‘What else is there to do in Doncaster on a Thursday night?’
It’s great going to see your favourite acts live and all but sometimes it is alluring to go in blind. I knew next to nothing about Canadian comedian Tom Stade before his show at the Dome but I can definitely say I am a convert now…
Before Stade took to the stage however, he treated us to a hilarious support act in the shape of fellow Canadian comedian Nigel Lawrence. The Santa Monica resident spent the first third of his act riffing on the ridiculously oversized stage in the middle of the cavernous Dome gymnasium, while also commenting on the fact that the venue had failed to provide him with a table for his beer, ‘I always find drinking a beer off the floor is the best way to drink a beer’ he sarcastically intoned. There was a wonderful moment part way through the set when a table was stealthily produced behind Lawrence resulting in a massive cheer from the crowd and an incredibly confused comic wondering why the audience had randomly started yelling in the middle of a bit. All in all Lawrence helped to set the tone for the evening, true pro’s on stage but adorably amateur off it.
Tom Stade waltzed out to rapturous applause only to find that there was no microphone in the microphone stand. As he correctly pointed out, this is really the only thing a comedian needs for his craft… bit of a fail then! Stade took the lack of organisation in good humour however and the minor failings of the Dome as a venue actually added to the show as a comedy spectacle. Stade has been a comic since 1989 and his gravelly voiced delivery recalls singer/song writer Tom Waits rather than any other comics. He combines his dulcet tones with a light and breezy persona. Imagine all the grime of Doug Stanhope without the anger or the politics. Indeed, I rolled my eyes at an early joke about Donald Trump, simply because making fun of Donald Trump is like shooting fish in a barrel (to paraphrase the Simpsons), but that one throw away comment was about as political as it got. Instead, the rest of the show was taken up with candid meditations on relationships, family and getting older. While this is well trodden ground in stand up comedy, Stade brings a personal touch that ensures the set is fresh and exciting throughout. Audience participation is constant but shared only between three members of the crowd who Tom constantly refers to. This lends the whole set a peculiar intimacy, a feeling of eavesdropping on a private conversation, and it is these interactions that lead to the funniest moments.
At one point Stade ruminates on the fact that he could afford a nice car ‘with all his sweet Doncaster money’ but he doesn’t because he is a boring old fuck. He laments the fact that technology has began to leave him behind and teases similar confessions out of the two middle aged men he has discovered in the audience. When one crowd member admits he doesn’t have Facebook, Stade asks ‘how do you send people pictures of your breakfast?’ before imagining said member of the audience emailing out pictures of sausages to his bewildered friends.
As Tom Stade leaves the stage in metaphorical tatters following a blistering set, he politely asks the sound guy to play a little music to see him off. A stony silence follows as chaos rules once again. In a way though, this is the perfect end to a shambolic but utterly mesmerising live performance. If you ever get the chance to see Stade live, and he does tour the UK extensively, then I urge you to do so.
Rob Johnson – www.robwatchesmovies.com
“I know, you love the song but not the singer…”
There is a temptation when covering local music to just declare everything brilliant and be done with it. I mean, nobody wants to lose those sweet press passes after all. For me, this culminated in an overwhelmingly positive review for a decidedly average show from Sheffield band the Sherlocks and a feeling of soul destroying shame for having been such a sell out. After that abomination was published, I vowed to be more honest, as seen in this review of a bizarre day in the heart of Askern.
It is that spirit then, and not just plain grumpiness, that informs the start of this review. Let’s talk about all the things that were wrong with Placebo’s set before we get to the good stuff. First off, the band came out to a video celebrating their 20th year. This is all well and good except it had a backing track of ‘Every You Every Me’ which meant they didn’t actually play the song live during their set.
Everything from third album Black Market Music onward sounded thrilling but the limp performances of their earlier songs left an indelible stain on an otherwise brilliant night. While opener ‘Pure Morning’ sounded OK, we had a seven song wait for the band to play another song from their early career. ‘I Know’ is a blistering and visceral track on record but tonight it sounds turgid and uninspired with frontman Brian Molko constantly out of tune and disinterested. Even worse is a dire run through of a slowed down ’36 Degrees’. It is genuinely baffling that the band could take such an exciting song and turn it into this plodding and tedious mess and even crowd favourite ‘Nancy Boy’ feels rushed and aloof. Aside from a forgettable trudge through ‘Without You I’m Nothing’ that’s it for the first two albums.
Admittedly, I feel more affronted by this than I probably should. I lost interest in Placebo somewhere around the time of Sleeping With Ghosts and that is hardly the bands fault. That doesn’t excuse such a lazy butchering of their own back catalogue however. If they can’t be arsed to play those songs properly it would be better for them to drop them from the set completely.
With that out of the way, what of the rest of the night? The opening salvo of ‘Loud Like Love’ and ‘Jesus’ Son’ acts as a blistering template for the rest of the night with the band attacking their instruments to provide a more fleshed out live sound.
‘Special Needs’ takes a gawky song title and turns it into something beautiful before an incendiary rendition of set highlight ‘Twenty Years’. The latter is an example of just how impressive a live spectacle the band can provide when they put their mind to it.
Brian Molko and co bring out all the hits to end the first part of the evening with ‘Special K’ receiving possibly the biggest crowd response of the night before the unmistakable opening riff from ‘The Bitter End’ pierces the Doncaster air.
