Review by Zyllah Moranne-Brown

So with just a handful of sleeps before Christmas it is only truly festive to pop along to see one of those people who gave us one of those true Christmas songs we’ve sung along to for all these years. In the Symphony Hall, Birmingham, with a plethora of special guests, and a pretty much sold out crowd in full Christmas spirit akin in Santa hats and festive garb – let us welcome the Roy Wood Rock & Roll Band.

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Starting off tonight’s proceedings we have Andy Fairweather Low and the Lowriders. He acknowledges, with thanks, that normally most people will be in the bar for the support – as he chats away and takes us through a number of his songs and hits.  Faithweather Low – most notable for 60s band Amen Corner who had a number of top #10 hits – ‘ High in the Sky’, ‘(If Paradise is) Half as Nice’ and ‘Hello Susie.’

The band split but he went on to have his own hit’s in the 70s including Christmas #6 “Wide Eyed and Legless.’ In recent years he’s got to work with Roger Waters, Eric Clapton and Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings.

Set tonight includes all those and ‘Route 66’ and given he’s now 68 another hit from 1968 ‘Bend Me, Shape Me’ – a track he quips is still hard to sing. Truly professional and good fun he goes down well with the punters.

A quick break and next up comedian Kev Orkian. In 2009, this British Armenian comic won the final of ‘The Next Big Thing’ – the event industry’s version of The X Factor, which was held at Event UK in Birmingham.

Kev Orkian

Arriving on stage to Faith No More, he’s is indeed really funny – as he tales the tales of his links to Roy Wood and his comedy take, with a piano, of Elton John’s ‘I’m Still Standing’ as lifted off a scratched TV is BRILLIANT.  So how would the musical serenade of ‘Happy Birthday’ be performed by various legendary composers. From Mozart to Andrew Lloyd Webber the laughter continues. His 15 minutes up he introduces us to tonight’s main man – Mr Roy Wood and his Rock & Roll Band.

Wood set tonight, with his truly accomplished band takes us through a journey of his hits. Most people would probably know Wood from THAT Christmas hit -but local lad, born in Kitts Green, Birmingham brought us some amazing bands and songs during the late 60s through into the 70s. Initially forming The Move with Trevor Burton and Bev Bevan, Jeff Lynne joined in the later years and Bevan, Lynne and Wood formed The Electric Light Orchestra (ELO). Wood’s involvement with ELO was not to last for long and he walked taking a couple of other band members with him to form Wizzard where he had more top #10 hits. This is the precised story – well worth taking a more detailed look at the history and links to a multitude of Midlands iconic bands and links.

“Good evening. Alright.” in his Brummy tones. “Thanks for coming along – good job you came along or the whole thing would have been pointless!”

And he’s here with his hits – first single for Wizard at #5 in the charts ‘Ball Park Incident’, ‘Kiss Me Goodnight, Boadicea’, #3 for The Move ‘Fire Brigade’ and more….

Wood is in usual garb, the 69-year-old’s long hair tied back in a pony tail, the beard, the circular red glasses and black with red and striped fingerless gloves. His big band is made up of seven, including a four-piece brass section.  And he still has the voice…

To “A song I wrote ages ago…..” a Move top #5 hit written around his 5 string guitar all big and psychedelic we sing in this big band version “I can hear the grass grow I can hear the grass grow, I see rainbows in the evening….”

And into a #1 for Wizard ‘Angel Fingers (A Teen Ballad)’ to which as the track continues Wood disappears and on to the stage for a full ho-down come the Birmingham Irish Pipes and Drums  and West Midlands Fire Pipe Band , to which Wood rejoins the stage, indeed playing the bag pipes himself. As the pipers leave the stage, another #1 for Wood – this time for Wizzard ‘See My Baby Jive.’

And now for some more special guests – his good old mates – Chas & Dave. These guys had 8 top #10 hits in the day – all true sing-along ‘rockney.’

ChasnDave

So ‘Rabbit’. Sung at speed and hugely clever and entertaining live. We’re all singing along to this mini set – as we quite rightly should, in festive spirit, we’re having a blast. So let’s sing ” I don’t care, I don’t care, I don’t care if he comes round here, I’ve got my beer in the sideboard here let Mother sort it out if he comes round here…”

Chas & Dave depart and joining the stage now is a strings section – the Enigma Strings.
And time to embrace the next trio of songs in a psychedelically classical and truly overblown in a wonderful way. First up #1 for The Move and the first ever song played on Radio 1. ‘Flowers in the Rain.’ Followed by the beautifully delicious ‘Blackberry Way’ in full orchestral tilt  – big and loud and psychedelically glorious.

“Usually the point where bands go off stage and people clap – but we can’t be arsed….” quips Wood.  “Dunno what to finish on???”

Wood looks to welcome back Chas & Dave, although they appear to have got lost and take some time join in as the band on stage get into the groove. It’s Christmas indeed – “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day.” Bizarrely this was only #4 hit in ’73 when it was released – but the true Christmas gift that keeps on giving, re-released in ’81 and ’84 – it is now religiously re-released every year since 2007 and makes the #50 every time.

Tonight has been not just a Christmas delight, but a chance to enjoy and eclectic range of talent and to snuggle up with Wood’s classic hits. Great fun and timely festive blast to complete 2016. And as we leave, with big grins on our faces, the tunes spin round our minds….

“Well I wish it could be Christmas everyday
When the kids start singing and the band begins to play
Oh I wish it could be Christmas everyday
So let the bells ring out for Christmas ……”

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