Patrick Downes

#BringtheNoise Disney fan, vlogger, Blogger, Radio presenter and former socialmedia nightmare. On a sunny day you can see forever #MyView

Review The Band, The Musical, Wales Millennium Centre by Patrick Downes

Firstly, let’s get this straight. Yes, I love pop music, yes, I love Take That (seen them live 4 times), but no, this won’t be a biased piece.

So when the it came about that the BBC did the show “Let it Shine” to discover the next big boy band for a musical I was curious to see what or how it would all turn out. The band that was created, in probably not too dissimilar a way to Take That (without Saturday night telly) was Five to Five. At the start, people weren’t too sure how this musical would pan out – would it be the story of Take That – or something like Never Forget the other Take That musical – which by the way, premiered at Wales Millennium Centre in 2007!

Actually, it was neither – It’s Manchester in 1992 and its based around five 16-year-old girls for who ‘the band’ is everything.  They then reunite 25 years later, and you see how life has taken each girl down a different road.

Written by Tim Firth – who also penned Calendar Girls The musical with a certain Gary Barlow, it’s story is nostalgic and funny. You can’t call it a Jukebox Musical like so many of its type before. It has the same feel as Mamma Mia – the songs you’ll know, but the arrangements can be quite different. The nostalgia you feel could easily equate to how your own life has panned out in the last twenty-eight years. There’s a warmth to each character, and something familiar that feels real.

Production wise it’s brilliant. From the Ceefax screen at the start (How many bands did you get in the word search?), to the aircraft taking off, there’s something new you may never have seen in a touring production before – so much so, there was a technical hitch during the performance that delayed things by about 10 minutes. In all the times, I’ve been theatre going I’ve only seen this happen once before, and it’s a bit of a pain, but sometimes technology is a bugger – and as they say, the show must go on – which it did!

As “The Band”, Five to Five’s performances were good especially the harmonies. They maybe a band created for this production, but afterwards, who knows what the future holds.

Going back to what I said about the warmth in each character, each performance was flawless for both the old versions and young counterparts of each character – just might be possible though for Andy Williams as Dave to have stolen the show with his little moments at several points, and Rachel Lumberg’s performance as Rachel – there was something quite special about that too.

Now, if you do go and see this, which I will heartily recommend, don’t expect what we had at the encore – an actual Take That performance. Mark, Jason and Gary all on stage performing Hold up a Light (one of my favourite TT tunes!) together with the entire company. It made the first night in Cardiff that extra bit special.

Now I could be a little bit cheesy and include some Take That song titles in recommending this musical, but you’d wait for life for that. Okay Babe, are you happy now I found heaven? I might just end up all night, and then never forget to do this review pray-sing The Band. You do what you like, I’d love to hold up a light and come back for good to see this again! Patience, then you’ll rule the world.

Did I love “The Band Musical”? Sure!

Catch it at Wales Millennium Centre till January 20th 2018 – after which it’s UK Tour continues.

REVIEW: @ImPatrickDownes

The Radio One Breakfast show and Radio One by Patrick Downes

In January 2013 I wrote a piece comparing Nick Grimshaw to Chris Moyles, it’s nearly four year on, so time to revisit that and see what’s changed. Has Grimmy turned in Moyles’ yet?

The old copy will stay in italics – additional as nornal script

Oh what great writing have I got for you this time? Well. Back in September 2012, a certain Chris Moyles left the Radio 1 Breakfast Show.  He was the longest serving R1 Breakfast jock – even longer compared to Tony Blackburn.

Now, Moyles is what you would call radio marmite. You either loved or loathed him – just like the yeast extract based spread. Now after a full three months since Nick Grimshaw took over the hotseat, how do they compare and contrast? Do you miss Moyles and co in the mornings?

The reasoning behind Nick Grimshaw being R1B was to lower the age of the station. In the past 20 years, Radio 1 has often been accused of being “too old”. Presenters and the music has been tweaked several times, and Chris knew his time was coming. There is a train of thought that says you are only as old as you sound, and if what you talk about is still relevant, why not stay. There is also another route to take in that once become older than your target audience, you’re passed it. Radio1’s target demo is 15-24 year old. If the latter is to be believed, then you do a disservice to the audience as if you’re still relevant, and can pull in the numbers, why shouldn’t you be there. Ultimately, it’s a decision on you by management. In commercial radio, it’s also what your value is to the advertisers of the station. Do you bring in the core demo that an advertiser who pays £££’s to get a certain type of person to buy their product. Anyway, I digress.

