Overflowing with books

REVIEW: This is what I thought of Us by David Nicholls after I finally finished reading it

Books, love, Reviews, romance

As some of you may recall, earlier this year I challenged myself to read four of the unread books on my bookshelf this year. It seemed like a reasonable task, way back in March, however now – as we prepare to enter the 9th month of the year (HOW is that possible?!) – I’m not so sure I’m going to make it. Particularly as I only just got round to finishing Us by David Nicholls. That aside, here’s my review of Us. Enjoy!

Us – David Nicholls

My copy of Us

Battered: Four months of bag life took its toll.

You may find the name David Nicholls familiar – he is after all the author of One Day perhaps one the most beautiful yet totally heart-wrenching romance novels I’ve ever read. (It was turned into a pretty decent movie too, although unfortunately featuring a painfully bad northern accent from Anne Hathaway.) I LOVED One Day so I picked up Us hoping to love and laugh and cry as I had with Nicholls’ previous novel. And I did – in a way – but for me, Us was not the book I hoped it would be.

The novel is narrated by Douglas Petersen, a man in his early- to mid-fifties, married to a flamboyant, artistic woman called Connie, with whom he has a teenage son by the name of Albie. Douglas is in the throes of preparing for a Europe-wide summer holiday with his family – they decided on it months ago – when Connie turns round in bed and tells him she thinks she wants a divorce. We are then taken on a journey, narrated by Douglas, covering Douglas’ last ditch attempt to win back his wife on their European tour and interspersed with memories of how he and Connie came to meet, fall in love, get married and navigate life’s challenges together.

One of the things I absolutely loved about this story was that it is written from the point of view of a middle-aged, slightly insecure man – not something that often happens from what I’ve read. Douglas is well aware that in dating and marrying Connie, he has been punching above his weight, but he is happy and frankly besotted with her. He cannot imagine life without her. As we travel through their memories, learning about the trials and challenges they have faced together, it’s hardly surprising that Douglas adores his wife. He never thought he would end up with someone quite like her.

While this narrative style drew me into the story in the first place, it became the device that also made me struggle to complete the novel. I reached a point in their rather haphazard adventure and Douglas’ humour where I was bored of Douglas, bored of his obsession with Connie, bored of his exactness and irritated by his insecurity and his desperation to try to save his marriage. Even though I was amused by his perception of the world around him and his melo-drama, I desperately wanted to slap Douglas ’round the face. That said, I still found myself willing them to win, to remain together in the end, but also waiting for the gut-wrenching plot twist Nicholls often deals out.

But the plot twist never quite came. Not really, or at least, not in the way I expected having been utterly destroyed by One Day. In Us, through Douglas’ eyes, we are told some pretty heart-breaking stories about their past. The affair, the child that was lost, the ways in which they navigated many of the turbulent times that come in any relationship. And for that I am grateful to Nicholls for doing what he does so well, which is painting a realistic version of life full of love and hate and sadness and suffering and happiness and joy.

Nicholls has a skill of taking you through the very truth of everyday human life. His “romance novels” are more “real life novels”. I genuinely adore that about his writing. And because I love that about his writing I wish I could give Us a more glowing review but, honestly, by the last third of the book I found myself only finishing the story because I needed to have closure on what happened to Connie and Douglas and their son. I was too invested into the characters to be able to leave them –  which says a lot about Nicholls’ skills in character development. I needed to know how things turned out – rather like we needed closure in Lost even though, if we were honest, we’d lost interest long before the end.

So yeah, Us, it was ok, but it wasn’t the novel I was hoping it would be.

books

Books and books everywhere; but not a word was read

Books, Life, Reviews

This is probably not the post I should be writing. Nor is it the post I planned to write next. It is, however, the one that is currently forcing words out of my head, through my fingers and on to the screen, so let’s see where it goes.

I LOVE BOOKS!

