Jools Holland to play York Barbican with Marc Almond and blues guitarist Toby Lee. First up, swing album with Rod Stewart

Jools Holland: Returning to York Barbican in December

BOOGIE WOOGIE pianist Jools Holland will make his annual trip to York Barbican with his Rhythm & Blues Orchestra on his autumn/winter 2024 tour.

Joining Jools on December 11 will be two special guests: Soft Cell and Marc & The Mambas singer Marc Almond and blues guitar prodigy Toby Lee.

Starting on October 31, the tour will take in 30 shows, including further Yorkshire gigs at Sheffield City Hall on November 23 and Leeds First Direct Arena on December 20. Tickets will go on sale on Friday (2/2/2024) at 10am at ticketmaster.co.uk.

Marc Almond: Special guest. Picture: Mike Owen

Holland last appeared at York Barbican on December 20 2023; Almond previously joined him on that stage in November 2018.   

Guitarist Lee, described by Joe Bonamassa as a “future superstar of the blues”, first came to public attention aged ten when he posted a Get Well Soon jam for BB King that went viral with five million views in one week.

Since then, Lee has performed in West End productions, winning Olivier and UK Blues Awards and showcasing his skills in television and live performances around the world.

Blues guitarist Toby Lee

Once more, Holland’s autumn and winter shows will feature vocal solo spots for blues queen Ruby Turner, Louise Marshall and Sumudu Jayatilaka.

More immediately, Holland’s collaboration with Rod Stewart, Swing Fever, will be released on East West Records on February 23. Recorded with his Rhythm & Blues Orchestra at Jools’s Greenwich studio, this new partnership in swing revels in a 13-track salute to songs of the big band era.

The track listing will be: Lullaby Of Broadway; Oh Marie; Sentimental Journey; Pennies From Heaven; Night Train; Love Is The Sweetest Thing; Them There Eyes; Good Rockin’ Tonight; Ain’t Misbehavin’; Frankie And Johnny; Walkin’ My Baby Back Home; Almost Like Being In Love and Tennessee Waltz.

The cover artwork for Swing Fever, the February 23 album by Rod Stewart with Jools Holland and his Rhythm & Blues Orchestra

Suit you, sir! The Fast Show team and their catchphrases are reuniting for York-bound 30th anniversary spring tour. Scorchio!

The tour poster for An Evening With The Fast Show, booked into the Grand Opera House, York, this spring

THE Fast Show stars are reuniting for a 30th anniversary tour. The Grand Opera House, York, awaits Charlie Higson, Paul Whitehouse, Simon Day, John Thomson, Arabella Weir and Mark Williams on March 19 at 7.30pm.

Tickets go on sale at 10am tomorrow at atgtickets.com/york for An Evening With The Fast Show, whose 15-date itinerary takes in a second Yorkshire  gig at Sheffield City Hall on March 25 (tickets: sheffieldcityhall.co.uk) .  

The quickfire sketch show first aired on BBC Two on September 27 1994 and ran for three series until 1997 with the late Caroline Aherne as part of the cast. Special editions ensued, such as the three-part The Last Fast Show Ever in 2000, and tours were staged in 1998 and 2002.

An Evening With The Fast Show will provide a behind-the-scenes insight into the award-winning comedy’s favourite characters and catchphrases as they come alive anew on stage.

The cast will discuss how it all began, how they made the TV show and created the characters, and the fun they had doing it. This will be interspersed with performances of some of their best-loved sketches, monologues and songs, with on-screen inserts and a moment to remember former collaborator Aherne, who died in 2016.

Fans can expect the return of such favourites as Ted & Ralph, Jesse, Swiss Toni, Does My Bum Look Big In This?, Dave Angel, Jazz Club, The Suit You Tailors, Ron Manager, The Mad Painter, Rowley Birkin, Bob Fleming, Competitive Dad, Professor Denzil Dexter and The Girl Who Boys Can’t Hear.

Looking forward to reassembling on stage for the first time in 20 years, Higson says: “Taking The Fast Show out on tour is very much like making love to a beautiful woman.”

Robert Plant’s Saving Grace to play Harrogate Royal Hall and Sheffield City Hall on Never Ending Spring 2024 tour

The Never Ending Spring tour poster for Robert Plant’s Saving Grace

ROBERT Plant’s Saving Grace will play Harrogate Royal Hall on April 30 on their 15-date spring and summer tour.

