Throughout ‘Since I Saw You Last’ there are clues that Barlow is taking notes from Britain’s pop success stories, old and new. Opener ‘Requiem’ has more than a hint of Sgt Pepper-era Macca; a mid-record lull comes courtesy of Sir Cliff; and in the more up-to-date moments of ‘Let Me Go’ and ‘This House’ there’s a strong whiff of Mumford. The difficulty lies in Barlow’s too finely honed skills as a musical chameleon: despite its presence on a gamut of hits from the last 20 years, his voice is entirely anonymous. This leaves us feeling slightly like we’re being serenaded by a well-suited mortgage advisor.
The eagerly-awaited Elton John duet, ‘Face to Face’, is an all-Elton disco number, and whilst it offers a welcome injection of spangly fun in a largely buttoned-up album, it also serves as a reminder that Gazza lacks even a hint of Elton’s idiosyncratic flair. The high points of ‘Since I Saw You Last’ affirm Barlow’s status as a deft crowd pleaser: ‘God’ could be the closing number in a hit West End show, while ‘More Than Life’ displays the rousing joy of some of Take That’s recent hits. But even in the album’s more exciting moments, Gary sounds a little lonely. It’s hard not to yearn for the ‘ooh’s and ‘aah’s of Robbie and the gang. Buy this album here
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The Blues Kitchen Shoreditch
This Curtain Road venue is close in style and sentiment to its big sister, The Blues Kitchen over in Camden. Expect, then, a restaurant, bar and music venue with a hefty Stateside influence - from its bourbon and its barbecues all the way to its blues. Music does have a big part to play here. There's live artists pretty much every night of the week, with everything from rock 'n' roll to swing, motown, roots and even gospel complementing all that smokey blues. Keep an eye out for nights where food and music combine in happy harmony - think bargain ribs gnawed to a soundtrack of soul. An in-house barbecue, with meats smoked over fruit woods in their own fire pit, is kept busy - orders of beef brisket, smoked chicken, short beef ribs and burnt ends glazed with a beer and hickory barbecue sauce prove popular. Burgers, chilli, lobster, gumbo and a catfish jambalaya also feature.
Venue says: “'Free wing Fridays' between 5-7pm at the Blues Kitchen Shoreditch. Come down and get your wing on!”