The Story of Guitar Heroes is an awe-inspiring, dynamic show which transports you through time: from the 1950’s with artistes such as Chuck Berry and Hank Marvin from The Shadows, including gifted legends such as Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page, through to modern day players such as the great Brian May and the electrifying Steve Vai, to name but a few!
Presented by guitar virtuoso Phil Walker – this show’s extraordinarily talented band uses over 30 guitars to recreate and accurately reproduce the sound and ambiance of each guitar hero. Featuring video footage of historical moments, with state-of-the-art lighting and delivered with a light-hearted vibe – this makes for a truly sensational and enjoyable evening.
Now in its 5th year, The Story of Guitar Heroes has become increasingly popular not only with many guitar players and musicians, but with people and families of all ages.
I caught up with Phil to find out more about this fantastic show….
Tell me about the show and the concept
The show is what I would call a live ‘rockumentary.’ We pay homepage to some of the greatest guitar heroes of all time. Rather than a lool-a-like show, what we do is recreate the sound and ambience of around 30 guitar heroes as accurately as we can. We have really focused on the detail in recreating their sounds, to the extent that we even use the same model of guitar as the particular guitar hero used (hence needing so many guitars to do the Show!).
What can the audience expect from the production?
There is a full live band on stage, video screens (with some really interesting footage) of guitar heroes and their stories, as well as a fantastic light show. We use over 30 guitars to recreate the sound of each hero we pay homage to. The show runs on a timeline so we start in the 1950’s with people like Chuck Berry and Hank Marvin and make our way through time to guitar heroes of today such as Brian May, Slash and Steve Vai.
When did you first become interested in the guitar? My Dad was a guitar player in the sixties and he decided to pick the guitar up again, after having a break from it, when I was around six years old. My Dad always had The Shadows and Eddie Cochran records on, and when I saw the guitar that was it – I was hooked!
Who are your guitar heroes?
I grew up listening to The Shadows so Hank Marvin was a big guitar hero to me (and still is). I’m also a fan of Albert Lee and Mark Knopfler from Dire Straits, as well as a country player called Brad Paisley. This list could go on….haha!
Have you any favourite venues on tour?
I quite like playing in some of the really old style theatres. It makes you wonder who has actually stood where I’m standing.
What is your all-time favourite riff and why?
I really like playing the fast part of the end solo in Sultans of Swing by Dire Straits. You don’t use a plectrum so you have to be so accurate or it just doesn’t sound the same.
If you could go to a gig with any five guitar heroes who would they be and why?
Hank Marvin because I have so many questions from when I was growing up. Mark Knoplfer because he just seems so down to earth. Brad Paisley because he has a great sense of humour and he wears a cowboy hat. I would also wear a cowboy if I was with him. I wouldn’t if I was on my own, I’d feel silly!! Haha David Gilmour. I would ask him if he misses any of the guitars he has just recently sold. Jimi Hendrix because he is just the coolest looking guitar player that has ever been and who wouldn’t want to be seen with Jimi Hendrix!
What are your ambitions for the show in the future?
We are hopefully going to be playing some festivals in the not too distant future so that will be something to look forward to. I would also love to take the show overseas, possibly America then I could go and visit the Fender factory!
Charlie Carter has released another Jazz album – it’s called ‘Every Ounce of Love’ and in my humble opinion it’s another triumph from the man with a unique sound that’s a must-listen! Released digitally on 27 June 2019 download it now Every Ounce Of Love
In the meantime, here’s my thoughts on a few of the tracks from this musical masterpiece:
‘Every Ounce of Love’ – the title track packs a punch and sets the tone for the tracks that follow. ‘Wedding Bells Are Gonna Chime’ makes me smile and has a feel-good factor to it. ‘Decide’ is one of my favourites, the melody and musicality appeal to me. ‘Turn Off The News’ feels very current and relevant and the beat is catchy and easy to get along with. Those Three Little Words stands out lyrically and has a familiarity to it.
