30 06 2014

Here’s a reprint of my review of Katy Perry’s gig at the Odyssey that ran in Hot Press.




It’s the very first night of pop queen Katy Perry’s mammoth 107 date world tour this evening. Not that you’d know it, mind, as the singer looks completely comfortable and at ease right from the get-go thanks to weeks and months of gruelling rehearsals. Opening with a flawless version of monster hit single ‘Roar,’ tonight’s performance is a no-expense-spared, eye-popping experience. Split into six sections (plus an encore), Perry’s Prismatic World Tour takes us on something of a musical journey through time and visits ancient Egypt, a ’90s rave and an MTV Unplugged-esque setting (to name but three) along the way, much to the delight of the capacity crowd.


Acrobats, musicians, a massive cast of colourful dancers and, at one point, a pimped up pantomime horse, share the triangular-shaped stage with the “California Gurl” all night and aside from the kinda creepy cat-themed part of the show, Katy delivers a master-class in slick arena pop, despite being struck down with a bad case of the sniffles during her 10 day stay in Belfast (“I didn’t expect it to rain as much as it does here” she offers at one point…).


A stripped back, acoustic version of the beautiful ‘The One That Got Away’ and a truly thrilling rendition of newie ‘Legendary Lovers’ steal the show for this reviewer, but the likes of ‘Teenage Dream,’ ‘Part Of Me’ and ‘E.T.’ all impress too, as does her extensive collection of wigs which are sure to make Donald Trump green with envy.


‘Firework’ ends proceedings with a bang and sees Perry deliver a powerful, goose-bump inducing vocal performance and while it may only be the first date of her tour, I’m sure that both the hardest working women in pop and her fans will remember tonight for a long time to come.





29 06 2014

Here’s a reprint on my interview with WWE wrestler Dolph Ziggler that ran in the Sunday Life newspaper.


Fighting Talk

WWE Superstar Dolph Ziggler have achieved many things in his short but so far successful career in the ring. The Belfast-bound bronzed, blonde-haired beefcake is not only a former heavyweight champion, but a bona fide fan favourite and one of the most consistent wrestlers in the billion-dollar business too, however, for all of his accolades he’s perhaps best known for an incident he’d probably like to forget-namely being punched in the face by X-Men actor Hugh Jackman on live TV.

“First of all I’d like to say that he sucker-punched me,” laughed the wrestler when Sunday Life asked him about that infamous moment on the WWE’s flagship show Monday Night Raw. “Second of all, I know plenty of people who would love to say they were socked in the mouth by the Wolverine! Yeah, my pride was hurt a little and some of the other WWE Superstars enjoyed mercilessly ribbing me about being knocked out by the guy from Les Miserables, but that night when Jackman came into the ring during my match to hit me is one of the most talked about events in the 21 year history of Monday Night Raw, which is pretty cool, right?”

While Ziggler’s initial claims of sustaining a broken jaw were later unfounded, he told us that the award-winning Aussie actor didn’t pull any punches and no, there won’t be a rematch.

“I’ll tell you, Hugh really didn’t hold anything back,” smiled the wrestler, whose real name is Nick Nemeth. “I heard afterwards that he was worried he went a little too far, but no, these days we’re all cool. We’ve made up and we’re friends again so I don’t think there’ll be ‘the Show-Off Versus the Wolverine’ part two. I don’t want to hurt him, you know?”

On the subject of pain, Cleveland-born Dolph’s stratospheric rise to the top of the WWE stalled a little last year when he picked up a severe concussion after being kicked in the head by fellow wrestler Jack Swagger and the former champ told us that some of the risks in the story-line-based industry are all-too real.

“Receiving the concussion and being side-lined for a while was very frustrating,” he confessed. “I lost a lot of momentum and I’m now working my ass off to get back to where I was, but I’m determined to be at the top once again. In the WWE we put out bodies on the line for people’s entertainment and we all know the risks before we step out there. Wrestling is all I’ve ever wanted to do though and being able to perform in places like Belfast is awesome.”