Moyles’ realised it would be sooner rather than later, so left rather than be pushed. But in the past three months, have you been listening to Nick?

It’s interesting to note in the early days of Grimmy’s tenure, the core figures were on the increase – R1 had managed to move some of their older listeners away.

I’m not core demo for Radio 1 – but I still like listening to new music, and current chart stuff without it being on a 3 hour 15 minute loop (a track on Radio 1’s Alist is about 4 hour 15 minute recurrence I think). I wake up listening to Radio1 and listen sleepily for about 30 minutes. The first thing to note is how many songs an hour Grimmy’s plays compared to Chris. In that 30 minute section I regularly listen to, I think I used to count about 2 songs with Chris, but with Grimmy, you get about 5 – and he still manages to slip in the old showbiz antidote of his & Harry Styles’ night on the tiles….

Is Grimmy trying too hard? Some presenters, TV and radio, suit different types of programme. Just because you can do a show on the telly, doesn’t necessarily mean you can present radio, and vice versa. There are a few who can do this with such ease it makes it look like a walk in the park. Wogan (Terry), Schofield (Phillip) , Evans (Chris) have all started their careers within radio before moving to tv. But to do it in reverse hasn’t really been done  (although I expect to be told differently…).

Chris Moyles is described as marmite, but surely Grimmy is the same? You’re never going to please everyone all of the time. I realise they both have completely different styles, and for some Grimmy is the perfect way to start their day. Some also mourn the loss of Moylesy in the morning, and await his return to Radio 1.

In saying that, will Moyles return to Radio1? Yes, his contract runs till 2014, but whilst he’s not on air, he’s not being paid – but it also means he can’t work for a rival commercial station, or “gardening leave” as it’s known. He’s doing quite well on the tour of Jesus Christ Superstar – which might even tour overseas yet.  He has gone on record as saying he misses radio, and the ability to sound off, so don’t completely rule out a return for Chris Moyles.

Ironically, it took a while for Chris to return to mainstream radio – and he’s still on Radio X now.

But what of his successor, and the very reason for this article? Well, RAJAR Q4 2012 was published today. RAJAR is quote “RAJAR collects information on behalf of over 300 BBC and Ofcom Licenced commercial radio stations, ranging from very small local services to the national networks. Station listening by time, duration, platform (AM/FM, DAB, Online/APP, and DTV) and location (in car, at home, at work & elsewhere) is recorded and published on a quarterly basis.”

Who listens to what and for how long, in simple terms.

Many a radio person will tell you “oh, it’s flawed”, “it’s not a true indication of who’s listening” – but the truth of the matter is, it’s all we have and as a comparison tool to other radio stations goes, it works – not very well some might say, but it gives people the ability to measure audience.

Here’s the headline from Daily Mail Online today “Chris Evans trounces his ranting rival: Radio 2 breakfast show sees boost in listeners after ratings slump for Radio 1’s Nick Grimshaw. Older men turned off by Grimshaw’s immature banter tune in to Evans”

On reading that you may think “wow, Grimmy is losing listeners”, but further into the article is a quote from Ben Cooper, Radio 1’s boss ‘ What a fantastic quarter for Radio 1, I’m delighted with the figures and they have exceeded my expectation for a brand new breakfast show. This has been the biggest schedule change in a generation which has resulted in the station’s audience getting younger.’

In another article online today “Grimshaw attracted an average of 6.7million listeners to the breakfast show in 2012, a drop of 40,000 listeners from Chris Moyles when he departed the station. The station as a whole dropped its average reach from 11.7 million listeners to 11.1 between 2011 and 2012, according to new Rajar listening figures.”

And back to the Daily Mail online….

Grimshaw’s figures were down by 43,000 on the previous three-month period, which was mostly fronted by Moyles, and dropped by almost 550,000 on the same time last year.

Sources at the BBC claimed that Grimshaw had attracted 250,000 brand new 15-24-year-olds to the show. It was added that the overall average of the listener to the station has dropped from 33 to 32-years-of-age.

