There are 24 posts in total.
Have the police lost control of the city centre streets of Birmingham?
- 2018-10-03, 14:20:57
A couple of weeks ago when I was walking from work to the railway station along Dale End / High Street in Birmingham I commented that just about every evening when I walk that way there's some kind of blue light incident going on in the area.
Last night as I was walking along the road I saw that the blue light incident had been levelled up considerably by the entire area being sealed off.
It turned out what had occurred this time was a mass brawl of about 100 youths resulting in three people being stabbed. From eye-witness reports of the lead-up to the incident, it seems that to a certain extent some kind of rumble was already pre-planned:
"I was on the bus going into town and everyone started making weird noises as it started pulling up at the bus stand near the McDonald's.
There was a massive group of kids, I'd say they were probably aged around 16.
They all went after this one guy who looked the same age and grabbed him - he nearly went under a taxi.
There were probably about 30 of them. Then about 10 or 12 guys started stamping on him. I was on the phone to my mum when it happened and I told her I wouldn't be surprised if he was dead. They were stamping on his head and legs, [...]
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I've lived in Birmingham for 29 years and never before noticed this clock on the back of the building next to Rackhams.
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Bullring Open Market, 1154-2010, R.I.P.
- 2010-08-31, 14:47:51
Today I officially pronounce the Bullring fruit and vegetable market to be dead.
It had a good innings – nobody can complain about a run of 856 years and it being curtailed; I remember when plans to demolish the 1960′s market and shopping centre area were being consulted on how most of the traders predicted the market wouldn’t survive, but – the soul having been ripped out of the place notwithstanding – most of the stalls made it through that redevelopment.
Then there are the current fears that the move of the Wholesale Markets from right next to the Bullring Market will cause major hassle – Jon Bounds has commented on the silliness of the image of traders wheeling trolleys full of cabbages half way across town half way through the trading day, but there’s the very real concern of how produce will be then transported, coupled with the new uncertainty surrounding when the move will actually happen.
But to me, what has finally killed the market is the combination of the serious drop in quality of the produce on sale, combined with the scourge of the man from the weights and the measures, the Poundabowl.
Now don’t get me entirely wrong – where the typical shopper might think more in terms of a number of items rather than a weight of items, there’s nothing wrong with it; but it still makes price comparisons difficult, because you don’t know how much you’re getting for your pound from different traders – you may well even be getting a [...]
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Zakir Hussein and the Masters of Percussion - Town Hall, 02/07/2008
- 2008-07-02, 14:30:37
Mention the words 'Indian Music' to the man or woman on the Northfield Omnibus, and the chances are the first person who will come into their heads will be Ravi Shankar. Which is understandable really, since it's fair to say he above anybody was chief in popularising Indian classical music to western audiences. However, if you were to find a member of the world music cognoscenti and say those words to them, there's a good chance the thought will come back as tabla player Zakir Hussein.
And rightly so - whereas Ravi Shankar is, as they say, a master, Zakir Hussein is the master. But more to the point, whereas Ravi Shankar in his high profile collaborations with western musicians has largely done his own thing bolted on to the side, Zakir Hussein has very much been much more devlopmental in the field of Indian / western musical fusion, going back as far as the 1970s with the band Shakti with John McLaughlin, through working with straighter jazz artists such as Airto Moreira and Pharoah Sanders, and through to the more techno sounds of Tabla Beat Science.
After a vocal beatbox introduction by percussionist Taufiq Qureshi the concert proper opened with a blast from the Dancing Drummers of Manipur; the programme described them as 'dazzling and athletic', which was no word of a lie as gymnastic backflips were in full evidence - simultaneously to the actual business of drumming! The Dancing Drummers then left the stage not to return again until the very end of the concert, which did seem [...]
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Portishead - Wolverhampton Civic Hall, 13/04/2008
- 2008-04-14, 14:23:35
When Portishead first hit the record shops in the mid-90s, I have to admit I was initially a little underwhelmed. That all changed with the release of Roseland NYC Live (and the accompanying concert video) when I discovered just how artistic their music can be; if you're the kind of person who likes contemporary classical music as might be played by B.E.A.S.T. or the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, or alternatively if the arthouse flicks of the Electric Cinema might make that venue your second home, then Portishead are the band for you.
