Tag Archives: Music

Review, Wild Silence, The Wandering Hearts by Gareth Williams

(5 / 5)

Following on from the success of The Shires, The Wandering Hearts are surely the next big breakthrough act in the world of British Country Music. On the evidence of their debut album, Wild Silence, it would be hard to argue otherwise. The recipients of the ‘Best Emerging Artist’ at last week’s Americana Awards have produced something of incredible scope. Here are twelve tracks that seamlessly flow into one another – a musical river of harmonies carving its way through a landscape of various genres and musical arrangements. The inclusion of such a vast array of influences into their songs could so easily have gone wrong. Yet far from a cacophony of sounds, here we have an album that triumphs in the audio equivalent of cocktail making. It shakes together a number of musical ingredients to create a drink bursting with flavour. Such a diverse recipe – including folk, rock, pop, country, and bluegrass – in the wrong hands, has the potential to be a disaster. Yet The Wandering Hearts have created something that packs an authentically tasty punch. It is an incredible and delicious sound.

This four-piece group are far from one-trick ponies. The album takes us on a journey through a soundscape that twists and turns at regular intervals. It is not only between each song, but within each song too, that such changing of musical direction and pace takes place. Opening track “Rattle”, for instance, begins with the floating harmonies of Tara Wilcox and Tim Prottey-Jones. Then, with a single drumbeat, the gravelly tones of AJ Dean-Revington are introduced and we are suddenly exposed to heavily-laden rock. The switch from one style to another is unexpected. Yet it is far from disjointed or off-putting.  Similarly, “Laid into the Ground” begins as a sea shanty before rising to a crescendo of electronic rock. Again, it is unexpected, but surprising alluring. It seems that The Wandering Hearts have refused to sacrifice their multifarious influences in favour of one over all others. Instead, they have sought to incorporate all of them to one degree or another. As a result, it makes for a hugely enjoyable album that defies categorisation.

An inability to generically label The Wandering Hearts makes it hard to offer up comparisons. However, as I listened to Wild Silence, I couldn’t help thinking of Rend Collective. Both band’s albums are of an eclectic nature, and there is a definite similarity between the vocals of their female leads. There is also an ethereal quality to Wild Silence that is produced in a similar way to that found on the albums of Wildwood Kin and The Pierces. In all of these cases, it is the vocal harmonies of their members that manage to evoke such a transcendent sound. Certainly, during the title track for instance, I found that I was transported out of myself somehow. Not so much ‘our only sound’ as a holy sound.

I cannot speak highly enough of The Wandering Hearts. They have produced a stunning first album that deserves to be lauded with every award going. Wild Silence blends together an assortment of styles to create something that is distinct and hugely enjoyable. It is certainly my new favourite thing. Whether you’re a lover of the great outdoors or someone who loves to party on a Friday night, you are sure to find something that fits your mood here. Wild Silence is a musical selection box, full of tasty treats. I urge you to go and unwrap it now, and experience its beautiful, almost sacred, sounds.

Click here to visit their website

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

Top Tunes with novelist and playwright Matthew David Scott

Matthew David Scott

 Photographic credit othercrowd.com 

Hi Matthew great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?

Hello! My name is Matthew David Scott and I’m a novelist and playwright. I’m originally from Manchester and have now settled in South Wales after a stint in the USA. I’ve published two novels: Playing Mercy (Parthian 2005), which was listed for the Dylan Thomas Prize; and The Ground Remembers (Parthian 2009).

I’m also a founder member of Slung Low, a theatre company based in Leeds, and have written around a dozen shows with them that have been performed at The Barbican, The Liverpool Everyman, car parks, fields and whole city centres both nationally and internationally.

This chat is specifically about music and the role it has played in your personal and professional life. Firstly to start off what are you currently listening to?

