Tagged: Music

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:

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.

Some stuff happened in 2013

I never seem to have enough time to blog about stuff as/when it happens so here’s a summary of things I’ve been meaning to tell you about. Because some awesome shit happened last year.

I finally got those tattoos.


I got to say hello to my favourite band. (And Dad did, too.)

That’s Kamelot by the way. You should check them out.

I had lunch by a glacier.

The Eiger in Switzerland.

Also this photo happened on the way up.

While in Switzerland, I went to Sherlock Town Meiringen and the Reichenbach Falls. This is where it all went down.

Down the falls they went…

Also, I heard a talk by TERRY ACTUAL PRATCHETT.

One word: <3 And I saw an amazing literary event with my favourite actors, my favourite pianist and some of my favourite authors all in the same building. And I actually blogged about this one.

Overall, it was quite a good year for holidays, catching up with my loved ones and for my inner fangirl. 2014 better be fucking awesome to keep up with that.

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 – 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.

re:View – Aftermath of the Lowdown, by my musical hero of a lifetime

Oh my proverbial God. The most anticipated album of the decade* is here. After some ten years of announcing and postponing, Richie Sambora has released his third solo album, Aftermath of the Lowdown.

I’ve been in a state of permanent bliss for the last two weeks, just enjoying the luxury of being able to listen to the music I’ve been waiting to hear for so many years. And trying to form an opinion in the context of having spent half my life listening to his “old stuff” – the two previous albums Stranger in this Town and Undiscovered Soul, from the early and late 1990s respectively. So this is mostly preliminary thoughts on an album I plan to become very familiar with.

Despite being the first of Richie Sambora’s albums released on an indie label, it is his most commercial sounding to date. Yet, at the same time, it’s probably his most personal.

Compared to the 1990s stuff, I would say he sings a little less about love these days, and more about life – in a voice that’s clearly less romantic and a good deal more cynical. But that’s hardly a surprise, considering all that he’s been through in the last half-decade. Thrown off track by a divorce followed closely by his father’s death, he suffered a spell of addictions and rehab while the nasty gossip headlines piled up.

It was certainly the kind of stuff that leaves a mark on a life, but also stuff that seems to have inspired a more personal songwriting than we’ve ever heard from Richie Sambora. But throughout the confessions and the regret – at their most vocal in songs such as You Can Only Get So High and Seven Years Gone – you see a man who still embraces life, who has pulled himself back to his feet and turning over a new page. Taking A Chance On The Wind, Weathering The Storm and Learning How To Fly With A Broken Wing may be somewhat soppily titled songs, but their upbeat celebration of second chances leaves you filled with a sudden happiness that’s hard to shake off.

Besides, it’s nice to see that the King of Swing has kept his charm and cheek throughout the bad times. Sugar Daddy says it all. He has also included a song for his teenage daughter Ava, which – although performed largely in the kind of thin, just-off-the-key voice that has become the trademark of all the indie kids these days (and which I don’t dig at all) – is a very sweet and touching number. The last song on the album, World, is quite a break with the style and so Beatles-y that I initially mistook it for a cover of a lesser known Beatles song. But it’s indeed an original – an easy giveaway of his musical influences. “Wearing my heroes on my sleeve,” he says.

Image via @therealsambora

Overall, my first impressions are pretty good indeed. I’m not yet ready to yell “totally amazing”, but that’s fine, because a) it’s a bit difficult to adjust to the new sound having had the two previous albums as constant companions in my life for the last 14 years and b) it’s always taken me a good few proper listens to appreciate Richie Sambora’s music to the max. (This is the point where I confess that, after listening to Stranger in this Town and Undiscovered Soul for the first time, I put them away and didn’t bother for a good year before I eventually got into them.)

So I’ll definitely have to listen to Aftermath for a few weeks before I can commit to a full opinion. But for now I’m pretty damn happy that Richie Sambora is back.

And after his gig in London this month, you’ll hear me yelling “totally amazing” for the rest of the year.

* as far as I’m concerned, anyway

How my photo came to feature in Richie Sambora’s new video

As I may have mentioned previously, Richie Sambora is my personal guitar, singing and songwriting hero. His two solo albums have been a constant companion since my teenage days. Life changed, my tastes in music changed and bounced back, but those 22 songs from Stranger in this Town (1991) and Undiscovered Soul (1998) remained on top of my playlist throughout.

The more excited I was to find that, after fourteen long years, Sambora’s third solo album is to be released. In the run-up, his PR team thought out a totally interactive, socially networked competition: The first single, Every Road Leads Home to You, was released free of charge and the fans were asked to submit photos they associate with the lyrics via Instagram.

A selection of photos would be used to make the video for the song. Well, not the proper, official music video – for that they preferred to have Mr Sambora strolling, bleached blond and guitar over one shoulder, through the desert for four and a half minutes. Meanwhile, the fans’ creative contributions were used in the official lyric video – as I’m told, another new-is marketing effort undertaken by various labels. Presumably to pre-empt all those fans making their own lyric video, via Windows Movie Maker and Comic Sans, over the next few weeks.

And since I’m a hopeless fangirl, I dutifully instagrammed my photo into the Samborasphere. And one of them now carries the vital phrase “I’m” of the refrain line “When the bridge is burning and I’m losing my faith”, right after the solo, at three minutes thirteen, of the official lyric video. Staying in the frame for about a third of a second.

But, hey, my photo is in Richie Sambora’s video.

The lonely little bench sits on a hidden bit of beach just outside Zadar, in Croatia.