There are collaborations with other artists too, notably Siubhan Harrison and Odette Adams who are a joy to hear. Frances Eva Lea features on a track called ‘Something Changed’ and her vocals lend an extra dimension of sound to an already engaging piece.
All the tracks tell a story and there’s a defined linear throughout the whole album. It’s one of the best compilations of original music I’ve listened to this year.
It was an evening to remember at Birmingham Conservatoire’s Bradshaw Hall on Sunday 5 May, with a bevy of musicians out in force to support and raise money for the Gwyn Williams Bursary fund. The Bursary, has been set up in memory of the late Gwyn Williams who, amongst other credits, was the leader of the Viola section in the jewel in Birmingham’s crown, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. The Bursary benefits and supports talented, up and coming young violists at the Conservatoire.
The concert featured a cornucopia of classical delights and quite rightly, the Viola was the star of the show. The first voice of Classic FM, Nick Bailey played host as we were treated to music from the superb John Wilson on piano, accompanying Chris Yates who now leads the Viola section of the CBSO – they kicked off the varied programme. Arpeggione Sonata, D.821 (Schubert) was the opening piece and set the tone for the rest of the inspirational evening. Wilson and Yates went on to accompany one of my all-time favourite performers, Yvonne Howard, who sang Two Songs for Voice, Viola and Piano (Brahms). Later on, she treated us to a stunning rendition of Casta Diva from the Bellini Opera ‘Norma’. The artists accompanying Howard’s memorable performance were a mesmerising Quartet by the name of The Behn Quartet. The talented girls who make up the string Quartet also played String Quartet No. 1 in E minor (“From My Life”) (Smetana). Peter O’Connor, flautist, was also a welcome addition to the accompaniment for Casta Diva and he entertained us thoroughly at the close of the evening in a double act with pianist, John Wilson, with Carnevale di Venezia, Op.78 (Briccialdi).
One of the most poignant performances (and there were many!) was courtesy of two nineteen year old students from Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. Yuxin Chen played Viola beautifully, with Yang Bai on piano – they gave us a rousing rendition of Dance of the Knights from Romeo and Juliet by Prokofiev. It was a fantastically dramatic display and quite literally music to my ears!
This amazing concert would not have been possible if it hadn’t have been for Gwyn Williams’ widow, Stephannie who organised the event. As a string player myself (although I’m a very rusty violinist!), I appreciate the support that such a Bursary provides for up and coming musicians and long may it continue to benefit all who need it.
This event is not to be missed and I can’t wait to review the concert on behalf of Entertainment Views, it’s fantastic that the Gwyn Williams Bursary exists to support young violists at Birmingham Conservatoire. The details sourced from the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire website, are below – try to get hold of a ticket if you can! Tickets are free of charge with a suggested donation of £30.
Introduced by Nick Bailey
Yvonne Howard mezzo-soprano Maria Jagusz mezzo-soprano Peter O’Connor flute Rebecca Stubbs viola Chris Yates viola John Wilson piano
The Behn Quartet Kate Oswin and Alicia Berendse violin Ana Teresa de Braga e Alves viola Ghislaine McMullin cello
Programme to include: Schubert Arpeggione Sonata, D.821 Brahms Two Songs for Voice, Viola and Piano Smetana String Quartet No.1 in E minor (“From My Life”) Bellini Casta Diva Schubert Ave Maria Briccialdi Carnevale di Venezia, Op.78
A special benefit concert to raise funds for the Gwyn Williams Bursary Fund, which supports talented young violists at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. The evening will be introduced by the first voice of Classic FM, Nick Bailey and feature performances by current students of the Conservatoire and professional musicians who knew and worked with Gwyn.
Spaces for this event are extremely limited so early booking is advised. Please contact Robin Leonard on 0121 331 5534 or at firstname.lastname@example.org for all ticket enquiries.
