BPREVIEW: The Big Birmingham Soul Night @ Town Hall 15.04.17

BPREVIEW: The Big Birmingham Soul Night @ Town Hall 15.04.17

Words by Ed King / Pic by Jayne Billi

On Saturday 15th April, The Big Birmingham Soul Night comes to the Town Hall – presented by The Night Owl and THSH. Running from 9pm until the wee hours, DJing throughout the event will be Colin Curtis (Golden Torch Set), Ian ‘Pep’ Pereira (Catacombs/Wigan Casino), Sonny & Spare (Boogaloo).

Tickets are priced at £12 advance, £14 on the door. For direct event information, including venue details and online ticket sales, click here.

The Night Owl has been committed to Northern Soul since the moment they opened their small but secure back street Digbeth doors. Cosy and clandestine, they did it for the love. But the echoing footsteps from the floorboards of the Wigan Casino, Blackpool Mecca, Wolverhampton’s Catacombs and Stoke’s Golden Torch nightclubs are behind every Northern Soul night and it was, arguably, a matter of time before we saw the words ‘wooden dancefloor’ appear in print.

But to up the stakes of nostalgia, The Night Owl has managed to bag the Town Hall for their larger late night revel. Stick that in your Vesper tailpipe and smoke it. Plus they’ve booked one of the DJs behind the burgeoning Northern Soul scene of the 60’s and a previous resident of the famed/infamous Golden Torch all nighters – Colin Curtis.

And if you’re of a fresher faced age… staying up until dawn, hopped up on adult pills with childish names, dancing to music that will tear down the establishment is not the invention of the post millennials. Northern Soul was a powerhouse of a scene in the 60’s and 70’s, redefining the culture of UK clubland whilst streaming African American music into Britain’s tacitly segregated waters.

Plus the term ‘rave’ was first used in the British press (as a badge of debauched youth culture) to describe all night jazz events in and around Wardour Street. So pass the potatoes Gran, you’re looking a little off colour this Sunday lunch.BPREVIEW: The Big Birmingham Soul Night @ Town Hall 15.04.17 / Jayne Billi

But the chance to foot stamp in the Town Hall is almost too tempting to miss, and if Northern Soul is your thing then you’re almost obligated to go. Tribal loyalty: another thing that’s not new. But references and alteration aside, The Big Birmingham Soul Night is a bold move from a venue that has been steadily grafting away – plus the line up is a handpicked homage to Northern Soul’s phenomenal rising balloon.

“We are delighted to be working with Birmingham Town Hall,” says Mazzy Snape – promoter of The Night Owl, “with its huge wooden floor and iconic design it really fits with the ethos of the legendary Northern Soul all nighters of years gone by such as Wigan Casino and Blackpool Mecca.

It holds so much history with artists such as Buddy Holly and The Kinks having played in the 50s and 60s, the soul fans are going to love it! The Night Owl regulars will be happy as they’ll have more room to dance and there will be about 3 or 4 times as many people as we can normally fit in! If all goes well this could become THE Birmingham soul event”.

The Big Birmingham Soul Night comes to Birmingham Town Hall on Saturday 15th April, in conjunction with The Night Owl. For direct gig info and online tickets sales, click here.

For more from The Night Owl, visit www.nightowlbirmingham.com

For more from the Town & Symphony Halls, visit www.thsh.co.uk

BPREVIEW: Stewart Lee – Content Provider @ Symphony Hall 27&28.03.17

BPREVIEW: Stewart Lee - Content Provider @ Symphony Hall 27&28.03.17 / Idil Sukan

Words by Helen Knott / Pics by Idil Sukan

On Monday 27th and Tuesday 28th March, Stewart Lee brings his new show, Content Provider, to the Symphony Hall.

Doors open at 7.30pm, with tickets priced at £25 (including £3 booking fee). For direct gig info, including full venue details and online ticket sales, click here.

After four critically acclaimed series, the BBC finally wielded its axe and killed off Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle. If you never saw it, Comedy Vehicle featured a half hour Stewart Lee stand-up routine, interspersed by interview segments of Lee examining his performance, joke writing abilities and career. It was a clever, insightful and funny show, but it’s hard to imagine it had mass-market appeal.

Anyway, it’s gone now and Stewart Lee had some unexpected time on his hands. The result was Content Provider, an anthology of selected short prose from the columns he writes for The Observer ‘every time that David Mitchell was away’First published by Faber & Faber in July 2016, Lee is now taking Content Provider out on an 18 month UK tour as his new stand up show.

This is Stewart Lee’s first full-length show since 2011’s Carpet Remnant World, with his most recent tours testing out 25 minute segments of material for his TV work. As such, the axing of his BBC show is perhaps a blessing in disguise for Lee fans: a full-length show is arguably a better channel for his carefully constructed, reflective and analytical comedy.

As Stewart Lee is a fully paid up member of the metropolitan liberal elite, it’s safe to expect Content Provider will contain left-leaning attacks on the Tories, Trump and Brexit. However with the need to keep the show topical for a long 18-month stint, Lee‘s focus will also be on consumerism, narcissism and their role in today’s society. Hopefully at the Symphony Hall, as a local boy made good, there may be some Birmingham jokes too (Lee was born in Shropshire before growing up in Solihull).

But with Stewart Lee there’s little middle ground – most people either think Lee’s the best stand-up comedian in the country, or can’t stand his long, repetitive speeches and smarmy persona. And for all his five star reviews, Dominic Cavendish (Daily Telegraph) made public his decision to walk out of a Stewart Lee gig in 2013:

‘If Lee had a shred of interest or insight into the working lives of other people, he’d realise that those who give up an evening at the end of a week to see him deserve his thanks not his toxic scorn.’

