A1 @ 02 Islington Academy-03/11/2019

Sunday 3rd November was a day that I had waited to experience for a long time. I was going to see a music act that I had been excited to see perform live since I was around 10 years old! That act is nineties and noughties boy band A1.

The band originally formed as a quartet in the late nineties. Consisting of band members Mark, Ben, Christian and Paul, they had seen huge success around the world after releasing well known singles Everytime, Summertime, Like A Rose, Same Old Brand New You, Caught In The Middle and the huge hit Take On Me – a cover single of the well known classic by Aha! A1‘s version of the track actually went straight to number one in the UK music charts while Aha only reached a number two position! In that time the band had also released three albums.
Sadly, around five years into their expanding career and shortly after the release of their third album ‘Make It Good’, band member Paul Marazzi had announced his departure from A1 due to personal reasons. The fan base were left feeling concerned for the future of the band since the news broke.

Thankfully, remaining band members Ben, Christian and Mark had come to a decision to keep the act going under their original band name as trio. Since then they have seen a huge increase in fans over in Norway and Asia. They have also since released a few more albums and worked on their own solo material too.

Just a short time ago, in mid 2018, former singer Paul decided to reach out to band member Christian during A1’s brief period of appearances in the UK at the time and had asked arrange to meet the guys to catch up, in which they all did. Thankfully for both original and new fans, the band decided to reunite as the original line up and hit the road once again. So A1 The Reunion Tour was announced including shows in three UK locations. The guys had purposely chosen to play at smaller venues with just a few select dates as they weren’t sure just how well the Reunion shows would be recieved in the UK as they hadn’t fully persued their careers there for a number of years. Oddly enough, due to popular demand a fourth show was added to their UK dates, which to the band’s surprise, later meant that all of their UK shows had completely sold out in just four minutes!

It’s very clear that the guys of A1 and their management team were keen to really make the reunion work, they seem happy and enthusiastic about the future of the band. I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to meet and interview them before they went on stage at their second London show, the Islington 02 Academy. Honestly, all four band members seemed very comfortable with each other and quite at ease and excited about all of the reunion shows in general. It appeared like Paul had never even departed at all. Upon first meeting the band, our photographer and I were greeted by management and taken to the VIP lounge where the meet and greets were taking place before the show. And there they were, all four original members of a band that I had admired for years just standing by the bar smiling for photos.

It wasn’t long until the two of us were introduced to the band and then taken downstairs to their two small dressing rooms to conduct a full interview. Now, I have only done a handful of interviews before as I’m usually too nervous to bring myself to actually do them, let alone perform in a professional manner. And in all honesty this is the one I was most anxious about doing. However, I’ve never been made to feel so welcome, calm and relaxed at a show that I have attended and reviewed. Ever! I have never met a nicer group of people! Christian provided us with traditional Norwegian spiced Christmas biscuits and bottles of water, I had discussed parenting and the wonder of baby wipes with Paul, Mark made sure we were comfortable by moving things around to make room for us to sit down on the leather sofa within the dressing room and Ben was talking to us as casually as you would speak to your best friend while doing his hair for the upcoming show.
Fortunately, I was able to record the chat I had with the band as I asked them a variety of questions about their reunion, performing again as four members on stage and the potential of new music and future tours. I have used our photographer’s photos to create a video showcasing the live show and the interview that took place. Very kindly, both management and all members of A1 were happy to allow me to publish the audio recording for all of you to hear. The audio clip video and images will be linked in with this review, but here are a segments that I have picked out to share with you!

I expressed how excited that fans (including myself) were to see the original line up back together and once again performing live too. So of course I had to ask them how they felt about the big reunion.

Q: So how are you feeling about it being back as four?
Ben: “It feels great! It’s a bit like riding a bike, it was a bit strange at first, Christian, myself and Mark had continued on for ages and ages and it had been about fifteen years since you joined (looking at Paul), initially it was a bit like oh, ok it feels a bit familiar and a bit weird, but like no time had passed really.”

Q: How are you feeling about all of your reunion shows?
Mark: “Really good!”

Ben: “Really Great! The fans have been frickin brilliant because we’ve been tryingto work out what to do with the set, it’s funny, we’ve had big songs that were different in different countries so one song has been number 1 in the Phillappenes and over here (UK), they’ve never heard of it. So we just thought lets do everything! Everybody knows the words to pretty much every single song and that’s the beauty of Spotify and things like that now.”

