Category: Rock & Roll

Home interiors, metalhead style


Say hello to my brand new DIY Rainbow and Ronnie James Dio cushions!

So here’s something easy to do with all those band t-shirts lurking at the back of your wardrobe, the ones you never end up wearing…

When it comes to my favourite bands – most of which aren’t particularly famous – I’m more than happy to do my bit to support their work by buying their CDs, special editions and merchandise. I never leave a gig without buying at least a t-shirt.

The problem is, with metal bands in particular, they don’t really cater to small-sized female fans. Most have an extensive range of t-shirts, but 9 out of 10 will be men’s fit, starting at a men’s size small, which fit me like a fucking nightgown. On the rare occasion where they do a ‘girl fit’ shirt, there’ll be just one design which they’ll run for several years.

In the past I’ve resorted to buying the styles I wanted in whatever size / fit was available, and then shredding them up and re-fitting them. But that kind of limits the occasions on which I can actually wear them. Normal band t-shirts are kind of okay in my office, but I have a feeling that restyled shirts tied in shreds around your torso may be frowned upon.

So when my favourite band Kamelot released a new album tie-in t-shirt a couple of years ago that, once again, only came in sizes that would have comfortably accommodated two women of my size, I tried something new and turned it in to a cushion cover. I have zero sewing skills, but a bit of hemming tape and an iron did the trick. It came out looking pretty neat, and on a couple of occasions where I managed to capture my cat modelling it, the pictures even got reposted by the band.


Since then I’ve collected a few more shirts that I really love but wouldn’t wear – yeah I know I could, but I just really don’t do baggy – and added to my growing set of metal cushions. That way I actually get more use out of them, it’s a nice alternative to covering your walls with posters (with the added benefit of making your home more comfy), and it’s a great way to personalise your cushions.

re:view – Joy Williams unveils her solo album ‘Venus’ live in London

A few years back alternative folk duo The Civil Wars appeared on my radar (thanks to their stellar performance on Jools Holland) and added a new dimension to the music I have in my life. Needless to say I was gutted when they split up at the beginning of last year, before I ever had a chance to see them live.

Now the stunning Joy William is back on her own, with a solo album and a very different kind of sound – which she premiered in front of a rapt and wonderfully welcoming audience at Islington Assembly Hall in London last night. With her new music Joy ventures into a genre I don’t normally listen to (and I’m in fact struggling to put a label on it, because this really isn’t my area. I guess I’d call it atmospheric, electric-influenced pop for grown-ups.) But her magical vocals and incredible stage presence crashed right through my initial scepticism and drew me into this performance so much that I ended up absolutely loving every note, and leaving the show filled with excitement for the new album.


Visibly overwhelmed by her return to London (the scene of her band’s break-up) and the loving response from the audience, Joy filled the room with a beautifully positive atmosphere, through her music and through the way she talked about it so openly. You can tell this new album is the record of a very personal journey, and the music and the lyrics reflect it. There’s a lot of raw, unapologetic openness here. There’s whispers and screams, outbursts of joy and quiet reflection. And every piece of it feels incredibly genuine – no gimmicks, no pretense, just the real thing.


And that’s the impression you get of Joy as well, as an artist and as a woman. Through her music and her performance runs a constant current of strength, honesty and originality – the confidence of someone who has found her voice and is (oh so totally!) ready to prove it to the world.

It looks like Venus is going to be an exciting new chapter for Joy Williams and I really can’t wait for it to begin.

Pens: 5 out of 5 for the gig and the music from Venus we’ve heard so far


Here’s the firs single, Woman (Oh Mama), complete with a stunning video:

And for old times’ sake, Joy’s version of The Civil Wars’ The One That Got Away from last night:

I saw Aerosmith! And they’re amazing! (Of course!)

Wow. I was trying to save this until I’ve calmed the fuck down, and then write about it properly. But it’s been two days and I’ll probably never calm down because seeing Aerosmith live – finally, after fifteen years of being in the wrong place at the wrong time or having no money – absolutely blew my mind.

I mean, what legends. To be rocking this hard in their, what, sixties? Seventies? And they still sound better live than most bands do in the studio.