61TWsgq-XlL._AC_UL320_SR230,320_Ok, that’s probably not a surprise. Especially if you know me well. I have been having a love affair with books since I was a small child. And it has been a long and great affair. So great, my parents used to use the threat of not being allowed to read before bed as a disciplinary tactic. One of my earliest memories of school is sitting on the Reading Carpet reading Stories for 8 Year Olds when I was barely six. It didn’t have many pictures but I didn’t need them. My imagination was in overdrive as I read about Ancient Greeks fighting over golden fleeces, Arabian thieves in a hot bit of bother, and Arthurian legends battling a green knight. I quite enjoyed that book and all its many stories.

My love of books has continued into my adult life – despite taking a battering during my university years when I’m not sure I ever managed to finish even one of my reading lists! I love books. LOVE THEM. I love the way they make me feel, the way they invite me to explore the worlds within them. I spend hours perusing bookstores looking for gems I might like to read. And inevitably, I buy them. And buy them. And buy them.

I HAVE A CONFESSION

I don’t read these books as fast as I buy them. So they arrive in my house, they sit on my bookshelves, or in piles on the floor or in my Kindle library, and they wait. They wait and they wait. Their pages wait for my eyes, hoping I might pick them up and see what’s inside.

As I ate my breakfast this morning, sat in front of my bookshelves, I realised just how many of the books hanging out on those shelves I’ve half read or never even opened. I counted nine. NINE. Nine books I haven’t explored. That’s not including the ones that I know I’ve started and forgotten about or the ones lying quietly on my Kindle. Yet I still go and buy more. Just last week I was eyeing up three new ones in a local bookstore. I think maybe I have a problem.

It was that revelation that inspired this post. Not that I may have a problem with buying books, but that I have so many I haven’t read. Granted at least half of the nine books I haven’t read on my bookshelf were gifts, but still, most of those were gifts I asked for!

With these many never-opened tomes in mind, I decided I’m  going to set myself a new reading challenge. Now, every year for the last six or seven, I have set myself a reading goal using GoodReads Reading Challenge function. I never quite make it, but I do at least read something. Since 2012, my goal has been 20 books. This year I dropped it down to 15 in the hope I might actually manage to reach 2017’s goal! So as part of those 15 books, I’m going to attempt to read at least four of these never-opened paperbacks (they are nearly all paperbacks) sitting on my shelf. What’s more, I’m going to list them (all nine) here and give each one I do manage to read a little review.

THE UNREAD NINE

US – David Nicholls

Norwegian Wood – Haruki Murakami

Kafka on the Shore – Haruki Murakami

The Tipping Point – Malcolm Gladwell

Soul Music – Terry Pratchett

The Light Fantastic – Terry Pratchett

The Shepherd’s Crown –  Terry Pratchett (the last Terry Pratchett Discworld novel, which I have put off reading because I don’t want the stories to end. I have a silly idea that involves reading all the Discworld novels in order to then finish with this one, so it probably will remain unread for a while)

Prisoners of Hope – Dayna Curry and Heather Mercer

The Beekeeper’s Apprentice – Laurie R King

Ok, dear readers, help me, which one should I read next? (I will start it after I’ve finished the book I’m currently reading – Perfect by Rachel Joyce in case you were wondering). Also, if you want to join with me on reading any of the books that have been gathering dust on your shelves, or even fancy picking up one of these – feel free!

Lastly, before I sign off, it might amuse you to know that as I finished this post I received an email with the subject line Amazon.co.uk recommends “After You Left”…, which is basically an email full of recommended books and may as well have had the subject line AMAZON SAYS BUY MORE BOOKS!

Hamletbatch. AKA Hamlet at the Barbican

benedict cumberbatch, Britain, Britishness, Reviews, shakespeare

On the day Cumberbatch and Shakespeare fans head to cinemas around the world to watch a live-streamed performance courtesy of the National Theatre, I thought it was high time I actually got round to posting my review of the much talked about Hamlet.

A few Saturdays ago (shockingly, over a month ago now) I had the pleasure of catching the matinee performance of Hamlet at the Barbican, starring Benedict Cumberbatch. (Aka that bloke off the telly what plays Sherlock, does wonderful impressions of Alan Rickman and is so hot right now you wouldn’t believe).

seeing_hamlet_at_barbicanThe long-awaited performance was actually the first time I’d see Hamlet live. I’ve watched a couple of film productions, and (skim)read the actual play while studying for my BA, but I’ve never seen it performed on stage. As I am a sucker for Shakespearean tragedies (and a Cumberbatch fangirl) I was excited to see how Lyndsey Turner had executed her production. I’d deliberately avoided reviews after an early Internet browse one morning left me so excited about my forthcoming theatre trip I had to go and calm down with a nice cup of tea. I was a smidgen overexcited.