Now a regular fixture on these shores, Dolph and his fellow wrestlers will be at the Odyssey, Belfast this Wednesday night as part of WWE Live and the 33year old told us he’s excited about returning to the city.

“I’ve had some of the best matches of my life in Belfast,” he revealed. “It’s always fun coming over, especially as it’s a home-coming show for WWE producer [and Carrickfergus-born] Fit Finlay. I can’t wait to steal the show once again.”

WWE Live comes to the Odyssey, Belfast this Wednesday night. Tickets start from £20 and are available from Ticketmaster.

Edwin McFee



28 06 2014

Here’s a reprint of my review of the Michael Jackson “album” that ran in Hot Press a few weeks back.



Xscape (Sony)


Key Track: ‘Love Never Felt So Good.’


Xscape is the second posthumous compilation album of unreleased and rare tracks by self-anointed king of pop Michael Jackson. Featuring eight cuts culled from the singer’s archives, producer L.A. Reid and his Timbaland-led team have re-made and re-arranged the material and given them a thoroughly modern make-over, which is all well and good, but does the record deserve to bear the world-famous MJ brand? Well no, not really, as aside from that unmistakable voice, this ultra polished opus is nothing more than a hugely expensive Frankenstein’s monster.


Your enjoyment of Xscape will hinge on how hungry you are to hear rare Michael Jackson vocal performances. For the die-hard’s, the record is a glimpse of what might have been. For those not quite as ravenous as some of Jacko’s more passionate acolytes, Xscape is a brazen attempt to make a quick buck. Ballad ‘Do You Know Where Your Children Are’ is one of the worst offenders and sounds as uncomfortable as Gary Glitter covering Katy Perry’s ‘Teenage Dream’ in the wake of the MJ’s well documented legal trouble, while the homage to America’s ‘A Horse With No Name’ (retitled here as ‘A Place With No Name’) is a glorified remix of ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’ and nothing more.


Single ‘Love Never Felt So Good’ (which Jackson first demoed in 1983 and was covered by Christmas crooner Johnny Mathis a year later) is a solid song though, but on the whole Xscape is strictly for completists.






27 06 2014

A few weeks ago I reviewed the Miley Cyrus Belfast gig for Hot Press.Strange one this. Lots of people seemed hell-bent of getting their knickers in a twist over the gig, but to be honest I’ve seen a LOT worse (don’t even get me started on those Smiths “fans”). In fact, the only thing that annoyed me was I forgot to use my “storm in a b-cup” gag in the piece. Ah well.There’s always next time. Here’s the reprint.



You know, if Miley Cyrus didn’t have millions of bucks in the bank and her every whim catered for on a daily basis, I’d almost feel sorry for her. For the last couple of years the former teen queen has done everything in her power to exorcise the demon that is Hannah Montana, the Disney-helmed character she played on TV, but unfortunately not even Father Karras could banish that spirit. Still, she’s not going to stop trying, bless her, and tonight it’s Belfast’s turn to get an eyeful of her (ahem) Bangerz.


Making her way onstage via a massive tongue slide (yes, tongue slide), the singer opens her set with a clutch of cuts from her aforementioned latest album and each one sounds like a bizarre, bass-driven nursery rhyme (‘SMS (Bangerz),’ ’4×4′). Visually, the show is just as bonkers and throughout the night there are giant inflatable dogs, dancers in furry costumes, huge wieners (*snigger*), mammoth muppets, a giant bed with a flower rising out of it and a mini gold car which the half naked pop star straddles while slapping her posterior. It’s quite the spectacle, but certainly not as controversial as some quarters claim, except for the moment when her mic wasn’t switched on and she tells the crowd “It’s just like a Katy Perry concert.” Meow.


Highlight of the night is when she ditches her current “Mad Miley” character and performs some covers at the back of the stage without the frills or filth. It’s a welcome reminder that she can actually sing and she performs truly touching versions of the Smiths’ ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’ and Lana Del Ray’s ‘Summertime Sadness’ in front of a surprisingly sparse crowd.


