REVIEW – Jazz Sabbath @ Corn Exchange, Devizes – Sunday 20th November 2022

You wait for one to come along….

by Andy Fawthrop

After Saturday’s double-header at Long Street Blues Club with the Alex Voysey Trio and Hardwicke Circus, there was hardly time to draw breath on this exciting musical weekend.  A quick shift from the Con Club to The Corn Exchange, and there we were on a rare Sunday night out.  Yesterday evening D-Town hosted Jazz Sabbath as part of their UK tour, a date long in the calendar thanks to the forward thinking of Paul Chandler’s Longcroft Productions.…..

I’m sure Paul had been hoping for a somewhat larger audience to pack out the Corn Exchange, but there were still plenty enough people there to enjoy the club-style layout of dimly-lit tables and a sparsely-lit stage.  And the quality of the music provided was absolutely top-notch.

First up in the Support slot was London-based Billy Watman, who turned out to be an absolute wizz on the guitar.  Having spent his training in classical and flamenco styles, Billy treated us to an absolute master-class in how to get every sound possible out of his instrument.  With the occasional use of loops and pedals, he laid down his own backing tracks before playing some of the most virtuoso acoustic guitar work that I’ve seen or heard in a very long.  Explaining what he was doing as he went along, in modest and understated style, he laid out fingerstyle versions of Back To Black, Boney M’s Rasputin and even Pink Floyd’s Brick In The Wall.  This guy was massively proficient – there’s just no other way to put it.  He had the audience on side right from the get-go.  In fact there was only one thing wrong with his set – it was simply too damned short at only 20 minutes.  I’m pretty sure the audience would have liked a lot more.  Great stuff.

After the interval, and before the main act took the stage, we were treated to….a film!  A short docu-style item, featuring many celebrities, setting up the myth of the band doing their first gigs for 53 years!  (If you go onto their website you can read all the spoof material for yourself).  The joke/ conceit was maintained throughout the evening with further bits of film, and Adam himself pretending to be an 84-year old (he’s actually 48, just be clear).

I don’t know – you wait for years for a Black Sabbath tribute band to play in D-Town, and then two of them come along in a matter of a few weeks (Black Sabbitch played here only a month ago).  And then they were on stage.  Jazz Sabbath featured Adam Wakeman, son of Rick Wakeman, keyboards, Dylan Howe, son of Alan Howe on drums and Jack Tustin (son of his parents I’m sure), on upright bass.

The whole idea was to produce jazz interpretations of Black Sabbath classics.  Sounds mad, but it wasn’t.  Adam has cut his teeth working for many years both with Black Sabbath, and with Ozzy Osborne’s Band, so he’s pretty familiar with the heavy metal basic material.  However his arrangements were an almost unrecognisable world away, and lots of the material was Adam’s own contemporary compositions.  This was very little Sabbath, and very much Jazz.

The two sets, apart from the spoof interruptions, were confident, laid-back, melodic and highly enjoyable.  Adam himself, taking the lead on piano, did all the talking.  It was uncanny to see him sitting in exactly the same place as his father Rick had done almost four years ago when he played the same stage with his KGB band. The audience, who were soon into both the music and the comedic wrap-around, were attentive and appreciative.  There was a richly deserved encore, and the crowd hit the streets happy, having been royally entertained.

And just time for a general shout out to all those who worked so hard behind the scenes to make this gig happen, and to transform the barn of the Corn Exchange into a warm welcoming club atmosphere – from the sound guys, the stage setting/ lighting, the table lay-outs – a perfect backdrop for some great music.  This is the sort of gig that helps to put D-Town on the UK musical map, and further proof that the town can punch above its weight in terms of musical quality.  The gig was a bit of a (financial) risk, and whilst it might not have entirely paid off, it was nevertheless (musically at least) an absolute triumph.  Maybe the tickets were a bit expensive?  Maybe folks don’t like going out on Sunday nights?  Who knows?  But this sort of gig needs all our support.

And there’s a chance to do just that in a couple of weeks’ time when virtuoso keyboard player Lachy Doley (dubbed the Jimi Hendrix of the Hammond) plays his only UK date in D-Town on Friday 9th December.  Get out and get those tickets – this is going to be a real one-off!