The erstwhile Led Zeppelin singer and lyricist, now 75, will lead the folk, Americana and blues co-operative featuring Suzi Dian (vocals), Oli Jefferson (percussion), Tony Kelsey (mandolin, baritone, acoustic guitar, and Matt Worley (banjo, acoustic/baritone guitars, cuatro).

On the road from March 13 to July 24, Saving Grace’s Never Ending Spring itinerary will take in a second Yorkshire show at Sheffield City Hall on March 27. Tour tickets go on sale on Friday (19/1/2024) at 10am at gigsandtours.com and ticketmaster.co.uk; Harrogate, 01423 502116 or harrogatetheatre.co.uk; Sheffield, sheffieldcityhall.co.uk.

Premiered by Plant in February 2019 in a gig near the English-Welsh border, Saving Grace’s repertoire is “inspired by the dreamscape of the Welsh Marches”

Robert Plant and Suzi Dian up front performing with Saving Grace

Plant and co had been booked to headline the Platform Festival at The Old Station, Pocklington, in July 2020 until the pandemic intervened. They did, however, perform at the Grand Opera House, York, on April 16 2022.

Joining the 2024 tour, as he did on Saving Grace’s sold-out November 2023 travels, will be special guest Taylor McCall. The completely self-taught South Carolina be singer, songwriter and musician has garnered nearly 30 million plays to with his songs Jericho Rose, Quartermaster and Waccamaw Drive.

Building on his 2021 debut album Black Powder Soul, McCall’s follow-up, Mellow War, will be released on February 2.

Robert Plant’s Saving Grace will appear at the Royal Albert Hall, London, as part of Ovation – A Celebration of 24 Years of Gigs for Teenage Cancer Trust on March 24, alongside Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, Kelly Jones, Eddie Vedder and Paul Weller. Tickets are available at www.teenagecancertrust.org/gigs.

Kate Rusby heralds Christmas tour with York Barbican opening night and Light Years album as she turns festive 50

Kate Rusby: Playing Yorkshire concerts in York, Bradford and Sheffield on her Christmas tour. Picture: David Angel

BARNSLEY folk nightingale Kate Rusby marks turning 50 on Monday with the release of her seventh Christmas album, Light Years, and an accompanying tour that opens at York Barbican on Thursday (7/12/2023).

In the company of her regular band, coupled with the added warmth of “the Brass Boys”, Kate combines carols still sung in South Yorkshire pubs with her winter songs and favourite Christmas chestnuts, whether It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year or a seamless mash-up of Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree and Sleigh Ride. As ever, look out for the festive fancy dress finale.

Here Kate shines a light on Light Years, Yorkshire pub carols and Christmas festivities in discussion with CharlesHutchPress.

How did you approach making your seventh Christmas album, Kate? Were you looking to add new elements to your successful format?

“Light Years has the sound and feel of my last two ‘normal’ albums, Hand Me Down (August 2020)  and 30: Happy Returns (May 2022). I’m loving experimenting with sounds, Moogs, layered banjos, low subs, effects etc, all things we have to hand these days as I’m blessed to have the most brilliant musicians around me.

“Produced by superbly talented Damien O’Kane [Kate’s husband, by the way], whose stunning playing also grounds each track musically. These are sounds I have wanted to achieve for so many years of my recording/touring career and finally at the age of 50 we’ve achieved that sound on a Christmas album. Happy birthday to me!”

How come you have made so many Christmas albums, whereas Michael Buble keeps re-releasing one?! 

“Ha! I have the whole treasure chest of South Yorkshire carols to delve into! There are so, so many to go at, with over 30 different versions of just While Shepherds Watched sung in pubs every winter. Don’t tell Michael though!”

What were the circumstances behind writing Glorious, perhaps the most glorious title you could give a winter song?

 “Glorious was written by me one cold February evening, after standing in my garden, snow-laden trees and warm glow of the evening sun illuminating only half of the world. While it was so still and beautiful, I was longing for spring and for the daylight to return.

“As I stood there an image of a lost and broken angel appeared in my head, just sitting there in one of the trees, wandering and waiting to heal and return from where he came. And so the song was born. I can’t wait to do this song live!”

Happy 50th birthday on Monday, Kate. You must have been delighted at having the early birthday present of Alison Krauss and Ron Block working with you on The Moon Shines Bright. How did that recording come to fruition and why that choice of song?