Paul: “We knew it was going to be big as it sold out so quick.”

So now over twenty years on since the beginning of A1, of course I was curious to know how being in the band differs now compared to back in the day.
Christian: “One of the biggest differences is that before, we would literally wake up to a sheet coming in under the door of our hotel rooms saying what we are going to do that day, starting at like 6am! Then we’d have dinner while doing other interviews getting ready for another gig and then fly to the next country. Now we are much more in control of our day. Generally we now have more control over our lives and what we say. We also have a better attitude this time around as there was a lot of pressure and money invested in us, so there was a lot expected from us.”

Ben: “Now, no one expects anything”

Christian: “Everything is just a bonus now and we are having a lot more fun. We are better songwriters now and better musicians than we were twenty years ago.”
Just like any other A1 fan, I of course have my favourite tracks. I expressed to the band that I remember spending a lot of time in my bedroom during my early teen years playing ‘Caught In The Middle’ on my acoustic guitar, but there is one song of theirs in particular that will always have a special place in my heart, their ballad ‘Like A Rose’. So I was intruigued to see if the band members themselves had any preferences of their own.

Christian: “To me, it’s always ‘Everytime’. It was one of the first songs that broke us internationally, I remember so clearly when we wrote it and the thoughts that we had. I remember this dream I had in my head thinking wouldn’t it be so awesome if one day this melody and these lyrics that started in our little heads, if someone on the other side of the planet knew them, and that’s what happened! We had the biggest dream come true moment!”

Q: What else have we got to expect from A1?
Ben: “The Boys Are Back tour next year, a new album, then booking in more and more concerts and we love doing the full hour and a half concerts with all the songs that fans want to hear. They don’t just wanna hear the hits, they wanna hear all the album tracks, all the B sides and everything like that.”

Christian: “It’s quite mind blowing that people still want to hear us all over the world. Over the years A1 has become a bit of a side project for us, but now it’s taken over as the main project for all of us.”

So there you have it, it’s official. There’s still plenty more of A1 to come!

The Reunion Show
As the gig was completely sold out, this meant the venue at the London o2 Islington Academy was completely jam packed with excited fans! Both newcomers (including partners that had clearly been dragged along to the event, admit it you know you had a great time!) and original fans from all twenty years ago.
Originally, a support act was planned to get the crowds ready for the main event! However due to unforseen circumstances there was a cancellation of their appearance. However many didn’t mind as this meant that A1 were due to come on stage earlier in the evening.

Around 9pm, the lights dimmed, a screen at the back of the stage displayed a variety of graphics and a gentle accapella tone could be heard, Yep! This was it! Time for Ben, Paul, Mark and Christian to open their long awaited reunion show! The band opened their show by performing before even appearing on stage with their beautiful ballad ‘Forever In Love’. As the track faded out they appeared on stage with lots of enthusiasm as they continued on to perform one of their biggest hits ‘Same Old, Brand New You’ with original chorepgraphy while under bright flashing lights, which was quite something to see!

The band went on to perform ‘Be The First To Believe’ and ‘Summertime’ before taking a moment out to talk to the audience and welcome back Paul to the line up. He proved to be very popular with the audience and all were glad to see him return. He was applauded and met with screams and a lot of appreciation. Marazzi then introduced a song of his choice that he was really looking forward to perform back with the rest of the band. And he made a good choice (yes, slight pun there), he chose the title track from their third studio album ‘Make It Good’.
All four members interacted with the fans with such ease, continuously checking in with everyone there, asking where fans had travelled from, encouraging interaction through choreography, the works!

Of course we got to hear all of the hits as expected which included ‘No More’, ‘Everytime’ (which was met with a room of swaying lights from torches on mobile phones), ‘Ready Or Not’ and many more, but when the band had told me in their interview before the show that they had tried to fit in everything, they weren’t joking around. I’ve never been to a live show for a band where they have managed to perform as many tracks as A1 did there that evening. One clever way to fit in so many of their songs was to perform a medley, but no ordinary medley. They titled this selection of tracks ‘The Songs We Never Did’ a play on words referring to their track ‘The Things We Never Did’. This medley included ‘Here Comes The Rain’, ‘Tomorrow’, ‘Make It Through The Night’ (which was brought to an abrupt, yet amusing end as singer Ben decided he “didn’t like that one much”), ‘Learn To Fly’, ‘Living The Dream’, When I’m Missing You’ as well as a the more upbeat songs ‘Hey You’ and a snippet of a personal favourite album track of mine ‘Scared’. You see? They really did put in a lot of effort to get everything in, which of course went down very well with the audience there that evening.

