Bon Jovi – This House Is Not For Sale Tour – Wembley Stadium, London – 21st June 2019

I’ve been attending Bon Jovi gigs since the early 90s, but this was to be a special one, as it’s the first concert my 11-year-old son Lucas has shown interest in, and so I booked tickets for us to go when they first went on sale. He’s not been that into music until the last few weeks, so the timing of Bon Jovi’s return to Wembley couldn’t have been better.

Now Jon’s voice is not what it used to be, Richie left some years ago, and recent albums haven’t been as good as the earlier material. However, they are still Bon Jovi, the soundtrack of my life, so any opportunity to see them is a welcome one, especially as I’ve been saying since Lucas was born that I wanted to take him. I was a little worried he might get bored, as we entered the stadium 70 minutes before the start, but he loved trying to answer the trivia questions on the screen, and seeing if our photos would come up on the fan wall. They didn’t.

Bon Jovi – This House Is Not For Sale Tour – Wembley Stadium, London – 21st June 2019

Before Bon Jovi we were treated to the Manic Street Preachers, at least that’s what I thought going in. I’ve always liked the Manics, more so back in their Generation Terrorist era than anything since, but enough to be looking forward to seeing them perform. I’m sorry to say I wasn’t very impressed. There wasn’t much in the way of stage presence and the sound was guitar heavy, so vocals were hard to make out. I know Wembley Stadium isn’t known for its amazing sound quality, but they didn’t do themselves any favours. The first song was Motorcycle Emptiness, my favourite of theirs, though the clear highlight of the set was their cover of the Guns N’ Roses classic Sweet Child O’ Mine. That was the only song that got the crowd going, and I suspect few tears were shed they finished up. It’s a shame as I was looking forward to seeing them for the first time, but it wasn’t their day to shine.

Thirty minutes later and the main event was ready to commence, as Bon Jovi took to the stage and the crowd exploded, myself included. Right from the start it was clear that the band, and especially Jon, were 100% up for it, and determined to put on a great show. Kicking off with the titular track from their latest album, and This House Is Not For Sale set a high standard which was continued throughout the night. They got the crowd really going as they followed that opener with Raise Your Hands and You Give Love a Bad Name. What I love, and respect about Bon Jovi, is that they know who has come to see them and they know what they want to hear. So tracks from the latest albums are kept to a minimum, and we were treated to a plethora of songs from the 80s and 90s, when Bon Jovi were at their artistic and peak.

Bon Jovi – This House Is Not For Sale Tour – Wembley Stadium, London – 21st June 2019

I kept an eye on Lucas, and much to my delight he was really into the concert, singing along, and even up on his feet, clapping with the odd first bump. He wasn’t dancing as much as his Jovi crazy Dad, but was having a great time, and was captivated from start to finish. He’s not familiar with a lot of their songs, so he had to put up with me excitedly telling him this is one of their best, as the likes of Keep The Faith and Bed of Roses. The outro to the former was pretty bloody epic, with Phil X playing like a demon, for this and the whole night.

Bon Jovi – This House Is Not For Sale Tour – Wembley Stadium, London – 21st June 2019

It wasn’t all positive though, as I mentioned earlier, the sound isn’t the best at Wembley Stadium, though the atmosphere certainly makes up for that. Worse though, was the screen being out of sync with the sound. Bear in mind this is a screen directly behind the band, not a video link from thousands of miles away. It boggles my mind that they can’t get this right in 2019. When many thousands of fans, ourselves included, are too far away to see the band in any detail with the naked eye, we rely on those screens, and they didn’t do the job. Especially not for the price you have to pay, even up in the nosebleed seats – a phrase Lucas questioned, wondering if we really would get a nosebleed!

The only other negative was the time we had to wait between the main set and the inevitable encore, which went on way too long. A small gap builds up the excitement, but this was so long it almost ended in boos. That said, when they came out and gave us an incredible 7-minute version of Always, I forgave them. This visibly took a lot of Jon, but it was well worth it, and as one of my favourite Bon Jovi songs, it was a very special moment for me. They then finished with the National Anthem of Bon Jovi and Lucas sang every word of Livin’ On A Prayer, as did the whole crowd. What an encore and what a way to finish a fantastic evening.

