Thursday, 3 June 2010

Music Review - Nottingham City Pulse Festival - Monday - Cliff Bennett and others

Day Three of  the City Pulse festival and back to the city of my birth to savour once more the delights on offer.

The first band we saw were the Fab 4, a Nottingham-based Beatles tribute band. A friend of mine believes that anyone "who has anything musical about them" eventually gravitates towards a) jazz and b) The Beatles. In my experience, this is true. They opened with an astonishingly authentic-sounding Please Please Me, a wise choice of opener I thought. It is difficult to review a band whose sole aim is to sound like another band. Clearly they are more than competent, though for my money they were less convincing on the rock `n` roll numbers and on Sgt Pepper. I suspect this is not their `home ground`, an impression re-inforced when I Saw Her Standing There was introduced with the words "this is a a rock `n` roll song", which it plainly isn`t. On the plus side, they were at their best, to me anyway, on Here Comes the Sun and Paperback Writer. I can imagine them doing well as function-based musicians, I could see them making good money (and making people happy)   at corporate events, weddings and the like. They are playing Arnot Hill Park, Arnold, Notts on June 20 as part of the Arnold Festival so if you`re nearby, there`s your chance to see them.

Next up was a slightly odd arrangement whereby a band calling themselves The New Amen Corner backed a number of different singers. All I know about `60s band Amen Corner is that they took their name (presumably) from a James Baldwin play and I believe they went through many changes, with a mixed back catalogue ranging from sixties pop to grittier blues/soul-influenced numbers. 

First singer to appear was Cliff Bennett, formerly of the Rebel Rousers, a big man with a big, powerful voice. At first he appeared to have some difficulty with his voice but persevered and delivered an awe-inspiring mix of soul numbers and his own back-catalogue. If you like the Blues Brothers (or of course, Cliff Bennett), you`ll like him. I`d certainly see him again. Credit is also due to the band, who backed him brilliantly.

Bennett departing, Steve Ellis, ex- of the Love Affair, took his place in front of the band to provide a rather gentler, more lyrical take on `60s pop and soul. His voice is remarkably well-preserved and, although he was pretty much an unknown quantity to me, he won me over. He had a solo album released last year, which you may wish to look out for.

After a short break, the band returned, this time fronted by Chip Hawkes, formerly of The Tremeloes and father of Chesney Hawkes. I`ve seen him before, as a member of  the band Class of `64, which featured ex-Kink Mick Avory on drums. I`ve also seen footage of him belting out old `60s rockers like You Really Got Me on stage in Europe and was surprised how convincing he can be with that sort of material. That side of his nature was not really in evidence this time, as he opted for a more singalong approach. In truth, it wasn`t really my cup of tea, though something of his capabilities was on display with a version of The Tremeloes sardonic Suddenly You Love Me.  Silence is Golden displayed his and the bands vocal  harmony talents, but they really should rethink the high notes. Still, a difficult song well-performed and well-received by the crowd. Chip played only a few numbers and I would think he`d have been wiser to play for longer and demonstrate more of his undoubted capabilities.

As Chip took his leave, the New Amen Corner`s rhythm guitarist took over vocal duties for a mix of Amen Corner pop numbers and other `60s numbers such as Are You Going to San Francisco. He`d already shown some promise in the backing vocals he provided for the others, and certainly he performed well given the chance to shine in his own right. I would say a big problem for the New Amen Corner will be their sheer facelessness. A convincing backing band for Cliff Bennett and more than capable when backing Steve Ellis and Chip Hawkes, left to themselves they are just another `60s covers band. A top-class `60s covers band for sure, but lacking anything distinctive of their own. Still, if that`s what they want to do, I`m sure they can do well at it.

See my earlier posting for an account of Day Two. I wasn`t free for the first day, though I quite fancied a bit of rock `n` roll. I would have liked to have checked out some of the more jazz and swing-orientated acts but the practicalities were against that. I`d like to think that the event will go ahead next year, though I would guess the recession will mean there won`t be quite so many different types of music on display. To me, half the fun of it lies in seeing bands I`d never normally see, and in that respect, it`s been `mission accomplished`.

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