Marc Almond’s icing on autumn tour cake is to add York Barbican gig on October 21

“I can’t wait to get back on stage,” says Marc Almond

TORCH singer Marc Almond is adding an October 21 concert at York Barbican to his rearranged autumn tour.

“The fans have been so understanding and patient through the endless rescheduling due to the pandemic but now we have confirmed these dates I can’t wait to get back on stage,” says Almond, 64, who made his name with Leeds synth-pop duo Soft Cell in the 1980s.

Tickets go on sale tomorrow (27/5/2022) at 10am at yorkbarbican.co.uk for Almond’s first solo appearance there since his Hits And Pieces 60th birthday tour in March 2017. He last sang at York Barbican as a special guest at Jools Holland and His Rhythm & Blues Orchestra’s November 2018 show.

The poster artwork for Marc Almond In Concert, his autumn tour

For the first time, Almond will perform songs from his March 2020 top 20 album Chaos And A Dancing Star, complemented by favourites from his extensive catalogue and his biggest hits, such as Tainted Love and Say Hello, Wave Goodbye. He is sure to have surprises up his sleeve too.

Meanwhile, Soft Cell are enjoying top ten success with their first studio album in 20 years, Happiness Not Included, featuring their Pet Shop Boys collaboration, Purple Zone.

Almond’s career spans more than four decades, bringing him 35 million record sales, a BRIT Award, an Ivor Novello Inspiration Award in 2013 and an OBE in the 2018 New Year Honours for his services to arts and culture.

REVIEW: Jools Holland & His Rhythm & Blues Orchestra, York Barbican, 5/11/2021

Jools Holland: No Friday fry-up at Wackers, but a feast of a blues, ska and boogie-woogie set with Chris Difford, Lulu and Ruby Turner at full power at York Barbican

JAUNTY Jools Holland loves York. One of his favourite gigs, one of his favourite places, he says, as he makes his dapper way to the grand piano.

“Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he”, you might sneer, “he’s just playing to the crowd”. Let CharlesHutchPress know if he uttered the same sentiment at Harrogate Conference Centre tonight!

The thing is, Londoner Jools does love York, and in particular he loves the pensioner’s meal deal with a free cup of tea at Wackers. Except that, on arrival, he discovered his favourite fish and chip joint was no more; the chips were down, permanently; another sad change since he last toured pre-pandemic.

He cheered, we cheered, he shouted, we shouted, as he played the chirpy ringmaster once more, introducing his speciality acts, bantering to and fro with the full house, and revelling in the company of his restored rhythm and blues orchestra.

After all those Covid months of cobwebbed closure and silent nights, the sight of a stage stuffed to the gills with brilliant players brought joy uncontained to a Barbican gathering that was up for a party from the off.

To one side were Jools’s brother, Christopher, beneath a natty hat on keyboards, guitarist Mark Flanagan and stand-up bassist Dave Swift. Squeezed in at the back was Gilson Lavis, as imperturbable as the late Charlie Watts, on drums.

To the other side was a multi-storey horn section, and to misappropriate the style of a certain Christmas Carol: on the fifth day of November, York-loving Jools gave to us: three trumpet players, three trombones, five gold saxophones. Forever on the move, in the swing, they urged each other on, enjoying each solo spotlight as much as the audience.

In the middle, pulling the strings, was Jools. Oh, and yes, sir, he can boogie, boogie woogie, all night long, or more precisely from 8.20pm to 10.07pm, on his piano. A big screen showed his flying fingers in close-up and the cut of his dandy tailoring too.

That screen combined graphics with live footage, opening with the image of theatre curtains, later showing photographs of Holland, Lavis and special guest Chris Difford in Squeeze days.

Jools plugged his new lockdown album Pianola. Piano & Friends – out on November 19 on Warner Music – most notably for the irresistibly perky, fabulously funky single Do The Boogie, co-written with Mousse T, and when filling in for Tom Jones’s vocal on the soulful Forgive Me. Morris Dance, an instrumental homage to his dog of that name, was a blast too.

The vocalists kept a’coming: tour regulars Louise Marshall and Lucita Jules; then Chris Difford, immaculate in a blue suit, white shirt and scholarly specs, with a deliciously dry-humoured line in anecdotes.