01. This House is Not For Sale
02. Raise Your Hands
03. You Give Love a Bad Name
04. Born to Be My Baby
05. Whole Lot of Leavin’
06. Lost Highway
07. Runaway
08. We Weren’t Born to Follow
09. Have a Nice Day
10. Keep the Faith
11. Amen
12. Bed of Roses
13. Blood on Blood
14. It’s My Life
15. We Don’t Run
16. Wanted Dead or Alive
17. Lay Your Hands on Me
18. Captain Crash & the Beauty Queen From Mars
19. I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead
20. Bad Medicine
21. Always
22. Livin’ on a Prayer

Were the vocals as good as in the 90s? Of course not, but were they good enough to give everyone a fantastic Bon Jovi experience for almost 2.5 hours? Absolutely yes, and then some. To still be able to see ‘my songs’ performed live some 30+ years after they changed my life, is not something I take for granted and I’ll keep going for as long as they tour. Seeing my son singing and dancing to some of the songs made it even more special. I’m over the moon the first concert he’s wanted to go to is Bon Jovi, that’s a memory I’ll hold on to for the rest of my life, and I hope he does too.

The Power of Record Stores: Saint Agnes Live at David’s Music Letchworth – 7th May 2019

I could go on a huge ramble about how I came to see Saint Agnes yesterday evening, but let’s keep it brief, for both our sakes. I am a regular at David’s Music (and David’s Books), and as such, I follow them on Facebook, and it’s there that I saw them advertise that St Agnes would be playing in-store to promote the newly released album: Welcome to Silvertown. The blurb about the album included this snippet:

Welcome To Silvertown is an album that is musically unshackled and an accurate snapshot of the band’s ferocious intensity, fusing the menacing frenzie of rock with a dark, cinematic flare

That was enough to entice me, so I listened on Spotify, a platform I don’t use very often but I find good for sampling new music. Anyway, the album very much lived up to the description above, so along I went to David’s Music. The 4 were just 3 (no Ben), and with no room for Andy and his drums, that left Kitty and Jon on vocals and guitars, as they gave us a 6 song acoustic set, not something they are accustomed to doing.

Saint Agnes Live at David's Music Letchworth - 7th May 2019

It was bloody good, and while different from the energy and ‘rawk‘ of the album, the stripped back songs sounded quite magnificent in this record store setting, with vinyl and fairy lights as a backdrop. Lucky for me, they played my two favourite songs, the titular Welcome to Silvertown and The Witching Hour (abridged version). Well, as much as one can have favourites having listened to the album just once, in the gym, but it’s my blog so I get to choose what gets said.

I bought the album, on gorgeous white vinyl, got it signed, and then grabbed a photo with the 3 members of Saint Agnes who were there. The photo is taken from such a height because my 11 year old son took it, having recovered from his encounter with a very sour gobstopper around the second song mark. My phone, unfortunately, takes a long time to fire the flash and take the photo, so much so that Jon is falling asleep and Kitty got tired of waiting and started chatting to Andy. Andy, by the way, stayed in his photo pose for the duration, undeterred by the wait or whatever Kitty’s telling him! All three were an absolute pleasure to chat to, and very grateful for our attendance. I’ll be sure to catch them on tour, and am eyeing up their Dingwalls gig in October.

Meeting Saint Agnes Live at David's Music Letchworth - 7th May 2019

Saint Agnes - Welcome to Silvertown Vinyl Record

So there you have it folks, without David’s Music I would never have heard of Saint Agnes, let alone seen them live just a couple of miles from my house, and got to meet and chat to this fine group of musically gifted individuals. Maybe that’s not strictly true, as these guys are really good, so I’m sure I’d have of them at some point, but not this early in the career and in such an intimate setting. You get the point I’m making here.

David’s Music, like many other record stores around the country (and the world if we want to be really grand), is a community, that brings together music lovers, whilst spreading the word about bands such as Saint Agnes. They are so much more than just a place to buy music, though buying records in person will always be preferable to the risk of damage in transit options. Support your local record store, and not just on Record Store Day, because music is a much better place for them.

Top 10 Gigs of 2018

I’ve been lucky enough to be present at some amazing gigs this year, and while ranking them almost seems a tad cruel and like comparing apples to oranges in some cases, I’m going to take that brave step anyway.

