Concert Review: R and B Superstars Valentines Special – Wembley Arena London – 15th February 2014

Is there anything better to do on Valentines weekend than to go and see some live music with your partner? For me that is a rhetorical question as both my husband and I are crazy about the music that we love. So it was inevitable that when The Show Tour announced a 90’s R&B valentines line up that we would be present.

I have to admit that although I was already a fan of En Vogue & Blackstreet, it was not until the late 90’s early 2000’s when I really began to get deeply into music. Because of this my husband has been my main educator of the era before that. As we have been together for a decade I have had time to develop an appreciation for the other artists on the billing also.

On the day, we set off early for Wembley Arena  as we thought the show might start promptly due to the number of artists in the billing. However once we reached the arena we had to wait until after 6pm to be let in to find our seats as sound-checks were still going on. Whilst this is not unusual when multiple acts are billed, it meant the show was definitely not going to start on time. It did however give us a chance to get some drinks in!

Eventually some music blasted to life from the sound rig and Frisky DJ and Rampage appeared on stage to warm up the crowd and introduce the first act. Comedian Eddie Kadi was supposed to be doing the warm up with them but he is notorious for being late and this night proved no exception to that rule.

Frisky and Rampage handled initial hosting duties well, including the difficult news that Silk would not be appearing as they had not travelled to the UK as expected and it was not long before Changing Faces were on stage.

It is never easy to be the first act on stage and as the ladies were accompanied only by a backing track it meant that they were quite exposed.  The crowd, some of whom were still arriving, took a little while to get into the occasion despite the duo opening with hit record G.H.E.T.T.O.U.T. They persevered however performing other hits such as Fooling Around as well as some new material and the atmosphere really got going after they invited one tall muscled guy on stage to perform Stroke You Up with them to hilarious effect.

By now the arena was filling up and Eddie Kadi finally arrived to some good-natured ribbing about his time keeping skills. As soon as he walked on stage with Frisky and Rampage his natural charisma and skills for working a crowd were evident. The hosts soon had us all laughing whilst the set was rearranged for Kut Klose. This would continue to be the format for the night in between acts although Eddie’s dancing techniques should be restricted to his house for everyone’s safety.

Kut Klose followed a similar format to Changing Faces by singing to backing tracks yet seemed to receive a warmer reception from the crowd who no doubt appreciated their unique throwback dress sense also. They completed a relatively short set that included I Like and both Twisted & Get Up On It that were originally collaborations with their mentor Keith Sweat.  

By now the crowd was ready for the show to really get going and the stage had been set up for Mint Condition’s instruments which were sure to impress. The volume of the music audibly went up a notch with real instruments in play and it certainly would have woken up any audience member that was feeling too relaxed after the opening acts.

Lead singer, and multi-talented musician, Stokley Williams impressed everyone by getting the crowd to join in as well as playing a variety of instruments. The whole band seemed jazzed to be on stage and threw a lot of energy into their performance. Their set encompassed of a wealth of tunes including I Want It, U Send Me Swinging, Forever in Your Eyes, You Don’t Have To Hurt No More, Girl Of My Life, What Kind of Man Would I Be and their finale was Breakin’ My Heart (Pretty Brown Eyes) which had the crowd on their feet.

At this point there was definitely an excited atmosphere in the place which would continue thanks to a fabulous turn from Tony! Toni! Toné!.

Even without soul maestro Raphael Saadiq, Tony! Toni! Toné! put in a flawless enthusiastic performance that had the crowd happily singing along to songs like the new jack swing inspired If I Had No Loot & It Feels Good and the soulful goodness of It Never Rains (in Southern California) & Let’s Get Down.

Next up was a highly anticipated set from Total. A lot of the crowd had never had the opportunity to see these ladies perform live so there was definitely a peaked interest.

Some were disappointed that original member Keisha Spivey was not present and felt that this took away from the performance. Personally I thought that, despite the ladies being in amazing shape and singing in good voice, their performance paled in comparison to the two acts that had come before them. But many of the crowd seemed to be enjoying the medley of tunes including What About Us & If You Want Me and Notorious B.I.G collaborations Hypnotize & Can’t You See as well as catchy new song You Don’t Have to Worry.

It was with a mixture of trepidation and excitement that I awaited the penultimate act, En Vogue, to grace the stage. Trepidation because I knew that they were without vocal powerhouse Dawn Robinson but excitement as having seen them live before I knew the crowd was in for a real treat.

The ladies did not disappoint. Terri, Cyndi and Rhonda belted out hit after hit such as Free Your Mind, Never Gonna Get It and Don’t Let Go that had the audience singing loudly and dancing wildly. The also provided a medley of retro covers including Got To Be Real and Lady Marmalade. For me they were the absolute highlight of the entire night and they were not afraid to call out a couple of idiots in the crowd who decided to start a fight for some reason.

Unfortunately by this point, thanks in part to the late start of the night, time was running out for the event. Blackstreet 2 (or BS2 as they are known) were the headline act and it was evident that they would not have as much time for their set as they would perhaps like.