After a gap of some 10 years since that album, the band have come together at last to release a new studio album, the imaginatively titled Third(released on 28 April 2008), together with a European tour to promote, which reached the West Midlands last night.
Unlike many rock reformations, where it feels like the spark had long gone and has barely been rekindled to pay an unexpected tax bill, the return of Portishead shows a group of true dedicated and accomplished musicians demonstrating as much skill and energy today as they did on the album which converted me. The opening track included loud heavy guitars demonstrating them to be so much more than the label 'trip hop' leads one to assume, but the intimate numbers are still there with the band gathering around close in to each other sitting in a huddle.
Importantly, each song blended perfectly with the one preceding and following, and the sudden endings [...]
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Mahabharata - Alexandra Theatre 26/06/2007
- 2007-06-26, 13:21:46
If I were to use all the superlatives I'm minded to in writing this, you could probably be forgiven for wondering if I was related to a member of the cast.
Mahabharata is, for Hindus at least, the 'Great story of India', at 100,000 verses the longest epic poem in world literature, and dating from at least 500BC one of the oldest. Alongside the Ramayana it forms one of the cornerstones of Hindu scriptures, and its scope is best summarised by one of its beginning passages - "What is found here, may be found elsewhere. What is not found here, will not be found elsewhere".
In essence, the story centres around a family feud between two sets of royal cousins - the Pandava brothers and their common wife Draupadi, led by our hero Arjuna and the Kauravas, headed up by the villain Duryodhana. I say villain - the philosophy of the epic tends to present a universe where all are governed by destiny, unresponsible for their actions, and Duryodhana was "born to hate the world and all that is in it". In the west most people might be more aware of the Bhagavad Gita, the discourse within it where Krishna teaches Arjuna the nature of dharma, or duty, on the eve of battle as Arjuna has doubts about what he is about to embark on, ending here with the famous quote "Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds".
As with any great epic, [...]
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misty's big adventure + restless list + kategoes... - jug of ale, moseley, 22/11/2006
- 2006-11-22, 13:15:28
If you like your popular beat combo concerts to feature fresh, genuinely original, and slightly off-the-wall music performed by bands who are accomplished musicians, composers, and songwriters, and where you can tell their reason for performing is the shear joy they feel in playing together and for you (rather than the band being a vehicle for satisfying egos, like so many rock-legend-wannabes), then last night's packed out upper room at the Jug of Alewas certainly for you, and certainly for pretty much everybody there as well. For me it was without doubt the best pub gig of the year, and almost certainly one of the best for a long time.
Normally when reviewing I treat each band individually - and certainly each of these three bands could have made a good show if it was they who were headlining - but in this instance as well as credit to the acts, credit is also due to Arthur from the Catapult Club for putting together three bands which, each very different in their own way, complemented each other perfectly to make a show which was even greater than the sum of its parts.
KateGoes... have only been together for about a year, were breaking in a brand new bass player last night, and are probably the youngest group of musicians I've seen play together since my youth orchestra days - and showed all the musical maturity and performance flair you would expect to see in a band on the [...]
Read the rest of misty's big adventure + restless list + kategoes... - jug of ale, moseley, 22/11/2006.In group Birmingham
pravda - a fleet street comedy - birmingham repertory theatre, 03/10/2006
- 2006-10-03, 13:09:04
First written and performed in the mid-80s, Howard Brenton & David Hare's Pravda is a newsroom satire, focussing on both the journalists themselves and their newspaper proprietors; it's not hard to see at the front of the authors' minds was the still-relatively-recent takeover by Rupert Murdoch of The Times, and the concerns many had about that of whether he would send it downmarket in the direction of The Sun.
The story proper opens in the editor's office at the Leicester Bystander, with the staff, in the middle of trying to put the paper to bed being sent into turmoil at the news they are about to be bought by South African media magnate Lambert LeRoux (Roger Allam). Our 'hero' Andrew May (Oliver Dimsdale) is immediately promoted to editor, and LeRoux marches onwards.