Top 10 Gigs of 2018

  1. Danni Nicholls – Jim Marshall Auditorium, The Stables, Milton Keynes – 10/11/18 (review)
  2. Kacey Musgraves – Wembley Arena, London – 17/10/18
  3. Margo Price – Country to Country – The O2, London – 11/03/18 (review)
  4. Danni Nicholls – Bears and Tales: Unplugged, Bedford – 26/07/18 (review)
  5. Kacey Musgraves – Country to Country – The O2, London – 10/03/18 (review)
  6. Whitney Rose – The Lexington, London – 29/04/18 (review)
  7. Ashley Campbell – The Boderline, London – 17/03/18 (review)
  8. Gretchen Peters & Kim Richey – The Apex, Bury St Edmunds – 31/05/18
  9. Ben Glover & Kim Richey – Junction 3, Cambridge – 02/11/18
  10. The Grahams – Country to Country – The O2, London – 09/03/18 (review)

There are many more gigs that I’d have liked to have gone to, but life has a habit of getting in the way. Still, I got to see some extraordinary live shows this year, some for the first time, and others for the 4th, 5th and even 6th time. The plan for 2019 is to attend more, let’s see how that goes.

Top 10 Albums of 2018

2018 has been a great year for music, and looking at the list, a really great year for female artists.

Top 10 Albums of 2018

  1. Golden Hour – Kacey Musgraves
  2. By The Way, I Forgive You – Brandi Carlile
  3. Venom & Faith – Larkin Poe
  4. Clean – Soccer Mommy
  5. 22:22 – Bessie Turner
  6. Sparrow – Ashley Monroe
  7. Desperate Man – Eric Church
  8. The Lonely One – Ashley Campbell
  9. May Your Kindness Remain – Courtney Marie Andrews
  10. Interstate Gospel – Pistol Annies

I haven’t listened to Ben Glover’s Shorebound or Gretchen Peters’ Dancing With The Beast nearly enough, so maybe this list will get a 2019 shuffle at some point. There is also the case of Bessie Turner’s 22:22 being an EP, but at 6 songs and 20 minutes, it has a running time only 33% less than Larkin Poe’s Venom & Faith, so it counts. That and it’s flippin’ great, and this being my list, I make the rules! 2019 will be starting off with a bang when Danni Nicholls releases her third album, The Melted Morning, my most anticipated album of next year.

Gig Review: Danni Nicholls at The Jim Marshall Auditorium, The Stables – Milton Keynes – 10th November 2018

Read a few of my previous reviews of Danni Nicholls, by clicking this convenient link, and you’ll see just how much I love her music. Thanks to being in France in June, train problems in the summer and other issues the weekend of The Long Road, I would have seen Danni live six times in 2018 before last Saturday’s gig in Milton Keynes. As it was, this was my 4th Danni Nicholls gig of the year, which isn’t so bad really. I went with my gigging buddy Johnny who had started listening to Danni after seeing and hearing me talk about her music, a lot. So after a cheeky Nando’s (is there any other kind?), it was off to at The Stables, and my first visit to a venue that lay at the end of a windy country road.

I’ve seen Danni at The Borderline in London, in a record club in Bedford, at a festival in Bedford and a cocktail bar in Bedford, but this was the first time I was going to see Danni Nicholls play with a band. Previously it had just been Danni and her guitar, which let me tell you, is more than sufficient for a top class night of music. There were a lot of instruments and mic stands on the stage, so I could see we were in for something special.

The band came out and started playing, and then 30 seconds later Danni walked out on stage, presented as the star attraction she is. She kicked off with back to back songs from her upcoming album The Melted Morning, which would be a theme for the evening. As much as I love Danni’s back catalogue, hearing her new music is always a treat, and I got to hear even more of the new songs than I had at previous gigs. The full band sound was fantastic, and the new songs are really quite wonderful. Both on stage, and in the writing of her new music, I witnessed a very comfortable Danni Nicholls, and the next step in the evolution of her songwriting. This new album is going to be absolutely brilliant, with that trademark combination of vocal range, inspiring lyrics and smouldering soul that only Danni Nicholls can offer.

As much as I was excited to hear the new material, it was equally great to hear songs I thought I knew very well, presented in this full band format. The musicians and backing singers (one of whom was support act Hannah Rose Platt, who’d done a great job opening the evening) added a lot of depth and layers to favourites such as A Little Redemption and Beautifully Broken, the latter being my favourite Danni Nicholls song and always a delight to hear. It was quite surreal seeing someone else play the signature riffs that I’m so used to seeing Danni play on guitar herself, but the band and backing singers were all top notch and complimented Danni superbly. Danni looked to be having the time of her life, and didn’t for one second look out of place on a stage she’d grown up wanting to play on. As a huge fan of Danni, there was no doubt I was always going to enjoy this gig, but I’ve rarely seen a whole crowd of people react in the way they did. People were dancing, whooping, singing and showing huge amounts of respect and appreciation with their rapturous applause and standing ovations.