Take Me I’m Yours acquired ska trim, a 1974 Difford-Holland composition was aired for the first time, and a big-band Cool For Cats ended with Difford clouded in dry ice as he recalled Cliff Richard’s propensity for doing likewise whenever he shared the Top Of The Pops studio with Squeeze. “I thought he had no legs,” deadpanned Difford, newly tagged “Cliff Difford” by Jools as he departed.

From The Selecter’s Pauline Black to Marc Almond to Beth Rowley, Jools has had a canny knack of picking just the right vocalists for framing their songs in ska, blues and brass-powered settings. To that list now add Marie McDonald McLaughlin Lawrie.

Yes, enter Lulu, now 73, all in black, even for the darkest of dark glasses, for an unnamed opening shot of the blues and a quick dig at British music for being “wet” before The Beatles before a knock-out version of Ray Charles’s Hit The Road Jack. Glasses off, how else she could she finish but with her teen anthem. Well, you know, you make her wanna Shout. Come on now, who didn’t join in, hands jumping, heart’s bumping? We all did!

How could Jools top that? It must be time for blues royalty, Ruby, Ruby, Ruby. Here comes Ruby Turner, first warming up with a couple of looseners, then hitting her stride in I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free, and then…the moment. Ruby Turner overdrive, as she reached for gospel glory in Peace In The Valley, waking up the entire neighbourhood. The Barbican rocked, the earth moved, time for a breather.

Of course the triple-decker encore had to have the obligatory Enjoy Yourself as the meat in Jools’s sandwich. The years may be going by as quickly as you wink, but how good it felt to still be in the pink on a Friday night in York, as the fireworks went off all around us in the night sky as we departed.

Review by Charles Hutchinson

Jools Holland & His Rhythm & Blues Orchestra play Leeds First Direct Arena on December 17; doors, 6.30pm. Box office: firstdirectarena.com.

More Things To Do in and around York as Wuthering Heights goes ‘camp folk musical’. List No. 56, courtesy of The Press

Carr double: Jimmy Carr to play both York Barbican and Grand Opera House

Charles Hutchinson fishes out No Such Thing As A Fish and plenty more besides to hook you in.

Two bites at the cherry of sceptical comedy: Jimmy Carr: Terribly Funny, York Barbican, tonight, 8pm; Grand Opera House, York, Tuesday, 8pm

JIMMY Carr will be playing York twice inside a week on his rescheduled Terribly Funny tour, visiting both the Barbican and Grand Opera House.

The host of Channel 4’s The Friday Night Project and 8 Out Of 10 Cats will be discussing terrible things that might have affected you or people you know and love. “But they’re just jokes,” Carr says. “They are not the terrible things.” 

Having political correctness at a comedy show is like having health and safety at a rodeo, he asserts. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk or atgtickets.com/york. 

Jools Holland: Back at the piano with his orchestra in York and Harrogate

National treasure shows of the week: Jools Holland and His Rhythm & Blues Orchestra, York Barbican, tomorrow, 7.30pm; Harrogate Convention Centre, Saturday, doors, 7pm

PIANIST, bandleader and ringmaster Jools Holland is joined by his 19-piece orchestra for the 2021 autumn tour of his long-running celebration of ska, boogie-woogie and the blues.

The Later presenter, 63, will be welcoming regular vocalists Ruby Turner and Louise Marshall, plus special guest Chris Difford, his former compadre in Squeeze. Lulu is in with a Shout of a guest spot too. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk or harrogatetheatre.co.uk.

Bella Gaffney: Down by the river on new single Black Water. Picture: Esme Mai

Folk gig of the week: Bella Gaffney, York St John University Theatre, Saturday, 7.45pm

BORN in Bradford and educated in Nottingham, singer-songwriter Bella Gaffney now lives in York, performing both in The Magpies trio and solo.

Combining her folk-inspired compositions with her original arrangements of traditional pieces, Bella has a new album on its way in 2022 funded by Arts Council England and York charity Doing It For Liam.

