Thursday, 7 December 2017

Music Review: Steps - Liverpool Echo Arena

Written By: Mark Armstrong

Format: Music Show
Genre: Pop
Date: December 6 2017
Location: Echo Arena, Liverpool

It's hard to believe that it has been 20 years since Steps first formed and marched their way to the top of the UK charts, with some of the most memorable and catchy pop tunes of the era. In recent years, we've seen Lee Latchford-Evans, Claire Richards, Lisa Scott-Lee, Faye Tozer and Ian Watkins (H) reform, bringing the band together much to the delight of fans new and old.

And the culmination of this has been their most notable year yet since reuniting, as their fifth studio album Tears On The Dancefloor was followed by the announcement of a UK tour, including a visit to Echo Arena. The demand for their previous show on November 18 led to a return date last night at Liverpool's premier music venue, and all in attendance were rewarded with a great night of entertainment.

Kicking things off to warm up the crowd were the up-and-coming Max Restaino, and longtime pop music favourites the Vengaboys. The latter group particularly had the Liverpool audience on their feet, with the likes of We're Going To Ibiza, The Vengabus and Boom Boom Boom Boom creating a real party atmosphere. All of this provided the perfect introduction to the main act of the night, Steps.

All five were in fine form, singing and dancing to maximum effect alongside some funky dancers and plenty of stunning visual effects, each specific to a particular song, on the gigantic LED screen behind the group. Additional props such as beds and cowboy garb (from head to toe) were additional elements thrown in to boost the value of the show, and given the intricacies of certain extended dance routines, it was a credit to all involved that everything flowed seamlessly without interruption (which wasn't the case for their previous Liverpool show, when one backing dancer literally hopped off early on due to an injury).

All of the classic Steps tunes from yesteryear were on offer, such as 5,6,7,8 (which really had the Liverpool crowd dancing in the aisles), Last Thing On My Mind, Better Best Forgotten, One For Sorrow and, of course, Tragedy. The latter song closed proceedings, and the show peaked at this point due to the first-class vocals of the performers, the Liverpool crowd being in the palm of their hands, and the huge amount of confetti which accompanied the final chorus. There were also several numbers from their latest album for the younger and newer fans to appreciate, including Neon Blue and Tears On The Dancefloor.

One criticism I would have is that, from when Max opened the warm-up section to when the show closed, it was close to four hours, meaning that those who arrived early will have been on their feet for a very long time, especially those nearer the stage. Also, the ticket times didn't necessarily represent when the earlier acts appeared on stage, which may have led to confusion for those without access to social media channels explaining specific performer times. Otherwise, though, this was a lot of fun, and almost everybody left with a smile on their face.

Whether you're a newbie to Steps or an older attendee looking for a slice of late 90s nostalgia, a live show from Steps is as enjoyable a night at the arena as you could possibly get, and backed up by some cool party vibes from the Vengaboys and an eye towards the future with Max, the complete package comprises plenty of fantastic pop music.

Overall Rating: 8.5/10 - Excellent

Friday, 20 October 2017

Music Review: Wannabe: A Spice Girls Tribute - Epstein Theatre, Liverpool

Image Source:
Wannabe: A Spice Girls Tribute
Written By: Alison Jones

Format: Music Show
Genre: Pop
Date: October 19 2017
Location: Epstein Theatre, Liverpool

There was a full house in the Epstein Theatre, full of excited ladies who were ready to party 90's style (along with a few fellas who seemed up for a laugh). Soon, it was lights up and straight into the first number.

The audience spent most of the evening on their feet singing along to every word of their favourite Spice Girls hits. Wannabe: A Spice Girls Tribute didn't disappoint.

With authentic-looking costumes, we were transported back to the era of Girl Power and Brit Pop. Early in the show, Posh Spice sailed through a slight wardrobe malfunction without batting an eyelid; she remained cool and collected.

The 'Spice Boys' also provided some eye candy for the ladies. Four male dancers with some decent break-dance and back-lip moves complemented the show, and also gave the girls the opportunity for some wardrobe changes.

There was Sporty Spice with enviable abs and great vocals, Scary Spice with loads of personality (whose family had popped in to see her), Ginger Spice with legs that Geri Halliwell would have died for, and finally Baby Spice who really did remind you of Emma Bunton.