At the moment I’m listening to some of my favourite records of 2017 so I can put together a ‘best of’ list that nobody will care about. Currently in the running is  Currently in the running is: Adios Senor Pusscat by Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band; New Energy by Four Tet; Peasant by Richard Dawson; Black Origami by JLin; Arca by Arca; Dust by Laurel Halo; and Drunk by Thundercat.  DAMN. by Kendrick Lamar is probably my most played in the car, which is always a good sign.

We are interviewing a range of people about their own musical inspiration, can you list 5 records/albums which have a personal resonance to you and why?

This could be fifty albums long and change from week to week, so here goes:

1 Bob Marley & The Wailers – Legend: I’m sure fellow reggae snobs will turn their noses up at this but it’s a record I remember my dad playing all the time as a kid in the front room. One of his claims to fame is going to see Bob Marley live and telling Tony Wilson to sit down because he was stood on his chair ‘acting the goat’. I also drew a really terrible picture of the sleeve, of which I was very proud at the time but now recall looking a lot like an ill Howard Donald from late-period (first incarnation) Take That. Every time I hear Stir It Up I’m transported to that front room as a seven year old kid.

2 Hunky Dory – David Bowie: Bowie was also a big part of growing up and is one of the few artists whose death genuinely affected me. My mum’s younger siblings were a bit obsessed with him, and apparently my uncle once got caught stealing my aunty’s blouse to wear in the Bowie/Roxy room at a Manchester nightclub. This album, although not my favourite Bowie, holds special memories as it was the first of his I bought for myself. I got it in Tenby on a family holiday, the same day I picked up What’s Goin On by Marvin Gaye. It was an auspicious day for me and my Walkman.

3 Deep Heat 89: Fight The Flame – Various Artists: I think my obsession with dance music started with this fine double cassette. It has some absolute stormers on it including Voodoo Ray by A Guy Called Gerald (still in my all time top ten), Strings of Life, Stakker Humanoid, Promised Land… I’d like to say I was a regular at the Haçienda back then but I was ten. This was when, if you weren’t old enough to go clubbing or didn’t have an older brother or sister, the only way to hear this sort of music was the odd late night radio show; compilations like this; and the sincere hope that the specialist chart on ‘The Chart Show’ that week was The Dance Chart. I still remember seeing the video for Aftermath by Nightmares On Wax on that show and, shortly after a trip to John Menzies, my dad’s speakers were never quite the same again.

4 Definitely Maybe – Oasis: It was either this, Screamadelica, or the first Stone Roses album as representative of this period of my life but, if I’m being totally honest, Definitely Maybe has to be the one. It’s not the best of those records but being 15/16 when this came out made you feel like a king and walk like a fool. I saw them in ’94 at the Academy and it was life-changing (thanks for taking me, Aunty Paula), and their singles coming out were genuine events — the B-sides! Through them I discovered all those other bands they ripped off and for that, if nothing else, they deserve my undying love.

5 Tri Repeate – Autechre: On the personal statement in my Record of Achievement from school, it says my favourite bands are The Stone Roses and Autechre — just in case an employer wanted to know how incredibly cool I was in 1995. Autechre are brilliant. How they’ve developed and created a space totally their own over the last three (!) decades is an inspiration to any artist. There are records they’ve made that I’m still making sense of but this is their best and they are the DNA for many of the really great experimental electronic artists around today (the aforementioned Arca being one). I love them and imagine they have a sensational collection of outdoor wear.

Just to put you on the spot could you choose one track from the five listed above and tell us why you have chosen this?

I’m going to pretend I misread the question and pick Ain’t No Mountain High Enough by Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell because it was the first dance at my wedding and when Marvin goes ‘whoo!’ at 1min 39secs a bolt of sheer joy fizzes through me.

Review, Heartbreak Talks, Fifth Floor by Gareth Williams


(3 / 5)


The debut album of Swedish duo Fifth Floor is a fine collection of tracks that draw together well-written lyrics and catchy musical arrangements. Imbibed with country-style riffs and rhythms, this selection of songs also features a fair bit of punkish attitude. Contrast that with some beautiful harmonies and you get an interesting overall sound from these ladies that makes Heartbreak Talks an intriguing listen.