Gig Review: Danni Nicholls at The Jim Marshall Auditorium, The Stables – Milton Keynes, 10th November 2018

I’m a person who is very aware of time, and I can hand on heart say that this is the first gig I can remember where I didn’t look at my watch once. Well, that is until Danni and band bowed to a huge reaction and it looked like we were done for the night. It was just a few minutes before the slated end time, so I thought that there was a chance we wouldn’t get an encore. Well, I was wrong, thankfully, and out they came again for not one but two more songs. The last was a song that we were due to hear at the Bears & Tales gig, but ran out of time, so I was thrilled to finally hear Goodnight Moon live. The final song on her debut album A Little Redemption album and the perfect bookend to a spectacular evening of music. The gig actually finished this time and everyone was on their feet. The reaction was incredible, and so well deserved. Wow, that was something else. It was the kind of gig that only comes around every now and then, and fills your heart with joy and had me smiling from the very first second to the last, and for a long time afterwards. It was a career-defining gig for Danni Nicholls and a life-defining one for me as a fan.

Back in the bar and foyer area a lot of people waited to meet Danni and get things signed, and when she walked out everyone cheered and clapped, again. I’ve not seen such a warm and honest reaction from fans of an artist anywhere else, and it was evident that as both a musician and a person, Danni has touched a lot of people. It was great to be able to let Danni know much I’d enjoyed her performance, and thank her for putting on such a great show. I still have to pinch myself that someone whose music I admire so much and means so much to me, is so accessible and welcomes me like a friend every time I see her. I know being a good person isn’t a prerequisite of being a great musician, but it’s heartwarming when they are.

I’d commented to Danni a few days before that she needed some new merchandise as I had everything already. She replied that she had some especially for that night, and she certainly came up trumps. I bought a mini guitar, poster for that night’s gig (which looks amazing and will be framed and hung on the lounge wall) and a bracelet for my wife Denise made from one of Danni’s old guitar strings and which had beads recycled from family items. The first two she kindly signed and even asked who she should make the poster signing out to, knowing the whole family are big fans. My buddy Johnny had a great time too and certainly came away an even bigger fan of Danni Nicholls, as did I.

Meeting Danni Nicholls at The Stables, Milton Keynes - November 10th 2018

Signed Danni Nicholls Mini Guitar

Signed Danni Nicholls Poster - The Stables, Milton Keynes - November 10th 2018

What an amazing night it was – a musical performance of the absolute highest quality, in a superb venue, and surrounded by a whole bunch of great people. Speaking of which, a big thank you to Danni’s manager Graham and to her family members who I met and were a delight. I’d been thinking about my favourite gigs of the year recently, and already had one from Danni Nicholls in my top 10. Well, this one is going straight into that list, and I’ll tell you right now that it’s fighting for the top spot. You’ll have to come back and read that list later in the year to see for yourself where it places, and the other 9 too. I’ll finish by saying that not only did Danni Nicholls live up to her own high standard, but she raised the bar even higher. Anyone out there who doesn’t have the music of Danni Nicholls in their life is missing out big time, take it from me.

Top 10 Country to Country 2018

1. Margo Price

Country to Country 2018 Review Day 3 - Margo Price

2. Kacey Musgraves
3. Ashley Campbell
4. Ward Thomas
5. Lukas Nelson
6. Ashley McBryde
7. The Grahams
8. Old Dominion
9. Luke Combs
10. Ryan Hurd

4 main stage performances
3 satellite stage performances
3 pop up stage performances

Full reviews and thoughts can be found here: Day 1 ¦ Day 2 ¦ Day 3

A Week Without Social Media – How I Coped After Deleting Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and Instagram Off My Phone

One week and roughly 7 hours ago I deleted all the social media apps on my phone – that means Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and Instagram. So why did I do this? We went away on holiday last Sunday, to stay with family in Poole, and I decided I wanted to be completely off the grid, at least from a social media standpoint anyway. So why couldn’t I just not check them whilst I was away, that would be less drastic, wouldn’t it? In an ideal world yes, but I’m somewhat addicted to the aforementioned social media accounts, and if they are on my phone I’d be checking them. Addiction is a serious word, and I don’t use it lightly, but I do believe it’s the right one, or at least I did when I deleted them.

