Live Review: Katy Perry Prismatic Tour in Sheffield, 23/05/14

Venue: Motorpoint Arena, Sheffield
Date: 23/05/14

Following the release of her fourth studio album, America’s California Girl-Next Door sets out on the UK leg of her Prismatic World Tour, stopping by South Yorkshire’s Motorpoint Arena in Sheffield.

Surrounded by mini-Katy Perry’s, with blue Smurf hair, green highlights and her characteristic adopted ‘cat ears’, the crowd of all ages had flocked to see the pop superstar. This was certainly a safe family audience in attendance.

The concert support came from Swedish house/ dance duo Icona Pop, who bounced around the stage with their brand of “we’re a girl band with attitude”. Whilst I had assumed this act was probably one for the kids, the slightly adult themes and occasional language wasn’t entirely appropriate and expected. Nevertheless they churned out their hits I Love It along with new single Girlfriend and made way for the star of the night.

The cleverly crafted, triangular Prism stage was starting to take shape as the lights went out and the strobes pulsated around the arena. With acrobatic and gymnastic displays the music started and Katy Perry arrived in fine voice, emerging from a large pyramid centre stage.

Opening with Roar, the singer energetically joined her troupe of dancers dressed in neon, glowing, tribal costumes. This wasn’t going to be a just a music concert, it was clear that every inch of this spectacle had been precisely choreographed with care.

As the different parts of the stage contorted and twisted, it lifted Perry onto a higher platform as she belted out the ballads Part Of Me and Wide Awake. Though just as soon as the prism on stage had taken shape it was time to change set into the Egyptian-themed part of the show.

Featuring the worldwide hits E.T. and I Kissed A Girl, the stage filled up with caricatured female Mummies, wrapped in bandages with more than ample assets, dancing around the singer. At this point the show took on a spooky cinematic experience as spooky video animations and stories were played out on the huge video screens behind.

It wasn’t long before the show morphed into a foray of Perry’s characteristic feline friends singing a big band, swing version of Hot N Cold.

After all the bright lights and dance routines, Katy Perry, her backing singers and a select few musicians from her band joined her right at the front of the stage for a chilled out acoustic set, which was a particular highlight of the evening.

She joked with the audience “Boyfriends come and go, but you’re always there”, before posing for a selfie with one lucky member of the crowd and exclaiming she nearly lost her wig in the process!

Joking aside, she took this opportunity to serenade the arena with simple arrangements of By The Grace of God, The One That Got Away and most notably Unconditionally and actually picked up a multi-coloured, glittery guitar herself.

Paying homage to her host city tonight, the singer bravely sampled a pint of local Bradfield Brewery bitter along with taking the time out to thank everyone for coming to the gig (particularly the boyfriends who’d been dragged there to please their partners).

More hits were to follow with her latest single Birthday, the anthem Teenage Dream and the fun California Gurls, Perry had not only exceeded but totally surpassed all expectation with an evening of immense variety, great pop songs and an amazing array of dance and stage craft. It was certainly a sight to behold with a great soundtrack, which left her excited and loyal fans shouting for more as she closed the show with the unmistakable Firework.

– Charlie Barker

View full set of live gig images: click here.

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Album Review: Cathryn Craig & Brian Willoughby – Real World

Real WorldReleased: 2013
Label: Cabritunes

This is a classy folk album from an Anglo-American pairing. Cathryn Craig is a singer from Virginia, USA and Brian Willoughby is a British guitarist; together they form a strong writing and performing partnership.

Cathryn has a clear, tuneful voice, she conveys these songs emotively, many of which are seemingly written from life’s experiences. Impressively, she has worked with many people, from Bill Medley to Nanci Griffith.

Brian provides a perfect backing, always playing something intricate, interesting and complementing, but never distracting from the songs. Previously in the Strawbs, Brian has also played with Mary Hopkin, Roger Whitaker and Monty Python, amongst many. He is something of a virtuoso of the fingerpicked steel-strung acoustic guitar, mostly playing simply and delicately, but also playing some exquisite solos.