Here’s a little video, just because this song means the world, and because real men play piano! (I never even knew he did. Imagine my poor old piano girl heart when Steven Fucking Tyler sat down at the piano and started playing…) And that’s the only reason they’re allowed to stand on a white baby grand with their shoes on, tsk tsk!

Ah, well. I was in love with Steven Tyler when I was 15, still in love with him now.

(Not sure whether he’s just high or also mad, but he’s doing it right.)

re:View – Patti Russo’s UK tour /
Why you really, seriously need to know about this singer

Those who know her have probably been telling you for years that Patti Russo has one of the most gorgeous voices on the planet. And maybe you went, “Patti who?” because even though she has been on the world’s biggest stages and on every major radio station, she never made the jump to headline act.

For twenty years Patti Russo has lent her power vocals to projects by the likes of Meat Loaf, Queen and Cher. Now – just in time for her 50th birthday – she has made a bold decision, assembled a band, planted her high-heeled boots firmly in the centre of the stage and is giving us a taste of her own music on her first-ever solo tour.


And this time, it’s personal – for everyone involved. Patti has described this tour as a “personal triumph” in the aftermath of a severe blow dealt by her former boss and friend Meat Loaf, who last year brusquely informed her via email that, after twenty years in his band, she was no longer required. And it’s just as personal for her fans and friends, many of whom have followed the singer for said twenty years. You can tell by the atmosphere at her gigs that for these people, seeing Patti step into the spotlight ranges somewhere between a musical dream coming true and the pride of witnessing your insanely talented friend proving to the world just how good they are.

And in case you’re wondering: Yes, I am one of these people and to me it means all that.


With the UK tour nearly over and an EP out for sale, we’re told a full album can be expected within the next year. Patti’s own music, much like her voice, effortlessly jumps from rock to soul and back again. The songs showcased on this tour are bursting with a raw energy that is characteristic of the singer: she never stands still for two seconds, she speaks her mind, she swears with abandon and she certainly lets it all out on stage, packing an amount of power into every performance that leaves audiences stunned and sometimes sobbing.

She can sing the tears, legendary songwriter Jim Steinman once said of her – and the same is certainly true for the rest of the emotional spectrum. She’s also pretty damn good at writing those tears down.

Most remarkably, after a rollercoaster career and at an age where too many established female artists are pushed to the sidelines of semi-retirement by the scores of airbrushed teenage pop princesses flooding the industry, Patti Russo is putting her music out there and she’s staying true to herself. Like the tiger-legginged, big-haired ’80s rock ‘n roll glamour of her on-stage persona, the music oozes pure, old-school rock and soul class.

If this sounds like the kind of nostalgic stuff that is increasingly being driven to extinction by the auto-tuned pop dominating our decade – well, the UK tour certainly proved that her music is drawing a diverse audience ranging from old-school rockers to twenty-somethings, with the occasional eight-year-old in the front row gearing up to introduce this hidden gem to the next generation of music lovers.

She might be looking back on half a century, but Patti Russo is just getting started. You might want to watch this one.

Rebel at the keys: classical music needs more people like James Rhodes

James Rhodes plays the piano gorgeously – you don’t need me to tell you that; and it should be reason enough for anyone to go to his gigs and buy his albums. He’s also known for his relaxed approach to recitals and his quest to make classical music more accessible to the wider public.

What I didn’t know was that he is also very funny. Being at one of his gigs is like music education comedy – a bit like the music ed lessons I loved in school, but with laughs.

And, most importantly, he’s out to challenge all the (frankly, stupid) rules that have somehow attached themselves to classical recitals over time and are casting a whole load of unnecessary doom over the experience of going to listen to somebody play the piano.

Despite having played piano all my life, I rarely go to recitals. There’s just too much stuck-up-ness involved in your average recital. The oppressive atmosphere of a Queen Elizabeth Hall filled with posh people in their finest evening wear, making you feel that this is no place for your frizzy hair and your studded boots. The visible discomfort of the pianist clad in full tuxedo. The constant horror that you might clap at the wrong moment – or, indeed, that a little noise of joy might escape from your lips at the end of a piece, drawing two hundred pairs of furious eyes to you. And, the most stupid of all the rules: Why the fuck is the pianist not allowed to talk to the audience? I mean, the awkwardness! It makes me cringe every time. It’s unnatural. It’s just plain wrong.