Their sound is one that I’ve grown up hearing my parents play on their old turntable and one of my all-time favourite songs is ‘Don’t Throw Your love Away’, it’s in my top ten of all time best loved singles and would easily make it to my dessert island discs list! They may be a band who were formed in the late 50’s (20 something years before I was born!) but when I listen to their back catalogue of classic hits, I know I was born in the wrong era.
The Searchers topped the bill at the Sixties Gold Show which was one of the highlights of my reviewing calendar last year and it was there that they announced their intention to retire. I cried and it has taken me time to come to terms with the fact that they mean it! However, they’re going out with the biggest bang with almost all their tour venues sold out and limited seats remaining where tickets are still available.
Last night, at the Stafford Gatehouse Theatre, they played a 2 hour concert to a full house packed to the rafters with fans and it was glorious. The best atmosphere imaginable and I’m still buzzing now (and wishing I could beg a ticket to another gig before they wave goodbye on 31st March).
The four-piece, is compiled of bass player Frank Allen who joined the band in 1964, Scott Ottoway who started drumming for them back in 2010, the extraordinary lead vocalist and guitarist Spencer James who has been with the band for over 33 years and the legendary John McNally who is the remaining founder member. I’m transfixed by the talent of all four of the boys, they’re exceptional musicians, however John McNally can’t help my draw my attention, especially when he plays the twelve string guitar. His witty retorts and banter with Frank Allen make for an entertaining evening too, in addition to their brilliant trademark sound and sing-a-long opportunities!
From popular hits such as ‘Walk In The Room’, ‘Sugar and Spice’, ‘Needles and Pins’ and ‘Don’t Throw Your Love Away’ to a couple of Buddy Holly tracks and a fantastic version of ‘Running Scared’, originally by the late great Roy Orbison – a concert from The Searchers is a real treat. I’m not ready for them to retire, I respect the fact that they feel it’s time, but that didn’t stop my bottom lip from wobbling once the final medley had been played.
There’ll never be another band like them, they’ve transcending decades and generations and will be missed by their peers and fans alike, I’m sure. If you can grab a ticket to see their final shows, you’ll not regret it, I promise. www.the-searchers.co.uk/dates
I’m late with last year’s highlights but suffice to say that 2018 was a fantastic year for shows of all genres. A great mix was on offer for Entertainment Views to attend and there have been so many wonderful memories made along the way. Here are just a few of the stand-out opportunities I had…
Gilbert & Sullivan’s operettas have been on my radar for years and I’ve watched many of them, however I had never seen Iolanthe nor the wonderful ENO performing one of their famous operettas. So – the chance to see Iolanthe performed by the ENO at London’s Coliseum was too good a chance to miss. With Yvonne Howard giving an outstanding performance as the Fairy Queen and a cast de force, all I can say is bring on its return! Iolanthe Review
Hotel Transylvania 3
What a movie! My movie of the year for sure! If you’ve never seen the other movies in the franchise it doesn’t matter, you can dive into this one and soon get the gist of the hilarious plot and get to know the madcap characters. A great film for grown ups as well as kids.
Falstaff (Garsington Opera)
Opera is one of my new loves and Falstaff was one of my first experiences of a non-operetta style. It starred Yvonne Howard who (as you already know) is one of my all-time favourite performers and Henry Waddington was exceptional in the lead title role. Garsington offers beautiful surroundings and a unique setting – I hope to return this summer. Falstaff Review
Coventry Comic Con
One of my favourite Comic Cons returned for its second year and it was a glorious set-up as expected. Plenty of stalls, activities and cosplayers as well as a great spacious layout. Our who family love this one and can’t wait to go again this year. Coventry Comic Con Review
I adore Blood Brothers, it’s one of my all-time favourite musicals and for the past couple of years one of the best actresses (in my humble opinion) has been playing Mrs Lyons and understudying the role of Mrs Johnstone – the brilliant Sarah-Jane Buckley. I was lucky enough to see the show a few times in 2018 and look forward to seeing it again this year, although a few cast changes are afoot… Here’s one of my latest reviews: Blood Brothers Review
This Morning Live!