Armed only with the knowledge that there’d been some huge kerfuffle about the reordering of key scenes in the play (To be at the beginning or not to be, that is the question), I eagerly made my way to the Barbican with my just as eager friend. We nervously took our seats, unsure how things would turn out. Would we hate Benedict’s performance? Would a Cumberbitch do something markedly uncouth? How good really was the view from our seats? And after all the waiting, was this really happening now, in this very room? (The answers: Nope. Thankfully no, otherwise I’d probably be writing this at the pleasure of Her Majesty. Not bad. And, apparently, yes).

From the opening line (no longer that controversial question), I was welcomed back into the world of Shakespeare. What timeframe this Hamlet’s world actually abided in I’m not sure. Not Elizabethan, but not 100% contemporary either. But as I like adaptations of Shakespeare that are set in the “present” but keep the old Shakespearean language, that isn’t a criticism. I just wasn’t sure if I was supposed to know. Was I missing some clever reference to modern day Europe? Had I studied Hamlet in depth, I would have spent more time contemplating the changes Turner had made to the structure and setting rather than simply enjoying the performance.

And what a performance it was. My top three highlights were:

(HENCEFORTH SPOILERS)

benedict-cumberbatch-hamlet-in-hamlet-at-the-barbican-theatre-photo-credit-johan-persson1. I will never look at toy soldiers in the same way again after Cumberbatch’s madness scenes. Dressed as a glorious Nutcracker-like (or at least how my mind reimagines the animation of my childhood) toy soldier, Hamlet prances along a table top with a drum. Later, when Goldstein and co appears, Hamlet hides out in a rather wonderful adult-sized fort. Still dressed like a toy soldier.

2. The actors in slow-mo. A wonderfully executed device that often serruptiously changed the onstage mood while another character absorbed the audience in their soliloquy. We’re first introduced to it towards the end of the wedding scene between Claudius and Hamlet’s mother. I was fascinated – and suitably impressed – by the cast as they captured something that a modern audience is so used to seeing cameras achieve in a film production. To my delight, they didn’t just do it once either. On several occasions you’d catch just a foot slowly moving or someone standing where someone else had been sat. Seriously, if you’re going to watch the live broadcast tonight, keep an eye out for it. And remember this is LIVE and no camera trick.

3. The set design. This too has come under fire from reviewers but frankly I loved it. It takes skill to create a set that works for all scenes with minimal changes. And oh my goodness, I want that castle interior! I’m also intrigued as to how long it takes to clear all the bloody leaves (or whatever it is) at the end of each performance.

So after six weeks or more, those were my three big highlights; toy soldier, slow-mo and set design. Oh and I want Ophelia’s yellow top.

I do have one question though: Why does Horatio insist on going everywhere with his damned rucksack?! Honestly, the guy never takes it off. And as far as I can recall, hardly ever takes anything out of it.

If I could, I would go and watch the live stream in theatres tonight. Not least because I want to be able to be close enough to see the actors’ faces as they live out their emotions. A telltale sign, perhaps, that movies and TV dramas have captured me. But the real reason I want to see it again? Because I would love to relive those three hours of my life once more. I desperately tried to take in every second of this performance and commit it to memory to treasure forever. It’s Shakespeare, it’s real and it’s one of the most sought-after British actors of my generation performing on stage in front of a live audience. And that is worth watching more than once.

Somewhere Only We Know – Review

Books, Erin lawless, love, Reviews, romance, summer

Somewhere Only We Know – Review

There’s a saying that true friends leave a mark on your heart and stay with you forever. I believe the same can be said of great characters and a good book. With this latest offering, Lawless’ presents a unique twist to the conventional romance novel, and enables her protagonists, Alex and Nadia, to leave an indelible mark.