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Review: Is this the Blues? Beaux Gris Gris & the Apocalypse at the Corn Exchange

by Ben Romain and Victoria Stanley

We cannot pretend we didn’t approach this gig with keen anticipation based on previous times this band has graced Devizes with a spot on their tour……

As ever they did not disappoint; line ups over the years have seen a few faces, but the core of the group, Robin and Greta, steers the band with a note-perfect delivery, showing their experience and musicianship. With a quality band, as always, backing them up, they launch into every song with a knowing smile, many assembled being familiars, the floor is filled with participation, dancing and joining in, especially with crowd pleaser ‘don’t let the bastards get you down’; rarely have we seen the roof raised in such style in Devizes.

Is this the Blues? Well yes, the contemplation of both the good, and bad in life in the well-crafted lyrics certainly say so. In its delivery, there’s showmanship, an ability to hold a crowd, to raise a roof, or usher in near silence at will. We would go with Blues-rock, if pressed for a genre, as it’s accessibility would please the ears of many who would not classify themselves as fans of traditional Blues.

What makes the tangible feeling of a real connection with the band? Perhaps this being Robin Davey’s hometown? Or his musical journey with game changing band, The Hoax, who formed in Devizes? Audiences are now treated to guest appearances on Beaux Gris Gris tours from the best musicians in the U.K. Blues scene from all the links and friendships that come with such a rich history as a professional musician.

For this gig Robin’s often-time stage mate Jon Amor was away with his band, and so we were treated to the incredible guitar playing of Scott McKeown. A new name to us, but more than impressive enough to warrant investigation in his own right.

This gig was a great example of the capacity of our town to draw top bookings. Perhaps we shall enjoy a return to form for our once popular venue in the Corn Exchange? Thank you to everyone who makes it happen and if you didn’t catch this one, check them out, you might just discover this is the Blues for you.


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Johnny2Bad Returned to Devizes for UB40 Extravaganza

Crime detecting asset or invasion of privacy opinions aside, The CCTV fundraiser at The Exchange nightclub in the basement of Devizes Corn Exchange went off with a reggae boom last night, when UB40 tribute Johnny2Bad paid a visit, and you know me, on the rare occasion reggae comes to town I want in on it!

We covered the reason for the campaign in a preview post, concentration should focus on the visiting band today, who were fantastic. Aside witticisms of “the Bin” too, for though it’s been a while since I descended those stairs, (and the first time sober!) the décor is updated and comfy, the crowd and staff hospitable, the drinks affordable for a nightclub, but most importantly, it retains its aged amphitheatre setup, functional, with seating boxing in a dancefloor and the bar rearward across the back wall; it works.

Though with a wide-range of disco classics, resident DJ Flash (no, not the NYC grandmaster one!) appeased the wide-spanning demographic of the audience, many regulars while others reggae devotes here for the particular show, anticipation was focussed on the Birmingham band Johnny2Bad, who bounced on stage close to ten o’clock and didn’t pause for breath.

The tribute act scene is vast and blossoming into a mass market, some pub venues pledge allegiance and rarely book original acts. Yet you take the rough with the smooth, I find when they’re bad, they’re excruciatingly bad, but when they’re good you’re in for a blinding night of retrospection, and they drive punters to the bar. Research paramount for event coordinators, picking badly will tarnish all tribute acts with the same brush, for the individual.

There was a couple down the Bin last night who travelled up from Portsmouth, and while I don’t doubt, they liked UB40, he wasn’t wearing a UB40 T-shirt, he was wearing a Johnny2Bad one. Keen to cast an exceptional appraisal of the band to me prior to their performance, any engagement mentioning the band they’re attributing didn’t get such a positive response; he was here to see Johnny2Bad, rather than a UB40 tribute act, and the relevance of this point is evident in said performance.

For Johnny2Bad waiver in and out of a tribute to UB40 and staging a show within their own right, yet it blends so utterly perfectly. At times, such as the sublime mimicking of “If it Happens Again,” and Holt’s “Homely Girl,” the first real glimpses of a UB40 tribute, it shone in acknowledgement to the reggae virtuosos, whereas in other moments you were not mistaken this was also a band within their own right.

And what a band; the refined entertainment value was exceptional, as this blending left you guessing what was next. I put it to frontman Mitch Thomson, rather than simply drone out a setlist of UB40 hits, they added elements, such as visual banter or reprises of other songs, such as Marley’s Small Axe at the beginning, and Mungo Jerry’s in the Summertime, to make it exciting. He agreed, suggesting they liked to make a show of it.

And Mitch is indeed a showman, rather than resembling Ali Campbell visually, though at times his voice captured that forced Brummie-patois fusion perfectly, he was his own man, lively and confident, amusing and alluring to the fairer sex! The proficiency of the band complimented this, tight-knit and adroitly professional they blessed the Exchange with the soulful sound of roots reggae which inspired UB40, occasionally subtle drifts into a more contemporary dancehall style, but majorly readapting the known classics.