“Thank you! I’ve been celebrating all week and intend to for the rest of the month! The Moon Shines Bright features Alison’s gorgeous singing and Ron’s singing and string banjo; they’re both musical heroes of mine.

“I first sung it back when I was 15 as part of a theatre production of The Mystery Plays, and the song stayed with me all these years. The year after, when I was 16, my dad was a sound engineer working at Edale Bluegrass Festival.

“I was sat beside him when on to the stage came Alison Krauss and Union Station, including Ron Block, who still plays banjo, guitar and sings with Alison after all these years. I was completely blown away and my love of bluegrass began there.

“I’ve been a fan of Alison and Ron for all these years and Ron has become a dear friend and recorded on my last few albums, so it feels like we’ve completed a circle somehow, and needless to say, it’s such an honour and a dream come true to have Alison sing with us. Again, happy birthday me!”

What drew you to A Spaceman Came Travelling: Chris de Burgh’s 1975 gem of a Christmas song that failed to chart in the UK but topped the Irish chart?

“I went on a little road trip with my older cousin (now a brilliant artist called Marie Mills, check her out!). She had Chris de Burgh cassettes in her car, so we listened to his music all weekend. It was the first time I’d heard his music and really loved it.

“Since the first of my Christmas albums I’ve wanted to do a version of Spaceman but it never quite fitted in with the rest of the album…until now.”

The snowy cover for Kate Rusby’s seventh Christmas album, Light Years. Artwork design by Martin Roswell at Simply Marvellous

Where did you discover the Chris Sugden (aka Sid Kipper) parody Arrest These Merry Gentlemen?

“Chris was one half of a folk comedy duo called The Kipper Family, a parody in itself of the famous folk family The Copper Family. They were absolutely hilarious! They wrote parodies of famous folk songs so everyone in the audience at festivals got the jokes.

“Chris later went on to do solo gigs as Sid Kipper, again, totally hilarious. I was brought up at folk festivals as my dad was a sound engineer so we went to many every summer. I’d heard Arrest These Merry Gentlemen way back then, and also The Ivy And The Holly, which we covered on an earlier album. I love them both and love to be introducing his songs to people who’ve never heard them. He’s a proper genius!” 

Always room for another version of While Shepherds Watched! What’s the story behind Rusby Shepherds on the new album?

“There has been at least one version on each one of my Christmas albums. I was deciding which version to put on this one when I accidentally wrote a new tune for it! So I called it Rusby Shepherds, so there’s one more now!” 

Aside from songs and Carols from Light Years, what will be new in the latest round of Kate Rusby At Christmas concerts?

“We have a new set design this year, I can’t wait to see it all on stage for the first gig in York. I know what it is and have seen elements of it, so I’m really excited to see it in situ. It’s going to be so beautiful.” 

What will be the band line-up for this winter’s tour?

“My lovely, brilliant gang of band, brass and crew! Damien O’Kane, guitars, electric guitars, tenor guitar, electric tenor, banjo and vocals. Duncan Lyall, double bass and Moog synthesiser. Nick Cooke, accordions and electric guitar. Josh Clark, percussion and drums.

“Sam Kelly is with us for Christmas for the first time; he’s been in my regular band for a couple of years and we’re pleased to have him along for the Christmas tour this year on bouzouki, guitar, electric guitar and vocals. And of course my lovely brass lads, Gary Wyatt, Mike Levis, Chris Howlings, Robin Taylor and Lee Clayson.

“The most amazing crew is behind us all making sure it all sounds and looks beautiful and that it all happens as smoothly as it can. Alison Povey, Pete Sharman, Zak Nicholson, Harry Le Masurier, David Bower and Asa Duke. I’m blessed to have each and every one of these marvellous humans with me on tour.” 

Roast turkey or goose for the Rusby-O’Kane household on Christmas Day?

“Ooh, now then, we’ve had a goose for so many years but last year we went back to having a turkey from a local farmer, as was the goose, but we loved it so much we’re going turkey again this year. With all the trimmings, including Yorkshire puds gravies, bread sauce etc.”

Which album would you recommend giving as a Christmas present this year?

“Damien O’Kane and Ron Block’s latest album, Banjophonics. I may be a little biased but it’s sunshine in a bottle music. Just what we need in these murky winter days!”