For the majority of the medley,the four members were sat on stools, and one band member decided to share what we were all thinking during this segment of their set. Yes, Ben Adams made that very obvious musical link to Irish based band Westlife. In his own words he announced “I can see why Westlife like to do this!”. This simple and amusing statement was met with a huge roar of laughter from the crowds stood before him.

What was great to see was that the band performed the songs that the UK fans know very well and love too, however to show how they have progressed as musicians they also showcased some of their material that was released in other parts of the world which included their singles ‘Don’t Wanna Lose You Again’, ‘In Love And I Hate It’, their latest release – the beautifully written ‘Armour’ and also a brand new track which was exclusive to their UK reunion shows. The new song ‘Can We Go Back’ is very personal to all of the band members as it is a song about looking back on past fond memories. This composition was so exclusive that we were politely asked not to film or record them while performing it.

In an attempt to round off the night’s performance A1 performed one of their biggest hits to date, ‘Caught In The Middle’ before then exiting to the right side of the stage. I say an attempt to bring the evening to a close, as everyone there that evening had realised that there were a couple more very well known A1 hits that hadn’t yet been mentioned. The entire audience were very much in demand of hearing more music as the room was taken over by fans chanting “We want more!” and “three more songs!” As we had anticipated Paul, Mark, Christian and Ben returned to the stage once more to perform an encore segment of their set. This segment included the stunning ‘Like A Rose’ and most likely their biggest hit to date ‘Take On Me’ which brought the show to an actual close.

This show had everything that I had expected it would, great music at a huge variety, fantastic lighting and graphics on stage, amazing audience interaction, nostalgia for many and most importantly four happy, energetic and very talented band members that fans clearly still adore twenty years on! All A1 band members, management and their families should feel incredibly proud of these reunion shows, not just in the UK but all around the world. And I for one am so excited to hear new material from them in the future! Thank you A1 for being “The Same Old, Brand New You”.

Review by Kimberley-Anne Simmons

Photos by Kane Howie

Bears Den @ Shepherds Bush Empire 24/04/2019 Review

London based band Bears Den stopped off on their ‘So That You Might Hear Me’ tour at the legendary venue Sheperd’s Bush Empire, in which is a very important place for them as noted during the show as one member was formerly an employee at a local pub just along the same road as the venue. Both London shows were sold out and it was their last UK show before jetting off to play all over Europe.

Arriving at the venue with a capacity of 2000, the room is filled with excitement from the crowd. Whilst patiently waiting for the first act Tusks to arrive on stage, people were sipping at their beverages , chatting amongst themselves with many also observing the merch stall.

The stage was lit with blue lighting with a gentle haze of smoke while two vintage styled rugs were seen covering the floor. Around 8:00pm, the lights began to dim and support act Tusks took to the stage. Tusks is actually the stage name for performer Emily Underhill. Her style of music is most suited to an electronic indie pop genre. Her sound can be likened to that of London Grammar. The artist expressed that she was very grateful to be supporting Bears Den and especially for two consecutive nights as it is a venue she has always dreamed of performing in. Her set showcased a total of six songs including the single ‘Be Mine’, which is featured on her new album that is due for release in June. She was well received with the crowd who were now really looking forward to the headliners.

The stage was cleared quite quickly and was all set up for Bears Den. With guitars all ready and also a little wooden piano. As the lights dimmed they had the most nostalgic sci-fi style intro as the Terminator theme tune played them in. The duo walked on with four supporting musicians. It was still pretty dark with just a few white lights that focused on the band from below as they played their first song ‘Fuel On The Fire’. Shortly after, their second song of the evening saw singer Andrew Davie said how great it was to play the venue again and that we do have more songs to play.
The crowd swayed and danced during the performance. When playing ‘Sophie’ the band turned off all equipment and came to the front of the stage and asked for complete silence and kept it simple with an acoustic rendition of the song. They also performed an unplugged song in the crowd later on in the show which was ‘Blankets Of Sorrow’.