You can hear the strength of their simultaneous singing in the opening track “Heart in Your Arms”. Despite the perceived weakness of their solo voices here, the two together create a really nice sound. It sets up their potential which is gradually fulfilled as the album progresses. The vocal arrangements on “Bought Me a Lie” are especially worth a mention. By the time we arrive at standout single “Sippin’ on a Coke”, not only do their combined vocals sound accomplished but there is real strength to their individual performances too. Though not quite my favourite, this song has a great chorus. Incorporating the themes of journeying and home, it reminds me a little of Ward Thomas’ A Town Called Ugley – its understated title line lends it a similar quirkiness though it is much more reflective in its overall tone.

Certainly, the end of this album heralds the strongest pieces from these two Swedes – Moa and Matilda – who moved to the UK in 2012. “These Days” is a lovely arrangement marked by a more stripped back style. The difficulty that I found with tracks “My Backyard, My Business” and “Diabolical” was that the musical power did not quite match the hard-edged attitude of the vocals – these rock-inspired tracks weren’t quite able to rock out. On the other hand, the title track, like “These Days”, with its more acoustic leanings, felt like a more natural fit for these ladies’ style.

Fifth Floor save the best until last. “The Girl” is a subversive ballad that combines the best of their punkish attitude with some gorgeous harmonies. It is understated, clever; heartbreak really does talk here. It leaves you in no doubt as to the theme that has been running through much of this album. Overall, Heartbreak Talks captures a really good, solid country sound. It is a really promising full-length debut from these ladies. Swedish they may be, but they are worthy of adoption into the ever-expanding UK country scene.

Review, To Leave/ To Be Left, Robbie Cavanagh by Gareth Williams

(5 / 5)

Wow. What have you done to me Robbie Cavanagh? I did not expect that. The debut album of this Manchester musician, released this week, stunned me into almost complete silence. Titled ‘To Leave/ To Be Left’, Cavanagh’s first full-length feature may begin with a feel-good beat, but it gradually becomes a mystical, beautiful and haunting piece of musicianship. To touch it would be like caressing the finest of silk. Each of the eleven songs on offer has been carefully handcrafted, honed to such perfection that, if made of wood, your finger would glide smoothly over their surface. It is simply stunning.

The opening track ‘Get Out Alive’ does nothing to prepare you for what is to come. A lively start, it gives credence to the “country artist” label which Cavanagh seems to have been afforded.  However, as the album progresses, he breaks away from any generic confines that industry and media moguls might want to place on him. The next couple of tracks seem to slowly move from country-style ballads to something altogether different. Whilst “Godsend” could be attributed to the likes of Andrew Combs, for example, “Reverence” and “Scars” (which follow) have much more in common with the likes of Welsh folk singer Al Lewis. These offer a simple and repetitive backing track played behind an acoustic guitar, and given an otherworldly feel by the slight reverberation that is added to the vocal output. This ethereal quality, which begins with a degree of subtlety in these early tracks, goes on to permeate through the rest of the album. The listener is soaked in haunting melodies and saturated in a spiritual soundtrack. The heart-rending lyrics only seek to elevate the emotional veracity of Cavanagh’s sound. ‘Let You Down’ is heartbreaking. ‘Fool’ is incredibly soulful. ‘Still Talkin’’ is painfully gorgeous.

This is an intimate album. Cavanagh has an incredible ability to create this close atmosphere through his music. It is just you and him. All other potential distractions are completely drowned out. You become lost in the sensitivity and vulnerability of his performance. At one stage, I even found myself brought to tears. I was so overcome with emotion during ‘Sleep Now’, I couldn’t quite believe what was happening. Ironically, the song features the line, “What are you weeping for?” Well, Robbie, I’m not quite sure, but I think it might have something to do with your singing. Whatever the reason, I certainly did not expect that reaction.

