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    Music and Movies

    The Italian Job at Birmingham Symphony Hall

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    Confession: until this evening I’d never seen The Italian Job in full. I’m not entirely sure how this happened; I’ve always watched a lot of films, both at the cinema now, and growing up as a child on video and taped from the telly, and yet somehow I never got round to watching it.  Perhaps it’s one of those films most people see thanks to their parents, but my dad grew up in rural Ireland, where there didn’t appear to be much in the way of cinemas and he was too busy riding horses into the city centre to watch a British blockbuster.  I know all the classic bits from the film, the “you’re only meant to blow the bloody doors off”, the self preservation society song, and yet I managed not to watch it, even in 2003 when the remake was released.

    So when there was an opportunity to see a HD remastered version of the 1969 version of The Italian Job, performed ‘in Concert’ with a live orchestra (for the first time), playing the famous soundtrack by legendary composer Quincy Jones, I figured it was about time I got round to seeing it.

    And what a way to see it, it was.

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    The plot of the film is a fairly simple one, by modern standards.  Recently released from prison Charlie Croker, played by Michael Caine, is left the plans for a multi-million pound heist by an old friend who has been murdered by the mob.  Convincing a major British crime lord to finance the plan takes some work, but eventually it’s full steam ahead and even intimidation and the destruption of their beloved cars (integral to the plan) by the same mafia mob who killed his friend isn’t enough to stop Croker and his gang.  They head to Turin to enact their plan, which involves disrupting the traffic lights and causing a major jam, steal several bars of gold and engaging in a cat-and-mouse car chase.

    Sure it’s a bit predictable, but it’s a fun, comedic film, evokes full on nostalgia for the 1960s and has some well known British actors, including Michael Caine, Noel Coward and Benny Hill, to name a few.  And it’s easy to see why it gets included in lots of the top British film lists, as lots of being have a soft spot for it.

    I really can’t believe it has taken me this long to see The Italian Job, but I’m glad that when I finally got round to it, this is the way I got to see it in full for the first time.  The orchestra were a brilliant edition adding a real richness to the screening, really bringing the film to life.  At times I’d forgotten that the band weren’t always part of the show, it was that well timed and knitted together.  I adored their rendition of “Getta Bloomin’ Move On” or as it’s more commonly know  “The Self-Preservation Society” – I did wonder how they’d do it with the cockney accents, but they’d retained this from the original acre, layering them over the live big band music.  It was a lovely way to spend a Sunday evening.

    It looks like Birmingham Symphony Hall are showing a few other films in a similar format, including the beloved British movie Brassed Off with the Grimethorpe Colliery Band to provide the soundtrack.  Although the one I’m most excited about is  Jurassic Park with a full symphony orchestra performing John Williams’ legendary and magnificent score live.

    Birmingham, Music and Movies

    Stumbling across live music

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    I love living in a city for so many reasons, but one of which is the richness of live street art and music that you can stumble across – sometimes it’s part of a festival and sometimes it’s just because.  Last night whilst I was ambling around the city centre, trying to decide what I should do for dinner, I spotted three people setting up equipment for a gig.  It’s not uncommon to see people playing around this area in Birmingham, but usually it’s a soloist with maybe a single amp, mic and possibly a guitar; a drum kit and enough kit for a full gig is quite unusual.  That, and the make up of some of the band, made me want to stick around to find out more.  Plus, I still hadn’t decided what to have for tea.

    Unsurprisingly it turned out they were a rock band, and the man in front of me was right in his assertion they looked like they were going to be worth sticking around for. Once they’d told the group of bemused onlookers who they were, I did a quick online search and turns out StOp,sToP! have quite the following. I stuck around for a few songs, ignoring my rumbling tummy, and thoroughly enjoyed their rendition of Proud Mary in particular.

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    In a week when terrible things have happened in our fellow second city, armed police patrol the streets and trains, we’re told trauma centres are on high alert, and the country’s threat level is raised to critical, a rock band plays a free gig in Birmingham city centre. It feels ridiculous and defiant, and as the crowd sung and danced along, it felt like the right.

