John Grant Having last toured the UK in 2013 in support of the distinctly electro flavoured Pale Green Ghosts album Grant’s back this time with a modest, ahem, 34 piece orchestra in tow. It makes sense though given the lushness of that voice and the soaring songs (many of which focus on Grant’s struggles to come to terms with himself, his life and his loves) that practically cry out for the gravitas that only a full fat orchestra can really deliver. The venue’s pretty perfect too, Brum’s grand old Town Hall, a Victorian Grade I listed building that’s seen everyone from Charles Dickens to Black Sabbath do their thang (although sadly not on the same night).


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White Denim White Denim may not be ‘sassy’ and I’m not convinced they bring a ‘cool trash aesthetic’ either but one thing they do do (not dodo, that’s just a big extinct bird...) is...pause for dramatic effect...ROCK. Hell yeah! Ahem. In fact within just a couple of seconds of opening track Pretty Green they’d managed to blow a transformer. Now that’s ROCK.


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ABC Ahhhhh the 80s...was there ever a better era in pop? Nope, I don’t think there was. Take 1982 for instance, the year that ABC’s The Lexicon Of Love was originally issued. Number one singles included (deep breath) Don’t You Want Me (The Human League), The Model (Kraftwerk), Town Called Malice (The Jam), House of Fun (Madness), Come On Eileen (Dexys Midnight Runners), Eye Of The Tiger (Survivor), Pass The Dutchie (Musical Youth) and Do You Really Want To Hurt Me (Culture Club). Seriously...now that’s what I call (pop) music. Incidentally (and somewhat incredibly) ABC’s The Look Of Love was only the 32nd highest selling single that year, sandwiched between OMD’s Maid of Orleans and...er...Chas and Dave’s Ain’t No Pleasing You.


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John Newman A number 1 album and single, Brit Award nominations, sell out tours, heralded as an MTV Artist To Watch...short of delivering world peace and discovering a cure for cancer things couldn’t be going much better for John Newman right now. A quick glance at his back story and you can’t help but feel he sort of deserves it though. Aside from that voice he had a tricky childhood (alcoholic father who left home when he was six leaving the family pretty much broke), but in the best traditions of all great soul singers he used this as a positive force, writing and producing his own stuff in his early teens before moving to the smoke at 20.


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Connan Mockasin Time then for Mr Mockasin, this evening bedecked in white trousers, a white silk blouse top, black leather jacket and what looked suspiciously like his granny's sun hat. Proof that you can sometimes judge a book by its cover Connan’s music is a similar mix of the masculine and feminine, blending woozy psychouts with a vocal that’s occasionally so high pitched only dogs and particularly attentive teens can hear it. Swigging from a bottle of wine (naturally) throughout the gig the set’s relatively short on tracks but given that some of them stretch out languidly to 10 minutes or more that’s no real surprise.


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Connan Mockasin Time then for Mr Mockasin, this evening bedecked in white trousers, a white silk blouse top, black leather jacket and what looked suspiciously like his granny's sun hat. Proof that you can sometimes judge a book by its cover Connan’s music is a similar mix of the masculine and feminine, blending woozy psychouts with a vocal that’s occasionally so high pitched only dogs and particularly attentive teens can hear it. Swigging from a bottle of wine (naturally) throughout the gig the set’s relatively short on tracks but given that some of them stretch out languidly to 10 minutes or more that’s no real surprise.


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Haim With an album that’s gone top 10 pretty much everywhere that matters, several Glastonbury appearances (including showing up during Primal Scream’s set at Bobby’s request) and somewhat bizarrely a slot on The Andrew Marr Show with Cammo (boo...hiss...he’s behind you etc) in attendance, 2013’s been a pretty good year for Californian sisters Alana, Este and Danielle Haim (FYI it rhymes with ‘time’ not with ‘lame’). It’s not been an overnight thing though. Danielle and Este were in The Valli Girls way, way back in the early noughties before starting Haim in 2006 so they’ve clearly paid their dues.


