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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Joanne Shaw Taylor It was the salubrious surround of Birmingham’s Town Hall that greeted us, surrounded by wood clad stands full of German goods and yummy Bavarian food on the cold Autumnal Friday in Brum for Joanne Shaw Taylor's home coming gig.


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Go West Well there's total traffic meltdown tonight in Brum, but no problems for us - we're seated cozily in the beautiful Town Hall listening to a bit 'Love and Pride' by King and ‘Footloose’ (Kenny Loggins) to get us in the mood for some 80s retro courtesy of The Christians, Hue & Cry and Go West.


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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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Marina And The Diamonds It’s heartening to see Birmingham’s Town Hall being used for poppier gigs and I’m guessing this is the poppiest to date. It’s a sell out too, with throngs of eager young diamonds (the ‘diamonds’ in the name of the band apparently refers to Marina’s fans... aw bless) swarming into the venue. First up though there’s just enough time to slip in a bit of cock... steady now... nbullkid.


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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 Graham Coxon Power Acoustic Ensemble Old Albarn may be the most famous Blur-ite but GC’s been putting out all kinds of good shit over the last decade or so, culminating in 2009’s 'The Spinning Top' – an ambitious concept album that tells one man’s story from birth to death (actually, as Graham pointed out tonight it doesn’t... not really... he just said that in an interview and now it’s all people talk about... and I’ve just gone and compounded this misconception... balls).


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Grace and Danger: The Songs of John Martyn Part of the English Originals Weekend tonight saw a veritable cornucopia (yep, I’ve been reading the dictionary again) of artists pay their own tribute to a man who, in my humble opinion, is hugely underappreciated. Of course John did himself no real favours during his 40 odd year career... what with all the drink and drugs... and more drink... and... oh go on... just a few more drugs. Having his leg lopped off in 2006 probably didn’t help matters either, but the overwhelming feeling that you got after he passed away last year was that John well and truly lived life to the full. Inevitably if you’re going to do that you can expect massive highs and crashing lows and listening to John’s songs it’s clear that’s just what he got. Anger, love, hate, bitterness, regret, joy... he covered pretty much every emotion under the sun and tonight’s gig gave us a chance to see how others manage to interpret what are, often, intensely personal songs.


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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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The Pains of Being Pure At Heart Nearly Christmas eh? Done all your shopping yet? Nope, me neither… that list just sits there taunting me like a retail version of Dorian Grey’s portrait…whatever the hell that means. Still, what better way to take my mind off it all than a nice bit of imported shoegazing from the US eh?


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The Destroyers Tonight’s gig at the Town Hall, billed as Curzonora, was the opening night in Birmingham’s Flatpack Festival. Now in its third year the film festival delivers a mix of rare and interesting films and live events such as tonight’s performance by Birmingham’s own, The Destroyers, providing the music for a series of short films from the early 1900’s.


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