Now, tell me if I right or wrong, but that last paragraph… that’s what Radio 1 wanted to do?

My point being, is that the figures can be read/spun however you want them to be spun. A station might be losing listeners, but if those listeners are 42 year old men, and the station is aimed at 23 year old women, it’s not a bad thing. Plus, if someone is listening to your station longer, but there’s not as many of them, this too can be spun positively. The adage goes, there’s no such thing as bad press, and in terms of radio listening figures, this is true – unless of course you lose a lot of reach and hours – reach is the percentage of listeners you have in an area. If you’re a big station and you’re reach is less than your competitor, it’s a warning sign to see what can be done to put it right. All the signs I’m reading about Nick Grimshaw is that he’s there for a while yet.  The timing of Moyles’ leaving couldn’t have been worse I suppose.  If Scott Mills was about 5 years younger, he’d have been the natural successor, or if Greg James had been a little more settled within daytime Radio1, he too could’ve taken the job. Who knows, this might even be the plan now. Have Nick do the show for a year or 18 months, then Greg James can naturally succeed him as the next big Radio1 breakfast host.

Bearing in mind this is written 4 years later – Greg James is still on Drive and possibly the natural successor? And what of Scott Mills?

Comparing and contrasting Moyles & Grimmy isn’t easy, and I’ve probably failed (like I used to in English when asked to compare and contrast), but I hope I’ve shed some light onto the workings of radio, and await derision from some American that I called a technical term a “thingymebob” instead of a “dooferswitch”. I can only write to what I know.

What next for R1? With the way streaming is now included into the Official Charts, how we listen to our music is changing.

Do we need something inbetween Radio’s One and Two? An idea for several years has been Radio 1.5, as there are many people over the age of 25 who aren’t really ready to want to listen to Popmaster or Jeremy Vine. Has Chris Evans on Radio Two bridged that gap? And what next for Scott Mills – he’s the oldest daytime presenter at Radio one at the age of 43.

So the main question for this revisit. Has Nick Grimshaw turned into Moyles? To an extent yes, but you’re never going to be liked by everyone, all of the time – unless you’re Phillip Schofield.

Patrick Downes is a former head of music, producer, and commercial radio presenter with 21 years airtime, and is now part of the  community radio station at Bro Radio in Vale of Glamorgan, UK. Check out his facebook page at www.soof.co.uk

Review Snow White and the Seven Dwarves New Theatre, Cardiff by Patrick Downes

 

Let me start off by saying this one fact about me; I’ve never been to a pantomime before. I’ve seen them- ITV did a few about 10 years ago – but as for seeing one up close and in person, never before. Although I can remember something resembling a pant in the Park and Dare in Treorchy when I was about 4 years old, but in terms of being an adult I have no memory. So what to expect? Well, pantos are as part of Christmas as the Queen’s speech and James Bond on telly. They’re just good fun for all the family, and Cardiff’s production of Snow White certainly falls into that category. There’s childish humour, for the adults, and grown up humour, for the kids. A good pantomime is always the way to introduce theatre to young minds, and with a brilliant ensemble cast, this one does not disappoint.

A good panto always has the following;

A dame – played brilliantly by Mike Doyle (alrighttttttt)
A prince – It’s Chico time (You may remember him as having a number one single which knocked Madonna’s Sorry off the top of the chart)
The Wicked Queen – Harsh to say this but Samantha Womack played a blinder!
For every Wicked Queen, they have a henchman – Oh Alfie Thomas, the day you finished playing rugby, was a sad day, but the upshot is, you get to play on stage a role well suited for anyone who’s faced the All Blacks.
The faithful friend – Tam Ryan has this comedic role as his own. Warm and very funny – watch for his reactions when he’s not centre stage.
And good, I mean, if there’s an evil witch, there has to be balance, and Stephanie Webber as Snow White is as perfect as the version of the cartoon version of Snow White that we know and love, that you will get.

If I was to be slightly critical, it would be the sound mix on the night. The voice mics sounded too pitchy – but that takes nothing away from the performance of all the cast.