I also wanted to gage Mitch about differences they experience when playing in their hometown, being UB40 is pride of Birmingham and respected above all things there. Are they driven to cover rarer, album tracks, for example when playing to a crowd of serious UB40 aficionados? Mitch was keen to express he liked UB40’s older, and often slower repertoire, but while it made little difference if they were in their mutual hometown as UB40, or not, they aimed to play to the crowd. And in this case, as I’m sure many others too, the crowd would demand the hits, which, post Red, Red Wine, are, it has to be said, mostly covers of reggae classic themselves.

Though Johnny2Bad slipped in some I’d consider lesser hits, such as One in Ten, with every tune they did it was of such exceptional quality, you know what, none of these technicalities really matter in the scheme of things. Mitch expressed shows as far away as Holland and Germany were incredibly well received, suggesting they “showed us up,” assuming he meant either Brits in general, or Brummies.

If I had reservations about the band name, taken from the Slickers’ 1970 Jamaican hit “Johnny Too Bad,” a personification of a Kingston rude boy gangster referenced in The Harder They Come, movie, although UB40 did cover it, many others did too, and UB40’s version was never a hit. Perhaps that’s the point in picking a rarer cover as namesake, because while Johnny2Bad are in essence a tribute act, there’s something of their own merit inclusive, and that part is equal to the overall excellence of their act; either that or I’m overthinking it, and they just liked the name!

Importantly, they bought the show with them, and torn down the house; a remarkable achievement from an accomplished act, tribute or not. Fourth wall breaking moments, such as the singer dropping offstage to sing among the crowd cliché, perhaps, but for the brass section to do likewise was something else. How often are you on the Exchange’s dancefloor, or any dancefloor come to think of it, with a trombonist playing next to you?! For me, as a reggae-ska lover who knows brass is class, that was the icing on the cake of a thrilling and professionally entertaining show.

As I’ve discovered through Legend, the Bob Marley tribute, and more recently, the Blondie tribute Dirty Harry, and now these guys, their excellence will turn any preconceptions of tribute acts on their heads; Johnny2Bad is an unmissable show; if it happens again you need to be there!


Yes, Johnny2Bad feature on our compilation album in collaboration with Big Ship Alliance, and all funds go to Julia’s House Children’s Hospices; click here to buy it!

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King of the One-Liners; Gary Delaney Coming to Devizes- Win Two Tickets Here!

What time did the man go to the dentist?

Tooth hurt-y….

Okay, I’ll get my coat. Leave it to the professionals, one of whom announced this morning, Devizes is on his hitlist. Husband of comedy supremo Sarah Millican, and king of the one-liners, Gary Delaney delivers his hilarious tour, “Gary in Punderland,” to our honoured little town on Thursday 5th May 2022, appearing at the Corn Exchange……

The double Sony Award Winner and Chortle Award nominee is a regular on Mock The Week. Gary is the only comic ever to have got two gags in the same top 10 for Dave’s TV Funniest Jokes from the Edinburgh Fringe, and his current tour took in over 200 venues; we’re so glad to hear he’s heading our way. After selling out his Andover show, and in the absence of a Swindon show, it was decided that Devizes offered the best central location, and easiest access in Wiltshire to attract his fans. Devizions love a bit of joking about, look at the councillors we elected….ba boom!!

If you’re hunting for snark, Gary’s got it covered! Not one to get too bogged down in serious stuff, like political and social observations, he leaves that to other comedians. Gary Delaney is known for his machinegun rapid, quick fire one liners, which take you away from your daily lives for the evening, something I’d imagine we all could do with. He loves each and every gag, and you can’t help but be carried away by his infectious charm. He’s like a cheeky schoolboy who can barely hide his glee with each and every punchline.

Courtesy of Sheer Music, we’ve been holding onto this news for a while, aching to tell you, honest! So, if you’re ready to dive into a rabbit hole of the best jokes in the world, star of Live at the Apollo and sell-out sensation Gary Delaney is your man.

WIN A COUPLE OF TICKETS!!

But to help you prepare, and you know, to celebrate this fantastic news, I want you to think up your best one liner, the very crème de la crème of your wit, and either send it to us using the box below, or commenting on the Facebook share of this article. Facebook users, ensure you’ve liked our page, invited your friends to like it too, and shared the post; I will be checking!

Also, ensure you have commented on the official Devizine Facebook page’s post, and not those shared to other groups and pages, I cannot trace them all, hunting for your joke, no matter how bad it might be; for that’s a joke in itself!

