REVIEW: Black Rivers – ‘The Forest’

Out Now
Ignition Records
More information on Black Rivers’ website

I’ll be honest; I was stepping so far out of my comfort zone with this review that my comfort zone couldn’t even be seen any more. I am not exactly the biggest fan of alternative rock (or indie rock), so Black Rivers, who formed in late July last year, had an uphill struggle before they even started with me. Still, in my prep for this review, I checked out bits of stuff by Doves (the band Black Rivers basically spun off from while Doves were on hiatus) and Odludek, Jimi Goodwin’s solo album from last year, and I found them pleasant enough listens, if not strong enough to gain my interest. I therefore expected this would register as merely passable when I came to cover it.

…I now owe alternative rock and indie rock as a whole (…and Coldplay) an apology for calling them dull.

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REVIEW: Lands of Glass @ Northern Stage

Newcastle upon Tyne
Until Saturday 28th February
More information on the Northern Stage website

In its latest show, Unfolding Theatre proves that imagination truly has no limits. Lands of Glass conjures up the whimsical, picture-postcard town of Quinnipak with nothing more than five cast members and an awful lot of glass.

Loosely based on the Italian novel Lands of Glass, set around the turn of the 20th Century, it centres on a small town where glass is the main industry. The five-piece’s nuanced portrayal of the eccentric townsfolk is something special.

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REVIEW: King Charles @ Riverside

Newcastle upon Tyne
Thursday 19th February
More information on King Charles’ website

A plenty sweaty and beer-fuelled bunch eagerly awaited ‘The King’ at Riverside last Thursday. Things got off to a rocky start as people sheltered away from a dripping ceiling caused by a toilet blockage (!), with screeching amplifier feedback on stage and thumping speakers yet to reach the right balance. Before long, however, one of the band’s best-loved songs, ‘Mississippi Isabel’, filled the place with sheer glee – heads bopping along to the chirpy, super-catchy keyboard riffs.

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REVIEW: Birdsong @ Northern Stage #2

Newcastle upon Tyne
Monday 23rd - Saturday 28th February
More information on the Northern Stage website

The sound of rain and distant gunfire welcome the audience to the opening night of Sebastian Faulks’ Birdsong at Northern Stage. The set brings Faulks’ detailed description of war-time France beautifully to life. Beneath a smoky sky, sandbags, duckboards, wire and ladders clearly portray the trenches. Cathedral-like archways stand tall and a broken wooden cross looms over the trench, perhaps signifying the broken religion of the men as a result of the conflict. Faulks writes that at war ‘non-believers find faith in fear.’

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REVIEW: Birdsong @ Northern Stage #1

Newcastle upon Tyne
Monday 23rd - Saturday 28th February
More information on the Northern Stage website

In commemoration of the First World War and in conjunction with the hundredth anniversary of its outbreak, the much-loved novel Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks has been adapted for the stage. Now on its national tour, this compelling play captures the intensity of the book in a way that really gets under your skin.

Birdsong follows the life of Stephen Wraysford, focusing on his time serving in ‘the war to end all wars’. The bleak reality of war and the sufferings of his peers in the trenches and tunnels are broken up with the sun-dappled memories of his time in pre-war France and the beautiful Isabelle, with whom he fell madly in love.

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REVIEW: Choir Play/ Breakfast Hearts @ Live Theatre

Newcastle Upon Tyne
Wednesday 18th February
More information on Live Theatre’s website

The magnificent double bill of plays Choir Play and Breakfast Hearts presented wonderfully fast-paced constructions of amusing appeal that succeeded in captivating the hearts of the audience. These two gripping pieces were written by the award-winning play and screenwriter, Robin French, who is best known for the critically acclaimed BBC Three sitcom, Cuckoo. A series of talented actors and actresses showed off Robin’s subtle, clever humour and sophisticated experimental work.

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REVIEW: Custom Reels: Spirited Away @ The Customs House

South Shields, Tuesday 3rd February
More information on Custom Reels on the Customs House website

Custom Reels is an exciting new initiative for young people who have an interest in the wonderful world of film. The inspiring group is held at the wonderfully creative Customs House Theatre and plays host to weekly screenings of various well-loved films.

The most recently featured screening was of renowned Studio Ghibli phenomenon Spirited Away. This is certainly one of the most brilliantly niche films I’ve ever had the inexplicable joy to watch. The screening of this beloved Japanese animated movie was preceded by an art competition guided by a professional cartoonist. Each movie presented through Custom Reels likewise begins with an introduction by a talented individual and is free of charge for the audience, made up 13-19 year olds.