I’ve seen Sam Womack twice this year, earlier at Wales Millennium Centre when she played Morticia in The Adams Family, and then tonight as Queen Lucretia (Excretia – nice touch Alfie). Her singing voice maybe a shock to many, but for me, it’s just something I’ve come to love. Cracking version of I put a spell on you – nice little Hocus Pocus touch! She seems to revel in being bad – and she’s so good at it. Funny, yet evil.

Stephanie Webber as Snow White suited her brilliantly, as did Tam as Muddles. Mike Doyle is Panto Royality having performed for the past 27 years, he truly knows his art and is a master at it. If you want to see how it’s done – you won’t go far wrong watching him.

I could quite easily talk about each person, but I think where this panto mainly succeeds is the family feel of the performers. It doesn’t feel like a “one person topping the bill” kind of show. Everyone is equal, and everyone brings something special to the show – yes, even Chico with a song that probably no one under the age of 14 would remember – yes, “It’s Chico time” is from 2006 – where has that time gone!

So, my first proper pantomime, and no doubt not my last. Go and see Wales’ number one pantomime as it’s at the New Theatre till January 14th.

And in style of panto speak – what about a rhyming review?

They said see a panto, and say what you think
Hopefully, you’ll love and not think it stink

To Cardiff I went, parked by the museum,
Two twenty it cost, well worth it to see them

The theatre is old, and has lots of history
The entertainment it holds, is great, no mystery

The cast is fab, the dancing is tight,
It’s fun just to hear Mike Doyle say “Alright”

Tam is great, Tam is funny,
Comic timing a must, now where is my money?

Alfie’s hacka is a sight to behold,
The AllBlacks humpty, another story of old

Sam Womack’s voice, majestic, amazing, and strong I will say
She put a spell on us all, from the theatre to the bay

A review in some rhyme, might happen some day
Until it does, I’ll do things my way

Because a panto they say, is old hat, not very cool
Well, in Cardiff as such, they’re breaking those rules

It’s fun, joyful and oh very happy
Snow White’s time in the capital, won’t last long – so be snappy

Make sure you get some tickets to see,
Wales’ number one panto, recommended by me

REVIEW: @ImPatrickDownes

Review Miss Saigon, Wales Millennium Centre by Patrick Downes

Cameron Mackintosh’s acclaimed new production of Boublil and Schönberg’s legendary musical Miss Saigon – a recent smash hit in London’s West End – is now embarking on a major UK tour, and has stopped off in Wales Millennium Centre for their annual Festive offering.

Previous Festive shows include The Lion King, Phantom of the Opera and Mary Poppins, and this year they bring the winner of a record-breaking nine Whatsonstage Awards 2015 including Best Show.

From the same partnership that brought Les Misérables, brings this epic love story that tells the tragic tale of young bar girl Kim, orphaned by war, who falls in love with an American GI called Chris – but their lives are torn apart by the fall of Saigon.

For the sheer spectacle, this production needs to be seen. For the lighting, the sound and the effects are some I’ve rarely seen outside of London, you soon realise this is something special.

The cast brings such depth to the story, which without realising, the first twenty minutes feel so much shorter – such is setting the story up. Red Concepcion’s Engineer is brilliant – a slightly comedic but evil twist on a character – The American Dream brought the house down. It’s such a stand out moment.

Sooha Kim as Kim brings the vulnerability to the role, and with an amazing voice. Her duet with Ashley Gilmour (Chris) on The Last Night of the world, is another stand out moment.

Be warned, it’s not for younger people – the themes are quite adult, and there’s some swearing in the first 20 minutes – and it’s also dotted through the rest, but it’s not without reason.

For me being a little bit of a theatre techy, I spent most of the evening in awe at the sets, lights and sound. It’s one of the best I’ve seen in Cardiff. The helicopter scene is probably the most impressive piece of set and engineering I have ever seen on a stage! You find yourself completely immersed into the sights, emotion and sounds of the end of the Vietnam conflict. If musicals were football leagues, Miss Saigon would be Chelsea.

The word triumph is often used to describe musicals, and in this case, it’s spot on.

Don’t dare Miss Saigon this Christmas

You can catch Miss Saigon at Wales Millennium Centre till January 6th 2018.

