It’s been many hours and nearly one full day…
since Prince and 3RDEYEGIRL left the audience from their second night in Manchester dripping in an adrenaline of black sweat and a glow of funk and roll.
This was the second night in a row the band played Manchester Academy.
3RDEYEGIRL, made up of Donna (guitar), Hannah (drums) and Ida (bass) came out at 8PM to an already hype crowd – there’s a certain energy when you know Prince Rogers Nelson is behind a curtain.
Then the rock began to rumble, and that instantly recognisable voice began singing as 3RDEYEGIRL got into the groove. Every neck craned to see Prince’s entrance as he walked cooly centre-stage. The night was young.
Prince could feel the love. The crowd was definitely giving it back to him singing every song with him; cheering as he relayed that love on to the fantastic band. Everyone cheered as 3RDEYEGIRL tore the roof off, this was the ultimate jam session. My eyes were back and forth trying to absorb the ethereal atmosphere of watching Prince sit and play as the band rocked high to the heavens to classics and new songs alike ranging from She’s Always in my Hair to Something In the Water. I’ll never forget him incorporating “Man – CHESTER” into his many songs consistently thanking the fans.
The heat in the crowd continued to rise. Although quite far back, this was an intimate venue and when Prince looked into the audience I felt his gaze reach my eye and touch my soul. When he told the crowd to sway side-to-side I was compelled to follow his beat. At points he coyly pointed at fans and told them to put their technology down and clap.
It was clear that Prince is built on a foundation of rhythm. It oozes out of him so naturally.
When the band said their first goodnight and left the stage before 10PM, they’d been playing around an hour and a half. I’d heard the legendary stories of Prince playing hours over UK curfews so I knew he’d come back for an encore. What I didn’t expect is for him to come back for 6-8 encores – I lost count.
There were points of the show I couldn’t see the band or Prince, but hearing him sit and perform The Beautiful Ones was an experience to cherish even if the image I see of him is just his face, far away on stage, an image encapsulated in between a sea of swaying arms. I could see his shadow above my head as I looked to the ceiling.
It was an incredible set list. As he came out for one of the many encores he warned us that with the amount of hits he has, we could be here all night. The crowd were up for that!
It is a night imprinted in my soul, the energy rocked me to the core and the love and respect Prince showed the fans is evident in them all, old and new.
Prince fans have shown their true purple colours via the Prince Army on twitter. I have watched them all rally together and support each other to get to venues, swap tickets and beat the ticket touts over social media.
He rewarded this dedication and came out to every encore request. He brought up on stage those who had queued for hours in the Manchester cold, rain and hail.
Seeing his hard-core fans jamming on stage with their hero is such a highlight – and Prince fans can dance – especially the guy with a beard, who Prince joked looked like Mumford and Sons.
Over 3 hours of pure energy, a term Prince kept repeating – this was Funk n Roll. 3RDEYEGIRL and Prince, they rocked us, they funked us, they brought the house down.
5) Ticket touts, have been left out in the cold by Prince’s marketing strategy
This has been a mini-triumph for real music fans. Seatwave have had to refund over-inflated tickets they bought in bulk for the Manchester shows (Friday 21 February Saturday 22 February). As a result of this, Manchester Academy were able to offer a limited number of tickets on the door.
4) Avoiding the middlemen
Years before Beyoncé declared ”I don’t trust these record labels I’m tourin’” from her surprise visual album; Prince was releasing free and independent music. He is renowned for cutting out the middleman and the Hit and Run tour is just another part of his style.
The anxiousness at getting into such small venues is rewarded for fans: When only 150 people showed up for a last-minute announced second gig on the Friday in Manchester – they were treated to his encore rather than a second show – four encores by the way. The mis-communication left the encore arrivals feeling out of pocket but they were guaranteed free entry into Saturday night’s gig.
3) No smartphones
This one can cause a mixed reaction. Prince has always fought for the copyright of his work and while everybody wants a keepsake of their concert experience – some people forget to live in the moment and can end up watching a full show through their smartphone lens.
