After 25 years I finally meet Tim Booth of James

It must feel like 25 years since I wrote in this blog. And for that I am sorry. Life gets in the way as you know.

Getting started again

I admit, I put up barriers like: blogging is too hard, will take up too much time, my blog is in an old system blah…blah…blah.

I had a word with myself about it and I realise that I actually enjoy blogging and my excuses were, well just that really, excuses.

No more excuses

I’ve moved the blog off the blogger platform and onto WordPress. Apologies if there are start up problems – I’ve noticed a few broken links. There’s also some tidy up needed of categories and the like but I’ll get to that.

See, I’m procrastinating again. where was I?

I met Tim BoothThe day I met Tim Booth!

I have a long-standing love of James. Ever since a day 25 years ago (putting us in 1991) when I heard Lose Control, I have had an obsession with them.

Tim Booth (the lead singer) is a lovely, soft-spoken man and when he sings his voice soars – I get goose bumps just thinking about it. Back in the 90s he sported a head of fluffy curls that was all kinds of cute in an urchiny kinda way. Now he’s a little bit scary. Smooth, bald head and intense staring eyes.

A couple of weeks ago, I met him.  When I say ‘met him’, he was signing the new James CD in Newcastle’s HMV and my friend made me ask him for a photograph.

I was terrified. He is a God. He is almost as terrifying as Derren Brown.

And next week, I get to ‘meet him’ again. James play the City Hall in Newcastle. I believe this will be the 10th time I’ve seen them!




Goodbye summer, hello autumn

So we’ve hit September, and for some reason this year it feels like a time to stop and take stock. Normally it just potters on as another month on the way to Christmas.

Thrifty Gal (or, as she shall henceforth be known, Geek Goddess – it being her main blog for now) has written about celebrating September in the past – I suspect this was driven more by it being her birthday month than anything else but she’s right, it’s a time of new starts – be it school or college. The weather sorts itself out: hot and humid (ha ha) August gives way to brisk, fresh, sunny days; the mornings are still light, the evenings cooler.

Things are clearer in September.

I think I’m having this moment because, after a summer packed to the rafters with events, gigs, fun with friends and trips both in this country and further afield, October actually contains an empty weekend. (I know. I’ll have to get that sorted). But maybe, just maybe, I’ve actually got some time to stop and think.

Travel and that

My summer began in May when I set off on a holiday that took me to Niagara Falls, Washington DC and New York. Kudos to my travel companion zUmbereen who didn’t balk at my suggestion to go see a band in Brooklyn…even though she hadn’t heard of them and we ended up in dodgy bar showing a porn movie beforehand. She is now a fellow worshipper of the Silver Fox (aka Keith Murray from We are Scientists (WAS)).

I’m a firm believer in saying ‘yes’ to things most of the time thanks to Richard Wiseman…er obviously within reason…which is partly why I never have time to stop and think. So because of this I ended up returning to the UK for one day before jetting off to Cyprus for a villa-based holiday with friends. Actually that doesn’t do it justice, it was like some sort of foodie heaven holiday as my friend’s other half thinks nothing of rustling up a three course meal with about a thousand side dishes. Delicious.

I’ve been to York three times this summer mainly for gigs (see below) but I also managed to fit in some real ale drinking and a few visits to the TK Maxx* there. My last visit was possibly the most successful as I managed to purchase some delightful cowboy boots!

I’ve also visited the somewhat disappointing TK Maxx** in Southend on Sea (I think it didn’t deliver as I didn’t have a specific ‘wish’ logged with the TK Maxx fairy, yes, I realise this makes me sound mad). Among other things while in Sarfend, I journeyed to the end of the longest pleasure pier in the world (though sadly I just missed the Southend Pier Festival that featured the wonderful Lucky Strikes playing at the end of it) and visited the fishing festival in quaint and pretty Leigh on Sea.

Gigs galore

Not only did I see WAS in New York, I saw them in Old York too at The Duchess. The gig was the sweatiest I have ever attended; a particular highlight was watching the Silver Fox crowd surf perilously close to bringing down the lights with his feet. Earlier in the summer I’d seen Paul Smith of Maximo Park knock down a ceiling tile in the same venue. It’s a weird place for gigs, the low stage and low ceilings do nothing for view (particularly if you aren’t very tall) and I wouldn’t recommend it on that basis alone. The Duchess worked well this weekend though, cabaret-style seating for an intimate gig with Simone Felice. Support came from Boss Caine and Matt Boulter (of The Lucky Strikes and aka The Whispering Pines) – if you don’t know these names already – check them out.