Listen out for the single Black Water, a lockdown-inspired homage to the River Wharfe and its power to connect Bella to family and friends miles away. Katie Spencer supports on a bill promoted by The Crescent in a new venture with York St John. Box office: ticketweb.uk.

Russell Watson: Delighted to be performing again after the lockdowns, singing in York on a Sunday afternoon

Matinee idol of the week: Russell Watson, 20th Anniversary Of The Voice, York Barbican, Sunday, 3pm

REARRANGED from October 9 2020, Salford tenor Russell Watson’s 20th anniversary celebration of his debut album The Voice will be a Sunday afternoon performance.

Watson will be joined by a choir for a matinee concert featuring such favourites as Caruso, O Sole Mio, Il Gladiatore, Nessun Dorma, You Are So Beautiful, Someone To Remember Me and Faith Of The Heart. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

York Musical Theatre Company singers Cat Foster, left, Richard Bayton, Helen Spencer, John Haigh, Henrietta Linnemann and Rachel Higgs step out for Hooray For Hollywood

Escapist nostalgia of the week: York Musical Theatre in Hooray For Hollywood, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, Monday to Wednesday, 7.30pm

DEVISED by director Paul Laidlaw, York Musical Theatre Company’s Hooray For Hollywood celebrates songs from Tinseltown’s golden age of the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s. No

Laidlaw’s slick and sophisticated six-hander show stars Cat Foster, Rachel Higgs, Henrietta Linnemann, Helen Spencer, Richard Bayton and John Haigh, who will be evoking the days of Fred Astaire, Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland and Bing Crosby. Box office: josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk or on 01904 501935.

The tour poster for No Such Thing As A Fish, full to the gills with facts at the Grand Opera House, York

Podcast transfer of the week: No Such Thing As A Fish, Nerd Immunity, Grand Opera House, York, Monday, 8pm

SUITABLE for “anyone with a thirst for knowledge, a taste for puns and a need for belly-laughs”, the weekly British podcast series No Such Thing As A Fish is presented by the geeky researchers behind the BBC Two panel game QI: James Harkin, Andrew Hunter Murray, Anna Ptaszynski and Dan Schreiber.

Now, “the QI elves” are on their first tour since 2019, revealing favourite unbelievable facts in their Nerd Immunity live show. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

Ash Hunter as Heathcliff and Lucy McCormick as Cathy in Wise Children’s Wuthering Heights at York Theatre Royal

World premiere of the week in York: Emma Rice’s Wise Children in Wuthering Heights, York Theatre Royal, Tuesday to November 20

EMMA Rice’s Wise Children teams up with the National Theatre, York Theatre Royal and Bristol Old Vic for Rice’s folk musical, robustly visual account of Emily Bronte’s Yorkshire moorland novel.

Lucy McCormick plays Cathy in this epic story of love, revenge and redemption, now infused, according to the Guardian review, with “unfaithful storytelling”, pastiche, comedy and a “raging camp” tone. Interesting! Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Close, but no cigar: Omid Djalili takes the mic in The Good Times

What better time for The Good Times: Omid Djalili, Grand Opera House, York, Wednesday, 8pm

AFTER experimenting with a Zoom gig where he was muted by 639 people, British-Iranian comedian, actor, television producer, presenter, voice actor and writer Omid Djalili is back where he belongs:  bringing The Good Times to the stage.

Expect intelligent, provocative, fast-talking, boundlessly energetic comedic outbursts rooted in cultural observations, wherein Djalili explores the diversity of modern Britain. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

Kristin Hersh: Electric lady lands in York next spring

Newly confirmed for 2022: Kristin Hersh Electric Trio, The Crescent, York, April 24, 7.30pm

THROWING Muses co-founder Kristin Hersh will return to The Crescent with her Electric Trio, featuring Throwing Muses bass player Fred Abong and drummer Rob Ahlers, from her other band, 50 Foot Wave.

In store is a loud, tight and intense set of material spread across singer and multi-instrumentalist Hersh’s 30-year career that saw Throwing Muses deliver their latest indie rock album, Sun Racket, in September 2020. Ahlers will open the gig in a solo showcase for his album Yellow Throat. Box office: thecrescentyork.com.