Review: @ImPatrickDownes

Patrick Downes

Review Tiger Bay The Musical, Wales Millennium Centre by Patrick Downes

It’s quite fitting that just over 30 years since the redevelopment of the south of Cardiff began that Wales Millennium Centre presents Tiger Bay The Musical. Since 1987, what was the docks of Cardiff, and in particular, what was Tiger Bay, has changed dramatically, and this musical is a celebration of the diversity that is Cardiff now.

What’s it about? Set in 1900’s Cardiff, it follows a young woman’s determination to challenge society’s injustices, follow her heart and realise her dreams. Extreme poverty meets supreme wealth. Gangs of street children roam the docks. Coal is king. A revolution is brewing in the dark and restless world beneath the genteel surface of Cardiff’s Butetown. You could say there’s a level of current social commentary running through this.

The staging and sound are possibly the best I’ve ever seen at WMC, everything moved seamlessly on stage from one scene to another. The cast sound amazing, helped no doubt by the scoring of Daf James and the lyrics of Michael Williams, this production in association with Cape Town Opera has romance, drama, revenge, and some amazing ensemble pieces.

Back in 2011, I saw Noel Sullivan in We Will Rock You at the WMC. It was my first proper musical (that wasn’t on telly or in the cinema), and now six years later via some Dirty Rotten Scoundrels I see him again, and his voice has improved and matured. Hard to believe the same person sung an album track from Girl Thing that in turn went on to become the biggest song of 2001 (Trivia fans… that was of course Pure and Simple by Hearsay)

There is a tendency with some reviews to rave about everything – this might just end up being one of those. With talent such as John Owen Jones and Suzanne Packer, plus the aforementioned Mr Sullivan, it’s quite difficult to select a few stand out moments. Dom Hartley-Harris as Themba was just sublime. The emotion of his character was stunning to watch. But there’s no doubting tonight I saw two stars born.

Star number one is Vicki Bebb. The programme says she hails from a small village in South Wales. Well, let’s sort that out for starters. She’s from Cilfynydd, which is 3 miles outside of Pontypridd town centre. The same place that gave the world Sir Geraint Evans and Stuart Burrows – two amazing Welsh singers. Change that entry Wikipedia, there’s a third. Her name is Vicki Bebb, and going by tonight’s performance, the world is her oyster. I can say I was there the night I saw Vicki Bebb shine for the first time.

Star number two is Ruby Llewelyn who plays Ianto Louise Harvey also plays the role, but not tonight). She’s quite a little powerhouse of a vocalist and pretty much stole the show – even against John Owen Jones. In fairness the child cast were all brilliant, but for me, Louise is another one to watch for the future (once she’s gotten all her exams sorted first).

I am quite sad writing this review because it means my involvement in TBTM is now over. After blogging and talking about it for the best part of the last nine months, it’s time to say tara now – not goodbye, because I’m sure this little piece of Cardiff will travel and fly.

My advice is, if you like the likes of Oliver, Les Misérables, or even Wicked, you will love this. It’s a little piece of Cardiff past, with lot of the passion the city always had, and always will. Just imagine Les Miserables with a Kardiffian accent, and you’ll realise this is more than just a half tidy musical mind.

Tiger Bay-The Musical is on at Wales Millennium Centre till 25th November 2017.

REVIEW: @impatrickdownes

REVIEW: Beautiful: The Carole King Musical – Wales Millennium Centre by Patrick Downes

If like me, you know a little about music, and the history of the pop song, then you can think again. People often deride modern music for being manufactured, but even way back in the late 50’s and early 60’s, the charts to an extent were the creation of just a few song writing powerhouses. The likes of Lieber Stoller, Dozier Holland, Lennon & McCartney and Goffin King were all part of the fabric that made the early days of pop what they are today. And it’s the latter partnership of Goffin King that forms the basis of Beautiful, currently at Wales Millennium Centre till 4th November.

As the website explains further; BEAUTIFUL tells the inspiring true story of King’s remarkable rise to stardom, from being part of a hit songwriting team with her husband Gerry Goffin, to her relationship with fellow writers and best friends Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, to becoming one of the most successful solo acts in popular music history. Along the way, she wrote the soundtrack to a generation, with countless classics such as You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman, Take Good Care of my Baby, You’ve Got a Friend, So Far Away, It Might As Well Rain Until September, Up on the Roof, and Locomotion.