The girls gave us some stats and information on just how successful the Spice Girls were with over 80 million record sales worldwide. There was loads of interaction with the audience, with a chance to win some bottles of bubbly by participating on their Facebook and Instagram pages. Bottles were duly awarded, and there was also a chance to let the Spice Girls know what you were celebrating. There was Julie's new baby, Helen's hen night and Nicole's birthday. Each one got a cheer and applause from the audience.

All the Spice Girls hits were visited, along with some additional disco and soul numbers that added variety, as well as loads of energy with professional dance routines and vocals.

The audience loved it, with a great party atmosphere allowing everyone to join in, and a performance that definitely Spiced Up Our Lives!

Overall Rating: 9/10 - Outstanding

Monday, 16 October 2017

Music Interview: Astroid Boys On Their Rise, Their Success & Their Future

Image Source: Chuff Media
Written By: Mark Armstrong

(Thanks to Chuff Media for arranging this interview.)

One of the fastest-rising bands in the UK are the Astroid Boys. Formed back in 2012, they have made strides and built their fanbase year-on-year, whilst gaining exposure through gigs and festivals around the country. Perhaps their biggest project is on the horizon, as they will be the support for Enter Shikari for a major nationwide tour which begins in Liverpool on Thursday November 16. We caught up with the group - consisting of Benjamin Kendall, Phillip Davies and Elliot Brussalis - to learn more about their formation, their rise up the ranks and other tidbits which fans may not know about one of the UK's brightest up-and-coming bands!

Astroid Boys will be performing at the Liverpool Echo Arena on November 16, providing support for Enter Shikari. Though the band has toured the UK before, this upcoming arena tour will be arguably the biggest opportunity that the group has had to date. How much are the band looking forward to touring some of the UK's biggest venues alongside Enter Shikari?

We are massively looking forward to it. We like playing shows, and we get to do it on big stages with a bunch of mates for a month!

As noted, the tour will begin in Liverpool. What experiences have the band previously had of performing in the city?

We have played a few metal festivals there, a few headline shows; it's always been pleasant.

This comes on the heels of Broke, the debut album for Astroid Boys which was recently released. What has the feedback been like to your first album, and how does this shape how the group will approach future albums?

To be honest, the feedback has been amazing. We aren't commercial sounding, so it's always not going to be the easiest music to digest. But yeah, the response has been great. It just shows that you can get by doing what you want to do and not necessarily conforming to what is hot at the moment.

Tell us about how the band originally formed back in 2012; it's a fascinating back-story from what I have heard.

In short, Traxx and Benji (Cardiff) wanted to get out of their trouble-filled lives and focus on music, and it was a similar thing for our producer Dellux (Newport) and DJ Comfort (Cardiff). We all grouped together after meeting either in youth centres or at music events in South Wales, and we started making music. Once we had a bit of traction, we got our drummer Big H (Cardiff) involved, and we started touring. There are obviously a lot more stories to the band, but we haven't got all day right!

The group quickly gained traction, and appeared at the Freeze Festival in London in October 2012. Was this a daunting gig to play so soon after forming, or do you feel that the band were ready for it?

We really enjoyed this actually; it was a good show! We played to a load of people, which we hadn't really done before, and yeah it went really well to be fair. We're not really a nervous bunch of guys, so once you go out there, you just get the job done innit.

Bacon Dream was released in 2013, followed by CF10 in 2015. How did these songs help to increase the profile of the band, and which of these two hits did the group prefer?

They were completely integral in where we are now. Looking back, I wish we had released more music, but Bacon Dream especially was pivotal in us touring, people getting into us and understanding what kinds of music we bring to the table, and generally our DIY ethos reverberated through those two EP's.

The style of the band has been described as a mix of grime, punk rock and hardcore punk. Does the diverse nature of the group's music allow Astroid Boys to cater to different target audiences?

Yeah, it allows us to do what we want, to a bigger variety of people. It's fun playing all different kinds of shows; it tests us constantly, and it makes us better in all circumstances. We are what we are at the end of the day though, and if you are into it then great; if not, that's cool too.

The band are particularly well-known for pulling out all the stops at major festivals. Tell us about your favourite festival experiences, particularly in recent years.

For me, the first time playing Reading festival last year was such a vibe. Loads of people came with us and loads of people came to watch us. It was carnage in that tent at 12 midday on the Sunday. Just a proper moment, you know.

Your song Dusted was used as the title track for the WWE United Kingdom Tournament, which was held in Blackpool at the beginning of the year. How did it come about that you worked with WWE on this?

To be honest, it was Julie Weir, the lovely woman who signed us. She had the contact; she has all the bloody contacts! But yeah she got that one for us, legend!