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Mott the Hoople From ‘69 to ‘80 Mott the Hoople enjoyed their fair share of highs and lows, inspiring some pretty fanatical devotion from their followers (The Clash’s Mick Jones famously followed them to the ends of the earth...well Liverpool at least...which is close) and influencing a whole generation of bands. Their charismatic lead singer, Ian Hunter, quit way back in ’74 and given that he turned 70 in 2009 a comeback seemed unlikely. But that’s just what they did. Fast forward a few years and with interest in the band stoked further by 201l’s fascinating documentary Ballad of Mott the Hoople, they’re back for more.


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London Grammar Thanks to the internet it’s seemingly possible these days to record a track in the morning, stick it up online at lunchtime and be the next big thing before Deal Or No Deal. All it takes is for an uploaded video on You Tube to catch the public’s imagination and voila, record labels beating a path to your door and Jools Holland climbing over your fence begging you to tickle his ivories. I’m not entirely sure if this was London Grammar’s sole route to success but they, like a number of other acts recently, do seem to have come from nowhere. Now with a US tour under their belts and debut album that narrowly missed being number one in the UK charts they’re playing a sold out show at the 600 person capacity Academy 2 with a return visit to the main Academy room already booked for next February. Blimey.


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PINS You wait ages for three female fronted (in the case of two of tonight’s bill 100% female line ups too) bands and then three come along at once. Okay, I know there are other testicle free groups out there (and there always has been) but given the fact that ladies make up roughly 50% of the population it’s a never ending source of puzzlement that you see relatively few women only or women dominated bands. Why? Beats me. Answers on a XX chromosome please.


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Layers Last up, and celebrating the release of their rather spanking new EP, it’s Layers. Any fears that recent fatherhood and engagement (awww bless...more on this later) would have taken the edge of lead singer Lance’s performance were rapidly dispelled. Famous for his neck threatening backflips and relentlessly energetic performances (seriously, the man makes the Duracell Bunny look like a slacker) he and the band kick off (‘kick off’ being the right phrase too) with the punk fuelled Mind On Fire, two minutes of pedal to the metal machine gun drumming, filthy guitars and Lance leaping about like he’s on hot coals.


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Dutch Uncles For some of us they may have seemingly sprung up from nowhere recently, Zebedee like, but amazingly Dutch Uncles are actually already on their third album. Sadly neither of the first two seemed to shoot them to instant fame and fortune but in a classic case of ‘third time lucky’ the new one, Out Of Touch In The Wild, seems to be tickling hipsters’ tastebuds nicely as tonight’s ‘sold out, sell your own kidney / grandmother’s kidney / grandmother to get a ticket’ gig clearly showed.


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Everything Everything There’s a rich history of singing like you’ve just trapped your genitals in a car door (stranger things can happen), from Frankie Valli back in the 50s through to the Bee Gees in the 70s, on to Jimi Somerville in the 80s and, latterly that nice Mr Martin from Coldplay (more of them later). On top of the clever art rock electro feel of the music lead singer Jonathan Higg’s soaring vocals made Everything Everything’s 2010’s debut album Man Alive stand out and he’s wisely stuck with this winning formula on the new one, Arc (a top 5 album now no less), albeit with a noticeable shift towards a more epic stadium feel here and there.


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The Milk Essex four piece The Milk, self professed ‘new soul rebels’. Dexys were famously searching for just such a thing over 30 years ago, are The Milk the answer to their prayers? Well they’ve certainly got soul and a determination to do whatever they can to get the audience to enjoy themselves “We’re here to make every night like Friday night!” Oh goody, Friday night’s chicken kebab night. Not sure I could eat one everyday though, my waistline’s in enough trouble as it is. The Milk have hit upon the idea that breaks between songs get in the way of the party so it’s pretty much a non-stop set, kicking off with current single Broke Up The Family.


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