mind, having decided to take my friend whose birthday it was not knowing that she loved Band of Horses. A happy accident, but one that left with a 40-minute drive and a lot of waxing lyrical about how good they are. I try not to believe any kind of hype and make my own mind up; not having seen Band of Horses before, I nodded and smiled in all the right places but would leave it to the band to do the real talking.

The evening seemed a bit flat on the run up to the main event; slow to get people in, quite a subdued support band, sedate lighting. So when Band of Horses came on and launched into a slow number, I wasn’t holding out much hope.

Sometimes it’s good to be wrong.

Band of Horses finished the first half of what turned out to be called ‘Dull Times/The Moon’ (you got me guys) and then launched into the second half which opened the set proper. And it was a launch. They hit the audience with song after song for 30 minutes plus, without even stopping to let a full round of applause ring out and with the instrument changes they throw in. That’s no mean feat.

BREVIEW: Band of Horses @ O2 Institute 20.02.18 / Reuben Penny - Birmingham ReviewI was impressed. You may be able to tell. That level of polish and co-ordination takes a lot of work and a lot of gigs to get right; it’s clear that while Band of Horses might not be making leaps in innovation musically, they are a professional and dedicated outfit.

They also have a new album to promote, Why Are You OK, but interspersed the set well with classics; all the new material was consolidated into the first half of the set, leaving the second half for crowd pleasers. A reward for being patient with the new material. And I don’t feel like we needed it. I think Why Are You OK has some strong songs on it the band playing them fresh on this tour, and the few gigs they did last year, did them proud.

The first half of the set had some great dynamic shifts too, with the straight through approach feeling more like a stage show than a race to the end. We had ‘Solemn Oath’, ‘Casual Party’, ‘Country Teen’ and ‘Throw My Mess’ off the new record, side by side with ‘The Great Salt Lake’, ‘Marry Song’, ‘Laredo’ and more from the back catalogue. I couldn’t help feeling it drop off a bit about halfway though.

BREVIEW: Band of Horses @ O2 Institute 20.02.18 / Reuben Penny - Birmingham ReviewBy the time ‘In A Drawer’ was performed, the last song they played off the new album, things had settled down a bit and lost a little momentum. Still high quality material, just that compared to the grand entrance the peak had passed and what I would normally expect to be a big build up to the real big crowd pleasers, was more of a stroll.

But the crowd pleasers are just that and left everyone on a high, with the live rendition of ‘Is There A Ghost’ being especially good. I had heard rumours Band of Horses were not doing encores for some of the gigs on this tour and I wondered if they would for us. But they didn’t disappoint; ‘The Funeral’ ended the set, and with a roaring applause the evening.

They look like truckers, they play like rockers and they put a setlist together well. But the lull in the middle was shame and if I’m honest, they’ve stayed true to form and kept to their own brand of Southern Rock without too much change or re-invention.

Overall, Band of Horses came over as a relaxed group who put on a good show; I would absolutely recommend seeing them if you ever get the chance.


For more on Band of Horses, 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

Follow Birmingham Review onFacebook - f square, rounded - with colourTwitter - t, square, rounded - with colourinstagram-logo-webcolours - RGB

For the full Flickr of pics, click here