Closing Date for this competition: 4th October 2021. You must be over 18 to enter the competition.

Meanwhile I’m going to arrange for a score of top comedy judges to decide on the best one, (which will more than likely be my daughter and I, or if we can, Gary Delaney might help!) and they will WIN TWO FREE TICKETS! Note, this event is strictly 16+, and wheelchair access and seats are available.

Otherwise, tickets are set at £20, and available from SeeTickets and TicketSource online.



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Asa is Back in Devizes

Give or take a week, it’s been two years since Devizes Corn Exchange reverberated rock n roll when Liverpool’s entertainer Asa Murphy presented his Buddy Holly tribute show. An amazing fundraising night, in dedication to local music hero Bruce Hopkins, the show had perfect renditions of Buddy’s songs wrapped in a simple narrative to set the scenes, and by the end, Age Concern need not be called as young and old, the audience danced in the aisles!

Deja-vu on many preview pieces we wrote about this time last year, including announcing Asa set to return without the Buddy specs in April with a variety performance and handpicked guest appearances.

Obviously and sadly, it couldn’t be, but I’m pleased to now re-announce the Corn Exchange is booked for this show on October 16th, and will feature the original lineup; superb sixties singer, Sandy Collins and Lennie Anderson, an excellent comic.
Tickets are on sale at Devizes Books, which you can call to secure your seats until the shop is bookshop is open again for business.

For more details you could check last year’s preview, by clicking here; saves me writing it all again, but don’t look directly at the old date, look around that date and concentrate your mind on October 16th 2021! Oh, and I hope to see you there!


A (hic) Festival of Winter Ales

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Call them Ale

Proper quality celebratory glasses here y’ know, no squashy disposable cups; something of a memento. There are flowers in a jar on the table, aroma of hot pie, and a bulky fellow juggling knifes, while straddling our own Ian Diddams while he lies flat on his back on stage. If your preconception of a beer festival is a marquee in a muddy field, think again, this is the prestigious Devizes Corn Exchange and DOCA, our Outside Celebratory Arts association, are holding their annual Festival of Winter Ales in conjunction with the Stealth Brewery Company.

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Splat the Rat

I’ll come clean, I’m breaking my Festival of Winter Ales cherry tonight, and I’m also fashionably late. Friday night was a sell-out, I’m informed, today is near equal in success, but I’d better hurry on in, the beers were running out. Another confession, I be a cider drinker, part of my five a day. Our man Andy cannot report, he’s here in a professional capacity, tending the bar, least lengthy set of tables. I would have kept him on his toes, but he’s attending to the ale end of things, I’m occupying the cider corner. A rhubarb laced cider is my first glassful, despite the event’s name, there’s ciders aplenty, but the choice of ale was extensive and over the whole weekend you could possibly, but unlikely to, pursue them all.

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Vince Bell

With a customary token system functioning, and barrels aligning the length of the grand hall, there’s part of this event which reflects the standard beer festival format, in a grand fashion. Yet it has a civilised angle, prementioned flowers on tables, etc and surrounding the magnificent stage as if it was an awards evening rather than a beer festival. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a complaint but a compliment, twas a splendid arrangement for a splendid evening; no one need a muddy field in a rain drenched February, save perhaps the odd duck.

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Matt Barnard

If I’m honest, which you know I blatantly am, I’m not surprised by the impressive event, Stealth knows good beer, and DOCA know what they’re doing and could arrange a party on a glacier off Antarctica and it’d still be awesome. Winter beanies off to them both, for this inviting and warming occasion which is, essentially, an important fundraising event which will help fund the carnival and massive summer events such as the beloved annual street festival.

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It’s Complicated

Through the three sessions over two days, our best local bands and musicians played, the wonderful It’s Complicated, Splat the Rat and Vince Bell. I was there in time to catch the finale of Matt Barnard, who has amused as compere, and all-round entertainer through the festival. He’s a confident, comical and cheery chap with that unique Saturday Night at the Palladium ability to cover all aspects of showbiz proficiently. Kris Dollimore followed, with an extensive résumé, this member of Del Amitri drove from Cornwall to pick a guitar akin to an illusionist vanishing the Eifel Tower. I pay particular astonishment to his beautiful rendition of Marvin Gaye’s Inner-City Blues.

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Kris Dollimore

What a most splendid event, one worthy of your attention for next year, and priced at a tenner with first pint free in your keepsake glass, you cannot go wrong.

