British Sea Power On the strength of both bands’ reputations for live performances, this evening’s British Sea Power and Bo Ningen gig at Manchester’s Ritz should be a dream pairing. Tonight BSP are performing one of only three UK gigs to celebrate the 12th anniversary of the release (and now the re-issue) of their debut album, ‘The Decline of British Sea Power’. A strange pairing it may be, but the uniquely British BSP are supported tonight by London-based Japanese acid-punk four-piece noiseniks Bo Ningen. However, although on the face of it the line up is chalk and cheese, both bands share a belief in experimentation and pushing forward the boundaries of their music.


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Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes The air was thick with building anticipation for Frank Carter's latest incarnation and what promise of former brutal delivery. A break to the tension was found as the crowd heartily ooohed along to Weezer's 'Buddy Holly' and as I scanned the room one couldn't help but wonder if the venues for this tour were scouted for hardcore parkour potential. The crowd still left a semi circle of open dance floor and after the cheers for The Rattlesnakes entrance, Frank declared "I haven't seen something like this since I was 14, get in". His combination of humbleness and assertiveness never fails to gain idolatry; “Thanks for coming to see a band with only 3 songs I wouldn’t have done that”.


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Elvis Costello by Gig Junkies, on Flickr Tonight's gig is all about this particular legendary figure. From when you walk into the auditorium until you leave. What can you say about a man who has had more classic hits than most of us have had hot dinners, with over 60 singles, thirty-odd albums in a career spanning well over thirty years. And that’s before you event mention his lyrical prowess! Welcome to the delectable Symphony Hall - Elvis Costello.


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Babes in Toyland by Gig Junkies, on Flickr A lot of legendary bands seem to be reforming to play tours at the moment and tonight Manchester’s Gorilla is sold out for one of only a small number of UK gigs by seminal US female punk ensemble Babes in Toyland. This is the band’s first tour in 18 years and so there is a lot of excitement in the air. For the next hour there is a full-on musical assault, as the trio of singer / guitarist Kat Bjelland, bassist Maureen Herman and drummer Lori Barbero take us on a rapid-fire journey through the three uncompromising and highly influential albums the band made between 1990 and 1995. Babes in Toyland fell apart rather acrimoniously in the years after their last album so it’s great to see the definitive line-up together on stage and so obviously enjoying the proceedings.


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James Arthur A worthy winner of the X Factor ITV show. Having spent 17 of my formative years growing up in Middlesbrough I know how ‘unfairly’ difficult it can be breaking through into any creative area of the arts being a Northerner, and although there has been some controversy surrounding James Arthur it should not detract from the fact that James is an impressive performer.


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Foxygen Foxygen have released some great songs in their career to date, being at times very poppy, but also managing to be interesting, quirky and experimental. However, a major draw to one of their gigs will inevitably be their reputation for seriously unhinged live performances. It’s also been suggested that this might be Foxygen’s last tour, so there are certainly expectations tonight.


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Public Service Broadcasting “This is a public service announcement. We would like to welcome the people of Birmingham to Birmingham Institute. Tonight performing for your delectation and entertainment will be Public Service Broadcasting with support artists the Smoke Fairies. Thank you for coming along and enjoy tonight’s performance. Yes."


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Shawn Smith Shawn Smith is the prolific vocal and creative driving force behind a number of bands over the past twenty years or so, namely Brad, Pigeonhed and Satchel; however he is still relatively unknown and this is clear from the small number attending this intimate show. As he enters the stage, looking like a young Leon Russell, Smith engages with the audience straight away as he takes his seat at the keyboard and begins with the Satchel song Suffering.  Shawn’s voice powers over the keyboard and his distinctive vocal style takes you back to an era of the mid ‘90’s due to his involvement in so many influential Seattle bands. Through his use of humour Shawn Smith made the night informal, and it was more like a friend playing to a group of mates which led to some supportive heckling from the crowd that was received and responded to with sharp wit.


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Calexico It’s always a pleasure to see Calexico perform. Their concerts are fun, they effortlessly mix musical genres and their live musicianship is stunning. The current European tour is promoting their new album ‘Edge of the Sun’.


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Nick Cave Promptly at 8.30, Nick Cave swaggers on stage looking characteristically dapper, in a tailored suit and shirt, and takes a seat at the centrally positioned grand piano. To the one side sits his co-conspirator Warren Ellis, whilst Martyn Casey, Thomas Wydler and a replacement for Barry Adamson take their positions towards the back on a raised part of the stage.


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Man Overboard Tonight felt like I was 13 again hanging out at the Red Rose in Rugeley. The Slade Rooms has an air of the 6th form common room full of hormonal teenagers ready to release some tension by going crazy in the pit. Tonight’s show is a rescheduled tour that was originally meant to see a now defunct Hostage Calm and scandalicious Front Porch Step supporting.


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Theory of a Deadman Tonight playing to a sold out crowd at the Manchester Academy 2 are Canadian rockers, Theory of a Deadman. 10 years since releasing their first record and 5 albums later, its nice the see the band finally getting the recognition they deserve from UK audiences.


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Mike + The Mechanics Tonight the traffic into Birmingham is dire - clearly something has occurred to snare up the road system terribly as we make our way into town. But it’s okay, we know the short cuts. We’re making our way to the delectable Symphony Hall to see a ‘side-project’ that has done very well, thank you every much. This chap may have been in another band that did a tad better - but tonight we’re here to see Mike Rutherford and his band of brothers that make up Mike + the Mechanics.


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Sharon Van Etten Love hurts. Love scars. And there's nobody who quite knows how to document the more painful side of love than Sharon Van Etten. Ever since she first appeared in 2009 with an album inspired by a former partner who smashed up her guitar and told her that her music was pointless (note to that man - you are very wrong), she's specialised in writing love songs that are painful and startling in their honesty.


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