As a journalist reviewing a satirical play, one almost feels on slightly dangerous ground when the play is a satire on journalists - especially when one of the cameo characters in the play is the drunken theatre critic who writes his review without actually seeing any of the performance! It's analogous to the situation of those who write letters to the paper prefixed with the comment "I know you won't print this but I'm sending it anyway", in order to try to shame the editor into printing it. By being critical of a play critical of journalists, you're almost inviting a response of "well you would say that, wouldn't you".
And, I have to say, I wasn't that impressed with the play. Sure, it had its amusing moments, but [...]
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chicago - alexandra theatre, 28/09/2006
- 2006-09-28, 13:02:41
Go and stand on New Street holding a clipboard and ask passers-by if they could name any composers of musical, and the chances are, depending on their age, the overwhelming replies would be either 'Rogers & Hammerstein' or 'Andrew Lloyd-Webber'. If they're a discerning shopper they might reply 'Stephen Sondheim', but if they were that discerning they'd be more likely to describe his work as opera rather than musical anyway.
Alternatively, if you asked them to name any musicals themselves you would likely get quite a few saying 'Chicago'. But curiously, if you asked them if they could name any musicals by John Kander and Fred Ebb pretty much most people would just give you a blank look in response. Somehow, despite being responsible for two of the best-known musicals of the late-20th century,Cabaret, and Chicago, the names of Kander and Ebb themselves seem not to trip off the tongue of the Man on the Moseley Omnibus the way others do.
Since the revival of the show in the late 90s it's barely been off the stage, and now makes a welcome return to the Alex.
It's the classic story - girl meets boy, girl fills boy full of lead, girl does what she can not to swing for it. A classic story needs classic lines, and "I gotta pee" has to win the Award for the Most Classic Line After a Murder.
Unlike many musicals, Chicago does actually have a reasonably strong plot, backed with a solid score, and dance [...]
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senser - bar academy, 13/09/2006
- 2006-09-13, 12:57:37
Before there was Cypress Hill, before there was the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, before there wasThe Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, there was - in the UK at least - Senser.
It's probably pushing things a bit to say they invented the genre of angry intelligent hip-hop with a strong musical underpinning, but they were clearly influential in its development.
It was in the atmosphere of Thatcher's Britain that the band formed in the late 80s - the Criminal Justice Acts of the time, the Battle of the Beanfield, the Poll Tax, and raves on the beach and in warehouses. Mass rioting in the streets was common, and even many in 'the establishment' agreed that police violence and corruption was out of hand.
Although Senser disappeared from the mainstream public profile almost as quickly as they entered it, despite some line-up changes they've only really had a few of years of not working together. Clearly from the audience last night, their following comprises fans from the whole period of their existence.
When they started the show last night, I was initially struck by how fresh and relevant their sound was, not at all sounding as if it had been forged 15 years ago - and the energy was certainly still there.
But as the night wore on, I did find myself thinking I'd heard everything before - the songs, whilst definitely good and all that, did start to sound the same as each other after a while.
Read the rest of senser - bar academy, 13/09/2006.In group Birmingham
david garside + band - ceol castle, balsall heath, 16/08/2006
- 2006-08-20, 12:50:10
in my experience, there are two kinds of bands you're likely to see in a pub.
firstly, there's the band which is designed to appeal to 'the crowd' - they'll typically be loud & impressive, with lots of guitar solos in practically every song (with the lead guitarist taking at least three axes with them onto the stage) and the obligatory drum solo in the last one, guaranteed to get all da chix cheering along.
then there's the band which not only the crowd will like, but also any musicians in the audience too. not for this kind of band are the easy wins, the rock clichés. the muso's band relies on quality of performing and originality of songwriting to impress. it is into this category which david garside & band firmly fit.
the band is basically an acoustic band - acoustic guitar & electric piano (Nick Wiley) being the mainstay, but although it's an acoustic band the sound is still a big sound, ably assisted by drums from Danny Howes & the electric bass of Matthew Cheale.
the actual music is just precisely the kind of songs i always like to hear; not your textbook verse chorus verse chorus dullness, but individual, unique songs in which each one tells its own story, and the music just as integral to the telling of the story as the lyrics (which unfortunately i couldn't hear last night) - think pulp or the divine comedy for the kind of thing i mean. it was also clear [...]