2) Lianne La Havas
Obviously, over the last 30 years, people who have grown up loving Prince’s music have gone on to become musicians themselves. The icon has always recognised this and reached out despite being an enigma. British performers he has invited to perform with him include Beverley Knight, Mica Paris and Amy Winehouse. Prince discusses “real music” in an upcoming edition of MOJO magazine and he questions why people like La Havas are not having hits.
He also held his press conference for the tour with 3RDEYEGIRL in La Havas’ living room.
1) Funk N Roll
Prince’s latest group 3RDEYEGIRL are made up of guitarist Donna Grantis, drummer Hannah Ford and bassist Ida Nielsen and boy do they rock! This is real music played by talented musicians who can keep up with Prince. The PRETZELBODYLOGIC era is a larger-than-life experience of rock and funk where the band and Prince all perform their chops off!
Music is available to buy from 3RDEYEGIRL’s website.
Eric Benét and Brian McKnight Melt Manchester into a Puddle
For once it wasn’t the rain.
In between the smoochy couples, girlfriend groups and trios of boys ready for a night of romance – I walked in with my sister, ready to admire the view of Eric Benét up close, get lost in his velvety voice -and go home.
I realised pretty quickly that Brian McKnight was the man everyone else was waiting for. I didn’t know what to expect from him as I’ve only seen a couple of his videos; “Back at One” was the only song of his I could have named at the beginning of the night.
The itinerary was set, to my delight, as I have recently endured a Mos Def gig – excuse me – Yasiin Bey gig, who seemed to be dragged on stage after 10PM, then told off the upset crowd and walked off after less than 50 minutes on stage.
DJs Steve-O and Miller were a good warm-up act. Sometimes their song choices blended well into each other, at other times Steve would MC and stop the song to build up another classic. Think “No Scrubs”, “One More Chance”, “You Don’t Have to Call”, “(Doo Wop) That Thing”, “F*ing You Tonight”, “Jumpin’ Jumpin”.
I was a bit horrified that Steve built up “You Remind Me” as an old song for the over 35s to remember clubbing to back in the day in their Gap hoodies and Ellesse trainers – only for my sister to remind me – it is an old song now (2001).
At 8.30 PM Eric Benét just casually walked on stage, I couldn’t believe it. It wasn’t the fact he came on time, as Janet Jackson also stuck to an itinerary on her Number 1s tour, but it was because he came on without hype.
There was no build up; it was a mellow entrance , he got a nice welcoming reception but I expected more buzz. This didn’t take anything away obviously, it’s just an intro and the excitement came from his delivery and his alluring presence. He looked and sounded so good centre-stage in his shades, Tokyo jacket, flashing a sliver of stomach every now and then as he danced.
I wasn’t even prepared for the mellow vibe of the crowd. Nobody pushed into me and I was third row centre. In fact I could have been second row centre. There was space for another person in the gap between me and the girl in front, yet there was no shoving. This was definitely a concert for grown-ups – the DJ hadn’t been wrong – his set represented it, the artists reflected it and the crowd for sure were it.
Benét had a tight band, a female vocalist and a male vocalist on keyboard. He performed “Spend My Life” – his number one duet with Tamia with his backing singer and it was a sweet performance, reminiscent of Michael Jackson and Siedah Garret performing “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You”.
Not only was Eric Benét in top form vocally, he looked so happy to be there. It was an intimate show as he looked the audience members in the eye and spoke with the crowd. He gladly performed for the iPhones and video cameras, which meant he spent time a lot of time centre-stage for the lady in front of me who filmed the entire set. I look forward to seeing her videos on Youtube.
I was glad he didn’t leave the stage without singing “Why You Follow Me” and “Georgy Peorgy” as “A Day in the Life” (1999) was the album that introduced me to him. These songs plus “Chocolate Legs” seemed to get the biggest audience reactions too.
He left me and my sister in such a good mood, he was worth our trip. Concerts can be high-risk when you’re over 30 – life-long bubbles are at risk of being burst.
We could tell there was excitement for Brian McKnight so we waited. The time came, the build-up began, the spotlights flickered, girls screams suddenly reached fever-pitch, chants from boys boomed “Brian Brian” – I saw men with their video cameras ready. It was me who wasn’t ready for what I was about to witness – eruption – Brian McKnight was here to satisfy the crowd’s needs – punctual too at 9.45 PM, just like the itinerary said he would be. I was pleased already, he made me forget my over-30 feet were hurting.
