Nebula & Winnebago Deal @ The Fez Club, Sheffield, 17th March 2004

The Witches Will Have To Sleep For Now

I was meant to be going to check out a female acoustic 4-piece called 'Waking the Witch' but I stumbled upon some reviews of a band called Nebula online. They sounded intriguing so I decided to go and see them instead at a different venue.

When we arrived at the Fez Club there was a band on whose name I didn't catch. They had some kind of Shaun Rider person singing (shouting?) for them. He was terrible. He seemed to treat his microphone as a sex toy and the rest of the band seemed quite uncomfortable with this too. The crowd weren't impressed. He wasn't impressed with the fact that we weren't impressed. He pleaded with us all to have some f*ckin manners at one point. Interesting way of winning over new fans, that.

Anyway, they went off and the official support act, Winnebago Deal came on.

Ohmigod! Winnebago Deal blew Nebula off the stage. They are a 2-piece from Oxford. Imagine if Nirvana had been British, had decided that they could survive without Kris Novoselic and only played songs like Territorial Pissings and you've got Winnebago Deal. The crowd loved it and swarmed right up to the edge of the stage. Unfortunately I couldn't really see how the singer (called Ben - the drummer is also called Ben apparently) was managing to produce the sounds that were blasting (and I mean BLASTING!) out of the speakers. How can they not have a bassist, yet sound so complete and meaty! A row of particularly tall and sky-fisting fans kept the bands actions a secret from me. I imagine some nifty effects pedals were the key?

Ben from Winnebago Deal: Kurt in disguise?
The singer didn't really say much. I don't recall any form of introduction and they barely paused in between songs. Infact you could've been forgiven for thinking their 35+ minute set was just one long assault.

Nebula came on and sounded reasonable, but just so tame and watered-down after Winnebago's set. We left before the end with battered ears. Infact, they're still ringing and nearly 24 hours have passed.

I have ordered a Winnebago CD and am looking forward to seeing the Ben's again. I may just invest in a pair of ear plugs before doing so mind.

Shania Twain @ Sheffield Arena (08/03/04)

aThat Did Impress Me Much!

I was looking forward to this one. Shania playing 'in the round'. Our seats were pretty near the stage on the floor and we were going to be pretty close

Arriving fashionably (and deliberately?) late, we managed to miss the majority of the support act, Bjorn Again. I'm sorry but I'm not really into Abba. There is simply no call for a whole tribute act (there is probably more than one such act out there) regurgitating Abba's radio-friendly seventies pop pap. Anyway, the audience seemed suitably enthusiastic as we found our seats.

Shania came on and played for 90 minutes and during which sported 3 different costumes. The last outfit comprised a pair of jeans and an extremely over-sized official Sheffield Steelers Ice Hockey Team top (rolled up aggressively at the sleeves). The previous two outfits were less flamboyant than I expected and thus were very flattering!

Shania, it turns out, whilst touring the globe, donates money to a local charity at each gig. I wasn't aware of this and it warmed my heart somewhat. This time, she had chosen to donate to a Sheffield-based children's charity. Nice touch.

Her large, all-singing, all-dancing, multi-instrumentalist collection of immaculately groomed musicians were highly animated all evening. They hailed from America, Canada and Australia. I know this because Tyler Durden knows this. Actually, no. I know this because half way through the evening, Shania decided to introduce her band except she didn't do it the normal "let's all listen to each person's best solo attempt" way. No, she jumped down out of sight (probably to get changed into a new costume) and passed the microphone to a band member, letting them all take turns in introducing eachother to us (complete with witty mini-anecdotes).

I think I prefer the solos.

Anyway, the band were excellent and seemed to be constantly changing instruments, providing 4-part backing harmonies and encouraging the crowd to clap along, hands over head stylee like they do back in the good old US of A.

Another thing Shania likes to do is run some kind of raffle where members of the audience buy red tickets (I'm guessing this is how the charity donating elements come in although being late-comers we may have missed all those shenanigans). She picks out a winning ticket during the show and one lucky individual gets to come up on stage and have their photo taken with Shania. The winning couple on this occassion when summoned bounded up to meet her and pose for a cheesy pic. One of the ladies grabbed the mic sensing their 5 seconds of fame were over and sycophantically explained to Shania that "this is the best concert I've ever been to". Highly cringeworthy. Oh the things people say when faced with their idol (into a mic, in front of thousands of people).