I am a huge fan of This Morning and for those who know me well, you’ll be aware that I am also a massive fan of Ruth Langsford and Eamonn Holmes. In Birmingham we’re really lucky to have the This Morning Live! show at the NEC and it was a superb experience. From shopping to cooking masterclasses to meeting the presenters themselves (I only managed to meet Alison Hammond this time around but she is amazing and so lovely) – I couldn’t recommend the show more. This Morning Live! Review
Sixties Gold Show
I’ve long been a fan of The Searchers and I’ve supported them on solo tours on many an occasion – however this was the first Sixties Gold tour I’d been to. It was one of the biggest highlights of my reviewing year and I’m really looking forward to the next one. It was such an amazing night, buzzing! Sixties Gold Tour Review
BBC Good Food Show
I’ve been interested in going to the BBC Good Food Show for years, I finally grabbed the opportunity to attend their winter show and it was everything I hoped it would be! I’m looking forward to attending the summer show this year. BBC Good Food Show
Claire Richards solo gig
I adore Steps, I have so many favourites from among their epic back-catalogue, however I am also loving Claire Richards as a solo artist. She’s got such a powerful voice and her versatility knows no bounds. A superb gig at Birmingham Town Hall showcased her talent, the album is out very soon and my review of her gig is here: Claire Richards Review
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Malvern Theatres)
Malvern Theatres has long been top of my list of midlands-based theatres and their production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was a brilliant cornucopia of mad-cap stereotypical panto antics. Su Pollard was a revelation and stole the show. A well deserved five stars! Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Review
The Future of Entertainment Views
On a final note, I wanted to update all of my valued readers and subscribers on the direction that 2019 will most likely see my small corner of the internet, taking. You can find a bit about this particular rambling on my https://entertainmentviews.co.uk/about/ but I wanted to use this post to chat a bit more about blogging and me. As an established blogger juggling a young family as well as having a bash at hanging on to a day job too, I’m often asked all of the questions I’m about to answer…
In 2013 I branched out as an independent theatre blogger, reviewing shows at the local theatres I’d built up a relationship with on behalf of an established review site which sadly no longer exists. Break A Leg Review was born at around the same time as I discovered I was pregnant so my progress was slow to begin with, although I kept up with it as much as possible. I worked full time in a day job with the NHS and my morning sickness was as backwards as I can be, in that it appeared in the evenings!
I was reviewing in and around the West Midlands as that’s where I’m based and I had managed to secure a place on press lists at most of the theatres that I frequent. In 2015 I was lucky enough to connect with London theatres and due to suggestions from the various people I was interviewing, meeting and liaising with – I added movie and television reviews to the mix as well as music too. My blog took off in ways I could never have imagined during that year.
I made the decision to reach out to London theatres (and many other venues around the UK) as well as add other types of review to my blog because I had become a mum in 2014. That’s the quick answer. Becoming a mum changed my life in thousands of ways. To begin with, I was so consumed by the tiny little boy in my life that I considered giving up my blog. However, having returned to my day job on a part time basis while I searched for a different career that would suit motherhood and the juggling, I was considering blogging and therefore working from home, as a viable option. I ended up in another NHS job working unsociable hours instead, however so draining on my mental health was this new job, that it became even more of a goal to be able to work from home.
I took yet another NHS job to keep the bank account happy and which made my mental health happier (for a limited period of time!) and worked hard throughout 2016 to try my hand at other things such as social media management and website creations. I might have been working part time in the NHS but with my other work (blog included) mounting up – it felt like the right time to take the plunge and work solely from home. Timing was good as 2017 was my little boy’s last full year at nursery before he started school in 2018.
Truthfully, it worked for a while and was even enjoyable at times. I branched out into entertainment PR and dabbled in many areas. However, what I learned was that working from home and making a career out of blogging is not my thing. I still love to blog of course, but I don’t want my blog to be the be all and end all. The family dynamics change once your little one goes to school too. I found I couldn’t just pop off to London and I didn’t want to. I lose 6 hours a days for 5 days a week of my lad’s company during term time and I love being able to drop him off at school and pick him up. The smile on his face when I’m waiting at his classroom door is more moving than any theatrical performance I’ve reviewed.
