So we sat in the car for twenty minutes with the heater on – out rock n’ roll THAT if you can! Just needed some ‘slippy’ ham sandwiches, a flask, and a tartan rug and you could have mistaken it for a John Lewis advert, quite apt, as the superb Aplin came to many people’s attention a Christmas or two ago with her exquisite version of ‘Power of Love’ – the Frankie version, not that that cringe-fest from Jennifer Rush.
God, I felt old as I sat in that car, watching any number of undergraduates join the queue. The wife reaffirmed this as she mentioned that “I’d let myself a bit since Christmas”. It was Valentine’s Day – who said romance was dead, eh?
So we joined said queue. For 35 minutes we joined it. It was perishing. The line of folk went past a pub – my idea of a swift drink (Bovril?) and wait for everyone to go in was met in the negative. Quelle surprise.
When we finally got in, we suddenly realised that it was actually warmer outside than in! Some feat that.
Luckily, the two excellent support acts – Hannah Grace and Lewis Watson – got the floor filled up a lot quicker than many a gig I’ve been to. Hannah Grace’s jazzy-soulful-bluesy vocals, accompanied by just a guitar, filled a venue I’d say was about half the size of the Viccy Hall. Brownie points too for her superb version of Bill Withers’ ‘Just the two of us’. Takes some guts covering a massive, iconic tune like that. We’ll be hearing more from this lady.
Lewis Watson seemed like a bloke I’d either adopt and/or take for a beer. He was sound, humble and self-deprecating, and his Newton Faulkner-like set went down well with Mr and Mrs Bunn. The kind of talented lad whose music you’d like your daughter to like, and the kind of lad who you’d want her to have as a boyfriend. Pretty sure he’ll be supporting Oh Wonder – and I’m of to see them, too. I will be getting a bit more acquainted with Mr Watson’s music before that night.
And so to the headline act…..
Those who read the magazine will know what I think of Gabrielle Aplin’s second elpee – ‘Light up the dark’. It’s a bit of a peach to be honest, and despite seeing polar bears shivering in the corner of the Institute, I eagerly awaited to see if the singer-songwriter could do it on a cold Sunday night in Birmingham…….
When you have the quality of material and the voice of Aplin, then the only questioned to be asked is what is she like on stage. Er, pretty mesmerising, to be honest. It’s not just her presence on the boards, or the quality of her voice , not her talent on the guitar/ivories – it’s just that everything she does seems to be so natural, effortless, and so bloody cool. There’s no faux sassiness on the rockier numbers nor put-on vulnerability on the acoustic stuff, either. Just someone with a shedloads of talent, doing what she was put on earth to do.
One moan was the crowd – I did mention to the wife last night at the gig that “youth is wasted on some of the young” nowadays. It was on some of these here tonight: Put your bloody Ipads down, get off Twitter and Instagram, and don’t record a gig – actually live it and take part in it. It was the least Aplin deserved for a pretty outstanding performance that ranged from the utterly fragile brilliance of ‘Salvation’ to the Charlatans-tinged title track of her second album.
Backed by a full band, Aplin went from rock to blues to country to pop to even tortured-soul sea shanty in the shape of ‘What did you do’. Pick of a pretty mint bunch was the bourbon-rich ‘Slip away’. Sultry, powerful, and an absolutely superb song. Gabrielle Aplin had warmed The Institute up.
She then re-gave us the shivers, in the form of a quite mesmerising version of Bowies ‘Space Oddity’, only breaking to check the health of a lady in the crowd who had fainted (or hypothermia!). She kicked back in effortlessly. Her brilliance shouldn’t be underestimated.
Whilst omitting one of my personal favourite Aplin tunes – ‘Anybody out there’ – possibly the biggest shock of this Valentines Night was the non-showing of The Frankie Goes To Hollywood classic. ‘Good on her’, I thought, do what you want, not what’s expected.
Aplin has a bit of something for everyone, takes the best bits from any number of female singer-songwriters, yet still sounds unique. She started with ‘Coming home’ and concluded with ‘Home’ – an apt choice of songs, with the journey of the gig now complete and successful.
Ours wasn’t – it was still absolutely bloody freezing when we walked back into the Birmingham night air, with the M6 back to Stoke to look forward to. Please come and play Stoke soon, Miss Aplin.
SETLIST: Coming Home/Hurt/Panic Cord/Heavy Heart/Fools Love/What Did You Do?/ Shallow Love/How Do You Feel Today?/Space Oddity/Light Up the Dark/Together/Please Don’t Say You Love Me/Slip Away/Sweet Nothing/Salvation/Home
“I’m at football training with the lad, can you go and review Annie at The Regent for me on Monday night, duck?
Whilst my husband probably thinks my theatrical knowledge starts and ends with shouting “oh no he isn’t” and “he’s behind yoooouuu!”, I do enjoy going to see live entertainment, and it’s fair to say that The Regent has had some excellent shows on in recent times. And so I was more than happy to go up ‘Anley duck, and watch this show.
First things first, I love The Regent Theatre – is a beautiful building and a real jewel in the city centre’s crown. We got there just before the start, and there seemed to be a healthy number of people in there for the first night.
It would be a lie to say I enjoyed the TV programme Birds of a Feather, and so seeing that Lesley Joseph was the star attraction didn’t fill me with unbridled joy. Well silly me for judging a book by its cover. Or a play by the TV role its star turn was in! Joseph was excellent. She owned the stage, but was possibly upstaged by the young girl who played Annie – Madeleine Haynes, who was simply brilliant. She’s one of three youngsters who play Annie whilst it’s on tour, and hers is a name we’ll be hearing lots more of in the future.
We all know the feelgood story of Annie, but iyt’s always better to see it in the flesh, live, than on the screen. The audience loved it, and it looked like the cast did, too. It was apt I watched a show based in the depression era, as this week’s football scores have resulted in such an era in our house! I’d recommend he goes to watch Annie whilst it’s still on!
It’s a perfect two hour winter warmer of a show, with big production values and a great cast.
Annie runs until Saturday 6 February at The Regent Theatre in Stoke.
Tickets are available online or from The Regent Theatre Box Office, by calling 0844 871 7649 or visiting www.atgtickets.com/stoke