So how did it go? Actually, a damn sight easier than I thought it would be. I’m not sure if it was because in holiday mode, and spent much of the day on the beach, and evenings at restaurants with family, or whether the perceived addiction was just an indication that I need to be more productive with my spare time. On a couple of occasions I did think “ooh, that would make a good tweet, or that should be something I could take a photo of and put on Instagram”, but they were very fleeting thoughts and not something that I was disappointed not to be able to do. I didn’t actually take my phone to the beach, so was without it from mid-morning until mid to late afternoon, so maybe that was cheating a bit. However, when I did have it in the evenings I didn’t have the urge to check for updates on social media. In fact, I didn’t delete the apps from my iPad which I also took with me, but not once was I tempted to open them.

I could very well have missed out on something very important, but would that really be the case? I kept abreast of the news, a bit, and all my family members have my phone number, so they could have called and texted me, as some did. Importance is relative and any happenings on social media don’t really impact the world in any productive way, not in the circles I exist anyway. One interesting observation is just how much people rely on social media to communicate with one another, as it was my birthday the day after I deleted all the apps, and only one friend texted to wish me happy birthday, and she knew I had deleted the apps. To be fair, when I log back on to the likes of Facebook and Twitter, there could well be a bunch of birthday messages there.

I do rely on Twitter and Facebook, in particular, to keep up with the activities of singers and bands I like, but that’s not something I need to check every day, or every hour if I’m being completely honest. What I don’t miss is that constant need to see if anyone has reacted to what I’ve posted. That’s a flaw in the way I think and one that needs addressing, so social media is probably not a healthy environment for me to be around in the first place.

Will I go back to them? I kind of need to as I use them to spread the word about the activities of Dedicated to DLP, and do still want gig updates for the aforementioned musicians. Can I decrease my time using them, and dependence on interactions? Time will tell, but this week of cold turkey did categorically prove that without them I didn’t suffer at all. In fact my son will tell you it was a very positive experience, as I spent more time playing with him and less time checking my phone.

At the time of publishing this article, I have not yet installed any of the social media accounts back into my phone, and I’m quite anxious about doing so. The irony is that you’ll most probably only be reading this now if I have logged back in and shared this article on them. (EDIT: 3 hours later… or I still haven’t added the apps back to my phone and share this on Facebook and Twitter using my laptop)

Gig Review: Danni Nicholls at Bears and Tales: Unplugged – Bedford, 26th July 2018

This isn’t going to be a huge review as it’s far too hot to be sat at my laptop after a day at work, but I couldn’t let last night go without saying a few words. Those who know me will be by now get that I’m a huge Danni Nicholls fan, and ever since discovering her supporting Angaleena Presley just over a year ago in London, her music has infiltrated my playlist more than any other artist in that time. It’s not just me though, my wife Denise is a big fan and even Lucas chose her music over The Beano at her Record Store Day performance earlier this year, and that’s a pretty big endorsement right there. Last night Danni appeared at Bears and Tales, an intriguingly names cocktail bar in Bedford, and an equally intriguing venue for a gig.

The format of the evening was drink, music (no drinks being served), drink, music (no drinks being served), and so on. The idea being that you get your drink in between music sets and then drink it whilst listening to the music, so as not to have drink service noises during said music. The support slot was taken by friend of the bar Johnny Mudd, who gave us a set very much in the modern singer-songwriter mould that has been popularised by the likes of Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith, George Ezra and the like. This is absolutely nothing against Johnny, who has a great voice, plays the guitar well and has that self-depreciating British persona down to a tee, but this style of music is not really to my taste. He’s also lovely guy, but I have to be honest, or there really is no point writing anything at all. The internet is awash with vomit-inducing sycophancy, you don’t need me adding to it. Johnny Mudd – great at what he does, just not for me.

So after ordering our second drink, which in my case was an absolutely delicious gin-based cocktail going by the name of Ford’s Flower, it was time for Danni Nicholls, and the reason we were there. It will come as a surprise to no one that Danni sounded great, and that’s such an all-encompassing and vague word, so let’s elaborate with others such as powerful, smooth, soulful and passionate for starters. I’m not sure if it was because a fair few of her family and friends were in attendance, or if her cocktail was a strong as mine, but in between songs Danni told stories, and those stories took on a life their own, flowing off at many tangents. As much as I love hearing music at a gig, that’s the main reason we attend them after all, I love getting to know the person behind the songs and we got that in spades last night.

Danni Nicholls at Bears and Tales: Unplugged – Bedford, 26th July 2018

I got asked what style Danni’s music is today, as I often have, and it’s really hard to pigeonhole her into one style. Americana is probably the most obvious one, and given her recognition by The Americana Music Association UK that would seem appropriate. But what is Americana? As Mary Gauthier said at Maverick festival back in 2014, you know Americana when you hear it, and that’s so right. It’s that storytelling that comes from the heart, sung with an honesty and rawness you rarely find elsewhere, more often than not accompanied by incredible guitar playing. That IS Danni Nicholls and she’s one of the very best, and last night she was on fine form.