With this in mind it made little sense that they chose to keep in time-wasting videos about Teddy Riley’s career (a pointless history lesson of which most of the audience would already be well aware) and added many unnecessary pauses into their songs. Long time fans also felt disappointed that this was, with the exception of Teddy Riley and Dave Hollister, an almost entirely different band. The sound just was not the same as when founding members Teddy Riley and Chauncey Black worked together and it left many longing for the good old days. With the new line up they need new songs in order to create an identity that the fans can relate to.

The group managed to get through a few well-known songs such as I Like It & Don’t Leave and a solo mix of Teddy’s production hits before Wembley Arena pulled the plug and they were forced to vacate the stage. By this point many of the crowd had left anyway in order to catch the last underground train home so it would have been pointless to go on any longer.

Overall the show was an enjoyable way to spend valentines weekend and we certainly felt like we got our money’s worth. When a concert has a multi-act line up such as this there is always likely to be some acts that the crowd will enjoy more than others but it does also mean that time is of a premium for each act. It is a delicate balancing act which, in general, the organisers handled well. It is just a shame that it overran to the point at which the venue cut the power.

However I thank The Show organisers for a good night and I’m already looking forward to what they might host next.

~Kat

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Our Wedding: The Bride

I’m not one to hold back my feelings on things and following that precedent I fully admit that I am still on a high from getting married to Roger, my boyfriend of nine years, in September. Not only am I now married to my best friend but we also had a celebration with most of our close family and friends that surpassed all our expectations. And I was lucky enough to spend the day in my dream dress from Candy Anthony which I did not want to take off at the end.

So, in the first of several posts, I plan to celebrate the memory of our big day starting with paying homage to the dress, which I wore from just after getting my hair and make-up done until the early hours of the following day when my feet hurt from dancing to all the songs that my husband and I know and love.

When I first started to search for a dress I only knew three things:
1.) I did not want a traditional floor length dress or a hoop. I’m clumsy and I like to dance       so any dress I chose for our big day had to be practical as well as pretty.
2.) I’m a UK size 14 on top and 16 on bottom so I needed a shop where that wouldn’t be      an issue. Some wedding dress shops can be snobby about anyone over a size 12
3.) I really wanted a splash of colour somewhere on the dress. My husband and I have        lived together for 7 years and I always like to go against the grain, so a pure white            dress would not only be a lie but wearing one would be untrue to my personality too.

It is surprisingly difficult to find dresses with touches of colour in traditional wedding dress shops where I live. This is something I had already discovered when helping my good friend Jem to search for her dress when I was her bridesmaid. Therefore I knew that I had to think outside of the box for my search.

In the end, after browsing dress styles on hitched.co.uk, I fell in love with the cut of 1950’s style dresses and set my heart on a tea length dress. When I told Jem this she pointed me in the direction of Candy Anthony, a London-based dressmaker who specialize in 1950’s and 60’s style with a modern twist. After browsing their website I realised that they also had a Facebook page which is actually better than their website as there are many pictures of real brides wearing their dresses to browse through. From the moment I saw the gorgeous dresses with colourful petticoats and ribbon belts I knew I had to have one and e-mailed them to book an appointment.

Their shop is in central London on the South Bank in the historic Oxo Tower. It is a fantastic setting if not the most practical of places to get to. At my appointment I took my Mum and bridesmaids, Jem and Heather, to help me choose what I would buy. Originally I’d believed that a circle skirted dress with full length lace sleeves would be for me but after the very helpful Hazel from Candy Anthony got me into the style I realised it didn’t suit me. Instead I opted for a halterneck circle dress with sweetheart neckline covered completely in lace with a matching lace bolero, royal blue petticoat and ribbon belt. I felt like a princess in it and couldn’t stop twirling around the fitting room!

After that initial appointment it was six months before I got to go back for my second fitting and another three months later I actually got to pick it up. At all times I was kept informed of progress and when I visited the shop I was always treated with respect and friendliness. The dress and service are worth every penny spent.

It was rather amusing bringing the dress home on the Tube. The bag it is kept in is big enough to stand in so it certainly attracts some attention from fellow commuters. The reaction kept me smiling all the way home.

Once the dress was ordered it was time to find accessories that complimented it. On a daily basis I wear a long heart pendant, that was given to me by my husband when he proposed, and a pair of large drop earrings. I am also known to like a bit of sparkle. However the engagement necklace and my usual earrings wouldn’t have suited the style of the dress so I went to The National Wedding Show in February hoping to find a solution and thankfully I did.

After getting my hair and make-up done at home by the very clever Bride By Becky and her friend Jade on the wedding day, I got some assistance from my Mum and Bridesmaids to put on the vintage style headband and jewellery that I had ordered from the talented By Harriet. Alongside this I wore a watch gifted to me by my mother-in-law and a bracelet that had been a 30th birthday present from Heather.