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REVIEW: Bright Club Variety Night @ The Stand

Newcastle Upon Tyne
Tuesday 17th February
More information on Life Science Centre’s website

Billed as a ‘thinking person’s variety night’, I really didn’t know what to expect when attending my first ever Bright Club event. All that I knew beforehand was that the night would contain a blend of comedy, music, new writing, science and performance. I can honestly say that, after experiencing February’s Bright Club on Tuesday 17th, (a collaboration with Life Science Centre) it definitely contains all of that and a little more.

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REVIEW: Young People’s First in 3 @ Northern Stage

Newcastle Upon Tyne
Wednesday 18th February
More information on the Northern Stage website

Northern Stage once again proved themselves to be a truly wonderful platform for creative young people with their vibrant variety show Young People’s First in 3. organised and performed by people aged 16-25. From a sarcastic song about McDonalds and a documentary about a local band, to some impressively energetic Irish dancing, the event was a joyful union of some of the best fresh talent in the North East.

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RETRO REVIEW: Ignite – ‘Our Darkest Days’

Released 2006
Century Media Records

I’ll be honest, I’m not really an expert on punk music. I do recognise the appeal behind the genre (short, angry and loud songs basically objecting to everything that the songwriters don’t like about society) and very much approve of it, but, for the most part, it’s never really seemed to click with me – even as a fan of metal: a genre that holds similar values.

That isn’t to say that I don’t know the different between hardcore punk and typical punk, though: hardcore is basically a heavier and angrier form of the other. It’s even very possible for a sufficitently aggressive ‘post-hardcore’ band to be mistaken for metalcore to an untrained ear. Norwich-based band, Ignite have a more melodic edge compared with other hardcore bands (they’re melodic hardcore, if you will) and they do what they do very well.  2006’s Our Darkest Days is an incredibly strong album that is definitely worth checking out.

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REVIEW: Darren Hayman – ‘Chants for Socialists’

wiaiwya
Out Now
More information on Darren Hayman’s Bandcamp

In the latter decades of the 19th century, William Morris was not only widely considered one of the greatest living British poets; he was also one of the most prominent activists in the socialist movement. Darren Hayman, a thoughtful and detailed songwriter, has spent over a decade furthering his unique and unwavering vision. Hayman’s latest offering is a powerful reimagining of William Morris’s trailblazing 1885 collection Chants for Socialists.

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RETRO REVIEW: Fefe Dobson – ‘Joy’

Released 2010
Island Records
More information on Fefe’s website

Normally, the relationship between Canada and popular music seems to be restricted to two artists: Nickelback and Rush. Rush because they’re a highly respected progressive rock band and Nickelback because…wow, I’m actually coming up blank there!

In all seriousness, though, you generally don’t tend to spot Canadian names making waves but, in Canada itself, there are laws that basically make it easy for Canadian artists to make an impact there (Google “Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission” if you’re curious)! Such a fate…does not actually apply for Fefe Dobson, as she’s not even that big a name in Canada. This is definitely something that should be remedied. Her 2010 album, Joy, is worth a listen by anyone with even the faintest interest in pop and pop rock.

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REVIEW: Broken @ Dance City

Thursday 12th February
Produced by Motionhouse
More information on the Motionhouse and Dance City websites

Last Friday I found myself back in one of my favourite places, Dance City, where dance theatre company Motionhouse’s production of Broken succeeded in both captivating and exhilarating me. I am certainly no artist but the unprecedented creativity displayed by the dancers and choreographers cannot merely be defined as dance. It was a rapid-paced voyage through the earth’s shifting phases and perspectives: a conglomerate of tension, suspense and danger – a piece of living art.

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REVIEW: A Bloody Mess by Richard O’Brien

Ink Lines (part of Valley Press)
Out Now
More information on the Valley Press website

“I’m only flesh; / a bloody mess you wash off, then zip up your dress,” writes Richard O’Brien in his gripping, unapologetically honest poetry collection. The line seems to sum up the book’s essence: brutal, human, earthy, with an emphasis on the erotic – it displays its very insides to the reader with a display of vicious romance. The voice of the male lover is made relatable: his head is pulled down from out of the clouds and what we are left with is a tangible, heated, human look at love.

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REVIEW: Fifty Shades of Grey @ Tyneside Cinema (A Male perspective)

Directed by: Sam Taylor-Johnson
Starring: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan
Running time: 125 mins, Cert: 18
More information on the Tyneside Cinema website

We asked two of our writers – one male, one female – to review the much-talked about film adaptation of EL James’ book. To read Rosa Garland’s review, click here.