I’m becoming more accepting of my love of folky-Americana music and other highlights this summer included the Sage Gateshead Americana Festival (though the sun stroke wasn’t welcomed) and an amazing a capella and acoustic Futureheads gig at Durham Cathedral. Support came from local acts Natasha Haws and The Lake Poets, both of whom had stunning voices.  The setting in the Cathedral was simply magical.

Oh and also, Bruce Springsteen. Born to Run. Waitin’ on a Sunny Day. The River. Top gig. That is all.

And so it ends

And so it ends with another holiday, this time to Pefkos, Rhodes. Following that, I’ll be drawing a line under the summer of 2012 and starting afresh. A week in the sunshine will, I hope, be the perfect ‘taking stock’ break. That’s if I can set aside some time that isn’t already taken up with drinking, feta-cheese eating, reading, swimming, a party and the ice catching championships…

* I am a tad obsessed with TK Maxx.
**Told you.

From old to new: Alejandro Escovedo, a birthday and Jake Houlsby

Busy weekend this one, centred largely on music.

Alejandro Escovedo at the Cluny 

 On Friday I was at the Cluny (dedication considering the downpour that was going on outside) to see Alejandro Escovedo (double dedication as I’d never actually heard of the guy until last Wednesday).

Anyway, a friend had a spare ticket , and following some googling I unearthed this:

Yes, the guy is a friend of Bruce Springsteen, so on this basis alone I decided to give it a go. And it was okay. Perhaps a bit ‘rocky’ for my folk music taste.

I’d like to say I was too old for the gig, but I was possibly one of the youngest in there. I enjoyed maybe 70% of the gig, the band was spot on, Alejandro seems like a nice man, he had some great tracks, just the overall package wasn’t quite my thing.

Birthday fun at As You Like It 

Saturday night saw me at As You Like It, a bar/restaurant in Jesmond, Newcastle. This was for a friend’s birthday and while the music wasn’t the focus tonight there was a great house band on called The Imposters. Some funky covers were played, there was much dancing and there was even an impromptu striptease (not in our party I hasten to add).

Jake Houlsby – Bones EP and gig at O’Neills, Newcastle 

Jake’s EP Bones

Final gig of the week was up and coming North East based singer songwriter Jake Houlsby. The Birthday Girl had sent me some links to his saying that I would probably like him. And I did. When I heard he was doing a small (free) gig at a pub in Newcastle I was in there like swimwear (as the Birthday Girl might say 😉 ).

Bonus was the promise of a few pints and a free EP – sold!

My arrival was marred only slightly by the drunken letch at the bar who kept stroking my arm and saying “sorry pet” because he’d pushed in to get served.

 Never mind, I was soon settled in with a pint and a comfy seat as Jake played a cover of Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark – good choice so far and well played.

He sang a mix of his own tracks – stand out for me was Cracks which he dedicated to the Birthday Girl – and further covers. We had everything from a stomping sing-along to The Killer’s Mr Brightside (I was transported back to clubbing on a Saturday night at Ku Club, Sunderland) and a delightful take on Jose Gonzalez’s Heart beats (yes the song from the advert!).

Jake has a lovely tone and some great guitar skills. Watch out for him gigging in the North East or busking around Newcastle, stop and say hi, either for real or @jakehoulsby on Twitter. More ways to get in touch–

From South Shields to Southend

Oops, nearly the end of February already and my blogging is flagging. I have been busy though, that’s my excuse.

Not only have actually been reading (another resolution you’ll recall) – I’ve proofread a friend’s book and read The Woman in Black (more on that in a later post), I’ve been out to see two comedians and a band this week!

From South Shields…

South Shields it seems is a hotbed of comedy at the moment – two comedians in one week from that neck of the woods!

 I started the week with Chris Ramsey, an enjoyable comedian (I was one of those who’d ‘been dragged along while not having a clue who he was’ – though I wasn’t going to raise my hand to admit this unlike someone further along our row). He did a bit of picking on the audience which I don’t really like, but thankfully swiftly moved on to his main act ‘Offermation’ which was brilliantly observed and very funny.

Next up was Sarah Millican – she seems to have been riding the crest of a wave of popularity this last year or so. It’s well-deserved, her show is a bit smutty, very funny and delightfully delivered. She describes herself as a ‘bit more sweary’ on stage – and she certainly is. I thought it was great how she managed to make you feel like it was an intimate show even when we were seated way up in the upper circle: so far away that there were actual binoculars up there.