Kate Rusby: Light Years Christmas Tour, York Barbican, Thursday (7/12/2023), 7.30pm. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk. Also playing St George’s Hall, Bradford, December 8 (01274 432000 or bradford-theatres.co.uk) and Sheffield City Hall, December 14 (0114 256 5593 or sheffieldcityhall.co.uk) . Light Years is out now on Pure Records.

Track listing for Light Years: 1. Spean; 2. Glorious; 3. It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year; 4. Rusby Shepherds; 5. The Moon Shines Bright (feat. Alison Krauss & Ron Block); 6. Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree/Sleigh Ride; 7. Nowell, Nowell; 8. Arrest These Merry Gentlemen; 9. A Spaceman Came Travelling; 10. Nothin’ For Christmas; 11. Joseph.

Holly Head: Kate Rusby in Christmas headgear on the cover of her 2019 album of South Yorkshire pub carols and winter songs

South Yorkshire pub carols: the back story

FOR Kate Rusby, abiding memories of childhood at Christmas are full of carols in the tap room of many a Yorkshire pub, surrounded by family, community, warmth, happiness, colouring books and crisps.

The tradition of singing carols in South Yorkshire pubs grew out of the original versions being banished from churches by the pious Victorians, their “happier tunes deemed too raucous for choirs”. Instead, they moved to pubs to accompany the beer, the banter and the bunting.

Carols are sung from the weekend after Armistice Day to New Year’s Day. Colloquially known as the Sheffield Carols, they will be sung in the Steel City this winter at The Sportsman, Redmires Road, on Mondays; the Crown and Glove, Stannington, Tuesdays; The Stocks, Ecclesfield, Thursdays; The Travellers Rest, Oughtibridge, Saturdays; and The Royal, Dungworth, The Blue Ball, Worrall, and The Wharncliffe Arms, Wharncliffe Side, on Sundays.

Ross Noble ready to improvise on Jibber Jabber Jamboree jovial jaunt in York

In his natural habitat: Ross Noble looks forward to a Jibber Jabber Jamboree night of improvised comedy at the Grand Opera House, York, on Wednesday

FREEWHEELING Geordie comic Ross Noble will spin his web of nonsensical improvised comedy on his return to the Grand Opera House, York, on Wednesday (15/11/2023).

“It will be a playful experience for young and old,” he says. “Imagine watching someone create a magic carpet on an enchanted loom. Oh, hang on… magic carpets fly, that would smash the loom as it took flight. I haven’t thought that through…That’s what people can expect. Razor-sharp observations on things I haven’t thought through.”

Ross, who cut his teenage comedy teeth in York compering Comedy Shack gigs at the Bonding Warehouse, is settling into his 21st stand-up tour, talking genial Geordie gibberish on his Jibber Jabber Jamboree itinerary from October 25 to March 17 2024.

“I’ve got significantly better hotel accommodation,” says the Newcastle surrealist, reflecting on the contrast with his first tour. “That’s the main thing. Also, there are people coming to see me now who came with their parents when they were kids. That messes with your head a little bit.

“I still think of myself as being like 22 or 23 years old, and now I’ve got grown men going, ‘I saw you when I was 15. And now I’m a professional comedian’. Not even people going, ‘I want to be a comedian’ – like actual, established performers.” 

Does that make Ross an elder statesman of comedy at 47? “I wouldn’t go that far! The people that get described as ‘elder statesman’…some of them are a little bit too confident in their opinions, you know? They start going: ‘Well, the thing about comedy…’. No! Shut up!”

Just as Bob Dylan sang “All I’ve got is a red guitar, three chords and the truth” in All Along The Watchtower, so Ross Noble once said his plans for a show ran to “about four words on a scrap of paper”. “That was actually taken slightly out of context,” he clarifies. “What I would do is go on and improvise, and then afterwards, I would write down things I could do again.

“I didn’t sit down to plan, think of four things and write them down. It’s the same today, really. Except I just don’t write them down – I feel like I should be able to remember four things!” 

As ever, Ross will have no support (no, not even a chair) as he tucks into two hour-long sets on Wednesday. “The thing that gets me is comics who sit down,” he says. “Whenever I see a comic with a chair on stage, I just think ‘If you need that chair, do a shorter show! Get up and put some effort in’.”

How does Ross on stage contrast with Ross off stage? “The difference is that when I’m on stage I show my working out. As I’m talking, my brain is constantly interrupting itself, so I’ll be saying something and then that’ll spark another thing, and then something else will come in – and I explain all that as it happens,” he says.

