Review: Train @ O2 Academy Birmingham

What can I say about Train? I loved them before, and that’s only increased after seeing Pat, Jimmy and Scott smash their live set at the O2 in Birmingham.

The best bit about the gig was Pat’s charisma: he’s clearly a down-to-earth man, despite his absolutely stunning voice. Performing a duet on his own during ‘Bruises’ was hilarious to watch, and likewise proposing to the entire audience during ‘Marry Me’ was definitely a melting moment. Likewise, you fell in love with them all: whether it was Jimmy’s complete devotion to his music and sensational electric guitar solo, or Scott’s fantastic drum solo (drummers are far too underrated), they all showed they were dedicated to the fans, a sentiment returned with interest.

I spent the whole gig with a stupid smile on my face, staring at the stage and letting the gorgeous tones of Pat Monahan wash over me: Train are an experience not to be missed – I’ll be first in line when they come back to the U.K.!

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Review: ‘Strictly Come Dancing Live’ @ The Birmingham N.I.A.

I was definitely skeptical about seeing ‘Strictly’ live: how would the dancing and dazzle come across on a stage in a large arena?

Answer: stunningly, wonderfully and breath-takingly. 

‘Strictly: Live’ was absolutely fabulous: it was glitzy, glamorous and intensely emotional. The celebrities were clearly committed to their roles, including the arrogant yet hilarious Nancy Dell’Olio, and had clearly worked immensely hard in order to ready themselves for the opening night.

The judges – Bruno Tonioli, Len Goodman and Craig Revel-Horwood (no Alesha, thank goodness) – were equally superb. They were definitely more risque than in the television shows, making for a hilarious evening. Bruno’s innuendos were out in full force, Len’s ‘seveeeen!’ had clearly been perfected, and Craig’s role at the evil queen was dramatically wonderful (although even he failed to keep a straight face when Nancy was going off on one – highlight of the evening!).

Of a particular surprise was the compering. I am not a fan of Tess Daly – she’s doesn’t seem to have that chemistry with audience or competitors which would allow her to react to situations in a fluid manner, instead of clearly rehearsing what she’d been told earlier. Kate Thornton, on the other hand, was wonderful – she was funny, quick-witted and was able to move between dancers and scorecards with ease.

The celebrities – well, what to say? They were equally stunning, even the ones that didn’t dance (ahem, Nancy) and greedily stole Artem and Robin (who wouldn’t, given the chance?!). I was particularly impressed by Anita Dobson, who was clearly having the time of her life. Robbie Savage left an equally good impression – he was utterly charming, and responsive to both the judges and audience in this charismatic way – although Craig’s utter fury when Robbie jumped on the judges desk at the end was unexpected and delightful! Chelsee Healey, Mark Foster and Jason Donovan were also fabulous – even if our Aussie friend did drop his partner at one point! I really though Chelsee had won the audience text votes with her outstanding performances – her footwork was definitely to be admired. But no, that glory fell to the wonderful, the gorgeous and the winner of my vote – Harry Judd. His quick-step was to die for – it told the most beautiful story to the music (something which I’ve genuinely never appreciated in dancing before). He owned the floor, and was the deserving winner of the evening.

I did not expect to enjoy myself as much as I did. ‘Strictly Live’ is a thrilling experience – it brought tears of laughter and emotion to my eyes (particularly the second professional dance to ‘Pure Imagination’ – I wanted to bawl like a baby), as well as being fascinating to watch in terms of choreography and chemistry created by the movements. I would whole-heartedly recommend going. It was a beautiful evening, and this write would definitely put down the ‘seveeeen!’ card in favour of three tens.

The Bootleg Beatles @ the NIA, Birmingham

Having been a lifelong Beatles fan but a noughties child, therefore missing any opportunity to see the fab four live, the Bootlegs seemed the next viable choice. And baby, they were damn good.

They provided the full experience: they had John Lennon’s quirky humour, George’s charisma, Paul’s fumbling way of talking, and Ringo’s nasally tones down to an art form. In short, the Bootlegs provided us with a way of accessing the 1960s hysteria that surrounded one of the most ground-breaking groups of all time. Add into this their astounding musical talents, the use of a mesmerising orchestra (I’m thinking particularly of a musical interlude in which the orchestra played ‘The Long and Winding Road’) and the sounds and sights of the sixties, and it was a concert to remember. 

The Beatle boys played all the massive hits, mixed in with some of the lesser known songs in order to appeal to the popular and the die-hard fans. The boys themselves were brilliant: they were quirky and funny, with comments from ‘Well you can take pictures, but digital cameras haven’t been invented yet’ to a promised prize for the best dancer of ‘a small Japanese lady in a bag – take her, please!’.

Without raving on, this is an experience that every Beatles fan can enjoy: the Bootleg’s have absolutely nailed the mannerisms, songs and overall knowledge of the Beatles, and put this to a fantastic use in taking you back to the era of peace and love, man.