One of the highlights for me was hearing more songs from her upcoming third album that she recorded in Nashville a few months ago. I heard two, Losing It and Ancient Embers, at the Bedford River Festival 2 weeks previous, but hearing them in this intimate setting made them sound even better. The one that really hit me, giving me chills down my spine and seeing me watching and listening in awe from start to finish, was Wild is the Water. This was co-written with the fantastic Ben Glover, who is an incredibly talented singer-songwriter with intensity to emotion oozing from every pore when he performs. Thow in Danni’s own songwriting expertise and prowess as a performer, and this was only ever going to be a masterpiece, and it is. Those words I threw earlier like powerful, passionate and soulful – just a few of the ways I can describe this song. Even better is that the new album has more songs co-written with Ben, and that excites me greatly.

With Danni Nicholls at Bears and Tales - July 25th 2018

Danni started, as she traditionally does, with Long Road Home (my son Lucas’ favourite Dani Nicholls song) and finished with A Little Redemption. In between was a mixture of new and old songs, a cover of Tennessee Waltz which she sweetly dedicated to her Grandmother in attendance, natural and endearing repartee and music of the absolute highest standard. We got the chance to chat to Danni a few times throughout the night, and as always, she came across as humble as ever, and is just one of those naturally friendly souls. I managed to snag the setlist, which I like to do at gigs, signed by Danni, at which point Johnny Mudd signed his and gave it to me as well. I told you he was a lovely guy. The venue, Bears and Tales anded up being rather perfect, the lack of light on Danni aside, with great drinks and staff to match. Speaking of those drinks, a big thank you to Denise who drove back home allowing me to partake in the aforementioned gin decadence. I know I say it a lot, and I’ll keep on saying it, but Danni Nicholls is an incredibly talented musician and you owe it yourself to seek her out, listen to her music and watch her live. Then you can thank me and we can all enjoy her music together.

Hotel Review: Sandcliff Guest House – Cromer, Norfolk – May 2018

As a family we love the beach, so any time we can get a long weekend away such as the bank holiday weekend earlier this month, we take the opportunity to visit the coast. Back in 2015 we spent a week in Cromer during the summer and fell in love with the place, to the extent that I came back with a desire to move there. That didn’t happen, but we did book 2 nights in a guesthouse when my son Lucas declared that for his birthday he’d like to go back to Cromer. That’s my boy.

There wasn’t a huge amount of availability when I looked to book, given it was quite short notice, but the Sandcliff Guest House at £132 for those 2 nights and situated near the beach and only 300 years from Cromer Pier looked like a winner. I booked, then told Lucas and my wife Denise, both of whom were delighted, and a little surprised that I’d done something on a whim, rather than the huge amount of research and deliberation that usually goes into these things. Don’t believe me? Read my latest post about planning a trip to Disneyland Paris on Dedicated to DLP. Now all we had to do was wait and pray for good weather, and if the latter didn’t happen, then wrapping up warm and being by the sea would be great too. Crabbing in the rain isn’t something I’ve done before, but Lucas and I were going to give it a go, while Denise found somewhere dry to have a cup of coffee.

Hotel Review: Sandcliff Guest House - Cromer, Norfolk - May 2018

Hotel Review: Sandcliff Guest House - Cromer, Norfolk - May 2018

We found the Sandcliff Guest House very easily, well, we were following the sat nav so there wasn’t a great deal that could go wrong, not these days. I was surprised at just how close to the beach it was, as from the photos it looked set back more into the town. I’d contacted them the day before to ask if we could park up and leave our bags until later when we’d check in, which they agreed to. However, when we got there, and grabbed one of the modest few parking spaces, they said we could put our bags in our actual room, and that if it hadn’t been cleaned yet then that would be sorted before we returned later in the day. As it happens our room has been cleaned, and so we were able to check in and get settled 2 hours before the official check in time. The guy who greeted us when we rung the bell on the desk in the foyer was very friendly and gave us all the information we needed plus our key, used to enter our room and the main door.

My first thought in entering the room was just how big it was, with a double bed at the back, and a single bed at the front, at 90 degrees to the main bed. Between the two beds were 2 faux leather bucket chairs, looking at a really rather big flat screen television which was sat on an even bigger drawer unit. With a big wardrobe, containing plenty of hangers, storage was not going to be a problem. I pulled back the net curtain and I was met with a view of the houses opposite, but further round to one of the windows pointing in a slightly different direction, and I could see the main road and even the sea. Room with a sea view – check.

