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.





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….