…to Southend

Nowt like a good stomping hoedown in a great venue – here’s looking at you, Cluny 2 – and you The Lucky Strikes. (The Strikes are from Southend)

I saw The Lucky Strikes at the Sage Gateshead Americana festival last year and thought they were superb. I then discovered that the lead singer, Matt Boulter knew my favourite singer-songwriter Simone Felice and had toured with him. It was all shaping up well.

Some Facebook chat, a free Christmas CD and I’m convinced The Lucky Strikes are worth a looksee, worth buying their albums, worth going  to see. Last night at the Cluny2 was such good fun: I couldn’t believe the manic dancing (from the audience) at  the end. I could have been in Nashville: I was happy.

2011 Top 5 – that’s out of 10 plays, 11 gigs, 4 comedians, and a mentalist!

I started to write up a month by month review of what I did last year (this is over and above nights out with friends, holidays, art exhibitions, movies, and books), but I soon realised that this could become a very long post. 

So in the interests of reflection on 2011 (and brevity), what made it to my Top 5?

So, my Top 5 in reverse order….

5 – Sleep no More, McKittrick Hotel, Manhattan, NYC

A controversial one this, as it divided our party, quite literally, into two camps.

Sleep no More is an immersive theatre experience based loosely on Macbeth. It is set in the imaginary 1940s hotel, the McKittrick (in reality a couple of disused warehouses on West 27th street, New York). The set is amazing with the ‘hotel’ reception, ballroom and bar giving way just as easily to castle ruins and a mental institution.

As an audience member (with mask to create anonymity – I wonder if there’s any social experimentation afoot with this), you are encouraged to choose a character in the play and follow them to watch their tale unfold, you can swap to another if you fancy a different take, or rummage through the set – it’s so painstakingly detailed you could spend hours just marvelling at that alone. Whatever the path you choose, you can be sure it’ll involve a helluva lot of walking, or in my case running, I was glad of my spinning classes when Macbeth took off at speed and legged it up two flights of stairs.

It’s a very disjointed production and you’re just as likely to miss everything by being in the wrong place at the wrong time, as see everything (it’s quite explicit in some scenes). Our party had mixed experiences because of this. I loved the set: it was disorientating, dark, whimsical in part, I found the act of choosing your own path through the play to be interesting, however, this resulted in the whole thing being difficult to follow. Overall though, loved the experience and hell, it was in New York!

See Thrifty Gal’s less impressed take on Sleep no More.

4 – Americana Festival at the Sage Gateshead 

I actually blogged about this at the time, so you can read a little more about what I thought about the Americana weekend.  Suffice to say though, as well as some paid for gigs, the Sage Gateshead put on three days of free outdoor stages that showcase upcoming and established local, national and international bands. It was a great day filled with wine, chips and dips, and sunshine. I also managed to catch The Lucky Strikes, one of the first bands I’m seeing this year. These lovely chaps also sent a free CD to some of their Facebook fans – it contains a cracking rendition of Whiskey in the Jar so I’m happy 🙂

3 – Ghost Stories at Duke of York’s Theatre, London
I’d wanted to see Andy Nyman’s Ghost Stories for ages: I love all things scary, I’m searching for the horror movie that will terrify me, so I’m all for live shows that try and do that.

I must admit, it was a slight let down all things considered. I think it had suffered from too much hype, and as I’d just read Richard Wiseman’s brilliant Paranormality I did spend much of the show thinking “ooh Wiseman mentioned that…” (I discovered later that he’d actually advised on certain elements of the show which explains a lot).

The reason it’s made it to the top 5 is that it was part of me rekindling an interest in the paranormal and ghost stories in general. This had always been an interest of mine but it had faded into the background a bit, this show reinstated my love of the trickery and misdirection that scares people, the simplest fears of the dark, or what we imagine rather than what’s actually there, and the need to never be last when entering anywhere that looks like it might contain a man with knives for fingers.

Read Thrifty Gal’s full review of Ghost Stories over at Body of a Geek Goddess.

2 – Simone Felice at Cluny 2, Newcastle

Simone Felice

 The Felice Brothers and the various spin off bands (Simone Felice as soloist and The Duke and the King – who I believe may have just split) were my find of 2010.