From the moment Nadia’s and Alex’s lives collide, I was captured by them and couldn’t put the book down. By the end, I felt I was a part of this group of friends and their London. (I want to go with Nadia and Alex to a night at Bodeans!)

Although the central story is about boy meets girl, there’s so much more to Somewhere Only We Know. Once again, Lawless has written a believable love story that isn’t just about the two central characters falling for each other; it is also about their friends and the challenges they have – because when you fall in love, everyone else’s drama is still going down. It is this, that, for me, makes her latest book so relatable and enjoyable.

I loved being part of the emotion and adventure – discovering London through the eyes of Alex and Nadia, and ticking off points on Nadia’s Bucket List; all the while experiencing the same moments of trepidation and anxiousness for Nadia’s impending deportation appeal. Lawless did an expert job of letting her characters get on with life and love, leaving you to forget the problems of the future until something bought it crashing back into the fore.

With summer fast approaching, this is a great holiday read to pop on your Kindle or e-reader and enjoy by the poolside. Go get it today!

Rating: 5/5

You can order it on Amazon  now!

Music Review: Sam Isaac – When The Lights Went Out

Music, Reviews

http://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/v=2/album=2390653404/size=venti/bgcol=FFFFFF/linkcol=4285BB/

About four years ago, in a dingy pub-cum-gig-venue in Norwich, England (called, if I remember correctly, The Queen Charlotte, located about five minutes from my then front door with a splendid line of Iced Strawberry Daiquiris at £3 per giant-sized pitcher), I saw Sam Isaac for the first time. Squished in between the bar and a sea of punters, mostly students, Sam stood in the dimly lit venue with just a microphone and his acoustic and played his heart out. I was hooked.

I’m not entirely sure how I came to know about Sam Isaac. I think it was a result of many hours listening to the delightful Welsh tones of Radio 1’s Huw Stephens on his Introducing… slot. Whatever the story, sitting in The Queen Charlotte, no doubt supping a sugary ice-cold beverage, I found myself tunelessly singing away to a beautiful song that was washing over the crowd. Much to the amusement of my friend Annette. (Or possibly her distress…) Yet I had no idea what it was, or who it was standing mere feet in front of me. (We didn’t even realise there was a gig on at the pub to start with). I later came to know that the song was called Sideways (which I thoroughly recommend you get a copy of somehow) and the ginger man with a guitar was called Sam.

Think Ed Sheeran meets Ben Howard via Noah and the Whale and you’ll get an idea of what this UK-based singer-songwriter sounds like. But Sam was around long before Ben and Ed and probably Noah really made an impact on the British music scene. Somehow though, the music loving public haven’t appeared to be as taken with Sam as with these other singer-songwriters.

Recorded at home, over the course of a year, When The Lights Went Out is a welcome return from Mr Isaac. It’s a chilled, beautiful little album, perfect for relaxing in the last of the summer days or for running through parks covered in crisp autumn leaves or for a indie film soundtrack (most suited to films in the vein of Garden State, Once, etc).

It might not be an album to fervently write home about, it might not dramatically change your life, but it will certainly brighten your day as it rotates round to play on your iPod. Well, I like it anyway.

Life In Germany: A cinema trip to see Avengers Assemble

emigration, film, Frankfurt, Germany, Reviews

It’s a rare occasion when, still emerging from your oversized cinema seat, you mentally consider your next viewing of a film moments after you’ve seen the last of the end credits roll off the screen. But then it’s also rare a big, and let’s face it, hyped, blockbuster movie comes along to inspire that overwhelming desire.