Read the rest of david garside + band - ceol castle, balsall heath, 16/08/2006.In group Birmingham
paradise dreaming - a city fairytale, by hamfisted - chamberlain square 23/06/2006
- 2006-06-23, 23:09:18
it's difficult to know where to start with this performance; billed as it was as 'a contemporary performance of shakespeare's a midsummer night's dream', celebrating the wedding of 'helen' and 'dominic'.
certainly when one arrived at chamberlain square to pick up your ticket (a buttonhole plastic flower) you were given the impression of something promising - if you had seen the setting up of the space in paradise gardens down in front of the conservatoire, you would have seen the potential for something magical. the staging around the chamberlain square fountain was less impressive - but that's ok, because most outdoor performances of amnd i've seen have been minimally staged for the first half; it's all part of that suspension of disbelief, innit?
in the warm-up before the performance was scheduled to start at 8:30 a number of schoolchildren came in to the space, showing off their circus skills with diabolo, clubs, and unicycle, and did a show comparable with some of my older, hippy, friends. nearer the time a few members of the company started circulating, working to get the audience into our character as wedding guests ("so how do you know the groom, then?"). as a warmup, it was quite good.
unfortunately, things started to go downhill before the performance proper had even started...
at around 8:15 the music, by composer and musical director ian chapman, started coming through the pair of speakers either side of the stage. by 8:30, after i'd heard the same four bars of [...]
Read the rest of paradise dreaming - a city fairytale, by hamfisted - chamberlain square 23/06/2006.In group Birmingham
Jerry Springer: the Opera - Birmingham Hippodrome, 07/02/2006
- 2006-02-07, 23:03:46
Bill of Rights
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Such is the above extract from the constitution of the USA quoted on the first page of the programme for Jerry Springer: the Opera - which is widely interpreted as being the part of the constitution which guarantees the people the right to free assembly, to protest, to speak freely, and to enjoy and practice their religious beliefs (or lack of them) without interference or favour from the State.
Of course, the USA constitution does not apply to us (no matter how much George W Bush would wish it to be so), but many of its principles are sound enough, based on the British legal system anyway. And, in fact, the British constitution protects freedom of speech and religion perhaps more vigourously - the constitution position in Britain is that everything is lawful unless there's a specific common or statutory law to prohibit it.
During this past week, as the controversy over the publishing of the cartoons depicting Mohammed has escalated into deaths and the Government's Religious Hatred Bill passed into law (though significantly amended), we have ironically seen much more hatred coming fromreligion than directed towards it. So as I approached the Birmingham Hippodrome theatre for the show [...]
Read the rest of Jerry Springer: the Opera - Birmingham Hippodrome, 07/02/2006.In group Birmingham
Jansen Ensemble - symphony hall, 18/10/2005
- 2005-10-18, 22:59:28
the three baroque concertos (or concerti, if you really are an italian) from tuesday evening's concert all stem from the body of music which treads the line between chamber music & orchestral music; indeed, prior to the rise of the so-called 'authentic performance' movement would often have been performed as orchestral works.
the jansen ensemble, led by violinist janine jansen, whilst not quite performing in the totally authentic camp were certainly well in the spirit of it - a single player per part, & the musicians all (where feasible) standing to play rather than taking it easy on the award-winning symphony hall chairs.
opinion is still divided as to whether there is a right or wrong way to perform baroque music, but for myself i certainly prefer to hear it cut back to the minimum, in order that the baroque twiddly bits (which are, after all, the point of the genre !) can be heard, & you still get a 'big' sound. performing this way also assists in holding to the original baroque idea of a concerto which was more of a piece having a featured instrument(s) but with the rest of the ensemble being just as important, rather than the later concept of a definite soloist with mere accompaniment from the orchestra.
in the first half of the concert we heard two bach concertos - the concerto in d minor (bwv 1052)& the concerto no. 2 in e major (bwv 1042).
to my mind, bach is, well, bach really; music students mimic bach [...]