Simone Felice at the Cluny this year was a joy to watch. Clearly mischievous, he seemed to love performing, he extends a hand and you take it, never knowing if his lyrics will lead you gently down some leafy lane in the sun or dump you somewhere in the city at midnight with a cigarette in your hand, alcohol on your breath and an empty wallet.

Simone Felice: just what you wanted your long-haired, tight-jeans wearing, sensitive singer type to be like. I just wish I’d been brave enough to hug him instead of just shaking his hand.

1 – James at the Sage Gateshead

Everytime I see James play I remember that I’ve always loved them and probably always will. They’ve been a favourite of mine for over 20 years so I don’t know how they keep on surprising me, but they do.

This year’s show was nothing short of breathtaking. To give it its full title: An Evening with James with the Orchestra of the Swan and the Manchester Consort Choir did exactly what it said on the tin, but how outstandingly beautiful it all was. The Sage Gatehead in itself is a remarkable venue, providing some of the best acoustics in the North East. Add to this Tim’s flawless vocals, the soaring sounds of the orchestra and the power of the choir and it was near perfection. Oh and he climbed over the seats right next to me and sang about three seats away – squeeee!

Tim Booth in his wafty trousers.

Quite brilliant.

And the rest…the full list!


Thrifty Gal pointed me in the direction of some review opportunities for the website Exeunt (formerly Musicomh) which was great as it got me interested in a few more shows that I probably wouldn’t have made the effort to see.

  • The Comedy of Errors at Newcastle’s Theatre Royal
  • Faith and Cold Reading at the Live Theatre, Newcastle
  • Roald Dahl’s Twisted Tales at Northern Stage, Newcastle
  • A Walk on Part at the Live Theatre, Newcastle
  • Ghost Stories at the Duke of York’s Theatre, London
  • Oh the Humanity at Northern Stage, Newcastle
  • The Wild Bride at Northern Stage, Newcastle
  • Sleep no More at the McKittrick Hotel, Manhattan, NYC
  • Revenge of the Grand Guignol at The Courtyard Theatre, London 
  • Legally Blonde at Sunderland Empire


  • British Sea Power at the Tyne Theatre, Newcastle
  • Sam Carter at the Live Theatre, Newcastle
  • Simone Felice at Cluny 2, Newcastle
  • Americana Festival at the Sage Gateshead
  • Glee at the O2, London
  • Ron Sexsmith at the Sage Gateshead
  • Bright Eyes at the Sage Gateshead
  • Ane Brun at Scala, London
  • James at the Sage Gateshead
  • Stephen Fretwell at Cluny 2, Newcastle
  • The Cornshed Sisters at Newcastle University


  • Jimmy Carr at Sunderland Empire
  • Dylan Moran at the Tyne Theatre, Newcastle
  • Alan Carr at Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle
  • Milton Jones at the Tyne Theatre Newcastle


  •  Derren Brown: Svengali at Sunderland Empire

Bring on 2012!

Why am I bothered?*

Words and what you do with them are pretty important to me.

Not only did I study English language at University (and that’s the proper linguistic stuff not just a cop out from English literature), I’ve spent much of my life in jobs that involve: writing new content, editing someone else’s content, and proofreading.

I am now employed to develop content for websites and provide advice on best practice in writing for the web.

Let’s be clear: writing for the web does not mean you have to use text speak, abandon all rules of spelling and grammar, or, God forbid, limit your sentences to 140 characters a go.

However, I am scared by my relaxing standards when writing messages on my mobile phone (but I have just told off my sister for sending an incomprehensible message – I’m all for saving characters to save the price of a text – but really? – ‘wk.end’ for ‘weekend’ – only saves one character and gives me a headache).

My Facebook updates, I believe, are on the right side of the fence. I also maintain a ‘Grammar Police’ image collection on Flickr which showcases improper use of language on signs, websites, emails and TV.

In an additional bid to maintain my sanity, I unleash this blog onto the world.

I’ll try and limit commentary to issues of language – but I may occasionally lapse into a rant on shoes if I encounter someone trying to convince me of comfort over style (Crocs) or comfort over noise pollution (Ugg boots).

Note: if anyone is interested, the Blog title comes from a Maximo Park song called Postcard of a Painting, in which singer, Paul Smith, laments “I wrote my feelings down in a rush, I didn’t even check the spelling”.

Now, there’s no excuse for that.

*I couldn’t even bring myself to use the catchphrase ‘Why Am I bovvered?’ to introduce this. My fingers wouldn’t type it.