The band end their set with a show stopping performance of their beloved cover of the Kate Bush classic ‘Running up that Hill’. It’s weird that Placebo are such an excellent covers band when they have so little respect for their own back catalogue…
Overall, Placebo just about did enough to justify the ticket price but if the back slappery and self congratulation of local music is to be condemned, then it must also be censored in the mainstream. This was a good performance but one plagued with poor decision making and a lack of effort.
Rob Johnson – www.robwatchesmovies.com
“Lay back and enjoy the ride…”
York singer/songwriter Chris Helme is, of course, best remembered as the front man of Britpop heroes the Seahorses. The story goes that a friend of a friend of Stone Roses guitarist John Squire heard Helme busking in York and passed word to Squire who promptly hired him for his new project the Seahorses. The band enjoyed critical and commercial success with their sole album Do It Yourself before disbanding. Since then, Helme has continued to tour across the country and has released a number of solo albums. On a chilly, autumnal night, Helme picked liberally from his back catalogue and threw in a few carefully chosen covers as well.
When you have a song called ‘Hello’, you are pretty much legally obliged to open your set with it. Helme’s voice sounded impeccable as he delivered a stripped back, acoustic version of the closing song from Do It Yourself. In the absence of a backing band, the York troubadour played acoustically all night and this added a new dimension to already familiar tracks. ‘Lorali’ features a beautiful, finger picked intro and it was clear by this point that there is so much more to Chris Helme then a handful of tracks from the 90s.
Having said that, his performance of the Seahorses single ‘You Can Talk To Me’ was one of the highlights of the evening with the crowd in good voice throughout. Helme has a relaxed and engaging on stage presence that gave the evening a feeling of intimacy as he chatted to the audience and introduced each song with a story. A cover of The Faces ‘Ooh La La’ was as welcome as it was unexpected and it sat nicely alongside ‘Pleased’ and ‘Summer Girl’ from Helme’s 2012 album The Rookery. The great thing about Helme as a live performer is that his voice is so strong that his songs actually sound better live than they do on record. This also means that any cover he performs always has his own unique spin on it. The Grateful Dead are not a band you would normally associate with a Britpop act but Helme’s cover of the Dead’s ‘Friend of the Devil’ is sinister and bluesy and perfect for a little venue like The Leopard.
Helme barely bothered to soundcheck before the gig, something that other bands should take immediate note of, and he didn’t bother with going off stage only to return for an encore. Helme is a no frills performer and the gig was all the better for it. The evening is closed out with a stunning performance of the Seahorses two biggest hits. ‘Love is the Law’ is perhaps the bands best known song and it is soaring and wonderful here. ‘Blinded by the Sun’ has always been my favourite of theirs however, and Helme absolutely did it justice with a heartfelt and enthusiastic rendition that had the crowd going wild.
I have seen pretty much every band or singer associated with Britpop, as these were the songs that I grew up with in my formative years. Chris Helme at the Leopard is as good a show as I have seen anywhere. A truly epic evening.
Rob Johnson – www.robwatchesmovies.com
This is not an exhaustive list (check out the excellent weekly Doncopolitan listings for that) but rather some of the major events taking place in Doncaster in the next couple of months or so.
One of Doncaster’s more intimate venues has a couple of great gigs lined up, with Britpop mainstays Chris Helme and Hurricane #1 both gracing The Leopard before the year is out.
Chris Helme was the lead singer in the popular Britpop band the Seahorses and has released numerous albums under his own name. Helme rocks up to The Leopard on 7th October. You can grab tickets here.
Hurricane #1 are from a similar era and are perhaps best known for their smash hit ‘Only the Strongest Will Survive’. Another gig not to be missed. The gig takes place on 10th October and tickets are available here.
Diamond Live Lounge
Diamond have consistently booked interesting and critically acclaimed bands and they have a couple more big names due to appear in November.
The Hoosiers are celebrating the 10th anniversary of their number 1 album The Trick to Life. The record spawned hit singles such as ‘Worried About Ray’ and ‘Goodbye Mr A’ so their gig at Doncaster most beautiful venue promises to be a belter.
Goldie Lookin’ Chain have form in Doncaster having once memorably performed at Belle Vue, the much missed former home of Doncaster Rovers. The Welsh rappers will be joined by Doncaster legend MC Devvo on 17th November. Tickets here.
Doncaster’s largest venue is always capable of attracting the big names and multi million selling rock band Placebo are as big as they come. The US rockers are gracing the Dome on 10th October. Click here for tickets.
Finally we have us NU-Metal band Crazytown bringing their brand of rap/rock to The Woolpack. It is a real coup for the market place pub to host a multi million selling artist in what promises to be an intriguing night. Tickets available here.
After a hiatus from the touring scene, get ready for another epic blast of Tom Stade! Direct from the Edinburgh Festival, the Canadian tour-de-force is back with a brand-new show for 2017.
Renowned for his carefree attitude and broad-minded vision, nothing is taboo to this enlightened and captivating comedy legend. Combining off-the-scale charm, razor-sharp wit and a no-holds-barred attitude; Tom pledges to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
As seen on BBC One’s Live at the Apollo, Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow, The John Bishop Show and Ch4’s Comedy Gala.
Kick back and enter the awesome and mischievous world of Tom Stade as he provides an inspiring and incisive antidote to these dark and uncertain times. Simply sublime comedy…I SWEAR.