    Music and Movies

    Jimmy Eat World, HMV Forum, 22/6/11

    HMV Forum, London
    22nd June 2011

    Jimmy Eat World

    I’ve been trying to write a review of the Jimmy Eat World gig I went to last week but struggling.  I’ve written several attempts, but they just come off too gushing.  So, rather than try and write a straight up review, here’s my thoughts on the two albums they played in full at the gig (which was to celebrate the ten year anniversary of Bleed American being released) and the gig itself.

    I found Jimmy Eat World through Bleed American back in 2001 and along with its follow up Futures, are two of their best albums.  For some quirk, I’ve found that back catalogues never really connect as much as the gateway and subsequent albums from most bands.   So whilst I enjoy Clarity as an album, I just don’t have the affection for it that I do for Bleed American and albums since.

    That said, I do enjoy Clarity, but I just don’t identify with it as much as I do Bleed American.  It’s got some great songs.  But Lucky Denver Mint’s “You’re not bigger than this, not better why can’t you learn?” just doesn’t have the optimism that I come to expect from Jimmy, despite being a great song.  Goodbye Sky Harbour, 12.23.1995 and A Sunday all just seem to be lyrically filled with subjects not sure of themselves, but are beautifully written.  So it seemed fitting that the gig had no support band, as Clarity to felt like it took that place in the show.  The crowd knew the words, enjoyed the songs, but it felt very much like the audience got to Clarity after buying the Bleed American, so the passion and love for the songs in the first half of the show weren’t as intense at the second half.  Or maybe its just because the album itself is more relaxed, but either way performance wise, they were top notch.

    It’s probably worth mentioning that I genuinely think Bleed American is a tremendous album.  There is a great mix of upbeat, powerful anthems that most bands could only ever wish to write.  The Middle, Sweetness and A Praise Chorus are great fast-paced songs.  “I’m on my feet I’m on the floor I’m good to go, now all I need is just to hear a song I know” might be the lyrics of A Praise Chorus, but it sums up most of that album; they’re songs that once they’re on my ipod will make me run harder at the gym.  And the ones it doesn’t are the kind of slower songs which shock you into stillness with their beauty.  “A song for a heart so big God wouldn’t let it live” gets me every time I hear Hear You Me, it’s truly a captivating song.  In fact the whole album has some great lyrics, like the rousing speeches of an optimist, with lyrics which beg to be quoted in times when you’re just not that sure of yourself.  It’s a perfect album for people finding their way in life – from teenage years to mid-twenties.

    And at the show last week could you feel the intensity people hold for that album.  As the band came on for the second set of the night the backing screen went down, lighting was revealed and the change in atmosphere was palpable.  The crowd moved more for the more upbeat songs, but there was none of the obnoxiousness usually found at gigs.  Even though they were playing their hit songs, this was a show for people who adore the band and you got the feeling it was mutual, this really was a celebratory show.

    Rounding off the night with a four song encore, one of which was the superb song 23, the gig was as near to perfect as it could get.  I only hope that in three years we get to see a full run through of Futures.  And if it was a Bleed American and Futures show, that would, for me, be heaven.

    Music and Movies

    Brand New Birmingham setlist – 26/06/09

    Brand New’s set-list from the Birmingham o2 Academy.

    1. The Shower Scene.
    2. The Quiet Things.
    3. The No Seatbelt Song.
    4. Sic Transit Gloria.
    5. Okay I Believe You.
    6. Jaws Theme Swimming.
    7. Web in Front (Archers of Loaf cover)
    8. Play Crack the Sky.
    9. Gasoline.
    10. Sowing Season.
    11. Millstone.
    12. Archers.
    13. Jesus Christ.
    14. Luca.
    15. Bride.
    16. Degausser.
    17. You Won’t Know.
    18. Soco Amaretto Lime.

    *This was originally posted on my old blog BeanHeartBatman*

    Music and Movies

    Birmingham Academy is moving

    Birmingham’s Academy is finally moving. They’ve been threatening this since I started secondary school back in 1996, but it’s finally going off to the old Dome II just off from Smallbrook Queensway to some place apparently called Horse Fair. Editors play the opening night on 10th September.

    This is fantastic news. The current Academy really isn’t fit for purpose. The main room is fairly lacking in atmosphere and the two smaller rooms have incredibly bad views if you’re any further than five people back. Hopefully the new main room will have that same sense of purpose as the Wolverhampton Civic, where the stage is viewable from anywhere within the room and feels like a venue for live music – if a little too mainstream.