In fact I can think of only a handful of times I’ve walked out of the cinema, wishing I could re-live the last two hours of my life. Titanic (the James Cameron version first time round in 1998) was one of those, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey another. Bill & Ted is a classic case of cult 90s film. For Titanic I claim a pre-teen obsession with Leo DiCaprio and misguided judgement on what a ‘timeless’ movie actually is.
On Friday I added Avengers to that handful.
Avengers. Now that’s a film definitely worth every cent tipped out of my purse and onto the cinema counter to pay for a mildly extortionate ticket. A ticket that allows me to sit in a large public room with a big screen and lots of people and wear two pairs of specs (contact lens and my eyes have a love-hate relationship).
In case you don’t know, Avengers is the latest blockbuster in the run of Marvel Studio films, and the culmination of Kevin Feige’s original plan to have four separate superhero franchises (The Hulk, Thor, Captain America and Ironman) and then pull them all together into one epic action superhero movie. It is, in short, every comic book fan’s ultimate dream.
Director Joss Whedon (probably most widely known for his creation of TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer), has created a funny, clever, jaw-dropping and generally mind-blowing movie based on the simple plotline of ‘a selection of superheroes must save the world together’.
It helps if you know the superheroes back stories, or at least the idea that they have each emerged from their own set of comics and movie(s). But, even if you’ve no idea what Marvel is, the brilliance of the script will entertain with its comedy and action and the 3D graphics will amaze. Plus, there’s enough reference to previous encounters with each superhero to give you a basic grounding that will get you through and suck you into the story.

In fact, the only thing that was even slightly disappointing in my viewing of Avengers was the unexpected interval. Apparently in Germany it’s commonplace for a film that stretches into the two hour region to have a short interval mid-movie. The film is cut, the curtains swoop in front of the screen and the lights go up.

Having never experienced this in my life before I did, for a good few minutes, wonder whether in fact there was an actual problem with the film and how long it would be before we were offered free tickets to return to another showing. As those minutes passed, it became clear everyone else had been expecting this moment. ‘Do cinematic malfunctions have a high frequency in Germany’, I wondered? ‘No’, my German companions confirmed, ‘we just have breaks in long movies’. Right.

In the 48 hours since I saw Avengers I have tried to understand this concept of a break mid-movie, but to no avail. I really can’t see the point in cutting the action mid-scene. Sure, it has benefits, not least to the cinema who no doubt hope punters will leave their seats and shell out on snacks but really, when I’ve paid, let’s face it, a lot, to see a film, I don’t want my viewing interrupted. I can do that at home with the DVD.
However, the strength of Avengers is perhaps proven by this pause mid-movie. I doubt there are many films that can truly withstand a break in the adrenaline rush and excitement in the way Avengers did. It’s a cleverly put together film that will have you enthralled from the very first second and leave you on the edge of your seat until the credits are over. And refreshingly for a 3D blockbuster, it doesn’t rely on 3D and CGI to be its ultimate selling point. This has the added bonus of meaning it should be just as great in 2D and will translate well to DVD.
So, if you only see one movie in 2012, make it Avengers. Preferably in 3D.

(Just check first to see if there will be an interval. Great if you have bladder issues or are liable to need more snack food – not so great if you like to spend your cinema time fully immersed in the film and dislike surfacing before the last of the end credits has rolled.)

PS I don’t own the above trailer in anyway. It was posted by MarvelUK youtube.com user. You can check out the original here.

Review:The Last Train Home and other stories by Erin Lawless

Books, Erin lawless, Reviews
The art of the short story is one that, when mastered, produces artfully compact, tantalisingly brief episodes with characters and settings. It is a dreamlike – or nightmarish – encounter with characters that have, at one point or another, chosen to etch themselves in the minds of their creators. To create one good short story  – let alone several (The Last Train Home contains 16 beautifully formed pockets of life) – requires an ability to form characters in a mere sentence and an enthralling storyline in less than half a paragraph. Short stories are essentially dreams captured on paper.
Thankfully this is a skill Erin Lawless possesses. In The Last Train Home and Other Stories, she somehow manages to capture her audience’s imagination within an instant over and over again.
While many of the stories featured in The Last Train Home seem to follow a similar formula involving a two person interaction, Erin Lawless has succeeded in making the reader feel as though they have just consumed several different bitesized tales. Perfect for a quick delve into fiction on the commute home.
And while each story is self-contained, there’s certainly room for some of these snippets to evolve into novellas, serving as prologues or key chapters in a longer creation.

The Last Train Home is a collection of short stories, self-published by author Erin Lawless. It is available as a Kindle ebook from Amazon at a snip for just £1.84

Music: Ones to watch in 2011

Music, Reviews

It’s that time of year again; time for round ups, retrospective opinions and contemplative previews.