What are the future ambitions for Astroid Boys?

Just to keep doing what we want to do, and for people be into us authentically, not just because of hype. Real recognise real.

Finally, tell us something about Astroid Boys which your fans reading this interview may not know?

Urmmmmm, well Harry the drummer, his uncle is Patrick Stewart, and they play lacrosse together most weekends!

To find out more about Astroid Boys, you can visit

To purchase tickets for the Liverpool leg of the upcoming Astroid Boys/Enter Shikari tour, you can visit

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Music Review: The Big Moon

Image Source: Chuff Media
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Format: Music Show
Genre: Indie Rock
Date: October 6 2017
Location: Magnet, Liverpool, England

The Big Moon are one of the more recognisable and respected indie rock bands coming out of the UK right now. Juliette Jackson, Soph Nathann, Celia Archer and Fern Ford have advanced their status year-on-year since their formation in 2014, which has culminated this year with the release of their debut album Love In The 4th Dimension, and their subsequent European tour which is still ongoing as I write this.

As part of the tour, The Big Moon visited the wonderful city of Liverpool, performing live from Magnet. And it was an appropriate site to play at, since the four-piece band drew their audience into the show akin to a magnetic attraction: from start to finish, the crowd were well into the show and peaked, as ever, for their most famous tunes, all of which made for a very entertaining gig.

Over the course of 60+ minutes, The Big Moon performed 17 songs, almost all of which were greatly received. Silent Movie Susie kicked things off with a bang, with other highlights coming from such songs as Pull The Other One, Love In The 4th Dimension (the title track of their first album), Cupid, Formidable and Bonfire. One of the more popular renditions of the night was the group’s cover of Total Eclipse Of The Heart, which I have to say was very well-performed. Audience interaction was also important to the group, with one example being Juliette recapping her unusual journey from London which included a fellow commuter’s struggles with Mini Cheddars!

The final song was Sucker, and this saw The Big Moon at their best as the atmosphere was positively wild, enhanced again by audience interaction with Juliette Jackson entering the crowd and dancing with some of the attendees, bringing them into the performance even more and making an already hot fanbase that much more excited to be there at that particular moment.

If you ever get the opportunity to see The Big Moon live, I strongly recommend that you go along. You’ll not only have a fantastic experience, but you’ll see the epitome of a band who are already demonstrating great talent while progressing to an even higher level. The sky is the limit for The Big Moon, and I discovered that first-hand here.

Overall Rating: 8/10 – Very Good

Monday, 2 October 2017

Music News: The Big Moon Announce New Single 'Pull The Other One' & UK Tour Dates

Image Source: Chuff Media
Written By: Mark Armstrong

The following story is courtesy of Chuff Media ...

The Big Moon are excited to announce details of their new single Pull The Other One, lifted from their critically acclaimed debut album Love In The 4th Dimension, available now via Fiction Records. It impacts on August 25.

A new fan favourite and another monster moment in the band’s live show, Pull The Other One is another insatiably guitar and melody driven pop song, kissed by Juliette Jackson’s curt, wry lyricism. The London four-piece join the dots, weekend-to-weekend, across the UK festival circuit having already left a heaving tent in their wake at Glastonbury.

You can listen to Pull The Other One by visiting

The band’s upcoming autumn UK tour sees them hit towns and venues less explored on their previous stints. They will conclude at London’s KOKO on October 20 for their biggest headline show yet.

Tickets for all forthcoming UK shows are on sale now via and are listed below.

In addition, you can visit to watch the live video for their previous single Cupid, recorded over the past few months by photographer Jodie Canwell, collating the band’s performances of Cupid on Brighton Pier from the band’s recent slot at The Great Escape, at London’s Village Underground and at The Scala. This captures The Big Moon at their scintillating best, and having more fun than anyone else whilst doing it.

The Big Moon UK 2017 Tour:

October 2 – LiVe, Preston
October 3 – Fruit, Hull
October 6 – Magnet, Liverpool
October 9 – The Sugarmill, Stoke-on-Trent
October 10 – The Boiler Room, Guilford
October 11 – Ramsgate Music Hall, Ramsgate
October 13 – Sound and Vision Festival, Norwich (INFO)
October 14 – The Cookie, Leicester
October 15 – Moles, Bath
October 17 – The Loft, Southampton
October 18 – The Bullingdon, Oxford
October 20 – KOKO, London

Buy the album via The Big Moon’s online store at

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Gary Murphy’s Guitar Legends – The Rock and Roll Years

Image Source: Epstein Theatre
Written By: Alison Jones

Format: Music Show
Genre: Rock 'n' Roll
Date: July 27 2017
Location: The Epstein Theatre, Liverpool, England

Before I go any further, I must declare an interest: Gary Murphy and his multi-talented band have been favourites of ours for many years, and we in Birkenhead and Liverpool have been lucky enough to take this type of talent for granted.

