There is nothing like a Dame…..


One of the gigs I wish I’d been at this week was Dame Shirley Bassey’s special Electric Proms show at The Roundhouse, but, alas, it wasn’t to be…..
Richard Hawley was the support, which would have made it a dream line-up for me.
Anyway, I’ve had to settle for second best and watch the highlights on the BBC iPlayer. Wow, what a show and it bodes well for Bassey’s forthcoming new album, The Performance, which is due out in early November.
On the record, Bassey has worked with several contemporary songwriters and acts, including Hawley, The Manic Street Preachers, Pet Shop Boys, Tom Baxter and current Bond soundtrack composer David Arnold. 
Like Dusty Springfield, Eartha Kitt and Liza Minelli before her, Bassey is the latest diva to be thrust back into the spotlight by the help of younger musicians who’ve always had a soft spot for her. And the results are absolutely fabulous, darling. 
Hawley, Baxter and James Dean Bradfield from The Manics guested at the Electric Proms show (with a huge orchestra), performing with Shirl on the songs they’d written for her. And she also indulged in some lighthearted flirting and teasing with them – adding to the theatricality of the whole thing.
The Hawley-penned After The Rain is beautiful – a sad breakup ballad – all piano, strings and Hawley’s twilight twangy guitar.  
Bassey excelled herself on the Pet Shop Boys’ song The Performance of My Life – a huge orchestral showtune that could be her theme tune. And on a lighter note. there’s The Girl From Tiger Bay – melodic epic pop-rock from The Manics, with James doing his stadium guitar riffing.
You can see the song below – I love the moment when James rocks out on the solo and shimmies with our Shirl.
So showbiz……

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Best gig of the year so far: One night in Heaven with Bad Lieutenant

As the nights draw in and the end of the year is nigh, I have started to reflect on my favourite gigs and albums of 2009. In the near future, I will be writing about some of them on this very blog….
I have been to plenty of brilliant concerts this year, from Morrissey (get well soon, Stephen) on Great Yarmouth Pier, to Richard Hawley playing all of Truelove’s Gutter (probably my favourite album of 2009) at Shepherd’s Bush Empire, a reformed Mott The Hoople raising the roof at Hammersmith Apollo and the Pet Shop Boys doing their art-disco-pop extravaganza at O2.
I also really enjoyed seeing cult indie act Spearmint play their A Week Away album in its entirety at the ICA, Blur’s comeback show and how could I forget McCartney walking on stage with Neil Young in Hyde Park, to do a duet on Day In The Life. 
But my favourite gig of the year so far has to be Bad Lieutenant (Bernard Sumner and Stephen Morris from New Order’s latest incarnation) at London’s Heaven last week. Why? Because now, looking back, I can distinctly recall the precise moment when I thought to myself – ‘this is the best musical moment I’ve had all year’.
The first half of the set saw the band mostly playing material from their recent debut album – think New Order without the twangy bass and, occasionally,when guitarist Jake Evans sings, a poppier version of Doves. You can’t argue with that.
We even got a nice surprise when they launched into Tighten Up – a Smiths-style gem from Electronic’s first album, when Bernard collaborated with Johnny Marr. So far, so good, but the best was yet to come.
Bad Lieutenant slipped into a cool, guitar-heavy version of Out of Control – a track Bernard recorded with the Chemical Bros that sounds like I Feel Love-era Donna Summer meets New Order, funnily enough.
Towards the end of the live outing, as if that tune wasn’t great enough on its own, the song then seamlessly segued into a killer version of New Order’s Temptation.
Man, the place went mental. I thought I’d died and gone to……. Ahem.
Bathed in a strobe light, showered in over-priced lager and hugging the grown men stood next to me, I raised my pint glass in the air and toasted the genius of Sumner, as the sound of a thousand indie discos reverberated in my brain.
I can also remember turning round to face the crowd and see the looks on their faces. This is something I only do at truly special gigs.
Just as I was thinking it couldn’t get any better, we then got versions of Joy Division’s Transmission and Love Will Tear Us Apart for the encore.Not bad, eh?
As 2009 gigs go, that one will take some beating, but seeing as I’m going to watch The Charlatans play acoustic at The Social tomorrow and Billy Bragg do a set in my local next weekend, anything is possible….