Nouvelle Vague This tour is being billed as the Acoustic Shows Tour so tonight Nouvelle Vague are a stripped down four piece consisting of acoustic guitar, keyboards, a fine collection of hand-held percussion instruments plus a melodica. It’s fair to say that the boys haven’t gone overboard as regards stage costume; functional workaday jeans and trainers seem to do the job. Whereas Melaine, in a black velvet backless dress and Élodie in a long split skirt with lace top, look chic, classy and like they’re ready to tango in a 1920s Parisian nightclub.


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Billy Bragg

Tonight's performer has always been outspoken. A revolutionary spokesman for a generation, highlighting social injustice and rallying for the cause. And he's been doing this for thirty odd years. To a pretty much sold out Birmingham Town Hall, and galvanised by recent 'events' welcome to Mr Billy Bragg.



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Divine Comedy These guys are one of those bands who cleverly and eloquently comment on life in their lyrics - singer songwriter's Neil Hannon words are quirky and original and they are here tonight showcasing their eleventh album 'Foreverland' - welcome Birmingham to the world of The Divine Comedy.


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Heaven 17 So thirty five years ago. This band released an album. It wasn't a hit and a single got banned. Boom. Their other guise had morphed out of one electronica band that had a minor (sic) degree of success (and who are still touring today) before developing into something new. But success did come their way. In bucket loads. So welcome tonight to the delectable Town Hall in Birmingham, the British Electronic Foundation (BEF) and their 'alter ego' if you like, Heaven 17.


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John Cooper Clarke Tonight we’re at the beautiful Town Hall in Birmingham, to see a full on punk-rock gig, with a twist. There is no music, no musicians, no instruments, it is the words that are the lyrics and the melody. Tonight we’re here for rock with words, the punk god-father of the satirical, the political and the scathing courtesy of Doctor John Cooper Clarke.


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Heaven 17 So on this Valentine’s eve, storms are plummeting the UK but in Brum the weather isn't too bad, although traffic out of town doesn’t look the best. But that's okay cos we’ve been tempted -  we're in town and we all be snug and cosy in Birmingham’s Town Hall for an evening of romance, Heaven 17 style.


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Kraftwerk Uncovered So a limited crowd tonight, a couple of hundred snugly in the Town Hall avoiding winds and horizontal rain to see a Kraftwerk extravaganza. This is another cultural event that the Birmingham’s Town Hall / Symphony Hall (THSH) group should be justifiably proud in presenting, celebrating creativity, and exactly because it is not a safe option - it certainly couldn’t be classed as mainstream.


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Suzanne Vega Despite being widely known for early career hits like ‘Luka’ and ‘Tom’s Diner’, Suzanne Vega is a confident and evolving artist who doesn’t rest on past glories. Tonight at the Town Hall she presents us with copious chunks of her previously unheard new album, as well as serving up old favourites for her adoring audience.


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Scott Matthews Tonight at the Town Hall in Birmingham, I again witness the poised brilliance of Scott Matthews. Up there on stage with just a simple black back drop, and, to set the scene, smoke lingering in the air around him - like an ethereal spirit rising from a funeral pyre. Matthews gives us a short but sweet first half performance just on his own with an ever-changing array of acoustic guitars all vying for his attention. They are brought from the wings one by one as if waiting to be consumed by Matthews' touch - like groupies awed in silence. He lulls the audience into a trance with songs from his three studio recorded albums, and unexpectedly at the end of a short first set he plays what could be considered his masterpiece "Elusive" (released 2006 on his debut first album "Passing Stranger"). I think I must have been expecting a special announcement or something, as he drops this one on us without warning -and that's a bit of a shock (be it an understated version too). In my mind, and from what I know about the man, Matthews is attempting to move beyond the dizzying heights of his Ivor Novello award winning song. My notion is that he's conflicted here - as he cannot deny the audience his greatest song to date, and yet is attempting to surpass his own genius, which lingers in the air as if caught in amber for eternity.


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The Imagined Village Imagined Village are a pretty democratic outfit and different members get to take the spotlight. The evening starts with new member Jackie Oates singing ‘The Captain’s Apprentice’. Along with most of tonight’s gig, this is a track from the new album. It’s quite ambitious to mostly play material that the audience haven’t heard (the album has only been out a week), but it seems to work and the crowd seem to like it.


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Bellowhead Having previously thought of 'Folk' as being synonymous with quant country fairs, even in its most modern reinvention a genre that lends itself to being played in a natural setting (such as our very own Moseley folk festival). I was surprised and pleased to learn that a whole weekend devoted to folk, was being held at Birmingham's Town Hall. 'English Originals' a 'mini' folk festival, over a weekend in May featured the likes of folk greats Scott Mathews, Beth Orton and new to the scene Graham Coxon. I went for the Sunday helping, with performances from Jackie Oates and the band they call Bellowhead.


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The Invisible Village Crossing genres, cultures and generations The Imagined Village really shouldn’t work (the basic idea is to take a bunch of traditional folk tunes and reinterpret them for 21st century Britain). In fact it should come across as some awful mish mash of sounds, like two competing car radios (one playing Radio 4, the other 1 Extra) at a set of traffic lights. The fact that it does work says a great deal about the musical talents at the core of this project and the openness of everyone involved to really mess around with what ‘folk’ music means these days. In truth, although the first Imagined Village album (released in 2007) won ‘folk’ awards, this stuff is closer to ‘world’ music than anything else, given the strong Asian and Middle Eastern flavours running through some of the arrangements. Anyway, that’s the musical analysis over with (there’ll be questions at the end).


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Scott Matthews Do you ever wonder why some experiences stay with you for a long time yet others are forgotten the very moment they end? Well I’m still pondering that very question since attending Town Hall, Birmingham to see Scott Matthews play on Sunday night. For me I’d been looking forward to the gig for a while, and yet with some quite high expectations I was niggled; niggled that the live performance might not live up to his two recorded albums ‘Passing Stranger’ and this year’s release ‘Elsewhere’. Or that his live persona would be haunted by comparisons to the likes of Nick Drake and Jeff Buckley.


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Fairport Convention The downstairs section of the Town Hall was full, and there were only a handful of seats left upstairs. The lobby was crowded with people chatting and raffle ticket sellers raising money for the Teenage Cancer Trust...


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