Together, this exceptional selection of songs marks Robbie Cavanagh out as an accomplished songwriter and musician. He is a major talent who deserves all the plaudits that will surely come his way with such a breathtakingly beautiful debut. I would strongly recommend listening to ‘To Leave/ To Be Left’. Be warned though. It may leave you speechless for a time. You may also experience some unexpected emotional reactions.

Review: Burning Lantern Fayre, St Fagan’s – By Eloise Stingemore


(5 / 5)


Burning Lantern Fayre was the heritage attraction’s first large scale music event. Over 8,000 people descended on the country fayre styled event set in the picturesque grounds of St Fagan’s National Museum of History, Cardiff one of Europe’s leading open air-museum on a sunny albeit chilly evening.

With big names live on the main stage from the moment the gates opened, street food (Cavavan, The Grazing Shed, Taste of Spice and Dusty Knuckle), a crafts and activities tent, storytelling, a children’s entertainer, circus skills, pony rides and a vintage funfair. It is safe to say that no one was bored or hungry at the inaugural Burning Lantern Fayre!

Performances came from headliner Brit and Ivor Novell award winner Tom Odell, who gave an electrifying and charismatic performance, which featured a mesmerising light show. His unique show featured a number of hits but it was the songs ‘Still Getting Used To Being On My Own’, ‘Concrete’, ‘Hold Me’ that captivated the audience and really demonstrated why Odell is being touted as one of the country’s finest singer songwriter.

Whilst the UK first country music act to chart in the Top 10 Album Charts, The Shires, livened up the billing. Their 45-minute stellar set included a string of their biggest hits including: ‘Daddy’s Little Girl’, ‘Nashville Grey Skies’ and ‘Friday Night’, thoroughly entertained the 8,000 strong crowd and signed off their set with a promise to return to Cardiff soon.

Whereas top Motown act, Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, despite not being everyone cup tea where given a true warm Welsh welcome. However, it was hot act of the moment Jack Savoretti that brought the biggest cheers of the evening and his set went down a storm. His live set included performances of his many hits including; ‘When We Were Lovers’, ‘I’m Yours’ and ‘Tie Me Down’, certainly got the crowd in the festival mood as the sun set on the stunning location.

The first even Burning Lantern Fayre was a huge success with the 8,000 strong-crowd enjoying a variety of music, entertainment and food under the sunset skies. Here hoping that the buzz of Wales’ newest music event hopefully ensures it was the first of many Burning Lantern Fayres to come!

Review, Gregory Porter, Llangollen International Eisteddfod by Gareth Williams

(5 / 5)

In some ways, Gregory Porter was made for the International Eisteddfod. The man whose music transcends was making his debut at the annual event. Bringing his sweet, smooth and soulful sound to a warm and pleasant Friday evening, Porter is the embodiment of the festival’s message of peace and love. It is little wonder that he was rapturously received by a cross-generational crowd that pretty much packed out the Llangollen Pavilion.

There is always a message behind his music, and his choice of songs here balanced nicely between songs of relevance and well-known hits. His most famed, Liquid Spirit, certainly encouraged audience participation on the hand clapping front. Hey Laura got the biggest cheer of the night on its introduction. It is his shifts in tempo and mood – including between these two songs – that make Porter’s set constantly fresh and teaming with life. It also makes the acoustic parts of his set – just him and Chip Crawford on piano – that much more powerful. His impromptu rendition of Nat King Cole’s (I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons was especially moving. Contrast that with a toe-tapping rendition of Papa Was a Rolling Stone, and you begin to see the diversity of his set.