As for shoes, they are a bargain that I’m still pretty proud of. Those that are targeted at brides can be quite pricey and most of the ones I had seen were also either too high or too flat for me. The highest heel I can wear and still walk properly in is about 3 inches.

Eventually I found a plain and simple pair of comfortable shoes which were a reasonable height in BHS. To bling them up a bit I was inspired by an article in Wedding Ideas Magazine to buy some cute shoe clips from Pretty Pink Toes which immediately make the shoes look far more expensive than they actually were.

With my outfit complete I was ready to go downstairs, show my Dad and wait for the car.
I was ready well within time which really helped to calm my nerves. I also felt a sense of relief when the car from Classic Wedding Cars turned up a little early. This was because Roger and his best man had travelled in it to the venue first. He is ordinarily not the best at timekeeping so it put my mind at rest to realise that he had managed to be on time for our wedding day.

Once our car arrived at The Cavendish and I saw a few of my friends and family just outside it really felt very real. My nerves came particularly to the fore during my pre-wedding interview with the registrars. I nearly got my age wrong when confirming details and I later discovered that my husband did get his age wrong. Thankfully we have now had our certificate corrected to reflect the truth.

Our Ceremony was very emotional aided by our friend Helen who did a reading of a poem for us. And apart from Roger calling me his “unlawful” wife, a moment that caused much laughter in the room, it all went without a hitch.  I walked in to If I Ain’t Got You by Alicia Keys and we signed the register to Keyshia Cole’s Signature. Once we were officially husband and wife you could not wipe the smiles from our faces for the rest of the day and it was thoroughly appropriate that we walked out to the upbeat I Choose You by Ryan Leslie.

As you can tell, music means a lot to Roger and I. We met dancing in a club and since we’ve been together one of our favourite things to do as a couple is going to concerts featuring the artists that we respect and enjoy.

Our first dance was to a very moving song by Eric Benet called One More Tomorrow. But as it does have quite a sombre tone we ensured that the next record to start the party off was Ne-yo’s Champagne Life. And party we all did until the music stopped. We could not have asked for a better day.

Love to you all.

~Kat

Credit for all photography goes to our amazing photographer and all round nice person Louie Donovan. She did a fantastic job of catching shots that I would never have posed for under normal circumstances and she also caught some moments that I never realised that she had.We would recommend her to anyone. She makes you feel very comfortable and able to just be yourselves.

Concert Review: Lloyd live at the Jazz Cafe 12th March 2012 supported by Bluey Robinson

This time last week I was rushing to go and see Lloyd live at the Jazz Cafe. Its never easy to go to a concert after working all day but for certain artists I make an exception and US star Lloyd is one of them. It helped that the venue is my favourite place to see live music in London too.

My fiance Roger had booked a table for us on the balcony that overlooks the stage so we could have dinner whilst we watched the live music which is something wonderfully unique to the Jazz Cafe. It also helps that the food is very tasty, New Orleans in style, and the staff are friendly too.

It soon became clear that coming out on a Monday night was well worth it as not only was the main act a lot of fun but the warm up act, British singer Bluey Robinson, blew us away with his pure talent.

He was also down-to-earth enough to stop and pose for photographs with people as he returned to the dressing room after performing. I was lucky enough to get this picture below taken of Bluey and I by Roger.

Now on with the main review which will be supported by live videos taken by Roger from his YouTube page.
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Concert Review: R and B Superstars II – 12th February 2012 – Hammersmith Apollo – London

In recent years when Valentine’s Day rolls around there seems to always be a good soulful R&B concert to go to in London town (UK). This year was no exception and it was sorely needed in light of the recent shock passing of Whitney Houston. The line up at the HMV Hammersmith Apollo was a mouth watering one for those of us over 25, and possibly for a few discerning youngsters. Silk, Dru Hill, Ginuwine & SWV were all on the bill meaning the title of R&B Superstars was more than justified.

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Concert Review: Jon B, Jagged Edge, Joe – 16th October 2011

It’s not often that I really look forward to an R&B concert where Ne-yo doesn’t feature but this had to be one of them. We arrived early to the Hammersmith Apollo with a view to getting a good place to stand, only the circle was seated, and this turned out to be a good strategy as we were fairly comfortable most of the evening.

No less than three R&B heavyweights in one evening was a tantalizing prospect.
Jon B has to be one of the most underrated and talented artists out there, he’s still best known for his 2001 hit Don’t Talk & 1998’s They Don’t Know but he has done so much good music since then that just hasn’t been promoted well. Jagged Edge are still extremely well-known as an R&B vocal group who have had hits such as Let’s Get Married which showcase their ability to harmonize over a hip-hop beat much like BoyzIIMen used to do. And Joe, who as it turns out was the winner of the i-Tunes awards R&B category this year, is one of the smoothest flawless singers you will ever see on stage. He has hits such as I Wanna Know & Where You At that span decades now and appeal to a wide age range.

Jon B Jagged Edge Joe

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