As December draws to its wintery end and the world gears itself for a fresh batch of 365 days seen in with a decent amount of revelry here’s some music to add to your NYE playlist of acts to watch in 2011. (So when they make it big next year, you can feel smug knowing you’ve been ahead of the game)

The Joy Formidable

Ritzy, Rhydian and Matt are otherwise known as The Joy Formidable and come highly recommended by Radio 1’s new music connoisseur, Huw Stephens. This spritely, enthusiastic little Welsh band have been doing the rounds for a good few years and have just completed a tour of the US.

2011 sees the release of their debut album The Big Roar at the end of January. It is preceded by the single Austere (check out the new video), available on limited edition vinyl and to download from January 17th.

All that is followed by a tour kicking off in February, which takes them across the UK, Europe, back to the US and to 2011’s SXSW in Texas.

If you can’t wait a few weeks to hear more then lurking in the depths of the internet is their previous EP A Balloon Called Moaning.

 

Little Comets
Another band releasing their debut album in January 2011, and also hotly tipped by Huw Stephens, are northern foursome Little Comets. Think the Mystery Jets meet The Coral and you might end up somewhere close to the sound of Matt, Mark, Michael and Robert.

Hailing from Sunderland and Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Little Comets have already created an extensive fan base and gained a notoriety for gatecrashing university lectures and performing on public transport.

After the success of previous singles Adultery, One Night In October and Isles, Little Comets are set to grace airwaves up and down the country with the release of their debut album In Search of the Elusive Little Comets at the end of January.

Catch them on tour at a venue near you in January starting at Liverpool’s Shipping Forecast on the 28th.

Everything Everything
Technically Everything Everything aren’t a brand new, emerging act for 2011 but they are taking part on the NME Shockwaves Awards Tour which has often provided a platform for bands ready to hit the mainstream bigtime (notably The Killers, Bloc Party, We Are Scientists and Arctic Monkeys).

Sounding a little like a noughties indie version of The Pet Shop Boys (and that’s a good thing), Manchester quartet Everything Everything are already leaving their mark with their 2010 album Man Alive.

Expect great, probably slightly surreal, things from this band in 2011. They’ve been 6 Music’s album of the day, met Rolf Harris on a ferry and have already hidden themselves away to write that “difficult second album”.

If you want to get a taste of Everything Everything and their more than slightly quirky style then check out the single Photoshop Handsome – available to download from January 17th – or their previous single My KZ Ur BF.

The Go! Team

If you’ve never come across The Go! Team before you have been missing an audio/visual treat. They are a six piece from Brighton and 2011 brings a brand new album that’s bound to be jam-packed with feel-good bouncy tunes galore.

Rolling Blackouts is due for release at the end of January. It is the third album from the band and looks set to continue their happy, psychedelic party throwback sound.

February will see the band make a welcome return to the live scene, starting with a show in London’s Heaven on February 8th. If you’ve wanted to see how a band incorporate various instruments including an African Thumb piano, harmonica and glockenspiel into a rock band, The Go! Team are the ones to catch.

Educate your ears with hits from their 2004 debut Thunder Lightning Strike and a few previews of the new album.


Alice Gold

She looks a bit like a moody Joss Stone or a tastefully dressed Jennifer Ellison and sounds like PJ Harvey got pumped full of adrenaline. She’s recently supported Athlete on their UK tour, unleashing her attitude-laden voice and guitar rock on the unsuspecting crowd.

Born in Camberley, Alice started writing at age eight, toured America on her own in a 1978 Winnebago and generally appeared to live a bit of a nomadic-esque life according to her myspace profile.

Keep your ears out for her album Seven Rainbows which is due in the summer, and expect a single in early 2011. Describing her sound to The Sun as ‘psychedelic pop played with soul’ Alice is sure to crop up in the music press every now and then if nothing else.

So that’s it, your five to listen out for in 2011. This list isn’t by any means comprehensive; comment, criticise and add your own top tips below.

Other notable acts to make sure you delight your ears with include Sheffield band Feelix, James Blake, Lyrikkal (she’s nine and could give Willow Smith a run for her dad’s money) and if you haven’t happened across these yet make sure you give Sleigh Bells and Cold War Kids (who are back with a new album) a listen.

