Tuesday, 29 July 2014


After Dark Acoustic

Newhampton Arts Centre

This latest offering of local talent brought together by Baddies Boogie at the Newhampton Arts Centre was marred somewhat by a break in where instruments belonging to Birmingham group High Horses were stolen and consequently they had to pull out of doing their set.

Pen Fifteen at Baddies Boogie
It was a real shame because they are a distinctive and entertaining band not least because of the animated mandolin player Adam Heath.
It can only be hoped that the culprits are found and perhaps the band get their instruments back
It's very frustrating for the two brothers James and Tom Amphlett who are the driving force behind Baddies Boogie which provides a platform for young and upcoming musicians to try out their skills, make mistakes and get some sort of litmus test before a live, although sometimes partisan, audience. The latest After Dark acoustic session, had a "Mexican theme" which was a bit of a damp enchilada but nobody seemed to mind too much.
First up was Pen Fifteen a young three piece band which need to take rehearsing for such a gig a little more seriously. They included Will Turner on vocals and bass and Arnie Smith on guitar and vocals who is also in a band called Tinned Astronaut.
They opened with The Middle from Jimmy Eat World and right from the start it was obvious Turner needs to do some serious work on his vocals.
James Amphlett
This didn't get any better with the cover of Macy's Day Parade from Green Day. The cover of Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here was a little embarrassing with the band not even bothering to learn the lyrics properly. If Pen Fifteen want to be taken seriously then they need to get serious about what they do.
Following them should have been High Horses but stepping into the breach was James Amphlett who, given he hadn't done any live gigging for more than a year and a half and he hadn't played his guitar at a concert for months, did a stirling job.
There was little sign of ring rust and once he had warmed up after the first few minutes he is a pretty good singer and guitarist which you would expect as he was once in a pretty successful band Dakota Beats. He does have a sound which is reminiscent of Billy Bragg which is not exactly what you would describe as highly melodic or tuneful but is a strong, honest and no frills voice.
Jack Goodall 
Our Mutual Friend were another trio led by Jack Goodall, who put more effort into the Mexican theme than most,  with Tom Hollick on violin and bass and Sarah Workman on cahon . At times the group had very much the feel of listening to Talking Heads' early work.
They have a confident stage act and a very eclectic sound which carries within it quite a bit of theatre. They do have an eccentric feel of something like The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band but it's highly entertaining and enjoyable.
Following them was the only other solo artists of the night and certainly one of the highlights of the concert Emma Shepherd from Birmingham. On stage she somehow manages to exude both shyness and confidence
Emma Lee-Shepherd
She is one of those performers who seems most at home once she is playing and singing but in between seems a little awkward. She has no reason to be as she has an incredible range and has such emotion in her voice.
Shepherd has a lovely voice which has elements of Joan Armatrading, Tracy Chapman and she does have that straightforwardness of Lily Allen and Kate Nash's pre-punk incarnation.
She is a very clever and a matter of fact singer and she handles complex vocals with a confident ease. Her own composition Anyways shows she also has talent as a songwriter and there is an album on the horizon.
Her almost sorrowful voice lent itself beautifully to her cover of Vanessa Carlton's Thousand Miles. There was an element of the torch song with one of her earliest songs Hurricane which also gave her an opportunity to show just how much power she can muster when called for.
The much covered I Can't Make You Love Me was a lovely ballad which had such emotion in it, it was hard to believe it was coming from someone so young. All in all Shepherd put on an impressive performance.
Shepherd was followed by Ali & Alex who are Alex Jackson and St Edmund's pupil Alexandra Platt. They have an explosive combination.
Alex Jackson
Alexandra Platt
Jackson, a Bilston lad, is an incredible guitarist who goes off into his own little world while playing and Platt, from Wolverhampton, has a voice that could blow out windows without breaking sweat.
They opened with a pretty cool version of Rihanna's Umbrella which showed just how clear and precise Platt's voice was. She then stamped her own voice on Katy Perry's Roar. It cannot be overstated Platt's voice is incredible. It's precise, clear, versatile, soulful and powerful and never once went off track and seems to blast out from the diminutive Platt without any effort whatsoever. Whether belting out a a real power ballad or a soft love song there is real passion in her singing which is more than held up by the sometimes gentle and sometimes manic but always impressive strumming of Jackson.
Without taking away anything from the other performers it would have been worth going to the concert just to hear Platt and Jackson.
The night was taken out by Mivvi from Birmingham, a pop-rock band who can turn their hand to acoustic with ease. The former quartet is now down to a trio of lead singer Nicky P, bass player Tricky Dicky and guitarist Phil.
They produce a pretty cool acoustic sound, opening with the ballad Christine which did have the feel of a 60s film soundtrack. Nicky has a real dominating stage presence and sings the tracks with real conviction.
With Knight in Rusty Armour, which he admits is the closest the band have ever got to writing a love song and Clownfoot from their 2004 Mivvi vs The Machine album you get a real sense of the versatility and range of the band. 
Mivvi from Birmingham finished the night
They have a solid and powerful sound even at acoustic level and if songs such as Take A Seat, January 43, and Take a Look Outside were cranked up to electric they would make some serious noise.
As they went through their set you got the vibe that they were enjoying what they were doing and even towards the end, where the audience had dwindled, it didn't make any difference to their performance they had all the enthusiasm of a first act.
The night started on a bit of a low unfortunately but from there it was all uphill and once again Baddies Boogie showed there is a wide range of impressive talent right on our doorstep and it's there to be enjoyed.

The Mike Harding Folk Show