2018 saw me start another job with the NHS (it’s what I know!) and that works at the moment. I like leaving the house to go to work and although it’s been a slightly awkward transition for my boy as he got used to me being at home, we’re all getting on with it.
2019 sees me being less of a critic and more of a cheerleader as I share all my positive experiences with you. I also have a few new ventures on the horizon which will hopefully help my much-desired career changes to take shape – but at the heart of everything are my boys – my husband and my son.
Have you tried to combine blogging with parenthood and career juggling? I’d love to hear about your experiences too!
Claire Richards has long been my best-loved member of of pop band Steps, her vocal ability is so extraordinary that waiting for her signature ‘belt’ to make an appearance in the back catalogue of Steps hits has become rather customary. When I knew she was planning to go solo it was quite a moment, I was so excited to hear her album and the tour has been on my hit-list since back in the summer. The album ‘My Wildest Dreams‘ has been delayed until 1 February 2019, but she promises it will be worth the wait – and from the sound of the various numbers the singer treated us to during her solo gig, it definitely will be worth the wait!
Looking the epitome of chic elegance, Claire sang us through numerous songs from her album, some I was familiar with and already love listening to and the others that were new to my ears I already know I will want to play over and over. This incredible lady has created a perfect first solo album in my humble opinion. She was nervous, at least that’s what she told the audience, but she’s the master of hiding nerves if she truly felt that way! As one number rolled into another the atmosphere buzzed and every member of the crowd was on her side willing her to be as brilliant as she absolutely was.
With Christmas just around the corner, ‘My Heart Is Heading Home (This Christmas)’ was a welcome choice on the set list, you can download that ready for the festive season too – I highly recommend you do. ‘End Before We Start’ which already has an official video was sensational live, ‘On My Own’ is equally moving and I feel it represents the star’s solo journey. The title track ‘My Wildest Dreams’ is also lyrically heartfelt and yet another song which was performed beautifully live. ‘Deep Waters’ is gloriously upbeat and upped the vibe in the venue. ‘Brave’ is the only self-penned tune and possibly one of my overall favourites, I can identify with the message and it’s a fitting tribute to her children and to motherhood.
Of course there was a nod towards Claire’s ‘day job’ as a member of Steps with stripped back versions of ‘Deeper Shade of Blue’ and ‘One for Sorrow’ which were a welcome addition to the set. However, it was her performance of Ike and Tina Turner’s ‘River Deep, Mountain High’ which was the biggest revelation of the night and rocked Town Hall, Birmingham.
If you have the chance to see Claire Richards performing her solo gig, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend that you go. It was an amazing evening of wonderful music and there’s no doubt that this path is right for her, it’s about time!
Sixties Gold landed at Symphony Hall, Birmingham last night and it was an exceptional evening to bear witness to. As a number of amazing singers and instrumentalists who mostly made their names in the swinging sixties took to the stage to play their signature tunes and number one hits to an enthusiastic crowd. The venue was in the most part populated by the fans who heard these popular tracks the first time around, however there was a minority who grew up on the classic hits courtesy of their parents and I think and hope I speak for that cluster when I say that it was as glorious for us as it was for the longer term enthusiasts.