Another woman 'won' her photo taking session by catching Shania's eye with a large home-made sign which the singer read out. It said something like "Please can I have my photo taken with you!" Simple, but completely effective.

Now, why didn't I think of that?

Shania spent a lot of time multi-tasking (ie, singing whilst signing autographs). Scores of adoring fans were lining the stage waving pens and paper all night and Shania answered their prayers. At first I found this annoying. I was like, c'mon less of the name writing and a bit more performing please. The thing I realised, was, this was her performing and I don't that she does this at every show. Maybe it's me being secretly jealous. Where's mine???

Anyway, she lots of familiar numbers, kicking off with "Man, I feel like a woman". It always feels a bit odd singing along to this particular one. Fortunately I had a really sore throat so vocal participation on my behalf was out of the question.

I personally tend to prefer Shania's ballads but these were few and far between. She opted to perform more of her upbeat numbers and I guess those are the real crowd-pleasers.

The show featured lots of fireworks. Always exciting. She came on for an encore and played two sings I didn't recognise (ie, not on "Come on Over" or "Up") which I found a little strange.

She frequently 'thanked you Sheffield' and smiled from start to finish.

Unfortunately, I didn't take a camera as I feared the venue's security may comfiscate it. AS it happens, there were loads of people with cameras in there (including one old guy in the row in front who seemed to watch the entire concert through his camera's tiny LCD. Now that's what I call appreciation!

At one point and just after finishing a song, Shania turned to a fan who must've been happily snapping away and said "Are you sure you've got enough photos? You're going to run out of film for sure". I don't think this would have been a major worry for the fan.

Another highlight was someone's banner which attracted Shania's attention. She read it out. It said something like "What's more addictive than chocolate but much lower in fat..? Shania!" She was touched.

Like she needed an ego-boost!

There was some good participation from the singer I felt. The highlight for me was her appearing with one of her guitarists (armed with acoustic guitar) in the audience after having disappeared mysteriously during a protracted instrumental. She sat there in amongst the riff-raff and sang a really nice slower number (which I didn't recognise) before leaping back down to rejoin the central stage.

It must be pretty good being Shania Twain. She has a voice which can melt you, she is ridiculously attractive, she is adored the world over and she has a gifted and loyal band of 9 years. She may have a bob or two also...

The Keys & Zombina and the Skeletones @ Sheffield University Union (05/03/04)

Wow! What a night and all for £3.50. You simply can't shake a stick at that kind of bargain entertainment.

I'd been to the venue before but never to see a band there and as it happens, I think it's a great venue. There is a large stage and plenty of room to pack the audience in, whilst simultaneously allowing for punters to get right up to the band.

There was a support band but I didn't catch their name (possibly 'The Koreans'?) who were a sort of cross between the Happy Mondays and Blind Melon (at least, I thought so anyway). The singer had one of those funny machines where you wave your hand in front of it in different directions and it makes strange noises. Useful. He also spat on the stage in between lines. I couldn't work out if this was cool or repulsive. Oh well. The guitarist who had a Kurt Cobain-ish air about him was fairly competent I thought and helped out with the vocals from time to time. There was also a drummer and bassist and occasional keyboard player.

During one song, 2 drunken students got up on the stage and danced foolishly. I think it was possibly one of their birthdays and I got the impression they were friends of the band (or maybe that was just the bonding power of alcohol?)

Zombina & The Skeletones were up next. I'd never heard their stuff before but was significantly intrigued. They did not disappoint. Zombina and her band were all made up like zombies (including skeleton outfits and white face paint). Zombina herself who hails from Liverpool I believe had a skeletal claw glove on one hand and a perfectly inscribed dribble of blood coming out of the corner of her mouth and trickling down her chin. The music was poppy and accessible. The skeletones consisted of a female drummer, two guitarists and a bass player although there was some instrument swapping going on. I was amazed when towards the end of their set, they put all the instruments down and did some 6-part accapello number!!

All in all, I loved them. I can't believe they aren't better known with their infectious pop and their awe-inspiring make-up

Next up were the evening's headliners, The Keys who seemed to be fronted by John Lennon!!

Yes, the singer bore an uncanny resemblance to the late Beatle. The venue was really filling up as The Keys began their set. They were pretty slick and tight but they gave little away and I came away knowing that it was those cheeky skeletones who would stay in the forefront of my evening's memories.