What can people expect in Jibber Jabber Jamboree, Ross? “Razor-sharp observations on things I haven’t thought through,” he forewarns

“Those thoughts still happen when I’m off stage, but I don’t say them all out loud, so if you meet me in the street, I can seem kind of distracted. I’ll often get halfway through a sentence and just stop. It drives my wife up the wall.” 

Come the interval on Wednesday, as is customary at a Noble gig, audience members will leave items on stage for Ross to weave into his wild imaginings in the second half.

“Somebody once left a pin from a ten-pin bowling alley and then a few nights later, somebody left another one. So, I tweeted about it, and over the course of the tour, I got all ten and we set up a bowling alley in the dressing room,” he recalls.

“Somebody did an oil painting of me as a centaur: full horse body, long flowing hair, rippling muscles like Fabio. Then above my head, there’s a Mr Kipling French Fancy with a rainbow coming out of it, and wings like a snitch from Harry Potter. That blew my mind.” 

Before Wednesday, check out Ross’s YouTube channel, where he presents a spoof nature documentary series, The Unnatural History Show With Ross Noble, as a rather riskier retort to the Beeb’s Winterwatch.

“I love Winterwatch and Countryfile, but there’s a very British, very cosy way that people like Michaela Strachan and John Craven present,” he says. “It’s all people in jumpers and Berghaus jackets sitting around being very ‘Well, isn’t this marvellous seeing these mating chaffinches?’! I just thought: ‘This would be a lot better if some of these animals could kill you’.”

Back on stage, you may have seen Ross’s Igor in Mel Brooks’s musical Young Frankenstein on tour at Leeds Grand Theatre. What did he learn from his musical theatre experience that he could apply to stand-up? “Previously I thought the best thing about stand-up was that you didn’t have to deal with other people messing up what you want to do,” he says.

“But then you do something like Young Frankenstein, with the greatest comedy legend of all time, and the best Broadway director that’s working and you go: ‘Oh, no, it’s not that I don’t like working with other people. I just want to work with the absolute best people’.” 

Now, solo once more, Ross will turn his stream-of-consciousnonsense tap on in York at 8pm on Wednesday. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

Further Yorkshire dates on Ross Noble’s Jibber Jabber Jamboree tour in 2024: Sheffield City Hall, February 28, CAST, Doncaster, March 3; Leeds Grand Theatre, March 17. Box office: Sheffield, sheffieldcityhall.co.uk; Doncaster, 01302 303959 or castindoncaster.com; Leeds, 0113 243 0808 or leedsheritage theatres.com.

Ross Noble on the road in Yorkshire on his 21st solo stand-up tour: Already played Harrogate Royal Hall on October 26, now heading for York next week and Leeds, Doncaster and Sheffield next year

Paloma Faith to play York Barbican, Hull and Sheffield on The Glorication Of Sadness tour in 2024. When do tickets go on sale?

Paloma Faith: New single today, new album and tour in 2024

PALOMA Faith will play York Barbican on May 12 on next year’s The Glorification Of Sadness Tour 2024 in support of her sixth album of the same title.

The Stoke Newington-born soul singer, songwriter and actress will take in two more Yorkshire gigs on next spring’s 26-date itinerary: Sheffield City Hall on April 9 and Hull Bonus Arena on May 3.

The Glorification Of Sadness will be released on RCA on February 16, preceded by today’s new single, How You Leave A Man, produced by award-winning producer and composer Martin Wave and co-written with JKash, Andrew Wells, Ellie King and Charlie Puth.

Billed as being more than an album about relationships, The Glorification Of Sadness “celebrates finding your way back after leaving a long-term relationship, being empowered even in your failures and taking responsibility for your own happiness”.

Paloma, 42, draws on her own experiences, having split from her husband, French artist Leyman Lachine, last year. She acts as the anchor to direct a deeply personal narrative on her follow-up to November 2020’s Infinite Things, with Divorce among the new track titles.

Executive producing an album for the first time, she has recorded collaborations with Chase & Status, Kojey Radical, Maverick Sabre, Lapsley, MJ Cole, Fred Cox, Amy Wadge, Liam Bailey and Jaycen Joshua.

Swedish-born, Los Angeles-based Martin Wave first worked with Paloma on one track, and she so enjoyed his cinematic style of production that he became a cornerstone of the recording sessions.