I was brought up on the songs that topped the charts in the fifties, sixties and seventies and one of my all-time favourite bands is The Searchers. I’ve seen them in concert on a previous occasion and they are still phenomenal, even though there’s a slightly altered line-up. Frank Allen and John McNally remain and they’re at the heart of what the band can produce. Their back catalogue of hits rocked Symphony Hall as they generously gave us the most thrilling finale to a wonderful evening of fantastic music. From ‘Sweets for My Sweet’ to ‘Don’t Throw Your Love Away’ and even a side-step towards Buddy Holly tracks, we were spoiled, truly spoiled. They’re retiring next year so be sure to catch their farewell tour, I expect it will be an epic farewell – and hopefully not really their final hoorah…
The Fortunes opened the show in style with the likes of ‘Here It Comes Again’ and ‘Storm in A Teacup’ delighting the audience. The temptation to be on my feet singing along from the very beginning was piqued! There’s no denying that the talent possessed by the plethora of musicians is boundless. Their energy is also quite extraordinary. Vanity Fare followed with one of my all-time favourite songs ‘Hitchin’ A Ride’ and they provided the backing for the legendary Steve Ellis, as soon as I heard the opening bars of ‘Bringing On Back The Good Times’ I was transported back to happy family memories. It wouldn’t have been a Steve Ellis set without ‘Everlasting Love’ and he also paid tribute to Small Faces. PJ Proby (also backed by Vanity Fare) who will be embarking on a farewell tour ably continued the high standard of music, ‘There’s A Place For Us’ was a magical experience to behold. The Merseybeats were the first to really get the venue rocking and by the time they completed the set with ‘Hi Ho Silver Lining’ we were well and truly ready for the big finale. Their sound and banter was one of the highlights of the evening in my humble opinion.
I only wish I’d come along to one of these tours sooner, I will be talking about this for a long time to come and I can’t wait for next year’s – rumour has it that Herman’s Hermits are set to appear. Something tells me I’m into something good!
On Sunday 30th September I attended the premiere of Stafford based composer, Kerry Milan. Kerry has previously collaborated with one of my favourite Opera singers, namely Yvonne Howard and I was keen to see his latest composition performed by my best loved performer.
This recital was a celebration of Staffordshire music and poetry and a chance to bring together three formidable singing talents all of whom spent their formative years in Stafford. Dame Professor Carol Ann Duffy grew up in Stafford as did Yvonne Howard, international opera singer and Professor at the Royal Academy of Music. Kerry Milan is a Stafford based composer, violinist and teacher. Edward Robinson won the inaugural Staffordshire Young Singer of the year in 2013 and has been studying at the Royal Northern College of Music and Alice Dix won the same prize in 2015 and is at Leeds Conservatoire.
Kerry Milan studied violin at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music & Drama with Louis Carus (and Margaret Evans for piano), then in Brussels with Maurice Raskin, and later privately with David Martin. He is a Fellow of Trinity College London, and an Associate of London University Institute of Education.
The Staffordshire Young Singer of the year competition was founded in memory of John W R Taylor, former Staffordshire County Director of Music and is supported by FOSYM. Tickets for sale will be limited to 80. The event is supported by Kerry Milan, FOSYM, North-West Midlands Music Education Hub and Entrust Music Inspiring Futures Service Staffordshire.
The programme opened with the wondrous sound of Baritone, Edward Robinson and Soprano, Alice Dix. Between them they performed a variety of pieces from Henri Duparc, Schumann, Schubert, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Korngold, Debussy, George Butterworth and Mozart. The duet from Mozart’s Don Giovanni was the highlight of this particular section, the pair sang La Ci darem la mano beautifully and their interaction was superb.
After the interval we received the World Premiere of Rapture and it was astounding to hear Carol Ann Duffy’s poetry put to music as Yvonne Howard accompanied by pianist, Dr Roy Wightman, melodically led us through 20 of Duffy’s poems from her 2005 book of poems. Yvonne was extraordinary, giving heart, soul and character to the song cycle. The selected order of poems followed in a sensical way, each appearing to blend with the one before it. Carol Ann Duffy’s poems have often appeared lyrical to me and to hear them performed in such a manner was a real eye opener in the very best sense. Just a few of the poems in the cycle are: River, Row, Give, Grief, Night Marriage ad one of my personal favourites, The Love Poem. Kerry Milan has composed an exquisitely fitting tribute to the penmanship of one of Stafford’s most celebrated writers and in doing so he’s gained a new fan…. me! I believe that Rapture has been recorded and copies will be available, so watch this space.