And that’s what I love so much about James Rhodes. He plays recitals in the basement of a Soho theatre, he comes on stage in jeans and a stripy t-shirt and bright red shoes, with his trademark messy hair, and just puts you at ease.

Most importantly, he talks. It’s as simple as that. He gets up from the piano, he faces his audience, and he tells us, with so much love and passion for his subject, about the composers and the life experiences that led them to compose the pieces he is playing, and shares his feelings about a particular composer, or piece, or the process of learning it. And this has nothing to do with the common misconception that you have to spell things out to your average audience because they’re too uneducated or unsophisticated to understand and appreciate classical music. It’s simply about putting some life and humanity back into the process of playing – and consuming – classical music.

Because surely all music, whether it’s pop or metal or classical, should be there to enjoy and to share and to dance to – and not to be consumed by the elite in awkwardness and according to a set of pointless social rules that would probably make the composers turn in their graves.

I raise a pen to James Rhodes for putting the fun back into piano recitals, for always making sure we get plenty of Chopin, and for reminding us of the human beings behind those great classical works of genius.

Here's James reading one of Beethoven's letters at Letters Live in December 2013
Here’s James reading one of Beethoven’s letters at Letters Live in December 2013

Now head over to Soundcloud for instant happiness. Or buy James’ albums for prolonged happiness.

Follow @JRhodesPianist on Twitter.

Why you should see one of Patti Russo’s UK gigs this spring

Patti Russo UK gigs

Every once in a while a singer comes along with a voice so superb it makes the hair on your arms stand up right on the first note; and with just the right combination of talent, stage presence and personality to make you feel that the world’s a slightly better place whenever you see them up on a stage.

Patti Russo is one of those singers.

And that’s precisely the reason why various superstars on the international music scene have enlisted her help over the past two decades to give their recordings and live shows an extra boost of vocal power and glamour.

She toured the world with Meat Loaf for 20 years; she has been in Cher’s Las Vegas show; she’s a regular gust vocalist with Queen [watch Patti channelling the spirit of Freddie]. Take a breath, because the list goes on…

She has rocked musical stages either side of the Atlantic, starring as Esmeralda in the London production of Notre Dame de Paris and as the original Killer Queen in the Las Vegas production of Will Rock You [fantastic clip on Vimeo].

Patti also has countless recordings to her credit, including Brian Ferry’s album Frantic, a leading role in the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s rock opera Beethoven’s Last Night [here’s a beautiful track from that] and a song on the soundtrack of the Jim Carrey movie How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

Patti Russo UK gigs

And as if rocking the international album charts and the stadiums of the world wasn’t enough, Patti Russo also has songwriting on her long list of talents. Highlights include the title track for the 2006 movie South Beach Dreams, which she both wrote and recorded, and the stand-out hit on Betty Harris’ 2008 comeback album Intuition, called ‘Bring Me a Bible and a Beer’ – which became an instant fan favourite that will have the crowds screaming wherever Patti herself performs it.

You might as well listen to that while you’re here:

Now Patti Russo has stepped out of the shadow to embark on a solo career that, in a perfect world, should have been going strong for some 20 years already. And we are incredibly lucky because she’s doing it right here in the UK. So grab a ticket if you can for that one gig you can’t miss this year.

Here are the confirmed dates so far:
Southampton, 10 April 2014 @ The Brook
Birmingham 13 April 2014 @ O2 Academy,
Leicester, 15 April 2014 @ O2 Academy [ticket link TBC]
Sheffield, 17 April 2014 @ O2 Academy
Oxford, 19 April 2014 @ O2 Academy
Brighton, 21 April 2014 @ Komedia
London, 27 April 2014 @ O2 Academy Islington

For more news and gig updates from Patti follow her on Twitter @Patti_Russo and don’t forget to stop by and like her new official Facebook page.

re:View – Top Hat, white tie & the good old times

My week of musical escapism continued on Saturday with a matinee of Top Hat, the stage version of the 1935 sing-and-dance comedy starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Roberts.

Kristen Beth Williams and Gavin Lee. Image borrowed from here.


“They don’t make them like this anymore,” sighed my companion as we left the theatre; and I thought, of course he would say that. He’s in his early sixties. The good old times, and all that.