There has been a lot of attention given to the poor males who have been brow-beaten and dragged along to screenings of Fifty Shades of Grey and while that attention is not unjustified, we need to feel sorry for everyone that is subjected to the latest box-office smash/tripe. A vile concoction of misogyny and misandry, Sam Taylor-Johnson’s adaptation of EL James’ trash ‘novel’ would border on misanthropic if it wasn’t so aggressively stupid.

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REVIEW: Fifty Shades of Grey @ Tyneside Cinema (A Female perspective)

Directed by: Sam Taylor-Johnson
Starring: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan
Running time: 125 mins, Cert: 18
More information on the Tyneside Cinema website

We asked two of our writers – one male, one female – to review the much-talked about film adaptation of EL James’ book. To submit to Mr. Simon Ramshaw’s review, click here.

Having read countless articles pointing out the abusive nature of the relationship, incorrect portrayal of BDSM sex and glamorization of manipulation in the book Fifty Shades of Grey, I steeled myself (no pun intended) for a thoroughly sexist experience. It is important, however, to take the book and the film as separate entities; compared to what I had read about, the film was lukewarm in every way. It is true that the main female character is a vacant, blank space for others to project themselves onto – but I can’t say much for the characterisation of the famed Mr. Grey either. His enthrallment upon discovering Anastasia Steele’s status as a virgin (she had to be, didn’t she?) seems to be a nod to the outdated patriarchal values concerning purity and the attraction of innocence – but that certainly didn’t make him sexy or likable.

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REVIEW: The Used @ O2 Academy

Newcastle Upon Tyne
Sunday 8th February
More information on The Used’s website

Night no.3 of The Used’s UK tour saw the band play Newcastle, accompanied by two strikingly different support acts.

Opening the stage were Decade, rising pop-punk stars from Bath. After recently completing a tour with A Day To Remember they were back to warm up this crowd, waiting for The Used. This time round, singer Alex Sears was a lot more confident and his vocals near-perfect. Decade are the epitome of a British band; they make jokes about themselves and even have a song entitled ‘British Weather’. Their set was enjoyable and filled with songs from their album Good Luck – an album I would highly recommend. Throughout their set, the band told the crowd about how they’re “the most boring people in the world” and are “gonna go backstage and play [role-playing game] Magic: the Gathering by ourselves” afterwards, reminding them that bands they look up to on stage are, in fact, relatable ordinary people.

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REVIEW: Too Much Too Young @ Northern Stage

Newcastle Upon Tyne
Tuesday 10th and Wednesday 11th February
For full programme, see the Northern Stage website

Too Much Too Young, written and performed by Jack Bennett, is a one-man show that invites the audience to think about the flaws in the British education system. Through use of opinion, his own experience and both facts and statistics, Bennett makes the suggestion that teenagers are forced to make big life choices much too young.

The atmosphere which Bennett created for the performance can more easily be likened to that of a pub rather than a theatre, with the audience seated around small tables and Bennett executing a very conversational tone throughout the performance. In doing so, Bennett was able to tackle some very pressing issues whilst maintaining a perfect balance of light-heartedness and sombre; had he taken a different approach, the piece may have failed to captivate the attention of the audience to the same extent.

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REVIEW: Blind Guardian – ‘Beyond The Red Mirror’

Out Now
Nuclear Blast Records
More information on Blind Guardian’s website

Blind Guardian is probably not a familiar name for most people but fans of power metal are bound to have come across their name at least once.

…OK, for the uninitiated: European power metal (the US and Japan have their own scenes with their own influences and sounds) is basically Seventh Son of a Seventh Son-era Iron Maiden mixed with a bit of influence from Rush, Judas Priest and ’80s pop. Most bands tend to cover fantasy/escapist themes and it originally started out as a melodic counterpart to thrash metal (think early Metallica and Slayer) after evolving from speed metal (think Motorhead with less punk influence) and NWOBHM (think The Number of the Beast-era Iron Maiden and Screaming for Vengeance-era Judas Priest).

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SINGLE REVIEW: Stornoway – ‘The Road You Didn’t Take’

Cooking Vinyl
Out Now
More information on Stornoway’s website

Stornoway are taking us on another voyage with the first single from their upcoming album, Bonxie. The Oxford-based indie-folk group have always been a traveling band in every sense, from the “cruel hard shoulder” of Fuel Up (2011) to the walk home in Zorbing, to the time machine of Tumbling Bay two years later. Despite progressing towards a more electronic sound, Brian Briggs forever sings about his outdoor journeying, as though to retain some of the band’s original folksiness – these men are troubadours at heart.

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