When performing, ticket holders enjoyed singing the lyrics along with the band. Bears Den played a wide range of new and classic songs which included music from their latest album which was only released this month (April 2019). The album is due for release just a few short days after this gig at Sheperd’s Bush. Band member Andrew toasted the show with a shot and expressed a huge thank you to everyone who has supported them over the years.

At the end of the evening the band brought their show to a close with probably one of their biggest hits to date. ‘Agape’. It was the perfect way to end the evening.
You can catch the band on their European tour and also at Citadel Festival in London on 14th July 2019.

Review and Photos by Kane Howie

 

The Amazons Live at Cambridge Junction with Support Act Yonaka! 08/02/2018

On the 8th February 2018, well known venue, Cambridge Junction, opened it's doors to ticket holders filled with excitement to see English rock band, The Amazons, take to the stage.  With an entry fee of just £17 for fantastic performances and ample parking around the local leisure complex, the venue did not disappoint. Doors opened around an hour before the gig was planned to start. Within the venue there are three separate stages J1, J2, and J3 (Junctions 1, 2 and 3).  But for this night, it was all about the acts on the J1 stage.  

The Amazons are a Reading-based quartet that formed back in 2014. Since then the band had been shortlisted for the BBC's sound of 2017, nominated for Q’s Best Breakthrough Act and have even made an appearance on MTV’s Brand New 2017 list.  The band have also caught the attention of many radio DJ's including Radio 1's Clara Amfo, Annie Mac, Huw Stephens, Nick Grimshaw and Greg James. The lads have even found a big fan in Zane Lowe.  The awesome foursome (cheesy I know) are also produced by the Grammy nominated Catherine Marks (Wolf Alice and Foals). It looks like The Amazons are hotly tipped to make it big in 2018! The band's self-titled debut album is also out now!  

​Supporting and touring with The Amazons, are Brighton based group, Yonaka.  The band themselves describe their music as "dark alternate pop with heavy riffs." Yonaka's band members are Theresa Jarvis – Vocals, George Edwards – Guitar, Alex Crosby – Bass/Keys  and Robert Mason on Drums. 

​​In a darkened room filled with screams and cheers and after a short musical intro, the four members of Yonaka entered the stage to start their set with  a performance of their single "Ignorance", to which I and many individuals within the room were putting on our very best karaoke voices to sing along to.  During the high energy set, featuring fast paced lighting and stunning vocals from the band's vocalist Theresa Jarvis, they continued on to perform other singles including "Gods and Lovers", "WWBY (Wouldn't Wanna Be Ya)", the very intense and somber "All In My Head". We were also introduced to a new song titled "F**king With The Boss" – a song to which caused a tiny mosh pit form in the centre of the room.  The foursome kindly thanked their fans for "turning up" and continued on to promote the night's main act The Amazons and referring to them as "f**king amazing!"

As expected they finished their set with their most popular hit to date, "Bubblegum" to which the audience were asked to contribute with vocals along with the band on stage.  "Bubblegum" is a song that will be playing on loop in your head for a while. I've often found myself humming it to myself after seeing Yonaka perform for the first time at Truck Festival in 2017.  I really liked them back then and love them now! I am definitely looking forward to hearing more of their material in the future.  If you get a chance to see them live, then please do.  They are not an act that you would want to miss live. With lots of energy, great interaction with their audience and catchy pop/rock/alternative tracks, they are everything you'd expect from a band of their genre.  


After the excitement from the support act's performance, the majority of room was ramped up and ready for the main act of the evening to take centre stage.  Around 9pm teenage girls flocked to the front of the room clinging to the security barrier filled with excitement, fans repeatedly chanting "Am-A-Zons, Am-A-Zons!" and clearly a row of parents at the back of the room with their ecstatic teenagers in front them and their backs against the wall, that looked like they had been dragged to the venue against their will, with folded arms and yawns a plenty. 

As the chanting for the main act continued (and got considerably louder), eventually after a short wait, the band began to take their place on the stage under dim red and white lighting to perform their first song of the night "Stay With Me", which had almost the entire room bathed in strobe lighting and fans singing along too.  There were also head boppers and foot tappers as far as the eye could see.  Not including the poor bored and tired parents at the back of the room. Oh dear indeed. The four piece continued on to perform their second and third tracks of the evening – "Ultraviolet" (which has featured heavily on BBC Radio 1) and "Raindrops" before then speaking to their fans in the audience for the first time. Did they announce the title of their next song? Or perhaps thank everyone for coming to their show? Nope. They simply opened with "Hello, we are The Sherlocks!" Just Brilliant!