But actually, he’s go ta point. Top Hat radiates with the kind of elegance that you just don’t find in today’s productions. Whether it’s the dance numbers, the songs, the dresses and suits, the beautifully simplistic story (boy meets girl, mistaken identity causes much drama, all ends with a wedding), the dialog, or even the (endearingly obvious) jokes -everything in this show channels the spirit of a time when gentlemen were courting you properly, ladies were glamorous and admired, and everybody was wearing tap dance shoes at all times, just in case you needed to burst out into a dance routine in the middle of a conversation.

I love this old stuff. When I get down I shut myself away for a weekend and watch a bunch of ancient screwball comedies and musical films, and pretend that everything is ok in the world.

And what could be more happy-making than a musical bringing exactly this feeling to you live, today?! Especially one that is so well performed as this production of Top Hat. The cast carries the elegance and the mannerisms of the era perfectly, never once breaking the illusion that you’re right in the middle of the 1930s. The singing and the solo dance numbers to Irving Berlin’s songs are equally flawless.

Just one thing really bothered me: The ensemble was woefully out of sync on the tap dance numbers. This may be nit-picking, but watching a major West End musical I would have liked to see the ensemble dancing in razor-sharp perfection. But then, growing up in family of obsessive (tap) dancers has probably biased my expectations a bit.

Overall, Top Hat is delightful. The best kind of escapism you could possibly wish for. And Gavin Lee is divine.

Pens: 4 out of 5

re:View – Rock ‘n Roll! Rock of Ages! Rocks my underpants!

Before we go anywhere with this: I LOVE classic rock. Say what you want. Look at me weird. It’s cool. Because my dad was a drummer in a hair/hard rock band in the 80s, and I started being born at one of his gigs. Which means I have a lifelong immunity against your rolling eyes and your tut-tuts and your Katy Perrys.

So, I have finally been to see Rock of Ages. And, a bit to my own surprise, I had the best fun ever. Well, at least the best fun ever in a theatre.

I expected it to be cheesy, maybe a bit cringe-y, and – having seen the movie – a bit on the lame side. Instead, what I saw was a show so filled with good music, great voices, delicious dancing and great acting, it made me want to jump up, hug people and dance rock ‘n roll moves in my underpants. In short: Incredibly happy.

By the way, when I say great voices, what I actually mean is “jump out of your seat and clasp your hands over you mouth as you breathe OHMYGOD” voices. These guys are amazing.

Built around classic rock hits from the 1980s, Rock of Ages (which hit the London West End in 2011 after being first produced in LA in 2006) probably isn’t the finest piece of theatre you’ll ever see, but I dare to say it’s the most fun you’ll ever have with a musical. It doesn’t bother much with the story – which is a good thing. Let’s face it, we’re all just here for the music and the good time, so don’t make things overly complicated. What this show does is simple and strong: It captures the essence of an era, and catapults you right back into a time when music was honest, rock stars were cool, dreams were wild and chicks didn’t worry whether showing your knickers under your tiny skirt and fainting over guys in studded leather pants was cool with your feminist agenda. (Ignore the fact that I’m too young to even have (consciously) experienced much of the 80s. I have a very clear mental image of the kind of rock chick I would have been, had I been born 20 years earlier.)

Go time travelling. Get on board this rock ‘n roll party ship filled with timeless rock classics, straight-from-the-soul singing, perfectly timed comedy and beautifully detailed production design and styling. Sing your heart out. Laugh until you scream. Have the best time ever in a theatre.

Pens: One million, out of five. Plus air guitars and gold stars. And my bra thrown at it.

PS: Whatever you do, DO NOT WATCH THE MOVIE. I know a DVD is cheaper than a night in the West End. But you don’t want to see a watered down, vanilla version of the show that has been dragged through the Hollywood mincer, been drained of all singing talent and style, and stars Tom Fucking Cruise trying to be a rock legend.

re:View – Kamelot: the album, the tour, and (especially!) the new man

I will admit that I was devastated when Kamelot’s long-time singer Roy Khan dropped out. I didn’t go to the gigs when they toured with various guest singers, I wasn’t getting my hopes up for the new album – in my mind, my favourite metal band died with the departure of my favourite metal singer.