The album was recorded live in the studio, with no overdubs and that has captured some of the immediacy you get with a live performance. The simple, straightforwardness of the recording makes it impossible to date: sonically, it could date from the 1960s or last week and this is a strength.

Five of the twelve songs here are new and the other seven are re-recordings of songs as they play them in their live set.

It’s difficult to pick stand-out tracks as all of the songs are of a consistent standard. Lyrically, many of the songs tell personal stories, such as the childhood reminiscences of Eastview Lane.

Two Hearts, One Love about relationships and I Will, on taking a chance to leave somewhere to try to realise a dream.

By way of contrast, Accanoe is about the Native Americans’ treatment by white settlers, and Cumberland tells the story of the 2010 Tennessee floods.

Musically, there is a very high standard throughout but to pick out a couple of songs, Malahide Moon and Two Hearts, One Love, both feature some beautiful guitar-playing.

This is an emotional and beautiful album of crafted folk songs.

– Simon Benton

Derby Musician, Joshua OKeefe Taking the US by Storm

YouTube sensation Joshua OKeefe is thoroughly living his American dream, hanging out with celebrities such as Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift, after taking the US country music industry by storm.

Josh, who is just 21, has over 90,000 twitter followers, managed by Gillie Crowder and is currently creating his first EP with world class producer, Bobby Huff.

Josh has had a love and passion for music since a young age: “I started singing on the way to school years ago, when my dad wouldJoshua O'Keefe play Don Williams, The Mavericks, The Bee Gees and Elvis in the car”.

“I used to be the lead singer and guitarist in a pop band that had toured the United Kingdom three times by the age of 16 it was great fun, we didn’t take it too seriously, but hundreds of girls use to show up to our shows all around the country. I loved every minute of it but I always knew that country music was in my heart”.

He then left the successful band to kick start his solo career as a country artist.

Josh was also an inspiring actor but music was his true calling card so he attended the prestigious music school; Brighton Institute of Modern Music for a year, where he developed his songwriting skills and got his big break: “I was chosen to perform at the music schools show case, which was amazing”.

“The directors of the music school told me to go to Nashville, so I packed up my bags when I was 19 and got on the next flight to Nashville”.

“Country music was my childhood; it was why I went into music in the first place and there is no place country music is bigger than in Nashville”.

Josh recalls his first flight to Nashville: “I was sitting on the plane and I happened to be sitting next to a guy who was in the Goo Goo Dolls”.

“Before I realised exactly who he was, we were listening to one another’s music and before I knew it we were at his house listening to one another’s songs and actually singing together”.

“In England that would never have happened, but everyone in America is much more friendly and welcoming and before I had even landed I felt at home”.

Almost instantly, Grammy Award Winner producer Kent Wells, who has worked with Dolly Parton and Reba McIntyre, picked up Josh as a solo artist: “At this point, I was in dream world. I had not been there that long but already everything was falling into place”.

Josh could never have foreseen what happened next as he received a phone call from his current manager Gillie Crowder who has worked with major country stars such as Shania Twain and Billy Ray Cyrus: “My old lecturer, who works alongside Eric Clapton from the Brighton Institute, sent out some of my music and videos to Nashville”.

“That’s when I got the call and I knew it was the start of something great. My first trip to Nashville only lasted two months but then Gillie Crowder flew me back over to discuss my future and meet with her colleagues”.

Manager Gillie, speaks very highly of Josh: “He reminds me of a Shania Twain, with his work ethic, vision and talent, he is so different, knowing his audience and how to sing to them”.

Big words for a local Derby boy, who is fast becoming an inspiration, but it didn’t take Josh long to bump into one of his country idols himself: “I was sitting at a table for one of Rascal Flatts’ charity events. I had always been a huge fan of his music and this was the first time I had a chance to talk to one of my idols”.