The energy was infectious, he came out and I moved left and right when Brian said to. There was hardcore love for the man, the crowd knew every word. The last button of his shirt was undone, revealing a bit of toned belly and a Louis Vuitton belt. When the crowd weren’t singing along they were screaming, especially when McKnight rocked his hips or brushed his shirt with his hand.
Brian invited the crowd to sing along, reach out and touch the person next to them. I looked for my sister – who was stood behind me and I shook her hand – a woman behind me on my left delicately held my shoulders and I smiled at her - the power of music to bring people together!
Brian thought he would whip the crowd into a frenzy inviting a girl on stage, little did he know he picked “God’s child” she said her name was as he held the mic to her on the stage. As he serenaded her she told him “Don’t touch my hair”, she dropped her pack of cigarettes and picked them up, she patted his back for singing so well, then she seemed to nuzzle his chest for a minute and move a bit lower and lower down his chest. Brian looked at the audience for help.
It was all good fun, the crowd loved her, she was great to watch on stage with him. He kissed her goodbye then and it was a memorable moment.
Brian played with a couple of different guitars through the night. “Crazy Love” and “Still” are really great Brian McKnight crowd pleasers although “Back at One” was the one the men were requesting and McKnight knew this. He left it for his outro. He was great to the audience, dedicating songs requested from Manchester twitter users and performing till 11.10 PM and coming back for an encore.
I did not know what to expect from both of these top male vocalists. Eric Benét was just how I envisioned, beautiful to watch and listen to.
Brian McKnight was a true professional and funny man. What a great performer, his vocals were perfection and again, like Eric Benét, it seemed not only a joy to perform but effortless for him. It was really enjoyable to see two artists who do what they do so well and look as pleased to see the audience as we were to see them.
Nobody comes to our help in these parts. The officials and the police are corrupt and anti-poor. So sometimes we have to take the law in our hands. At other times, we prefer to shame the wrongdoers. ~ Sampat Pal Devi
Ordinary people are making a change: Sampat Pal Devi, a mother from Uttar Pradesh, has kicked off a movement for women in India.
In 2006 Devi tried to intervene and stop a man from beating his wife in public. There was no reprimand for him and so she returned to the scene the next day, with five more women – brandishing bamboo sticks. They had come to find the man and teach him a lesson.
Word spread around the village of Devi’s lead and women came to her, eager to join in future quests. The Gulabi Gang was born. The troop is now over 40,000 members strong; wear a uniform, carry sticks and have since sparked similar movements around the country.
It’s a bold battle in a deeply patriarchal culture which is rife with caste divisions, (female) illiteracy, domestic violence, child labour, child marriages, dowry demands and high rape statistics. The group have even visited police stations to battle with officers who refuse to register complaints of abuse against women.
Devi’s work has unearthed corruption and given a voice to both men and women who are all against abuse. In a system where women aren’t educated, Devi taught herself basic literacy skills as a child and now teaches her group members.
The Gulabi Gang have many missions and one of those is to ensure that people born under the lowest caste have an education, avoid child marriages and earn a decent wage.
If reasoning with abusers and corrupt officials doesn’t work, it is Sampat Pal Devi’s style to then shame them publicly and beat them.
Sampat – Keep on fighting – we are all with you!
To donate funds to the Gulabi Gang, send an email to email@example.com with the following details
Full Name, Contact Address, Phone Number and Email Address.
Last year a documentary celebrated their journey: IMDB Gulabi Gang (2012) but you can listen to Devi’s words and see the amazing woman in action in many news reports on Youtube. This is one of my favourites:
- Meet India’s Gulabi Gang, Female Activists for Change (trueactivist.com)
- The “Pink”Gang. A successful women’s movement. (happytelegram.wordpress.com)
- Gulabi Gang(2012) (documentarybibliography.wordpress.com)
A change in UK law announced this week will allow foster children to stay with their carers until they’re 21.
Over forty charities successfully pushed the government for the amendment to the current system, which forces foster children into independence around 16 or 17 years of age. Once left to cope on their own, care leavers can become isolated.