Hollie McNish: Sold-out Say Owt gig on Wednesday

Recommended but sold out already:

SOUL singer Gabrielle’s Rise Again Tour show at York Barbican on Wednesday; poet and author Hollie McNish, hosted by York’s spoken-word crew Say Owt, at The Crescent, York, on Wednesday.

Kevin Poeung as Merlin in Northern Ballet’s Merlin. Picture: Caroline Holden

World premiere of the week outside York: Northern Ballet in Merlin, Leeds Grand Theatre, Tuesday to November 20

OLIVIER Award-winning choreographer Drew McOnie makes his Northern Ballet debut with the epic adventure of Merlin, the world’s most famous sorcerer, who must discover how to master his magic to unite a warring kingdom. Cue heartbreak, humour and more than a little magic. 

McOnie is working with the Leeds company after choreographing King Kong on Broadway and Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom The Musical. Box office: 0113 243 0808 or at leedsheritagetheatres.com.

REVIEW, 10/11/2021: Northern Ballet in Merlin, Leeds Grand Theatre ***

DREW McOnie’s dazzling direction of Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom The Musical at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in 2016 whetted the appetite for his debut for fellow Leeds company Northern Ballet.

In his first full-length ballet, the Portsmouth-born Olivier Award winner applies his choreographic prowess to the world premiere of Merlin, an epic fantasy adventure, very definitely for a family audience, that would have benefited from being staged in the upcoming holiday season.

Merlin may be billed as “the world’s most famous sorcerer”, but the story that unfolds here needs recourse to Page 4 and 5 of the programme to peruse The Story – At A Glance to be assured wholly of who’s who and what’s what in what Northern Ballet artistic director David Nixon calls “this magical tale with a heart-warming family narrative”.

In a nutshell, “an otherworldly ritual brings with it two mighty Gods. Their union creates an orb that falls to earth and reveals a baby within: Merlin. A young Blacksmith (Minju Kang) finds this helpless child, adopting him in as her own.”

Hence the family appeal of a coming-of-age story with fleet-footed, nimble Kevin Poeung in the role of blossoming wizard Merlin discovering how to use his magical powers to unite the warring kingdom.

The importance of family – in this case Merlin being raised by a strong, principled single mum – provides the everyday beating heart of McOnie’s Merlin, albeit that power struggles and romance are the more obvious headline-making material here.

Northern Ballet go for the epic scale to excite younger audiences drawn to Harry Potter, Star Wars and the Tolkien films: cue sword fights, puppets for a smoke-billowing dragon and wild dogs, and an Excalibur that lights up in the manner of a Jedi lightsabre.

Colin Richmond’s golden set designs are spectacular, even magical, and of course there is magic in the show, but CharlesHutchPress did not find McOnie’s production wholly magical, despite the performances of Antoinette Brooks-Daw’s Morgan, Javier Torres’s Vortigern and Abigail Prudames’ Lady of the Lake.

McOnie has made his name in musical theatre, an artform that comes with narrative in song and book, but dance must fill in the gaps, and the storytelling is not this Merlin’s strongest suit, for all the zest of Grant Olding’s music and the panache of McOnie’s modern choreography, allied to classical steps.

Review by Charles Hutchinson

Imelda May to follow up Friday’s 11 Past The Hour album with York Barbican gig in 2022

“I cannot wait to see you all again, to dance and sing together, to connect and feel the sparkle in a room where music makes us feel alive,” says Imelda May. Roll on next April

IRISH singer-songwriter and poet Imelda May will play York Barbican on April 6 2022 in the only Yorkshire show of her first major UK tour in more than five years.

Meanwhile, May and April will unite on Friday (16/4/2021) when the 46-year-old Dubliner releases her sixth studio album, 11 Past The Hour, on Decca Records.

Tickets for May’s 12-date Made To Love Tour next spring will go on general sale on April 23 at 10am at yorkbarbican.co.uk, gigsandtours.com and ticketmaster.co.uk and on 0203 356 5441.

“I cannot wait to see you all again, to dance and sing together, to connect and feel the sparkle in a room where music makes us feel alive and elevated for a while,” says Imelda. “A magical feeling we can only get from live music. Let’s go!”