Hotel Review: Sandcliff Guest House - Cromer, Norfolk - May 2018

Hotel Review: Sandcliff Guest House - Cromer, Norfolk - May 2018

The en-suite bathroom, partitioned via a sliding door, was well equipped with a big cubicle shower, toilet, washbasin and toiletries. There were a few bits in there that could do with some upkeep, like the rust around the handle in the shower and dirt at the base of the shower door. Likewise, there were some old fitting holes in the main room that could do with tidying up. Nothing that affected our stay, but a little TLC wouldn’t go amiss. Back to the shower and more water pressure for the shower would be appreciated, would be nice to take advantage of the abundance of hot water that was gratefully utilised by all. The towels provided were plentiful, and pretty big too, something you don’t get in many hotels and is constantly a bugbear of mine.

Our room was on the ground floor, right near the front door, so when we were in bed by 9.30pm after a fun filled first day and we heard loud voices in the foyer, I thought our coastal paradise was about to take a turn for the worse. However, after a few minutes of said chatter, silence returned and we all slept until 5.50am the next morning. The time we awoke is not because of any disturbances in the hotel, but due to it being Lucas’ 10th birthday and to say he was excited would be an understatement, hence the early start. We chose not to have maid service as using towels for 2 days in a row is not a hardship, and to their credit, they do have a notice up explaining the environmental benefits of not washing towels every day. We also didn’t need our beds making and there were presents all over the room, so all in all best not to invite any staff in for undue work, and a football themed gift obstacle course.

Hotel Review: Sandcliff Guest House - Cromer, Norfolk - May 2018

Hotel Review: Sandcliff Guest House - Cromer, Norfolk - May 2018

Hotel Review: Sandcliff Guest House - Cromer, Norfolk - May 2018

Returning from a fun day at Bewilderwood we couldn’t get a parking space in the allocated area, but we’re lucky enough to get a free space in the parking bays across the road that leads down to the pier. Night 2 was uneventful, which is what you want when you are sleeping, and the next morning we packed up and drove to Sherringham. You don’t even need to check out as such, as there’s a slot in the desk in the foyer to drop keys into when you leave, so very much hassle free. They offer breakfast with for supplemental cost, but we were out and about and utilising the Morrisons attached to the petrol station 5 minutes away for our early morning eats, and later evening beers.

Aside from the aforementioned minor cosmetic improvements and shower water pressure, there’s nothing that could have improved our stay at the Sandcliff Guest House. It was a huge light room with great views and a stone’s throw from the beach. Beds were comfy so we all slept well and the owner was really friendly. At a cost of £132 for 2 nights, on a bank holiday weekend, I’d call it a veritable bargain. Being someone who likes familiarity and dislikes the risk of bad accommodation with any first-time stay, I’d go straight to the Sandcliff Guest House when staying in Cromer again, and can give it a big recommendation to anyone reading.

Gig Review: Whitney Rose at The Lexington, London – 29th April 2018

I first heard of Whitney Rose sometime in the latter half of 2017, though her career goes back more than half a decade before that. Her latest album, Rule 62, took the number 9 spot in my Top 10 Albums of 2017, and had I listened to it more in 2017, I’m sure it would have featured higher. My ignorance of her music was equalled by my ignorance of her UK tour, which I only found out about thanks to someone mentioning it on a country music Facebook group a month before the London gig. So on Easter Sunday, exactly 4 weeks before the scheduled Green Note promoted date at The Lexington I bought a ticket, Just the one though, as this was to be my first time going solo to a gig in some years, but more on that another time.

I got into The Lexington at around 7.20am and had just under an hour to wait for support act Pepe Belmonte, who I owe a big apology to. You see, attending this gig on my own, something I haven’t done in a good while, and looking out for a friend who was going to be there later, my focus wasn’t solely on Pepe, as it should have been. That said, he was really good, mixing skilled musicianship and a good bluesy voice, with some great humour, all of which combined to make the assembled crowd very happy indeed. There was one song, in particular, that had me in stitches, but such was my preoccupation, I have forgotten any specifics. Once again, I do apologise Pepe, this is a terrible account of your time performing on Sunday, but I did really like what I heard and will make every effort to see you live again soon, and take proper notice this time.