Some local councils have the funds for children to stay in foster care until they are 18. Now the Department for Education is imposing a legal duty on all councils to provide financial support for foster families who wish to stay together longer.
The government has pledged £40m over the next three years to fund the plan and the act will be introduced into the House of Lords at the third reading of the Children and Families Bill next year.
The news comes in time for Christmas, a special day on which most care-leavers spend alone.
The Topé Project , set up last year to give care leavers a happy Christmas, was named in memory of Topé, a 23-year-old care leaver who sadly took his own life. Last year, the charity gave over 70 young people an amazing Christmas time - meeting each other, playing games, eating, getting presents, sharing pain and promoting positivity.
There is a massive need for this event, just check out the response to their work on their Just Giving page where you can of course donate for this year’s Christmas day for care leavers.
Tope’s friend, Jerome Harvey Agyei, told Ruth Stivey in an article for the Guardian last year:
As well as our pioneering and fun Christmas Day event – which aims to bring together care leavers, create positive memories and inspire them – we want Topé’s legacy to be promoting more emotional support for children in care and care leavers.
It was reported last year by the Young Minds charity that 60% of care leavers have mental health problems and suicide rates for care-leavers are almost five times higher than for their peers.
The concerns for those in care
The news of the proposed £40m budget over the next three years has fuelled a lot of questions.
Will councils have to make cuts from other vital services to fulfill their new legal duty and will the new law apply to foster children in England or the entire United Kingdom?
Surely, all children should be treated equally, which is why these questions must be addressed.
Plus there are concerns about supporting children in residential homes as well as foster care under this amendment.
Children’s charities have always asserted it is a moral obligation that the children of the state, who are taken away out of bad environments, should flourish in their substitute situation.
These children need more than a place of shelter. They need emotional security, even when they leave their foster home. It can be deemed unethical for carers to keep in touch with the children they fostered.
This is why the change in the law is important. Most parents don’t throw their children out when they turn 16, they nurture them until they are secure enough for independence.
Nor do they cut ties once their children leave home. If foster parents can keep in touch with children they cared for, it would mean care leavers have the emotional building blocks of a family to return to and a place to call home.
Follow The Topé’ Project:
- Time to give a new meaning to ‘Take Care’ (the Independent)
- Christmas is the day when care leavers are reminded they don’t have a family (the Guardian)
- Why I’m holding a Manchester Christmas dinner for 45 people who were in care (theguardian.com)
- APPG – ‘How do we make residential children homes a safe, loving and stable place to live?’ (livingacarelesslife.wordpress.com)
Like countless others; watching VH1′s CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story transported me way back into the 90s.
While watching the bio-pic, although it was made well and with love, I don’t think you could do all three ladies justice. Their stories and characters are worthy of one film each! My only criticism is that LeftEye was made out to be the crazy caricature that she strived to not be. All three ladies were crazy, sexy and cool. Anybody who dug past the media headlines, or has seen her speak in her own words in her documentary could see that there was a lot more humanity, creativity and depth to LeftEye.
She didn’t burn the house down because she was crazy, she was a victim of domestic abuse. She didn’t wear tape on her mouth (in Creep) because she was stubborn or selfish for her solo career, she disagreed with the message of cheating on your partner.
The film reminded me just how strong my respect for LeftEye still stands eleven years after her death. Her desire to help others express themselves through the arts is still evident in the groups she was nurturing at the time. Her rap on the DARP remix of Creep still gives me goosebumps and I admired that her aspirations were worth more to her than the money thrown her way.
One of the most memorable performances by female rappers.
When LeftEye spoke about her influence on TLC (the sign language in UnPretty, her Waterfalls contribution, their look in videos, the reason behind FanMail and its cover) or any decisions she made in her life; she came across really sweet, reasonable and understandable, which is why I hope the new fans discovering TLC learn more about her following the success of CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story.
As I reflect back on what I use and abuse And detect that I need some clues to get through. To those that accuse me of never being true I lose if I play into this game and never know the rules. So how do I bring out the me nobody sees?