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© 2017-2020 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
Please seek permission from the Devizine site and any individual author, artist or photographer before using any content on this website. Unauthorised usage of any images or text is forbidden.

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Tickets for Winter Ale

Tickets for DOCA’s Devizes Festival of Winter Ales 2020 at the Corn Exchange on Friday 28th and Saturday 29th February 2020 are now on sale…..
The Devizes Festival of Winter Ales is a fundraising event to help meet the costs of DOCA’s free annual programme of outstanding outdoor arts events and activities, including the Devizes International Street Festival, Confetti Battle, Devizes Carnival and the Christmas Lantern Parade.

Held in collaboration with Stealth Brewery, DOCA have bespoke, warming ales and ciders from some of the best independent breweries in the country, as well as some fantastic bands and special DOCA style entertainment. You’ll be able to chose from a selection of Lovett’s pies, and top quality snacks to keep you going.

Expect fantastic bands over the three sessions, Soon to be announced. In usual DOCA style we will bring to you a cabaret act with a difference!

This year, for your entertainment they will be welcoming Matt Barnard. Matt has performed across the world as a compere, actor, musician, singer and as himself in his unique one man show.
He was the resident compere of the cult Sensation Seekers Stage at the Glastonbury Festival, starred in London’s oldest variety show in the West End in and performed his unique act at the famous London Palladium. He also appeared in the Hollywood movie Mrs Henderson Presents in which he performed the famous sand-dance with Gareth Jones.

Unfortunately, DOCA will be unable to admit people who are under 18. Tickets will include a festival half pint glass and enough beer tokens for two half pints.


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REVIEW – Comedy Night @ Corn Exchange, Devizes – Friday 20th September 2019

A Funny Old Night

Andy Fawthrop

A fairly packed audience gathered in the Corn Exchange on Friday night for Devizes Comedy’s presentation. Not sure it was quite sold out, but there weren’t too many empty seats in the place.

 
First up was Canadian born Tanyalee Davis, described in the publicity as “Joan Rivers meets a pile driver”. She has a form of dwarfism called diastrophic dysplasia. At only 3 foot 6 inches tall, this presents a few challenges and misconceptions in her daily life, but this also provides a rich vein of material for her stand-up routine. Her material, like her, is low to the ground, quite blue and racy in places, evoking laughs both from the inherent humour, but also from the shock value. A highly entertaining opener.

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Next up was more normal sized Irishman Keith Farnan. Here was a comic very comfortable in his own skin, and very confident with his material. He delivered an absolute master-class in how to play an audience, feeding on minor and polite heckling, and casually eliciting and provoking clues and local information to mould his script. A lot of it felt extremely-well improvised, and he took great delight in holding up a mirror to the Devizes crowd’s lack of diversity. He successfully took the piss out of being middle class, being Irish, his own name, being Jewish (he’s not, but his wife is), homophobia, Ryannair and many other topics. Not topics that were exactly bleeding edge, but he wrung some absolute belly-laughs out of such thin gruel. For my money – the best comic of the night.

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After the interval, another two acts. First of these was Tom Lucy – young, slightly camp and with a mother he described as a MILF. He tried the same trick as Keith Farnan, trying to use the audience to provide clues and prompts to direct his material, but far less successfully. A number of times he ended up, by his own admission, up a comedy cul-de-sac, having to cut routines short because they just weren’t going anywhere. Better material was on modern technology – smartphones, emojis, dating apps and dick-pics. But to my mind he never really got going, and the big laughs just weren’t there.

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And finally, top of the bill, was Mike Osman. We were all asked to stand, face to the rear of the room, and put hand on heart, to allow the entrance of this Donald Trump impersonator to the strains of Hail To The Chief. A showy entrance, but to my mind, one that felt a bit flat. Once up on the stage we had the White House lectern (later revealed to contain a Kim Jong-Un lookalike) and a pair of US flags. The whole act was an extended riff on “DT comes to Devizes”, occasionally side-stepping into a (very poor) musical number, and a range of old & new impressions (I don’t think Rory Bremner or Jon Culshaw have anything to worry about). Osman had DT’s looks, mannerisms and voice, and did a fairly good impression of The Orange One, but (to me at least) failed to convince. Most of the audience found him hilarious most of the time, but the material was frankly tedious and thin, and the jokes fairly old/ poor/ standard. If this is what you have to do to earn a living…..

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© 2017-2019 Devizine (Andy Fawthrop)
Please seek permission from the Devizine site and any individual author, artist or photographer before using any content on this website. Unauthorised usage of any images or text is forbidden.


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