Imelda May’s new album, 11 Past The Hour, is out on Friday

On a record that “brims with sensuality, emotional intelligence, spirituality and intuition, marking a new chapter for Imelda and showcasing her at her most authentic”, May collaborates with Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood, Noel Gallagher, Miles Kane and Niall McNamee.

Feminist thinkers and activists Gina Martin and Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu make inspired contributions too to an album that adds up to “an invigorating blast of rock’n’roll with a purpose”.

Born and raised in The Liberties area of Dublin, May – real name Imelda Mary Higham – was discovered by boogie-woogie pianist Jools Holland, who asked her to tour with him.

She has since performed duets with U2, Lou Reed, Sinead O’Connor, Robert Plant, Van Morrison, Jack Savoretti and Elvis Costello and has featured on albums and live tours with Jeff Beck, Jeff Goldblum and Ronnie Wood.

Branching out into poetry: Imelda May’s 2020 EP, Slip Of The Tongue

May last played York Barbican in May 2017 in support of her T-Bone Burnett-produced Top Five album, the post break-up record Life. Love. Flesh. Blood, and previously performed there in November 2011, two years on from a show at The Duchess in her bequiffed retro-rockabilly Love Tattoo days.

Not only a singer and songwriter but also a multi-instrumentalist, equally adept on  bodhrán, guitar, bass guitar and tambourine, last year she added another string to her bow: poetry.

Last June, in the cauldron of the 2020 Black Lives Matter movement, she released You Don’t Get To Be Racist And Irish, a sentiment adopted subsequently by the Irish government’s ReThink Ireland campaign on billboard display.

This was followed in October by the reflective nine-poem Slip Of The Tongue EP, set to an uplifting soundscape as May addressed such themes as home and love, feminism, the harsh realities of life, defiance, lovelorn longing and escapism.

Now comes 11 Past The Hour, to be followed by next April’s tour, for which VIP packages, including access to soundcheck and a Q&A with May, are available.  Eager fans can secure exclusive access to a presale for the tour when they pre-order the new album from May’s store at imeldamay.tmstor.es.

What was Charles Hutchinson’s verdict when Imelda May played York Barbican on May 16 2017?

Imelda May: “The blues, rock, soul and gospel-singing, mature May is a cut above the more derivative, bouncier, boom-boom past”

WHEN else would Imelda May tour but in May, when every day is a May day, 17 dates in all this month on the Irish pocket dynamo’s first British travels in three years.

“It’s been a while,” said the 42-year-old Dubliner, reintroducing herself to a pleasingly full York Barbican crowd for the first time since November 2011. “Thank you very much for sticking with me and turning up tonight.”

Much has changed in that time. Imelda ditched the rockabilly look and sound last sported on 2014’s Tribal album; her 18-year marriage to guitarist Darrel Higham ended; she turned 40; she gave herself permission to find new love; she allowed her spectacular voice full range in her song-writing for the first time since hit single Johnny Got A Boom Boom steered her down Retro Avenue.

The artwork for Imelda May’s 2017 album Life. Love. Flesh. Blood

All this is reflected in her post break-up March album, Life. Love. Flesh. Blood, whose every song – even from the deluxe edition – was in Tuesday’s setlist, bolstered by a couple of Sixties covers (The Animals, The Shangri-Las) and a smattering of May oldies. That’s confidence for you, and one met approvingly by an audience of Imelda’s age and upwards who had in turn experienced Life. Love. Flesh. Blood.

Dressed in black, down to her ankle boots, with hair designed to a Chrissie Hynde template, Imelda began seated as if in a scene from the musical Chicago, she and guitarist Oliver Darling picked out by spotlights for Call Me: the album opener that announces the blues, rock, soul and gospel-singing, mature May is a cut above the more derivative, bouncier, boom-boom past.

Stage lit warmly by nine copper-toned lamps, May fronted a wonderfully responsive band, the guitars and Al Gare’s double bass complemented by saxophone and trumpet, as she sang from and to the heart, with Black Tears, The Longing and The Girl I Used To Be particular highs. The girl she used to be is still there, but the 2017 Imelda May is flowering in fullest bloom.

Review copyright of The Press, York