He also had time to offer some thoughtful and inspiring words that chimed perfectly with the Eisteddfod’s values. Porter is a great believer in the power of music. It brings people together. It is spiritual, emotional, physical. It is a great healer. It is a builder of bridges across divisions in society. It is what the International Eisteddfod aims to do. And Porter certainly honoured those things. He, along with his band, were exceptional. From the organist to the double bassist, the French horn player to the saxophonist, they were all on sparkling form. The standing ovation at the end was thoroughly deserved.

Gregory Porter never feels like a man who craves the limelight. He was completely absent from the stage at times, the band performing independently of him. The music is the star of the show. That humble and sincere belief is something that has won Porter legions of fans. It is also the reason his presence at the Eisteddfod was a perfect fit. A match made in heaven.

Review, Beginnings, Hannah’s Yard by Gareth Williams

(4 / 5)

The release of debut album Beginnings is surely the start of something special for Hannah Layton Turner. The musical collective known as Hannah’s Yard have released a fascinatingly eclectic record. Here are 14 songs that span across a variety of genres. We have a mixture of folk, pop, country, jazz and swing. They combine to create an album full of musical flavour, that doesn’t sit neatly into one particular category. The opening song “Why Would I Know” offers a laid back, easy listening sound; “Doin’ It for Myself” is an inspiring and upbeat pop song; and “I Want You” is a gear shift into jazz and swing. Then, in another key change, Hannah duets with fellow band member Barnaby Pinny on country-sounding ballad “Here and Now”, with the country/folk influence continuing in later songs “Baby I’m There” and “Dance Our Way Back”. This mixture of musical styles works, in part due to the naturally confident and adaptable voice of Turner. Her melodic vocals make for a seamless transition between songs. Her purely vocal intro to final track “Amazing Grace” shows off her vocal prowess – a captivating sound that calls for a devoted listening ear. This last song is a nod to Olney, the small English town where they are based and where the original was first written in the 1770s. Surely Hannah’s Yard is destined to be known further than their Buckinghamshire base however. With such a range of musical tastes, they have produced a lovely and surprising album that would be a welcome soundtrack to many people’s summer.

Review : La Cage Aux Folles, New Theatre By James Briggs

(5 / 5)

Cardiff’s New Theatre was packed to the rafters with a dazzling array of glitter and sequins last night for the first performance of La Cage aux Folles. The musical adaptation of French playwright Jean Poiret’s script is largely recognised as one of the greatest modern musicals. The stage production, directed by Martin Connor, is a throwback to the old glamour and glitz associated with the French Riviera but also has a very key message in the story.

One of the leading characters, Georges, is played by the US TV and Broadway actor Adrian Zmed who greets the audience with a heartfelt welcome to La Cage. There was something a little different about this cabaret, however, in the form of all the main performers in the cast being men dressed as women.

‘La Cage’ is a drag cabaret club in the heart of Saint Tropez, run by Georges and his very flamboyant husband Albin who is played by West End actor and former Eastenders star John Partridge. As the audience are waiting for Albin’s arrival on stage we are first greeted by the appearance of his on-stage alter ego Zaza. John Partridge creates an impressive character as he struts across the stage in a robe and a pair of high heels. He wins over the audience from the beginning and really gives the part his all.

The story unfolds when Georges and Albin’s son, Jean- Michele, (Georges’ from a previous relationship) arrives to tell his father that he is engaged to Anne, the daughter of a French politician who is well-known for his conservative views. Jean- Michele played by Dougie Carter drops a few bombshells on his dad. Including that of breaking the news to Albin that he can’t be there when the parents come over for dinner at their home.

Albin is horrified when he hears the news and his disappointment leads to a spine tingling performance from John Partridge of the musical’s most iconic number ‘I Am What I am’. Georges and Albin soon make up and it’s easy to like the two contrasting co-stars who have a brilliant on-stage chemistry with each other which could be compared to that of Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi in the ITV series Vicious. The arrival of Dindon, the French politician, and his apparently conservative wife raised the bar once again on the entertainment as Albin comes up with a hilarious plan to meet the in-laws to be.

