Rita Ora What an amazing past 12 months it has been for Rita Ora, with ‘Phoenix’ marking her first solo album release in five years, the album has received numerous nominations and won awards even though it was only released in the latter half of 2018. ‘For You’ was one of the biggest hits of the year, not a day went by when you didn’t hear it at least three times on the radio, a headline slot at Manchester Pride and returning to the screen as Mia in the 50 Shades film series and just when you thought there was no end to the singer songwriter’s talents she transforms into Dr. Ann Laurent for Pokémon Detective Pikachu with latest offering ‘Carry On’ featuring on the soundtrack, appealing to a whole new set of fans. Not forgetting to mention numerous charity work and an announcement to appear for Soccer Aid this summer, it’s so easy to see why people love her.


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Kamasi Washington “Let’s Do It”, announces Kamasi Washington, as he and his band take the stage at Manchester's Academy. The venue has a fine pedigree starting life in the sixties with jazzers such as Humphrey Lyttelton before embracing the likes of Hendrix, The Who, Cream and Pink Floyd. An audience of around one thousand are here tonight, mostly students. Some are here out of curiosity but most will be familiar with Washington’s contributions to fellow Angelino Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly – that landmark 2015 chart topper which fused hip-hop with jazz and opened up the genre to a new young audience.


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Stereophonics Welsh maestros Stereophonics have a busy summer ahead and so it is that they announced three intimate warm up shows. Admittedly the Bonus Arena holds 3,500 I believe so it all depends on your own personal interpretation of intimate. Given the last time I saw them I was in a crowd of somewhere around 40,000 it’s all relative really.


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HOMESHAKE It’s been six years since Peter Sagar aka HOMESHAKE released his first cassette to the world. His reputation as a master of the chill wave sound has continued to grow with each of the four albums released since then. Returning to the Hare & Hounds for the second time, I was intrigued to see how his new album ‘Helium’ would translate to the live setting.


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BEAK> There is a substantial amount of kit on stage that needs manoeuvring before BEAK> can start their set, but this is done swiftly and efficiently so that the banter may begin. Surprisingly, BEAK> are ridiculously entertaining between songs in a slightly old-school Top Gear style, by making jokes at each other's expense which starts as soon as they walk on to the stage.


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The Unthanks The Trades Club is a socialist members cooperative in alt.Yorkshire’s Hebden Bridge... a hip, chilled out mill town noted for its liberal vibe and motley mixture of artists, alternative practitioners, New Age activists, LGBTs and urban commuters in search of the good life. This cosy venue is a natural home to The Unthanks who’ve played here on several occasions; indeed, as Becky remarks, she once lived here in the town.


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Disturbed The Manchester Apollo was absolutely heaving for the Disturbed show tonight. Not just busy, but absolutely jam packed full of rock fans. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the venue as full as it was for the first of their two nights in the city to close the Evolution World Tour. It was full right from the get-go too due to the support act tonight being the one and only Skindred, who are, in their own rights a massive draw.


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The Specials Tonight is crackling in the O2 in Sheffield, positively crackling. The Specials are here for a sell out date on their Encore 40th Anniversary Tour and by the looks of it every Tyke that has ever been a fan (that’s a Yorkshireman for those not in the know) is out in force… and then some.


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Sam Fender Some might say that it’s been a bit of a whirlwind of a year for Sam Fender. Since releasing his debut single 18 months ago, the 24-year-old has been listed on the BBC’s Sound of 2018 Award, picked up a prestigious BRITS Critics’ Choice Award and sold out venues across the country. Quite a feat for an artist that’s yet to even release their debut album.


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The Undertones John Peel knew a good tune when he heard one, and 'Teenage Kicks' was described by him as his favourite song of all time, and was his families tune of choice at his funeral in 2004. Whilst the band may be a little older, it’s good to see that they’re back on their 40th anniversary tour celebrating the release of their first album 'The Undertones', and tonight was a joyous, raucous gig delivered by one of Derry's finest exports to date.


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Mini Mansions Swaggering through their suave suits, Mini Mansions balance their smooth coolness with pure energy at Birmingham’s Hare and Hounds.


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Ten Tonnes It’s 5.30pm and a small crowd has hurried into a corner of Birmingham’s HMV store. The reason? To catch glimpse of one of the country’s rising stars Ten Tonnes.


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The Vamps Before we knew it The Vamps arrived on the stage behind a curtain casting silhouette shapes before dropping to the floor revealing Brad who surprised the crowd with ‘Just My Type’. The opening track for the evening had the crowd singing loudly and dancing non-stop from the get go.


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JAWS Having released four sonically diverse singles and ahead of their highly anticipated fourth album and return, JAWS announced a quartet of live dates around the UK. Calling at Glasgow, Manchester, London and finally their hometown of Birmingham, the shows were curiously large for the band and after following their meteoric rise as a completely unsigned band, I was intrigued to see how they matched up to these larger venues at their Birmingham date.


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