After a short break it was time for headliner Whitney Rose to take the stage, except it wasn’t. Before Whitney came out we were treated, and yes I do mean treated, to an instrumental from her very talented band, something I’d appreciate more as the night progressed. After a few minutes Whitney joined the band, and with guitar hanging from her shoulder, she started to play, and sing. What became evident almost immediately, is that every bit of emotion that goes into writing her songs, comes out tenfold when performing them live. Though I wasn’t stood at the front I wasn’t too far away, and thanks to meeting a friend, and a new friend by consequence, I was feeling a lot more comfortable.

Gig Review: Whitney Rose at The Lexington, London – 29th April 2018

Having all but her debut self-titled album, I knew almost every song, and even found myself singing along, quietly, to quite a few. I surprised myself at how well I knew her material, and thanked my lucky stars that I’d not only stumbled upon its mention but had gone, something that wasn’t a foregone conclusion 24 hours earlier. Within the first few notes of Wake Me In Wyoming I knew my favourite Whitney Rose song was being played and I was in my element. It sounded incredible, as her vocals filled the room with a dreamlike quality, something which never faltered from the very first to the very last word she sung all night. On stage Whitney has a very unique presence, commanding attention with ease. At times, when not behind the microphone she would strut, no glide, across the stage, with a knowing, almost mischievous look on her face. Whitney Rose is a textbook case of it’s not what you do, but how you do it. You only have to see her perform Can’t Stop Shakin to know what I mean.

I mentioned how great her band were earlier, but what also needs mentioned is the relationship Whitney has with them, making them a big part of the show, especially in the case of guitarist Mike Molnar who was a wizard on those 6 strings. She didn’t say a huge amount between songs, and while one part of would have liked to hear some stories about the origins of her stories, when you get them introduced with such one-liners as that song was about an a$$hole and this song is about another a$$hole, it makes up for it. There’s also the fact that with more chat comes fewer songs, and when you are watching someone as fantastic live as Whitney Rose, fewer songs is not something you even want to contemplate.

More often than not Whitney’s vocals are soulful, wistful and with a relaxed tempo, however, when let loose, as was the case with covers of Mark James’ Suspicious Minds (better known from Elvis Preseley) and Lesley Gore’s You Don’t Own Me, I witnessed a powerhouse vocalist, proving her vocal range goes all the way up to 11. The latter of those songs she tore the house down and though the song was dedicated to all the women in attendance, and rightfully so, this man loved every second of it. Going back to Suspicious Minds and I’m reminded me of another one of her song introductions: this is the point in the night where I get sick of singing my own songs, or words to that effect. Who needs a recitation of her life story when we get statements like that, and not the dreaded fewer songs.

Gig Review: Whitney Rose at The Lexington, London – 29th April 2018

As is usual these days, Whitney and band left the stage, but unlike most didn’t leave us long before coming back on stage for the encore, though sans Whitney, again. It was band spotlight time, again, and in particular guitarist Mike Molnar. This is when she played her third cover, that being Jeannie C. Riley’s Harper Valley P.T.A., a song I embarrassingly didn’t know and had to ask my friend Lesley to remind of what it was. How could I not know this song by a country legend, and my namesake at that! Though I didn’t remember it on the night, listening to the original back home since, there are shades of recollection of my childhood days coming back, maybe. Speaking of Lesley, she writes for the fantastic Belles and Gals, run by Nick who I met that night. Thanks for keeping me company guys.

Never having seen Whitney Rose live before I wasn’t sure what to expect, but on that night in London she was flawless. Natural on stage is an understatement, and at 12 or 13 songs it wasn’t the longest set for a headline act, but one of the most memorable that’s for sure. Apparently she has called her music vintage-pop-infused-neo-traditional-country, which just about covers it, the parts I understand of that description anyway. What you do get with a Whitney Rose gig is a very honest and expressive performance, with vocals that you’ll struggle to top and a band that blend perfectly and chemistry that shines. One of my favourite Whitney Rose songs is Analog, a song that could be my mantra these days, as someone who is known to leave their phone at home and listen to their Sony Walkman (Google it kids) on the walk to work. However, as she didn’t play it at this gig I think it’s only fair that she comes back very soon and includes it in her set. Do we have a deal Whitney? I also didn’t stick around to meet Whitney as I had a train to catch, and a 20 minute walk through unfamilar territory to get there – next time.

To conclude, this past Sunday was one of the very best gigs I have had the pleasure to experience, and Whitney Rose has joined a modest list of people that I will be going out of my way to see each and every time they tour over here. Just thinking back makes me smile and when music does that, you know it’s good.