Where Are We Now? (Part One) – Review – Hull City Hall

Where Are We Now hull city hall 2017

Where Are We Now? (Part One) – Review

Hull City Hall, June 2017

by Roger Crow

It’s a muggy, overcast Friday night and if I’m honest, the last thing I want to do is trek over to Hull for an eclectic festival ‘sparking debate about the current economic, political situation inspired by David Bowie’.

I want to be entertained, and as much as I’m impressed and moved by the work of acclaimed poet Linton Kwesi Johnson, and love the cadence of his voice, it’s all a little too bleak for my post-work mood. The festival of counter culture runs all weekend, and obviously I’ve missed some of the best stuff.

where are we now linton kwesi johnson

Linton Kwesi Johnson
image: Chris Pepper

“Did you see Holly McNish?” asks a mate.

“No, I was eating pizza,” delaying the urge to get involved with Friday night poetry. My loss. I’m sure as everyone else I bump into raves about her. After the brilliant but bleak LKJ waxes lyrical about horrendous injustices and suicide, I retire to the bar area to recharge my exhausted mental battery.

“Blows the roof off”

I’m hoping Charlotte Church’s Late Night Pop Dungeon will lift my spirits, and when I return, an old movie dance sequence set to funky music (part of Scottish arts collective Neu!Reekie!’s curated festival) piques my interest.

As soon as a clip of Saturday Night Fever and the Bee Gees’ timeless score fills the hall, I’m feeling better. The healing power of John Travolta and the Gibb brothers never fails.

Where Are We Now Neu Reekie hull city hall

Neu! Reekie
image: James Mulkeen

Enter the Late Night Pop Dungeon, a brilliant collective of musicians who look like they’ve stepped from the set of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2. Whether by coincidence or design, they tap into that cult cheap 1970s sci-fi movie aesthetic. Then a radiant Charlotte Church steps on stage and for around an hour proceeds to blow the roof off the hall.

A string of old classics are reworked to such incredible effect, it’s hard to hear the old songs without feeling they fall short. Church’s backing band do a terrific job, but thanks to one of the best sound systems and auditoriums in the country, when she unleashes that voice, it’s like the vocals of Shirley Bassey, Beyoncé and Katherine Jenkins have been compressed into one pint-sized powerhouse.

“Astonishing clarity”

For many of the gathered masses who’ve never seen her live, there’s an immediate feeling of ‘That child star who wowed the masses years ago before flirting with Pop’ is a revelation. In an extraordinary diversion, the vocalist and her band launch into a vocal version of the ET theme, (though many mistake it for the Star Trek tune).

where are we now charlotte church

Charlotte Church’s Late Night Pop Dungeon
image: Chris Pepper

Prince’s ‘Diamonds and Pearls’, Nelly’s ‘Hot in Here’, and Fatboy Slim’s ‘Right Here, Right Now’ are just three of the tracks belted out with astonishing clarity.

Between sets I chat to Mark Cousins, the acclaimed Irish film maker, writer and critic whose movie I Am Belfast airs a day later. He’s buzzing from the Church gig and light years away from the buttoned up young critic who used to introduce cult movies on BBC2 strand Moviedrome circa 1999. Mark’s obviously delighted by the festival, and to be a part of it. He’s also thrilled that Young Fathers are about to perform – and little wonder.

“Spirits are sky high”

The hall is packed again, and they do not disappoint. Once more, the outstanding sound system and light display ensures the gathered masses get great value for money.  For some they might be the main event and Late Night Pop Dungeon is the support act, but as great as they are, it feels like dessert after the main course.

The heavens have opened by the time I leave, but it doesn’t matter a bit.

Where am I now? A lot happier than I was at the start of the night. My spirits were rock bottom a few hours ago, and now they’re sky high.

Once more City of Culture has done the masses proud.

Top image: James Mulkeen


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