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the mexicolas + paperweight industry - bar academy, 22/09/2005
- 2005-09-22, 01:46:22
i have to admit to feeling a little sorry for the mexicolas after seeing them last thursday at bar academy. if the arguing about them, pro & anti, which took over the birmingham alive forum is representitive of real life, they've got a lot to live up to.
now obviously a band can't control what people say about them in public, but when that discussion reaches the levels we saw here then you can't help but wonder whether their publicity machine has at least had a little involvement in it. it's a dangerous game to play, though, because when you create such a buzz about something, you've got to ensure you've got the product to match it - & sad to say, i don't think the mexicolas delivered. in any respect.
in fact, when the previous band, paperweight industry took the stage, i actually mistakenly thought they were the mexicolas, as they had clearly brought a following with them - with audience members pressing right up to the front of bar academy's floor-level stage lead singerpaul ross was never more than a couple of inches away from his most adoring fans. i thought they were a band clearly with a lot of promise, but they need to do a lot more work right now, & maybe consider simplifying in the meanwhile - it's all very well having strong, distinctive songs (as they do), but if those songs are lost because the band has difficulties playing together & keeping their tuning together, & ending sloppily, there's [...]
Read the rest of the mexicolas + paperweight industry - bar academy, 22/09/2005.In group Birmingham
against the wheel - flapper and firkin, 20/06/2005
- 2005-06-20, 01:42:57
i often see people complaining about the lack of a live music scene in birmingham. whereas there's some truth in it - there's not as much of one as there used to be - it's not really entirely true. you might have to look for it, but it is there to be found.
i say you might have to look for it, but is the flapper & firkin really a hard to find on a monday night? many a band plays there to its gathered crowd of mates (& the other bands sharing the bill), but it seems not many people go out just paying 3 quid (just over the price of a pint in most city centre pubs) to see whoever might be playing on spec; to my shame i realise i've been a bit lacking myself in that respect of late.
so perhaps that's part of the problem. if more people went out to see more bands they don't know, there would be more incentive to pubs to give more of their space over to live music - & the bands themselves get better with more public exposure & with a bigger crowd to support them.against the wheel at the flapper last night certainly showed they've been getting enough practice lately with roughly a gig a month so far this year, so they've had chance to refine their art - straight ahead loud, energetic, just polished enough to be a tight outfit, yet just still raw enough to have [...]
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gilad atzmon and the orient house ensemble - cbso centre, 22/01/05
- 2005-01-22, 01:39:14
Under normal circumstances, if you went to a gig by a punk band at the Birmingham Academy on one saturday, you might be forgiven for being somewhat surprised the following saturday at a jazz concert in Birmingham's CBSO Centre to recognise the saxophone player in that gig from the one the week before.
That's normal circumstances, but anybody who knows anything about band The Blockheads and saxophonist Gilad Atzmon knows that in this case, normal circumstances don't apply. The styling of The Blockheads as a punk band was always whilst in one sense technically true somewhat of an oversimplification - punk lyrics and attitude maybe, but always backed by a hard jazz-funk musical soundworld. An ideal setting in fact for Gilad Atzmon, perhaps one of the most creative musicians on the scene currently, to have his 'other band'. But The Blockheads was the other gig.
Atzmon's stance is intensely political, and he uses his art, be it as a jazz musician or as the author of two short novels and numerous essays (readable online at www.gilad.co.uk), as the vehicle for his politics. He was born and raised as a secular Jew in Israel in 1963, and spent 20 years witnessing the suffering of the Palestinian people at the hands of the Israeli government and army, eventually moving to England to further his cause from here. Unashamedly outspoken, his book A Guide to the Perplexed was banned in Israel within weeks of being published, and although he strongly affirms the legitimacy and need for a Jewish state he [...]
