Beverley Knight As if she really needs a reason to be back on stage in the West Midlands, Beverley Knight was in town last night, bringing her 'I Love Soulsville' tour to Birmingham's Symphony Hall.


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Leftfield Shock and awe!! Leftfield are playing the O2 Institute in Birmingham... what?! Really?!! For me this was a gig not to be missed. Leftfield's 1995 release 'Leftism' was one of the most important soundtracks of my youth. More than any other record the heady and fascinating rhythms of Leftism, were the perfect accompaniment to a few drinks and 'indoor boogie' getting ready with chums for various heavy techno and psychedelic all-nighters in the heart of Birmingham and it's more bohemian quarters.


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Norman Watt-Roy Ian Dury and The Blockheads, The Clash, Madness, Nick Lowe, Rodger Daltrey, Nick Cave, Frankie Goes To Hollywood...as CVs go that’s not a bad line up eh? In a career that’s lasted 47 years and counting Norman Watt-Roy’s been the face with the bass and, despite being just a couple of years away from collecting his pension, he’s showing no signs of slowing down, in fact this is his second gig at the Hare and Hounds in less than 12 months.‘Watt’ a trooper.


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Scott Matthews 1777. I still find it an unbelievable fact that it's the year that tonight's venue - The Huntingdon Hall in Worcester - was built. With beautiful curved wood panelled pews, some with their own glazed saloon doors to form private booths for worshippers, this converted Methodist church is a testament (no pun intended) to the crafts people that both built it and renovated it.


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Alison Moyet I mentioned to someone the other day I was reviewing a singer who started off in a band called Yazoo. They thought I meant Yazz (as in ‘The Only Way Is Up’) #fail. So to explain to this person, read on because tonight, in the delectable Symphony Hall, we here to be entertained by the iconic and beautiful bluesy dulcet tones of Alison Moyet.


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Troumaca Tonight at the Rainbow really is a night for Brummies to be proud - as both bands on the bill hail from the Midlands. First up is Dumb a four piece who despite their tender years, perform an accomplished and tight set. It’s clear despite their age that their sights are focussed on big things. They play a series of guitar based ballads, which are reminiscent of late nineties American based pioneers Nirvana, Pixies and The Smashing Pumpkins. Dumb keep it short and sweet with a six tune set that certainly gets the crowd warmed up with a few indie chicks drawn to rock out at the front, and at their crescendo big up tonight’s head-liners Troumaca… ’enjoy’.


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AlunaGeorge First on the list is Benedict Taylor a singer songwriter from Hertfordshire. His melodies comprise of slow contemporary vocal and piano based ballads. Taylor's falsetto vocal works perfectly with song highlights including 'Stranger' and "please don't fall out of Love' - a love song "in reverse" Benedict tells us. His heart felt songs certainly warm up this crowd on a cold and wet Tuesday evening.


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Charles Bradley If you’ve not heard Charles Bradley’s life story let’s just say that his first 50 years or so (he’s 65-ish now) can best be summarised as ‘pretty grim’ (homelessness, drudgery, heartbreak, murder...short of a plague of locusts the dude went through it all). Happily things took a turn for the better when he began performing as a James Brown tribute act known as Black Velvet back in the 90s. This brought him to the attention of soul saviour and Daptone Records co-founder Gabriel Roth eventually leading to an acclaimed debut album No Time For Dreaming (2011) and the moving documentary Soul Of America (2012). On the back of all this unsurprisingly tonight’s gig in the Hare and Hounds sold out faster than Royal Mail shares...


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Heaven 17 Two years after their last major tour which saw them revisiting their debut album Penthouse and Pavement Heaven 17 are back on the road showcasing its follow up, The Luxury Gap. Developing the sound they’d pioneered on their first release The Luxury Gap added an even more sophisticated soul sheen to the mix with impressive results. The band’s biggest selling album shifted over 300,000 copies in its first year of release and spawned the ruddy massive hit single Temptation. Of course they famously neglected to play that, or indeed any other of the tracks from the album live back in the day so, as with the Penthouse and Pavement tour, this is one of the first times that most of the audience will have heard them ‘au naturel’.


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Sparks Now celebrating an incredible 41 years together Sparks (essentially brothers Ron and Russell Mael) have been hailed as an influence on everyone from Kurt Cobain to Duran Duran and The Pixies (let’s face it, Soft Cell and Pet Shop Boys based their entire acts on them too). It’s unusual enough for a group to make it to their fifth decade but even rarer still for them to be producing decent work too, witness exhibit A, their rather fine last album 2009’s The Seduction Of Ingmar Bergman, which the duo are ambitiously planning to transform into a full length movie and stage show. Makes most other bands seem positively slack in comparison eh? It’s this continuing quest to, as Ron later put it this evening “Keep pushing the envelope” that seems to be behind this latest tour, Two Hands, One Mouth, a stripped back chance to see “Sparks in the nude”. We can thank Russ for that particular mental image.


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