Away from the recording studio, Paloma is building a flourishing acting career with roles as Bet Sykes in the Batman prequel series Pennyworth and Florence De Regnier in Lionsgate’s Dangerous Liaisons, She is an ambassador for Greenpeace and Oxfam and has launched her own interior brand, Paloma Home.

Paloma last played York on a York Racecourse race day in June 2018. Her 2024 tour tickets go on sale at 10am on October 20 via ticketmaster.co.uk and seetickets.com.

Elio Pace to showcase The Billy Joel Songbook in York, Sheffield and Hull gigs

Elio Pace at the piano performing The Billy Joel Songbook

ELIO Pace and his band will present “the greatest love letter ever to the genius that is Billy Joel” at York Barbican on March 27 2024.

Further Yorkshire performances of The Billy Joel Songbook tribute show are booked into Sheffield City Hall for March 26 and Hull City Hall for April 4 on the 18-date British and Irish tour.

Tour tickets will go on sale at 10am on Friday at eliopace.com/tours; York, yorkbarbican.co.uk; Sheffield, sheffieldcityhall.co.uk or 0114 256 5593; Hull, hulltheatres.co.uk or 01482 300306.

Devised by piano-playing Southampton singer-songwriter, producer and arranger Pace and Matt Daniel-Baker, this homage rounds up more than 30 of Joel’s songs, including The Longest Time, She’s Always A Woman, An Innocent Man, Uptown Girl, Tell Her About It, The River Of Dreams, We Didn’t Start The Fire and Piano Man.

After two sold-out tours, Pace enthuses about next year’s return: “We all get such a buzz touring this show so we absolutely cannot wait to get back out on the road. We have an amazing tour in place, returning to theatres while also visiting some for the first time, and to be starting in my hometown and then ending in London’s West End is going to be pretty incredible.

“The music of Billy Joel is timeless. He is a genius composer and, in my humble opinion, the greatest singer/songwriter of all time. I really do feel humbled that so many people want to see us perform his music.

“We can’t wait to celebrate this incredible music once again and we’ll now look forward to travelling across the country next spring.”

In 2010 Pace was the musical director for BBC Radio 2’s Weekend Wogan, playing as the featured artist on all 35 shows broadcast that year.

He has performed with Brian May, Huey Lewis, Glen Campbell, Gilbert O’Sullivan, Lulu, Mike Rutherford, Don McLean, Tom Chaplin, Debbie Reynolds and Martha Reeves.

His performing skills have taken him to Elstree Studios, the Queen Elizabeth Hall, BBC Radio 2’s Elvis Forever, Proms In The Park, The Bitter End in New York and BBC Radio Theatre in London.

In 2013 and 2014 he was invited to “‘fill Billy Joel’s shoes” by appearing in five reunion concerts in the United States with Joel’s original 1971-72 touring band, whereupon Pace embarked on the debut tour of The Billy Joel Songbook.

In 2018 he released the double CD and DVD The Billy Joel Songbook Live; in June 2019 his concert film of The Billy Joel Songbook Live won an award at the 17th Annual Independent Music Awards for Best Overall Long Form Music Video in New York City.

In 2019 he released his second live double CD album and DVD within a year, Elio Pace Presents Elvis Presley: The World Premiere, 16 August 2017.

Did you know?

ELIO Pace featured in Sky Sports’ coverage of the 2015 Ashes cricket series between England and Australia with two specially re-written versions of Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start The Fire.

Did you know too?

ELIO Pace has appeared on the BBC children’s show ZingZillas as “the greatest boogie woogie player in the land”, turning him into a household name…“well, at least to every CBeebies-loving under five-year-old and their parents”.

Seven Drunken Nights confirmed for York matinee and evening gig among six Yorkshire dates on biggest tour in 2024

Seven Drunken Nights – The Story Of The Dubliners: Matinee and evening performances at Grand Opera House, York next March

SEVEN Drunken Nights – The Story Of The Dubliners will return to Grand Opera House, York for two performances on March 10 2024.

In its sixth year, after a Scandinavian tour, the celebration of the Irish music of Ronnie Drew, Luke Kelly, Barney McKenna, John Sheahan, Ciaran Bourke and Jim McCann will be on the road for 79 British and Irish dates.