“I went up to him and said hey Joe Don, I love your songs and your guitar playing, would you perhaps write with me or play guitar for me, I’ll produce. He then laughed and said you’re funny, sure, let’s make it happen, I’ve heard great things about you”.

This was the first time Josh realised he was on his way to success and for the past two years he has been collaborating with two times, Grammy nominated songwriter Jan Buckingham.

“I love writing with Jan, we just have some kind of crazy connection that makes us write, and he has songs recorded by Whitney Houston so he really is one of the best song writers around”.

Josh has also worked with other top Nashville writers including Jimmy Robbins, Rachel Thibeadeu and major recording artist Rebecca Lynn and is now looking forward to working with Bobby Huff on his EP:

“I really can’t wait, I love Bobby’s work and I think we are going to come up with something really special”.

To show just how much life has changed for Josh, he has recently been recording music with none other than British sensation Ed Sheeran:

Joshua & Ed Sheeran“I’ve had the chance to hang out with Ed in Nashville recently, whilst he’s been on the road with Taylor Swift, he’s a real nice genuine guy and he has actually recorded a song with me, which will be a bonus track on my EP. He sets a great example for British music and is certainly someone I look up to”.

Josh is very modest, hardworking and appreciates the luck and success, which has come his way.

A lot of Josh’s success has originated from social media and the biggest shock to him was the way his online profile took off:

“Social media allows any young musician to show case their music but I never expected to earn any recognition from it. Initially I was just uploading my songs to show family and friends, but then I realised I was missing a trick”.

“YouTube and social media allows me to interact with my fans and share my music with them, it is a fantastic platform, which has allowed me to build up a strong fan base”.

Between 2011 and 2012 Josh created a YouTube page and began uploading original songs, giving him over 350,000 views and he has now surpassed the 90,000 followers twitter mark:

“It is mad, how many people know who I am and how many people come and watch me play. I recently played at the O2 arena in London, when you’re playing at like that, there’s nothing really to complain about”.

“My first gig in Nashville was very special for me. At the point I didn’t think I was that well known, but then I had people lining up around the corner of the building for me. It was surreal to say the least”.

Thankfully Josh’s first gig was a huge success: “It was amazing and very surreal, I was so nervous but that is a huge part of being a musician and thankfully people actually came, so I wasn’t playing to nobody”.

Josh is family orientated so missing his family and friends has been the hardest part about moving to America: “I am close to my family; I think it is important that family come first. I guess I miss seeing my friends and family and I defiantly miss watching my younger brothers play football”.

“My brothers are 15 and 16 and it’s so strange how fast they have become teenagers. When I’m home I spend most of my time watching them play football as they constantly train and play matches. I try my best to be a good brother and guide them in the right direction”.

“I hope that they see me as a good role model, but there’s nothing better than standing in a muddy field on a cold English day watching them play football”.

Something that not many people know about Josh is that he is a fine actor, as well as musician:

“I used to do a bit of TV extra work, just before I got into the Brighton institute. Music has always been my passion but I have been in Waterloo Road and Shameless. I’ve never been recognised though for my acting unfortunately as I was in the background most of the time”.

Since then Josh has firmly stepped out of the background and is very happy with his progress and feels he made the right decision to move to Nashville: “I love being in America as I work with amazing talent on a daily basis, who have had many hit records”.

“At first I thought would be hard to earn respect as I was only 19 and but now I spend every day working hard and earning respect as an artist and songwriter. Being in America doing what I’m doing is amazing; things are going in the right direction”.

Josh is an inspiring example that anybody can achieve their dreams: “My message is that you can do anything if you put your heart and soul into it”.

“I grew up being told by everyone in my close family that I should get a real job when I’m older as music is only a hobby and it is impossible to be successful. Now I look back at those times in my life as I love every minute of being in Nashville and working on my music career”.

“I will always strive to be better in everything I do no matter what and I will continue to show my heart when I sing and I hope my fans will grow with me”.

– Jon Mees