- Lisa LeftEye Lopes, UnPretty (Don’t Look Any Further remix)
The TLC Story was emotional to sit through, knowing certain things that were going to happen to them. The first time I heard the name Pebbles in connection with their career, was one Friday afternoon after school during the Diggin’ On You promotion; LeftEye and Chilli were being interviewed on the radio. What I recorded was hilarious:
So, the fact that TLC were deprived of their earnings by Pebbles is not a big reveal, but it has caused the most uproar.
Seeing Rochelle Aytes as Pebbles was like watching the evil twin of Suzanne de Passe (Vanessa Williams portrayed her in The Jacksons: An American Dream). I did like the casting, the actors were terrific and Evan Ross playing Dallas Austin was very complimentary, but, Dalvin (of Jodeci) wasn’t as lucky. One last note about the characters – I am still racking my brain trying to figure out who was depicted bad-mouthing LeftEye at the Grammys – because I am certain I remember seeing that dress on someone that night. Has the internet figured it out yet?
TLC had the technical ability, the sisterly bond and evident drive in their performances that created magic on stage. I couldn’t have been less prepared for how good Niatia ‘Lil Mama’ Kirkland (LeftEye), Drew Sidora (T-Boz) and Keke Palmer (Chilli) could perform together as TLC and that was the highlight for me because I cannot separate the music from TLC’s performances.
Discovering TLC one school morning is one of the most memorable moments of 1995 for me. I didn’t have MTV at the time (my excuse for discovering them late), but seeing a snippet of Creep on a US Billboard chart feature blew me away so much, that I don’t remember anybody else who was in the top five with them.
I had to know more about these girls, their look – sexy tomboys; their dancing – natural and in sync; their sound – unique voices over a cool fusion of hip hop, soul and funk, all encapsulated in a clip which probably lasted only five seconds. I scoured HMV in search of their music and from then on I studied their album booklets, recorded their music videos (No Youtube back then), kept up with their interviews and really wanted to see them live – sadly my parents weren’t too keen on that after catching the Diggin’ on You video.
So as I watched the film, it was like the DeLorean took me back and I was eleven again, enraptured with excitement ready to watch TLC’s live performance at the VMAS in 1995. That night they accepted multiple awards in unique style, reading their thanks from a roll of toilet paper, including a sarcastic thank-you to Pebbles.
The only two memorable people that night were TLC and Michael Jackson, so, from the same radio interview, here’s a snippet of them talking about Chilli’s Michael Jackson experience!
- ‘CrazySexyCool’ shatters ratings with 4.5 million viewers (rollingout.com)
It’s been a big year for Bollywood in Yorkshire.
The region celebrated the centenary of the phenomenal film industry with the live television opera extravaganza Bollywood Carmen and now Farsley village has a Bollywood dance class to rival Zumba!
Hema Johar, 25, is a professional Bollywood dancer. She breaks down famous routines step-by-step at family restaurant Deeva restaurant in Town Street.
As the word-of mouth about Bhangracise spreads, I visited an early session with a class of ten, who were rehearsing a routine to perform live in front of an audience.
They group together above the restaurant in a private space. Joy Good, in her early 50s has come since the first session said: “I like the intimacy of these classes, it’s really good fun. You get some endorphins released and I love the music”.
Accessories such as jingly bangles and sparkly scarves are incorporated into the routines for the glitzy Bollywood effect and it is a new experience for all of the ladies.
Sangeeta Champaneri, a regular attendee said: “I’ve come because I’m not a natural dancer and thought I had no coordination but Hema’s very patient and she adds an element of fun into it and before you know an hour has gone so quickly and it’s just a fun way to keep fit.”
The troupe’s second live performance is expected at Deeva on a New Year’s Eve dinner and dance evening planned. Hema said: ” It’s a nice relaxed vibe and I’m so proud of my ladies. They’ve come so far. When everyone’s doing the routine synchronised it looks awesome.”
Sangeeta added: “It’s nice to meet people of all different backgrounds and mixed , not everyone’s an experienced dancer but it’s fun and everyone’s willing to have a go”.
Bhangracise is held at Deeva Restaurant, 58 Town Street, Farsley, Leeds, LS28 5LD
Contact Hema Johar here to enquire about her teaching services and buy tickets.
- A Creation…make it real… (acreationblog.wordpress.com)