LIVE REVIEW: Athlete O2 Academy Sheffield November 29 2010

Music, Reviews

First published by Sheffield’s free magazine Exposed
Photos to follow just as soon as I get them uploaded!

Athlete
O2 Academy, Sheffield
November 29th 2010
4/5
 
For unbeknown reasons, Athlete have never really hit the so-called Big Time. Even the success of 2002’s album Vehicles and Animals or hit single, Wires, in 2005, hasn’t seen them secure a coveted place in the indie hall of fame. (Although they did secure an Ivor Novello Award for Wires). Where others have soared in a giddy haze to the top, Athlete have been the steady tortoise, plodding faithfully, writing beautiful songs and producing stalwart albums.
 
Yet in the intimate venue upstairs at Sheffield’s O2 Academy, competing against the beats of Vampire Weekend downstairs, Athlete prove just why they have sustained a firm and varied fan base. Tonight they are supported by local singer songwriter Stoney and a girl called Alice Gold who looks like Joss Stone and sounds like an attitude laden PJ Harvey.
 
Athlete’s Joel Pott takes to the stage with his acoustic guitar and mix track and launches into You Got The Style. Considering the weather outside is threatening a snow blizzard, it’s the perfect ironic start – Oh it’s getting hot in here, must be something in the atmosphere – to a beautiful night.
Immediately the room is in full voice, singing along. As they abandon the setlist for a moment, the boys crank out Vehicles and Animals, swiftly followed by Westside – complete with Joel forgetting the lyrics and a brilliant little bit of heckling and banter between stage and crowd. 
 
Athlete have drawn a Sheffield crowd that spans generations and includes some fans who witnessed the band perform ten years ago supporting Mansun at the Leadmill. 
 
It’s feel good, it’s melancholic, it’s downright cheerful in places. Whatever you think of Athlete, make sure you catch them live next time they grace a Sheffield venue. Surveying the audience tonight as they dispel onto snowy Arundel Gate, every face displays a smile despite the freezing weather. You won’t be disappointed.

LIVE REVIEW: Just a Band – Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip, Plug, Sheffield

Music, Reviews

Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip
Plug, Sheffield
October 27th 2010
4/5
This review was written for Exposed (exposedmagazine.co.uk), Sheffield
It’s been over three years since they graced our airwaves with a satirical social commentary on NME and the supremacy of Stephen Fry but Dan le Sac and his bearded pal Scroobius Pip are back. Stopping off in an energetic Sheffield to play Plug, which, in Scroobius’ words, looks like a laser quest venue, they bought a quirky American lady by the name of Kid A and Birmingham septet Misty’s Big Adventure with them.
Kid A, otherwise known as Anni T, can only be described as Bjork meets Morcheeba to a background of electronica beats. The voice of Sac vs Pip’s latest single release, Cauliflower, Kid A opened the night in an unassumingly pleasant way.
Misty’s Big Adventure, on the other hand, launched into their set with provoking poetry and a tune not dissimilar to the Batman cartoon theme. It’s rare a support brings so many feel good vibes as Misty’s Big Adventure. Imagine The Go! Team crossbred with The Zutons and you might be close to the hunched over excitable band complete with trumpet and baritone sax. Their emo-spoof, I Want A Biscuit, You Can’t Have One was a definite highlight.
Despite a series of hit songs a few years back, Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip are still very much on the backburner of the mainstream. Opening with Sick Tonight, they immediately get the Sheffield audience on side, Dan dropping beats only he knows how to perfectly complements Pip’s half spoken, half sung vocals.
Even as the boys pull out more melancholic tracks, including The Magician’s Assistant, they strike a balance with humour about dwarves and three children sneaking into the gig on each others’ shoulders. After a solemn moment in memory of a lad called Jamie, Scroobius and Dan pull out the track that first snuck onto the iPods of the crowd – Thou Shalt Always Kill. With the crowd singing back every word as they bounce around, the song ramps up the gig for the final part of the nigt.
Saving hits The Beat That My Heart Skipped and Letter From God To Man for the encore, complete with Pip’s longest crowdsurf in which he kicked a mirror ball, these too likely lads from Essex leave the northern audience on a high and disappear.