Of course, you could argue that Cavendish missed the point; Lee is playing a character, he’s pretending to be scornful to be funny, and he’s pushing the confines of comedy as far as he can. But it can undoubtedly get under your skin if you don’t take it for what it is. And with all the bad reviews and negative social media comments that Lee posts on his own website, I don’t think that he would want it any other way.

Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle Series 4 – ‘Telegraph Review’

Stewart Lee performs at the Birmingham Town Hall on Monday 27th & Tuesday 28th March. For direct gig info and online tickets sales, click here.


For more on Stewart Lee, visit www.stewartlee.co.uk

For more from the Town Hall and Symphony Hall, including full event listing and online ticket sales, visit www.thsh.co.uk

BPREVIEW: What the Ladybird Heard Live @ Town Hall – until 11.01.17

BPREVIEW: What the Ladybird Heard Live @ Town Hall – until 11.01.17Words by Ed King / Pics courtesy of THSH

On Tuesday 27th December, What the Ladybird Heard Live opens at the Birmingham Town Hall – running until 11th January 2017.Birmingham Preview

Tickets are priced between £12-17, with shows are held at around 11am, 1pm and 3pm (with variations) most days of the week – excluding Mondays.

For full show dates, times and online ticket sales, click here.

Adapted for the stage by Kenny Wax Family Entertainment Ltd, who have also produced children’s favourites The Gruffalo, The Tiger Who Came to Tea, Hetty Feather and We’re Going On A Beat Hunt for theatre, What the Ladybird Heard Live is based on Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks’ award winning picture book (Stockport 2011, Scottish Children’s 2011).

Telling the tale of how a simple ladybird foils ‘two men in a big black van, with a map and a key and a cunning plan’ from stealing a farmyard’s ‘fine prize cow’, What the Ladybird Heard is essentially an exercise in linguistics and phonics. And farmyard security.

Playfully illustrated by Lydia Monks, Donaldson’s narrative of rhyming couplets is as close to a song as you’re going to get without singing – complete with alliterated arch-villains and anthropomorphised animals. But it also carries a soft message of empowerment, that no matter how small or (mostly) silent you are your voice is still important.

Previous What the Ladybird Heard Live productions have played heavy on audience participation, with many of the farmyard animals being created by prompts and scattered stage props. But considering the book will take you about 15mins maximum to read (and the attention span of a toddler can be less than that) you’d hope director Matthew Gregory has some extra on stage distractions in his arsenal.

Running at the Birmingham Town Hall until the New Year, this will be your only chance to see What the Ladybird Heard Live on stage before summer next year. The production runs again at the Lyric Theatre in London, from Wednesday 5th July to Sunday 6th September 2017.

What the Ladybird Heard Live

What the Ladybird Heard Live opens at the Birmingham Town Hall – running from Tuesday 27th December, until 11th January 2017. 

A ‘specially curated relaxed performance… for people with an Autistic Spectrum Condition, a learning disability or sensory and communication disorder’ will be held on Sunday 8th January 2017 at 3pm. For direct event info, including full show dates/times and online ticket sales, click here.

For more on What the Ladybird Heard Live, visit www.whattheladybirdheardlive.co.uk

For more from the Town & Symphony Halls, including full event programmes and online tickets sales, visit www.thsh.co.uk


BPREVIEW: Agnes Obel @ Town Hall 29.11.16

Agnes Obel @ Town Hall 29.11.16




Words by Ed King

On Tuesday 29th November, Agnes Obel performs at the Birmingham Town Hall – coming to the city at the tail end of her European tour, with subsequent UK dates in Manchester (30.11) and Dublin (01.12).Birmingham Preview

Doors open at 7:30, with tickets priced at £22 – as presented by Crosstown Concerts. For direct gig info and online ticket sales, click here.

Born and raised in Copenghagen, but now in Berlin, Agnes Obel has been living and working with the piano from a young age – encouraged to explore a wide range of music, both classical and contemporary. Obel cites both Erik Satie and Jan Johansson as influences.

With music as a constant focus, the Danish musician and vocalist released her first solo album, Philarmonics, in October 2010. A stripped back and elegant LP, resting on simple piano melodies and Obel’s allegorical approach to lyrics, Philarmonics garnered much support from the record buying public and industry alike.

Agnes Obel’s sophomore album, Aventine, had a more robust, darker feel – evolving the playful melancholy of its predecessor with a richer vocal timbre and well rounded melodies. Production techniques were explored, for both vocals and keys, whilst repetition was softly citzen-of-glassembraced and accentuated. Strings were added on some songs – as with the lead single ‘The Curse’ – and a more diverse, layered album was released in September 2013.

Whist touring Aventine, Agnes Obel began work on her third album – Citizen of Glass, releasing it’s lead single, ‘Familiar’, in June 2016. The album was released in full on 21st October, with Obel’s latest LP an evolution once again – featuring an army of instruments and production techniques on the new record.

On the road a week later (and her birthday) Agnes Obel has been touring Citizen of Glass across Europe since late October – with support from Lisa Hannigan for many of the shows, appearing together for the final time at Le Colisée in Lille, France on 24th November. Agnes Obel begins a 17 date tour of North America and Canada on 28th Feb 2017.

‘Familiar’ – Agnes Obel

Agnes Obel performs at the Birmingham Town Hall on Tuesday 29th November, as presented by Crosstown Concerts. For direct gig info and online tickets sales, click here.


For more on Agnes Obel, visit www.agnesobel.com

For more from the Town Hall and Symphony Hall, including full event listing and online ticket sales, visit www.thsh.co.uk

For more from Crosstown Concerts, visit www.crosstownconcerts.com