There were countless moments for me to go “oh, she wrote that”, plus there was the time during the interval watching people sing some of the songs to try and explain the song – always entertaining. For anyone wanting to become a song writer, to watch this is certainly an education that no college or book can give you. To see some of the back story behind some of pop’s greatest hits was always going to be a massive bonus for me being such a music geek.

The performance of Bronté Barbé as Carole is quite amazing. You can close your eyes and you’d think it was the real deal. To capture the essence of someone is not easy, but somehow you have the vulnerability and the depth of character – together with a voice that provides the full package that is Carole King.

Kane Oliver Parry as Gerry Goffin shows the weaknesses that Goffin had, but also his song writing and creative processes. Amy Ellen Richardson as Cynthia Weil, and Matthew Gonsalves as Barry Mann, show also how the competitive the 60s were in terms of song writing. But out of that creativity, came friendship – and two very genuine performances from both.

It’s a well-paced production. There aren’t any times you’d be sat wishing for the next part. Musicals can sometimes suffer from being a little bit long, but at just around 2 hours 30 with an interval, that can’t be said of Beautiful.

There’s won’t be many people this won’t appeal to. If you have a love of music from the 60’s, this is for you. If you love a well-crafted and performed musical, this is for you. And if you love a night out for ages from 8 to 80, this is certainly for you.

Three things we also learnt;
1 The Locomotion was sung by Carole King’s nanny
2 Neil Sedaka was her boyfriend in high school (thus his song Oh Carol is about her)
3 She wrote The Reason for Celine Dion in 1998

It’s not too late to have one fine day seeing Beautiful : The Carole King Musical, at Wales Millennium Centre till 4th November 2017, and then touring around the UK.

REVIEW: @impatrickdownes

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Review: Emeli Sandé – Cardiff Motorpoint Arena by Patrick Downes

Having been a fan since “Our Version of Events”, I’ve waited patiently for Emeli to “pop round our place” and do a gig, although granted she did perform in Cardiff in 2012 as part of the Olympic Torch Relay concerts. Needless to say, the “Long Live the Angels” tour finally came around and descended on the Motorpoint Arena Cardiff last Saturday night and did not disappoint.

For me, the arena tends to have issues with the sound from time to time and some artists can be lost in the mix. There were times this was the case on Saturday evening but only because of the attitude of some audience members around the bar area. It’s a little bit of a pet peeve of mine when you pay to see a gig, and people around spend the time just having “a bit of a chat”. If you want to talk, why would you pay good money to see a gig? Anyhow, it only annoyed me a little bit, but maybe if the gig was all seated people might’ve spent more time watching/listening, instead of talking?

From the outset of the evening, Emeli kicked off with the first single from ‘Long Live the Angels,’ and you could feel the anticipation inside the venue. No special tricks, massive screen or pyrotechnics – just Emeli and her band. No choreography, just a tight sounding unit of sound that doubled up as her backing dancers, special mention to the brass section on that.

Even if you weren’t a massive fan of her work before, you’d definitely leave more knowledgeable, with all the hits including ‘Next to You,’ ‘Wonder,’ and ‘Read All About It,’ plus the new track EP track ‘Starlight.’

If that wasn’t enough, the B Stage and the baby grand piano brought her closer to the audience. Stand out highlight for me was the version of ‘Clown’ and ‘Beneath Your Beautiful’ – two proper hairs on the back of your neck moments.

If you were there earlier enough, you’d have been lucky to hear the talented Calum Scott as support. So far you may only know him for his Robyn cover of ‘Dancing on my Own’ needless to say, bigger things are to come from this former Britain’s Got Talent star.

Special mention to all those people that left after ‘Next to Me’ thinking that was it. “Well, she’d said her thanks and had played all her hits…”. Quick tip for next time, until the house lights go on, the gig is still on. Always remember, there’s always an encore (or if your Paul McCartney in Cardiff a few years back, there’s 3 encores). Always fun to watch people leave, the music start back up and watch them drift back “Well, we wanted to beat the rush”.

Her voice is faultless, It’s full of soul, gospel, r&b, and a whole load of quality.

You might not be a fan at the start, but by the end, you’ll be reading all about the wonder, next to me.

REVIEW: Patrick Downes