​​For those of you that don't already know, both artists, The Amazons and The Sherlocks have recently been involved in some rather amusing shenanigans on social media. Recently, the line up for Y Not Festival had been announced, and both acts are confirmed to perform at this popular event.  Yorkshire band, The Sherlocks were shown to appear on the fourth tier on the festival's poster. However, The Amazons are shown on the third tier of the promotional image. When The Sherlocks posted the image of the festival's line up on their social media feed the two acts had been swapped – rumour has it that the band photoshopped the original image to place themselves higher up in the third tier to replace The Amazons.  Whether the two bands are actually just enjoying some friendly banter or they genuinely don't get on, I don't know. But it certainly has caught the attention of the press and has had many people both perplexed and entertained. After all, entertainment is their game! 

​​During their show, the guys also pulled out a few surprises.  Including an incredible percussion solo from drummer Joe Emmett.  Honestly, I didn't want it to end.  It was that impressive! He was applauded with a huge roar of appreciation from the entire room of people.  Also, they included an awesome cover of T-Rex's 70's hit, "20th Century Boy". The last unexpected addition to their set was a clever move to introduce Theresa Jarvis, (vocalist in support act Yonaka) back onto the stage to perform "In My Mind" with the group.  The joining of the two acts was a brilliant idea, and worked to their advantage, creating excellent musical balance.


Throughout the evening ticket holders were in constant admiration for the band on stage. There were moments when the room was filled with people jumping and head banging. There were also times where all I could see was slow hands, phones and even a lighter (not really very safe, but oh well) in the air during tamer segments of The Amazons' set.  After performing their latest single "Black Magic", the guys left the stage and we were left once more in a darkened room. Like earlier in the evening, the chanting started again "Am-A-Zons! Am-A-Zons!". The foursome did return to the stage after around 3 minutes to finish their show with an encore performance of "Palace" and the hit that I, and most likely many others, were excited to see performed live. Their well known track "Junk Food Forever", which even encouraged a crowd surfer to come out of the centre of the room. During the their encore at the end of the night, one of the band members even stated "don't take this the wrong way, but I didn't think this was going to be this f**king amazing! Thank you".

​As much as I like The Amazons' music when hearing it recorded, I much preferred hearing it live. Their music inspires a great atmosphere when they are physically seen performing. It will be interesting to see them perform on a bigger stage and in front of a bigger audience too.  

Both The Amazons and Yonaka have a busy year ahead. The Amazons will also have a very busy festival season this year while appearing at events including Y Not Festival and Truck Festival in the summer months. Yonaka are also due to play at The Garage in Islington on 28th February 2018.  Everyone, grab your tickets now! 

For more photos click HERE!

Photos by Kane Howie

 

Little Boots at The Deezer Bandwagon Tour

Seeing someone perform inside a soundproofed box isn’t the usual thing you’d expect when attending a gig. It was actually quite a surreal experience when you weren’t wearing the headphones given to you at the door. Normally silent discos are played by DJ’s, so you don’t really expect to be able to hear the music, however when confronted with a band that you can’t hear it’s a completely different story. Once I put on the headphones given to me at the gate however, I was engulfed by the crisp, electro pop sounds of Little Boots as if she was performing at a normal gig.

Having never seen Little Boots before I couldn’t wait to hear what she had in store for this one-of-a-kind show. Alongside her crowd pleasing classics such as ‘Stuck On Repeat’ and ‘Remedy’ she played a number of new, as of yet unreleased tracks that went down a storm with the crowd of all ages. Towards the end of her hour-long set time Little Boots fittingly played ‘Headphones’ which added to the slightly comedic performance. Being perfectly honest, I wasn’t really sure what to expect from Little Boots, however her live performance completely blew me away and fitted perfectly with the first signs of spring sun.

Before Little Boot’s final few songs we were all told that we could take our headphones off as the 400 strong crowd had been tweeting about the show so much we’d ‘unleashed the music’, and Little Boots finished her performance in style with a couple more new songs. Once Little Boots’ show was over Russ Jones, AKA Hackney Globetrotter, took to the decks and took the party into the night with an eclectic set of chart toppers and funky house beats. The Red Gallery Car Park proved to be the perfect venue for a relaxed evening of free drinks and great tunes hidden away in the heart of Shoreditch, with plenty of sofas and benches to soak up the evening sun on.