Then the news came that Kamelot had found a new front man, and early-day tour reports from all around the internet agreed that he was pretty good. The first single from the new album Silverthorn came out, and I figured I might as well give it a try.

Listening to Sacrimony the first time, I thought new singer Tommy Karevik tried too hard to sound like Khan. Second time, I rather liked it. After a week of listening, the ghost of Khan had vanished and I found I just really enjoyed listening to Tommy singing a very good new Kamelot song. And I was getting my hopes up for the new album.

I bought myself a ticket for their gig in London. (And then I bought one for my Dad who came over from Germany for the occasion.)

Silverthorn has been out since late October and it is perfect from the first note to the last: easily the best Kamelot album ever. It has been the only thing on my iPod for the last few weeks and has probably spun through its fiftieth round already. And not a single time did I the thought cross my mind that Khan is missing from it. The album is perfect as it is; perfect with Tommy Karevik singing it.

The gig was last week; perfection if I’ve ever seen it on a stage. This is the one thing I certainly didn’t expect. Kamelot without its trademark voice, just out of a turbulent reshuffle – and yet in its best shape ever. Because the band lost a great singer, but gained an even better singer.

Kamelot, 2012 – in their best shape ever

Tommy’s voice may not quite have the volume and deepness of Khan’s voice on the lowest notes, but he hits – and holds – the higher notes so much better. All through that gig he didn’t miss a single note, and on the parts where the music calms down a bit – like the new ballad Song for Jolee – his voice is 100% goose bumps down your spine.

And I suppose it also helps that he’s pure eye candy. (I’m allowed a fangirl moment every now and then!)

Kamelot founder/guitarist Thomas Youngblood and new man Tommy Karevik

Without meaning any disrespect to Khan, I can only say it looks like this is the best thing that could have happened to Kamelot. All the reviews I’ve seen for Silverthorn are of the five-star, nine/ten-out-of-ten kind, the album has been top of various European metal charts, it’s certainly my favourite album of the year – and my favourite metal band tours on with my favourite new metal singer.

To that, a very happy \m/

re:View – Some post-gig thoughts on Richie Sambora’s new album

Not too long ago I said that Richie Sambora’s new album Aftermath of the Lowdown was pretty good. That was after listening to it for two weeks.

Now I’ve had another two weeks listening time, plus the chance to hear most of the songs live at Richie’s gigantically awesome gig at the Empire in London. And I’ve got to tell you, this album isn’t only an incredibly good piece of music all the way through, it is also THE BOMB when played live.

For the fist couple of weeks it was just plain weird to listen to new Richie Sambora songs after spending the last 14 years listening to his older stuff. And I was basically listening to the old stuff permanently for the last 14 years… But by now, although I still feel that many of the songs from Stranger in this Town and Undiscovered Soul are somehow deeper lyrically, and also musically more varied and refined, I have to admit that Aftermath is probably the album with the most coherent identity overall. Where the old albums were dipping in and out of different styles – some of it quite Bon Jovi-ish, other parts very bluesy, and everything in between – Aftermath comes along in its very own, balanced style and just kind of flows perfectly all the way through.

I’m not saying that’s better or worse. I love Stranger and Soul for the emotional journey they take you through, from the epic blues-rock ballads to the uptempo, sing-and-jump-around rock songs, to the stripped-back, thoughtful and melancholic acoustic songs, and the beautiful poetry of Sambora’s lyrics from that era. But they’re not necessarily albums I listen to from start to finish a lot, because the mood can jump a lot along the way.

Aftermath seems more mature and polished in that respect – despite the changes in tempo and instrumentation, it has a very coherent mood throughout. Maybe it’s because the album was born out a particular phase in Sambora’s life. There’s ups and downs, cheerful and serious songs, but every piece of it seems to be anchored in reflections on that phase, in the person that emerged from this ‘lowdown’ (as he calls it).

And that, above everything, is what I love this album for. I may be completely over-interpreting it, of course, but then music is always what you make of it. And to me, Aftermath of the Lowdown says that my favourite singer/songwriter/musician, my musical hero if you like, has made it through his lowdown and is doing all right.

And after all these years, he’s still making some damn fine music – and he sure knows how to drive a crowd crazy.

Images via Zimbio.