Read the rest of gilad atzmon and the orient house ensemble - cbso centre, 22/01/05.In group Birmingham
Behzti (Dishonour) by Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti - birmingham repertory theatre, 20/12/2004
- 2004-12-20, 01:34:09
I was hoping to be able to write a review of the young Sikh writer Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti's playBehzti (Dishonour) playing at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, but unfortunately I was unable to because it was cancelled before I had chance to see it. So this article is unfortunately going to be on the basis of 'what I've heard about it' rather than what I know to be the facts about it.
The play is a black comedy set around a Sikh community, focussing on the relationship between Min, an unmarried woman ('past her prime') & Balbir, her sick mother. It was their first trip out together for some time. Min was hoping to meet up with a friend whose birthday it was, but Balbir had other ideas - a trip to their nearby temple. When Balbir meets old friends there a past shocking event is revealed...
The shocking event in question is an act of murder & of sexual abuse which took place within the confines of the temple - & it was this aspect of the play which provoked such controversy.
Members of the Sikh community in Birmingham felt this mocked Sikhism, & had been campaigning to have the play cancelled since before it started - in fact, the Rep, together with co-promoter of the play Sampad (the nationally respected South Asian arts agency based in Birmingham) & the writer had been in dialogue with the community since before it went into production. However, accomodations were not reached, especially the [...]
Read the rest of Behzti (Dishonour) by Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti - birmingham repertory theatre, 20/12/2004.In group Birmingham
Mitch Benn & the Distractions - the glee club, 26/11/2004
- 2004-11-26, 01:25:00
"Mitch Benn is one of the foremost exponents of musical comedy in the U.K." - so opens the biographical notes in the press material for his current UK tour.
I'm always somewhat dubious when I see an artist's own publicity manager make such bold claims about their clients, but in the case of Mitch Benn, the statement is more than justified.
Is he a stand-up comic, is he a singer/songwriter, is he an impressionist, is he a guitarist, is he a bandleader ? For most people, to be able to do one of those well is an acheivement in itself, but Benn is one of those rarities who can actually do all five at once, & do it excellently.
For his performance at the Glee Club he was unable to provide his usual gimmick, that of an all-female backing band because unfortunately his usual drummer Tasha Baylis was ill that night. A stand-in (male) drummer was hastily recruited for the night, with apologies in advance just in case anything went wrong. Although it was quite sweet watching bass player Kirsty Newton clearly helping him out all evening, the apology was not required as he filled the role almost perfectly with only one minor fluff which was turned into part of the act anyway - a feat made all the more commendable considering the complexity of some of the songs.
Most of the material from the evening was drawn from Benn's current album, too late to cancel, a mix of satire, parody, [...]
Read the rest of Mitch Benn & the Distractions - the glee club, 26/11/2004.In group Birmingham
the australian pink floyd - symphony hall, 02/10/2003
- 2003-10-02, 01:21:03
Just before the show started my colleague recounted an anecdote from an old Pink Floyd interview – “The time will come one day with technology when we’ll be able to just set the equipment up, press a button, & go. In fact the time will come when we’ll be able to send another four people out to do the gig instead of us!”. I don’t think when they said that they envisaged the modern day popularity of tribute bands...
I’m not sure I really ‘get’ tribute bands; OK, we’ve all been there, from sitting in the music shop with the guitar we can’t afford to buy playing the opening bars of ‘Stairway to Heaven’ (or ‘Purple Haze’ if you’re of a different bent), through to your first few bands from school and college playing mostly other peoples’ songs. But when you’ve developed your ability a bit, you start exploring your creative talents into your own material. So if you have the talent to play another band’s songs so well, why not play your own?
But on to the gig; the first thing I noticed was that the Aussie Floyd seem to have a bit of a following of their own, with plenty of people walking around with t-shirts sporting pink kangaroos & beams of light refracting through a glass map of Australia. There were a few seats left inside Symphony Hall empty, but it was as near to full as makes no odds which made for a good [...]
Read the rest of the australian pink floyd - symphony hall, 02/10/2003.In group Birmingham