Where do I start?  Well, performing from an early age, Gary has played all over the UK and Europe, and his project Guitar Legends made its debut at The Floral Pavilion Theatre in 2007. The production involved staging the history of the guitar from the 1920s to the present date, showcasing some of the pioneering guitarists in music history through various guitar styles from jazz, blues, country and rock. The show met with rave reviews and has returned to theatres several times with this visit to the Epstein Theatre the latest production.

The story was expertly narrated, often with humour by Mrs Butler’s eldest, Billy Butler. He brought back memories of guitar heroes from the past and informed us of the guitars the legends favoured, and whenever possible, Gary gave a demonstration of their unique sound.

Gary kicked off the evening with Chuck Berry’s Johnny B Goode, and then from the Eagle’s Hotel California to Brian Adams’ Run To You featuring Alan Armstrong’s vocals, the variety of iconic rock and roll songs satisfied everyone.

The soloists and accompanists were just amazing. Elvis Presley was expertly recreated by Elvis Clayton, and Queen’s Adam Lambert (represented by Craig Murphy) raised the roof. Bohemian Rhapsody required all hands to the pump with Rob Shirley switching from keyboards to guitar effortlessly and providing lead vocals, while crystal-clear backing vocals were provided by Jade Tremarco, all of which afforded a standing ovation. She also led vocals on Fleetwood Mac’s Chains, and then Gary Brown joined the party. Covering The Who, he delivered outstanding vocals with a charismatic presence, and when the audience heard the opening bars from Sweet Child Of Mine by Guns and Roses, you just knew he was going to knock it out of the park.

The final number, again fronted by Gary Brown, was AC/DC’s Highway to Hell, which turned out to be heavenly. A brilliant night which had the audience literally rocking in the aisles.

Overall Rating: 10/10 - Perfect

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Music Review: Jools Holland & His Rhythm & Blues Orchestra

Image Source: Liverpool Philharmonic
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Format: Music Show
Genre: Music
Date: July 15 2017
Location: Liverpool Philharmonic Hall

Jools Holland has been a staple of music for many years, with his talents ranging from singing to piano-playing to song-writing. His New Year's Eve Hogmanay, in particular, stands out for its unique blend of music, entertainment and big-name performers covering a range of genres. Therefore, the prospect of seeing Jools and his crew performing live in person was a tantalising one, and so it proved, as the show was a superb platform to showcase the true art of music in its finest and purest forms.

Before the main show began, we were treated to Jack Lukeman. Jack, an Irish folk singer with previous experience of performing in Liverpool, delivered several stunning and unique vocal performances, with perhaps the best being his acapella version of Old Man River. This was an incredible rendition, and one of the true highlights of the evening with the greatest of respect to Jools and co.

Of course, Jools himself was in top form, as were his orchestra, delivering a wide range of rhythm & blues tunes, some without the need for lyrics and vocal skills, others using the beat and the words to get the Liverpool crowd up on their feet dancing. There was plenty of variety mixed in with the music to keep things fresh, and Jools was able to demonstrate his vast range of musical talents along the way.

Helping the show were the use of special guests. Louise Marshall and Beth Rowley were very good, but it was perhaps the well-known Ruby Turner who truly shone, and who earned one of the night's biggest ovations upon her arrival. Her performances at the tail-end of the show were spectacular, elevating the standing of this show even further. The same can be said for Jools' longtime drummer Gilson Lavis, who possibly stole the show with some truly spell-binding drum solos.

I also appreciated the simple yet very effective special effects, in particular the lighting which helped to convey the mood of specific songs, as well as making each tune seem different and unique. The one downside to the show that I found would be that there weren't many instantly-recognisable songs performed, making it harder for the audience to sing along to, but this is only a minor thing, especially since the attendees were up dancing more often than not (and some may have been having too much of a good time in this regard!).

Summing this show up, then, if you're a big fan of Jools Holland then you'll have a great time, but even if this is your first introduction to Jools, you'll still come away with a real appreciation for him, his team and for music in general. A topnotch production.

Overall Rating: 8.5/10 - Excellent