Ian McKellen at 80 – 25.6.19

This is an extended version of a review I wrote for the Nottingham Post for the paper published on July 27th, 2019. A month ago, Sir Ian turned 80. To celebrate, the Burnley-born actor began a tour of British theatres from his long career. 80 dates at 80 is no mean feat (he’s just added 80 more in the West End), but there’s a kicker. He isn’t making a penny. All proceeds go to the charities of the theatres he’s performing in. Sir Ian’s two nights here will net £50,000 for the Playhouse Shine and 50:50 appeals, bringing in young people who, as Sir Ian points out, would otherwise not be able to come and widening the theatre’s participation work. If you think that kind…

Rod Stewart, Nottingham Arena 28.5.19

Sir Rod likes Nottingham Arena. He visited twice in 2016. Tonight’s a one-off indoor show warming up for a massive stadium tour. This might not be the 250 capacity Boat Club he started out at, but the arena’s the most intimate space you’re likely to see him in this century. You know what to expect with Rod, who always plays his biggest songs, but there are often surprises. This is ‘his biggest ever UK tour’ (19 shows as compared to 16 when I first saw him with The Faces, in 1973, albeit spread over two sections) How many acts do that at the age of 74? The opener, minor hit Infatuation, is an odd choice, but gets the groove going. Young Turks takes things up…

Carson McHone – Last Night at The Maze 26.5.19

Across the country, venues keep closing. Less than a year after The Maze hosted their 20th anniversary celebrations, this is Cosmic American Music’s final show here. The much-loved big room with the intimate stage and terrible ladies’ loos closes its doors in June, unable to turn a profit. There are other places, sure, but none can replace its atmosphere, much loved by visiting US acts. The corner stage offers great sightlines and sweet, sweet sound throughout. Opening act Rick Shea plays to a packed crowd (over thirty ‘walk ins’, unheard of, especially on a bank holiday weekend) in classic songwriter, story-telling mode. A rugged veteran with a rich voice (and occasional yodel) he’s a quintessential Cosmic American act. The highlight of the former Dave Alvin…

Robert Macfarlane’s UNESCO lecture

Last night’s UNESCO lecture by Robert Macfarlane at the Council House was tremendous. Thanks to everyone who made it happen, especially the University of Nottingham for hosting it. Particular credit to my vice-chair at NUCoL, Patrick Limb, who organised ‘The Lost Words’ crowdfunder for Notts libraries and got us involved with Robert. He can be seen in the video of the speech introducing a beautiful short film about the book, one which reduced Robert to tears. While this was the big public event of the Nottwich conference (where Nottingham and Norwich UNESCO cities of literature host 25 of the world’s other cities of lit) it’ll be of particular interest to Sheffield friends & family as, in the main section, Robert links the community of trees to…

Danny Baker, Good Time Charlie’s Back, Nottingham Theatre Royal 12.5.19

This is my review from today’s Nottingham Post. ‘Somebody said to me this week, “Dan, you’ve broke the internet.” I said, “I wish somebody fucking would.’ There have been better weeks to be Danny Baker. On Wednesday night, he tweeted a photo that, however intended, came over as a vile racist gag. He deleted the tweet as soon as he realised what he’d so casually done, later describing it as a ‘crass and regrettable blunder’. The worst day of his life followed. No apology could save his BBC job. Tonight, at his first show since being sacked, the question is whether he can save his reputation. He’s had a few nights to think about it. Will he address the elephant in the room right off…