Further Yorkshire performances on the biggest ever Seven Drunken Nights tour will be at Sheffield City Hall on March 20, Cast, Doncaster, March 21 and 22, Bridlington Spa, April 6, St George’s Hall, Bradford, April 12, and Hull City Hall, May 15.

Much more than a jukebox musical celebration of The Dubliners, the show is steered by its writer and director Ged Graham, whose narration charts the band’s path from their first gig at legendary Dublin pub O’Donoghue’s in 1962.  The Irish Rover, The Leaving Of Liverpool, Belle Of Belfast City, Dirty Old Town, The Banks Of The Rose, Star Of The County Down and The Town I Love So Well and many more Irish favourites will be performed by Graham’s cast of musicians and singers, who last filled the Grand Opera House on April 23 this spring.

Graham is delighted to have received the backing of the families of The Dubliners. “It was very nerve-racking meeting their relatives, as I didn’t know how they would react,” he says. “But meeting Luke Kelly’s brother, Paddy, early on during the first tour was just brilliant.

“He and his family have been so supportive of the show. Likewise, Barney McKenna’s sister came to see the show when we toured Ireland and was very complimentary of how we told the story. Their support means so much to everyone involved with the show.”

In addition to glowing reviews, Seven Drunken Nights has also received praise from the families of The Dubliners. Ged Graham said, “It was very nerve-racking meeting relatives of The Dubliners, as I didn’t know how they would react. But meeting Luke Kelly’s brother, Paddy, early on during the first tour was just brilliant. He and his family have been so supportive of the show.

Likewise, Barney McKenna’s sister came to see the show when we toured Ireland and was very complimentary of how we told the story. Their support means so much to everyone involved with the show.”

Looking ahead, Seven Drunken Nights is set for its record year internationally, performing nearly 300 shows during 42 weeks on the road.

The show’s popularity has been a life-changing experience for Graham, who says: “I can’t quite believe it. Seven Drunken Nights seems to have touched so many people who have become real fans of the show, reigniting their love of The Dubliners.

“It’s had a massive impact on my life, giving me the confidence to write more and be involved in many other productions, including the runaway success Fairytale Of New York. It truly is a great privilege to bring the music of The Dubliners to the stage every night and keep their legacy alive.”

York tickets for the March 10 matinee and evening shows are on sale at atgtickets.com/york. Tickets for all venues on the 2024 tour can be booked at sevendrunkennights.com.

Leigh Francis to play six Yorkshire gigs on debut 2024 tour My First Time. Where?

Leigh Francis: Debut tour with multiple masks

LEEDS comic Leigh Francis, creator of Keith Lemon and Bo’ Selecta, plays York Barbican on March 20 2024 on his debut tour, My First Time.

The BAFTA Award-winning character comedian, 50, has confirmed five more Yorkshire gigs on next spring’s travels, accounting for one third of the 18 dates: Sheffield City Hall, March 15; Halifax Victoria Theatre, March 16; Hull City Hall, March 22; Bradford St George’s Hall, March 23, and a home-city finale at Leeds Grand Theatre, April 6.

Joining Francis as he “brings back all the fun I’ve had over the 00s up to present day” will be his myriad television characters, from Keith Lemon, Bear and Avid Merrion to ‘David Dickinson’, ‘Ant and Dec’ and Myrtle, taking to the stage for the first time in a series of sketches. Expect audience interaction too.

“Hey, really exciting news! Well, exciting for me!” says Francis. “I hope it’s exciting for you! Or at least provokes some sort of interest! I mean, just look how many exclamation marks there is in this quote! It’s definitely news with exciting intent! 

“So, what is this exciting news? I’m doing my first ever tour! Never done one before. It’s gonna have masks in it! The Bear, Avid Merrion, Amanda Holden’s Gran, not her actual gran but me playing her.”

Francis goes on: “I’ll also be playing Keith Lemon. I look just like him! It’s me doing all the characters I do that hopefully have the intent to provoke hilarity! So many exclamation marks, and the word ‘intent’ and ‘provoke’ twice! I’m excited!

“Come see me being other people live for the first time! It’ll be your first time and my first time! Hence the title of the tour, My First Time! (There’s another exclamation mark). How exciting!”