    The location isn’t ideal though. Sure, it’s better for students living in Selly Oak (and using the 60’s buses) but worse for the general public as it seems further out from the core city centre and public transport – particularly those coming from out of town needing the train or bus stations. And last time I was around there the pedestrian access seemed lacking, which is concerning given the amount of traffic around that area and the level of drunk people from club nights.

    But I am slightly disappointed that the new academy is essentially replacing like for like and there are no extra venues to match, say, the Manchester Academy.  There is a perception that bands get too big for the B’ham Academy but too small for the NEC/NIA and so go to Wolverhampton. In fact the Civic is the same size as the largest Academy room, the Wulfrun holds 1134 and the Little Civic holds 140. Whereas the Academy 2, old and new, holds 600 (the current one can be reduced to 400) and the Academy 3 currently holds 200 with the newer one holding 250.  So that can’t be the case, but it feels like it.

    The Wolverhampton venues also have the added advantage of being separate venues so three bands can play at once. There rarely seems to be more than one gig hapening at the current academy on an evening and when there is it seems like a real hassle. Something which doesn’t occur in Manchester or Liverpool’s Academys. Hopefully this is something they’ll rectify for the new Academy so more established bands will play in Birmingham instead of Wolves!

    *This was originally posted on my old blog BeanHeartBatman*

    Music and Movies

    Say Anything gig at the Birmingham Barfly

    Birmingham Barfly
    9th June 2008

    Real life often gets in the way of going to gigs and when it does it’s annoying. What’s more annoying is when you spend more time travelling to and from a show than the band plays on stage. Unfortunately for me, tonight was one of those nights. I spent close to two hours travelling to and from the Say Anything show, thanks to funny train timetables and Say Anything, well they played seven songs.

    I walked in as they were beginning “i can’t get laid in this town…” and the sound seemed spot on. Front-man Max Bemis’s unique singing voice seemed on fine form, but I found out afterwards that he was sick. The crowd were definitely enthused and intense and sung along, cheering loudly for “buy your own flowers, you make me feel the worlds not dead”, which Bemis sung solo.

    Still when the rest of the tour saw shows that lasted at least an hour, short even for most sets, hearing under 45-minutes of music felt like a bit of a slap in the face. The six and a half songs I heard by Say Anything were a fine reflection of the music they produce in a studio, but for such a short time on stage I have to wonder whether it was worth it at all.

    *This was originally posted on my old blog*

    Music and Movies

    Give It A Name Introduces

    19th May 2008
    Birmingham Carling Academy 2

    Fresh off the back of the Give It A Name festival, Four Year Strong, Meg and Dia, The Colour Fred and Mayday Parade were on a mission to gain further fans on a string of revolving-headliner tour dates.

    Birmingham saw Four Year Strong opening the show with headline being granted to Mayday Parade. It’s a disappointing decision as Four Year Strong’s fantastic blend of pop-punk and hardcore was well received at GIAN and the majority of the crowd seem to be here for them. Despite sound difficulties, which saw mics being pitched at three different volumes, the crowd fully integrated into the sound as back vocalists. Frenetic and fast-paced, they’re a fantastic opener and their confirmation as support to a tour in December is welcomed news.

    Contrasting the energy of FYS was Meg and Dia, a two piece clearly out of place amongst the line-up. The strong female vocals are powerful, but nestled amongst three other bands that rely heavily on volume, their sound is easily ignored. Next up was The Colour Fred, fronted unsurprisingly by Fred Masc who seemed to spend more time talking about how he had been on this very stage with his old band, Taking Back Sunday. TCF’s sound was better fitted to the Academy’s stage than an arena, but still didn’t quite pack the punch of the first band. The lengthy tales of his former band and relatively weak sound bored the remaining crowd, many of whom had left after Four Year Strong.

    I left towards the end of The Colour Fred’s set, bored and tired from a weekend spent at All Tomorrow’s Parties, but safe in the knowledge that if the GIAN festival was anything to go by, I’d already seen the band of the night – Four Year Strong.

    *This was originally posted on my old blog*