Review by Zyllah Moranne-Brown

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas – as they say. Well there is no better way to spend it than with a local legend who’s given 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, in pirate garb, and on true seafaring folk fun and rollicks is Galleon Blast – featuring the ‘pirate’ dj himself – “me” Mark Ratcliffe. He’s please to be in Brum tonight the world of “free moving traffic  (not) and copious walkways”. Galleon Blast are here for 40 minutes of fun, frolics and drinking songs and shanties. Both their albums are available in the foyer as a box set – “if you’ve brought your own box.” Set includes pirate chimp – and they are good fun and feature their take on The Pogues Christmas ditty ‘Fairytale of New Year.’

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Quick break and as per last year – we get a mini set  course of British Armenian comedian Kev Orkian.. In 2009, he 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. He’s great fun and hugely entertaining and his take on the comparison of UK and Armenian music through the decades in a manner of dance – is hilarious.

Kev Orkian

And so to the intro to the main man – as his large supporting band of brother take to the stage – Roy would, dread ion Black, trademark fingerless gloves and long back and red hair – to take us through a great celebration. 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. Thanks for showing up. This is the first record released with Wizzard.” Number #5 in the UK charts to be precise  – ‘Ball Park Incident.’  A gig with Wood and friends is always a must for a sing along and the hits;  ‘Kiss Me Goodnight, Boadicea’, #3 for The Move ‘Fire Brigade’ and more…. and a quip that many of his hits were held off the #1 spot by some bloke called Enlgebert Humperdinck.

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….”

Are you ready to rock see the band substantially expanded joined on stage by for a full ho-down come the Birmingham Irish Pipes and Drums, to which Wood rejoins the stage, indeed playing the bagpipes himself. And that pirate chimp. The cheeky monkey keeps sneaking on the stage, joining in the fun.

And for special guys tonight – Paul Young – the 80s teen heart pop idol with the good looks and soulful voice. Tonight’s he is joining Wood and his band for four songs – his greatest hits – first up in original 60s guise ‘ Wherever I Lay My Hat’, then cup your hands and move side to side with ‘Love of the Common People’. Q-Tips (his previous outfit before major stardom) and ‘Some Kinda Wonderful’, before his soul pop classic – ‘Come Back and Stay.’ Good fun.

As Young departs the “strings” arrive to join in the finale of tonight’s party performance. 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.

He can’t be arsed to do an official encore (e.g. walk back off stage and back on again) – here we go. It’s Christmas – sing! “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.

And we leave with smiles on our face; a delectable psychedelic party of fun. Includes pirate chimp.

There is still who are still around to perform the Christmas hits from our youth, and even less to deliver it in a full performance mode. So it is always a special treat to see Wood in full flow at Christmas. And you fancy it next year – put a date in your diary, tickets on sale now for Sunday 2nd December 2018, once again at the Symphony Hall.

So. We’ll leave you with this: Happy Christmas one and all.

“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 ……”


Setlist:
Ball Park Incident
Kiss Me Goodnight Boadicea
Fire Bridge
New York City
I Can Hear The Grass Grow
Angel Fingers (A Teen Ballad)
Are You Ready To Rock
See My Baby Jove

With Paul Young:
Wherever I Lay My Hat
Love of the Common People
Some Kinda Wonderful
Come Back and Stay

Flowers in the Rain
Blackberry Way
I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day.

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