Academy 2 is one of my favourite venues in brum. There are always a few things I can guarantee will happen. One, that there will be a good sound, two, a good crowd. Tonight was no exception to the rule. As soon as I arrived, promptly at 7.30, very early for me to arrive at a gig (I’m always fashionably late, well, just late really) I was pleasantly surprised to see a good few eager gig goers.
On stage first was James Rea (pronounced Ray). Straight away it’s obvious this is one talented young man. A soulful, jazzy musician, whose clever lyrics reminded me of a brummie version of Alex Turner, someone who just talks about situations that we can all relate too – being drunk, fashion, and of course girls. A lightning quick set full of short, catchy tunes made for a good start to the night.
Of all the bands in good old Birmingham I think my favourite has to be Misty’s Big Adventure, so I apologise in advance if this review is slightly biased. From the look on the faces of the crowd when Misty’s set began I got the feeling that a lot of these people had not seen them before – pity, you’re in for a treat. Opening with “the long conveyor belt”, you are immediately uplifted by the band, to a land of nursery rhyme melodies that must unconsciously remind you of being in your mother’s womb, as they put you in a state of peace and happiness. But behind these chirpy melodies and arrangements lies more serious lyrics spoken out to us through the deep, granddad like voice of “Grandmaster Gareth”. His lyrics offer a wry commentary on the everyday life, with each song letting you see the world through the Grandmaster’s eyes. Live, they are a must, performing like a well oiled machine – slick stuff.
After Misty’s have left the stage, out come the techies to prepare for the next act, one of these tech men looks familiar, and with my keen eye I realise that it’s Mark Morriss. Dressed in a red boiler suit with technician written on the back, prescription glasses, fake moustache and farmer’s hat, Mark is in disguise, checking out the crowd. A few minutes later he returns in more suitable attire with his acoustic guitar. Opening with a song called “Digging a Hole”, hush falls over the crowd. Unfortunately this doesn’t last as people begin to lose interest. Silence returns as he plays a few Bluetones songs and a cover by Teenage Fan Club. I think his new material would have come across better if he had a full band supporting him, but I do understand it must be difficult to keep everyone’s attention if its just you and a guitar. In-between songs Mark would chat to the crowd, and at this Mark was brilliant, getting a few laughs and keeping everyone involved in the gig. To mine and the audience’s surprise Mark ended the set with a cover of the Girls Aloud song “Call the Shots”, and it sounded pretty darn good. Mark’s new single “I’m sick” is out May 19th.
Headliners Dodgy, including original band members Nigel Clarke, Matthew Priest, Andy Miller, and Richard Payne are accompanied on stage by two blokes playing the sax and trumpet (sorry don’t know their names). It’s been eleven years since the band have performed together in Birmingham, but from the first song “In a Room” this wouldn’t be apparent. They sound great, and I especially liked the three part harmonies, something that’s not heard enough any more. This a band full of talented musicians playing well crafted songs, and the crowd seem happy about their return, singing along to all the biggies.
Lead singer, Nigel was perfectly aware of the age of their fan base as he made a joke about most of the crowd probably having kids by now. As someone who wasn’t a Dodgy fan back in the early nineties (due to my age), I didn’t appreciate the gig as much as the rest of the audience. I found that all of their songs went on for far too long, and I began to get a bit bored – maybe that’s just my sort attention span. Stand out tracks included “Good Enough” and “Staying out for the Summer”.
It’s obvious that there are people who want to see this band, but in my opinion they didn’t offer anything new – all the material seemed very dated. They are a talented bunch of lads, so maybe they should try and create something new, or are they just jumping on the bandwagon of old acts reforming?
Review – Sean Woodlock
Photos – Lucy Pryor