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New Order at Brixton Academy, review: ‘a late career high’

Originally published by the Daily Telegraph.

It’s customary for a New Order gig to begin with Elegia, a musical tribute to their late Joy Division bandmate Ian Curtis. However, in a week where music venues were no longer safe spaces, the band instead paid respect to the lives lost in the Paris terrorist attacks.

“Vive la France!” declared frontman Bernard Sumner in front of a proud French flag, with the band dedicating their first of two shows at Brixton Academy to the victims and their families.

As the electronic reincarnation of Joy Division, no band understands the art of channelling sombreness into strength better than New Order, and in their sold-out show, they did so with grace. Set opener Singularity, taken from their new album Music Complete, surged through its six minutes of electronic rock. After a decade between records, it’s surprising to find them on such strong form.

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The Monkees at Hammersmith Apollo, review: ‘full of heart’

Originally published by the Daily Telegraph.

Moments before The Monkees’ Peter Tork and Micky Dolenz walked on to the stage, a 2011 soundbite taken from comedian Whoopi Goldberg’s panel show The View was played. “Before there was Bieber, there were The Monkees, baby.”

Goldberg’s right. Half a century ago, The Monkees began their career as a made-for-TV boy band in the States to rival The Beatles. Their scripted narrative soon became a reality, and in 1967 they outsold both The Beatles and The Rolling Stones combined. The manufactured foursome paved the way for every boy band that followed, from the Bay City Rollers all the way to One Direction, who reinterpreted the Monkees’ wholesome hijinks for the iPhone generation.

Now performing as a duo (backed by a five-piece touring band including Dolenz’s sister, Coco), The Monkees’ first UK concert in four years found them delving deep into their catalogue against a backdrop of footage from their glory days. If this new show didn’t carry the same poignancy as 2012’s reunion tour (sole British member Davy Jones had died earlier that year), it was nevertheless full of heart despite Mike Nesmith’s decision to stop touring.

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CMS migration for Telegraph Culture

This week, Telegraph Culture debuted its shiny new site, now powered by Adobe Experience Manager. In order to prepare the section for its big move, I worked across the digital and culture teams for three weeks carrying out the following:

  • Assessing which ‘evergreen’ articles are worthy of being migrated to the new site and manually re-creating them in new digital house style.
  • Testing new features during the demo stage to determine their effectiveness.
  • Cross-producing content for both Escenic and AEM while the new site was in demo mode.
  • Helping train members of the culture team in AEM and new digital house style.

Take a look at the results now at telegraph.co.uk/culture, and for more information on how the Telegraph is using AEM in its everyday production, click here.

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50 Cent + G-Unit at the O2, review: ‘business as usual for the bankrupt rapper’

Originally published by the Daily Telegraph.

For some musicians, filing for bankruptcy and performing an arena show in the same week might seem like a cosmic joke. However, for 50 Cent, a man who’s weathered multiple feuds and nine bullets to the body, it’s simply business as usual.

On Monday the rapper filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy under his real name, Curtis James Jackson III – a move that called his status as Forbes’ fourth wealthiest hip-hop artist of 2015 into question. The press declared him broke, while Jackson described the situation as “a strategic business move”. The truth lies in an uncomfortable middle ground: after leaking a sex tape in 2009 involving Lestonia Leviston, the mother of rival Rick Ross’s children, he is now seeking financial protection in an effort to avoid paying her $5m in court-ordered damages.

Eight years have passed since he last played the O2, and with the reorganisation of his financial affairs weighing heavily on his mind, the arena found Jackson taking stock of his musical assets, albeit with mixed results. Tracks from his most recent album, Animal Ambition, were played to relative indifference in the wake of crowd-pleasers like In Da Club. Recent single Hold On, a sluggish attempt at Wu-Tang Clan pastiche, felt particularly undermined by the work from his six-time platinum debut album, Get Rich Or Die Tryin’.

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Radio 1’s Big Weekend 2015, review: ‘a celebration of fine music in the fine city’

Originally published by the Daily Telegraph.

Radio 1’s annual Big Weekend has always been the anomaly on the festival circuit: big on acts but short on stages, widely broadcast but exclusive on guest attendance.

An attempt to give local communities a slice of the festival pie typically reserved for the likes of Reading and Glastonbury, this year’s event found its home in Norwich, with more than half of its 50,000 free tickets reserved for locals.

As such, the weekend was marked by a certain sense of community, evident not only from the residents lucky enough to introduce acts onstage but also by Snoop Dogg, who wore a Norwich City FC shirt for his tent-packing performance. Indeed, Earlham Park remained proud and upbeat despite a cancellation from Sam Smith on account of a vocal hemorrhage.

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