After that, she breaks out the hits, with ‘Wrecking Ball’ and final song ‘Party In The USA’ going down a storm in particular as the furry dancers and dwarves return onstage to wave their goodbyes. As first date’s go, tonight was a weird one, but it’s also one we won’t forget either and I guess that was the whole point. Rest in peace Hannah Montana, we hardly knew ye….




25 05 2014

Here’s a review of the ace Portrait album that ran in Metal Hammer a couple of issues back.




After being forced to reshuffle their line-up in the wake of the exit of guitarist/songwriter Richard Lagergren, heavy metal purists Portrait return with their tellingly-titled third record Crossroads and anyone who doubted that the Swedes were incapable of carrying on should reach for the ketchup now as the eight track offering will make them eat their words. Opening with the acoustic intro Liberation, the five-piece treat us to a plethora of timeless riffs and Halford-like high-pitched shrieks over 42 minutes and those in the thrall of Maiden,Mercyful Fate and Priest will find much to enjoy on the album. While the Spartan production lets the likes of In Time down (especially when it comes to Per Lengstedt’s vocals) the album provides plenty of old school thrills and Ageless Rites and the epic Lily are as sharp as their bullet belts. Black Easter mixes things up a little with a dance-indebted drum-beat during the main section and although they only just get away with it, it’s encouraging to see them push the boundaries of their traditional sound. [7]




23 05 2014

Here’s a reprint of a review of the Sabbath Assembly album that ran in Metal Hammer.





Album number three from Sabbath Assembly sees the Texan twosome once again explore the theology of the Process Church of the Final Judgment (a sect that worship both Christ and Satan), only this time around instead of adapting Processian hymns, they have added mostly original lyrics to the acoustic-based music. Comprising of six tracks, the self-declared sacred folk metal act’s opus can be a little hammy in places, especially for the unenlightened, but there’s much to your teeth into regardless. A heavy offering in terms of lyrical content, musically Quarternity is reminiscent of the softer parts of Jeff Wayne’s epic The War Of The Worlds soundtrack and only the doom-y electric guitar led I, Satan offers anything traditionally metallic despite the record featuring appearances from members of Sunn 0))) and Gorguts. The eerie, string-laden Jehovah On Death is a stand-out on the album, but 18minute long The Four Horsemen isn’t nearly as engaging as the band thinks it is and it’s a disjointed, at times boring track which lets proceedings down considerably. [6]




21 05 2014

Here’s a reprint of a review of the recent Royal Blood gig that ran in Hot Press.




Brighton-based, Arctic Monkeys-endorsed blues rock duo Royal Blood are playing their first ever Belfast gig tonight. The room is crammed with a close to capacity crowd who are eager to see a band that are very much on the cusp of big things right now and while they’ve only got a brace of singles to their name thus far, the excitement from some sections of the Limelight 2 is palpable.


Opening with ‘Hole,’ the two-piece make a ferociously heavy live sound from the get-go. Full of distorted bass and and groove-laden drums, Royal Blood bring the thunder like the mighty Thor himself, as pints shake and ear-drums quake to their neck-bothering songs. Musically, the dynamic duo have a sonic similarity to other two-piece acts such as Drenge, Winnebago Deal and the Black Keys. Loud yet melodic, tracks like ‘Figure It Out’ and ‘Blood Hands’ are sure to find favour with both indie kids and metallers and in frontman Mike Kerr they have one of the most talented and inventive bassists this reviewer has heard in quite some time.


Recent single ‘Little Monster,’ as expected, receives the biggest reaction from the audience and provokes an out-break of people dancing while slowly head-banging (it looks a little odd, but I applaud their attempts at innovation) but it’s set-closer ‘Out Of The Black’ which really marks the boys out as ones to watch. The machine-gun rhythms, powerful grooves and howled vocals of the track are a joy to hear and when it’s performed live the number certainly justifies some of Royal Blood’s recent hype.




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