Tour tickets go on sale from 10am on Friday at gigsandtours.com and ticketmaster.co.uk; York, yorkbarbican.co.uk

Wang In There, Baby, Phil will play York twice in his silliest, Philiest show yet

Florabundant: Phil Wang is in full bloom in 2023 as he extends his Wang In There, Baby! tour to take in autumn as well as spring dates

BRITISH Malaysian stand-up comedian, writer, sketch troupe performer and podcaster Phil Wang is promising his silliest show yet in Wang In There, Baby!, where he will discuss “race, family, nipples and everything else in his Philly little life”.

Nipples, Phil? “The problem with my shows is it’s a string of different material I like to discuss, so when I’m asked, ‘what are the themes?’, I have to think quickly of the topics.

“I’m always talking about race, but this year I also have a routine about nipples and why we censor women’s nipples, but not men’s,” he says, ahead of Friday’s Grand Opera House gig in York, where he will return in the autumn for a September 23 show at York Barbican.

Family? “I talk about my relationship with my father. I’ve always talked about him as being this Asian foil,” says Phil [full name Philip Nathaniel Wang Sin Goi], who was born in Stoke-on-Trent to an English mother and a Chinese-Malaysian father of Hakka descent.

“Hopefully I’ll have some extremely York observations to make,” says Phil Wang

One week after his birth on January 22 1990, the family returned to his father’s home town of Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia, where Phil was was taught in Malay, Mandarin and English, studying at the Jerudong International School in Brunei.

Anyway, back to Wang senior. “During the pandemic, he was in Malaysia where they were very strict about people coming in and out of the country. For two years I didn’t see him, but we don’t have a sentimental relationship, so we’re not very good at expressing our feelings towards each other,” Phil says.

On the phone from Peckham, South London, where he was tucking into noodles and a fried egg, Phil is looking forward to his brace of York gigs. “Yeah, hopefully I’ll have some extremely York observations to make.

“I always enjoy freshening it up with local references. For audiences it shows that you’re present in the moment and not just rattling off a script. You’re taking notice – and British humour can be summed up as ‘our town sucks but the next town over there is even worse’.

“There are more comedians than ever,” says Phil Wang. “That means you really have to be present to make an impact”

“I was actually up in Yorkshire in February with a couple of friends on a gastronomical trip to the Star Inn at Harome – it’s so popular we had to book at the end of last year – then walked on the moors and had the best pint of beer I’ll ever have in my life.”

Phil was the first British comedian to tape and release a Netflix Original stand-up comedy special during the pandemic, revelling in the title Philly Philly Wang Wang, and the only non-American act to be spotlighted on Netflix’s That’s My Time With David Letterman, and he has appeared in a recurring guest role in Amy Schumer’s comedy-drama series Life & Beth for Hulu/Disney+ too. 

Then add USA tours, appearances at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Montreal’s Just For Laughs Comedy Festival and the Edinburgh Fringe, and the September 2021 publication of his debut book Sidesplitter: How To Be From Two Worlds At Once, his comic memoir and observational essay on being a Eurasian man in the West and the East.

He is spreading his Wang wings, as it were. “I think we’re lucky to be living in these times: as a comedian, it’s not that we have to do so much, it’s just that we can – and there are more comedians than ever. That means you really have to be present to make an impact,” says Phil. “You never get bored because you’re always doing different things.”

The cover artwork for Phil Wang’s debut book Sidesplitter

Race, or more to the point, being of mixed race as a Eurasian – or “the two majorities, white and Chinese” as he puts it in one routine – has been a double-edged sword for him. “On the one hand, I don’t have that familiarity with an audience, whether a British or Malaysian one. That is my disadvantage,” he says.

“But, on the other hand, my advantage from the start was being the only Asian on the bill and often I still stand out. I accept I will never completely fit in anywhere; that’s not something I need to change. It’s perfectly OK to be in that position.”

Especially for a comedian, with its role of being the outsider looking in and commenting on the world around him. “Comedians live an observational life,” says Phil. “I’ll often not be able to live in the moment because I’m observing it and over-thinking it, but that lends itself to being a stand-up. Growing up mixed race, that forced me to be an observer too.”

Phil Wang, Wang In There, Baby!, Grand Opera House, York, Friday, 7.30pm; York Barbican, September 23, 7.30pm. Box office: atgtickets.com/york; yorkbarbican.co.uk. Further Yorkshire dates:  Leeds City Varieties, Thursday, 7.30pm, sold out; Sheffield City Hall, April 30, 7.30pm; sheffieldcityhall.co.uk.