John Partridge’s performance as Albin and Zaza is absolutely superb and while the audience cheered and got to its feet for the entire cast, the largest applause and cheers were saved for him. During the performance John Partridge fell down some of the stairs on stage but being the true professional he is, kept in character and even made a joke about it. He carried on with the rest of the show and came on for the second act. Following the show John Partridge had to go to A&E and I really have to applaud him for being so professional and continuing with the show despite being in pain.

All of the cast were amazing and really very talented especially during the tap dancing scenes in which the male dancers very skillfully danced in high heels and gowns. A special mention must also go to Samson Ajewole who played Jacob and was exceptionally funny. He delivered a very strong performance and was one of the stars of the evening. As too was Marti Webb who played Jacqueline and created a very likeable character for the audience.

The stage sets used during the show were simply divine. All of the scenes in the show were very well thought out and the sets changed seamlessly. My personal favourite set design of the show was that of the stage at La Cage. The show saw a theatre stage constructed within a stage which is shown in the picture below and worked really well as it gave the audience the perspective of watching a whole different theatre on stage.

La Cage Aux Folles is a brilliant and moving, feel-good production that will be guaranteed to leave you smiling as you walk out the theatre doors and taking a whole new look on life. I urge everyone who get’s the chance to see the show to go as you will not regret it!

La Cage Aux Folles is currently on a UK tour so make sure you visit the New Theatre website in the link below and book your tickets before its too late.



Review : Michael Flatley’s ‘Lord Of The Dance: Dangerous Games’ by James Briggs

(5 / 5)

This weekend Cardiff has had the luck of the Irish as Michael  Flatley’s worldwide phenomenon  ‘Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games’ has played in St David’s Hall. The tour is one of the biggest the UK has ever had and has currently been seen by 60 million people in 60 different countries on every continent. All of the stops are pulled out in this Irish Dancing Extravaganza with dancing that is simply mesmerising.

I have been looking forward to watching this show for a long time and being a tap dancer myself can appreciate the hard work and effort that goes into this form of dancing. I knew from the opening sequence alone we would be in for a good night. As the first half of the show begins the audience are greeted with a projected Michael Flatley and a giant clock alluding to the opening of the show.

The cast are very well cast and all of the characters within the show work well as a dance unit. The perfectly balanced ensemble of male and female dancers help to give depth to the story and in the dance sequences when they are all in a line and coordinated it really is something to admire. Their collective talent is unbelievable and there are moments where your jaw is in your lap watching their feet move almost as too fast to comprehend.  The  main lead Lord of the Dance was played by James Keegan and the Dark Lord was played by Zoltan Papp.

The show seemed to have a variety show feel to it with all of the acts being very diverse. They all managed to hold attention of the audience due to their frequent costume changes and the cleaver projections that portrayed Ireland as an Idyllic place filled with Unicorns and rainbows. The plot follows a little Spirit with a magic flute who battles against evil to save Ireland from being taken over by evil cyborgs. Along the way the Spirit meets different dancers as well as a Black Swan like love triangle that threatens to turn the head of Ireland’s saviour, the Lord of the Dance himself. The show culminates with a big fight for the title of Lord of the Dance.

You can’t help but have a big smile on your face when the full ensemble cast fill the width of the stage at St David’s Hall and with their legs kicking and tapping in perfect sync. The show’s best section and what will always be their most iconic is the ‘Lord of the Dance’, and the skill of the cast is amazing in which they gave four Encores at the end of the show of that very dance which was met with a standing ovation from the whole audience at St David’s Hall.

If you’re a fan of this type of dancing and the Irish music and culture this show is without a doubt the show for you to attend next. It provides a 5-star evening of entertainment with lots of ups and downs within the story. In my opinion this show is something everyone should experience once in their lifetime as it will enthral you.

For more information about the tour of the Lord of the Dance please visit the official website to see where the tour will be heading next. http://www.lordofthedance.com/