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Showing posts from 2008

Paul Haig

Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh, Sun 13 April 2008 4 stars Almost thirty years after Josef K split up, the return of the band’s singer in his first full live solo show for nineteen years is a major event. With Haig’s old band finally acknowledged as a major influence on a new generation of artfully inclined guitar acts, it’s a chance too to see how the original songs have survived. Following recent guest slots with Nouvelle Vague, there remains a worry that Haig might be upstaged by the indie disco that precedes him. As it is, the flamboyant salute he opens this first leg of a mini tour that takes in Glasgow and Dunfermline next month with is a healthy sign of nerves and dry self-deprecation. Wielding a fire engine red guitar and sporting tinted shades and the skinniest jeans this side of Kate Moss, Haig and the band who accompanied him on last year’s Cathode Ray project launch into the punk funk of Trouble Maker, opening track of the just-released Go Out Tonight album. In a set split fift

Spinning A Yarn - Grid Iron in Dundee

The tour guide at Verdant Works is doing the rounds. The weather outside Dundee’s old jute mill turned heritage centre may be inclement, but, immaculately turned out in top hat, tails and elegantly groomed silver moustache, he looks ready for anything. Leading his party Pied Piper-like through the museum’s tea and gift shop, the guide’s outfit lends him the authoritative air of a nineteenth century industrialist. The show-room dummies posed in various shades of grey who line his route concur. Inside Verdant Works itself, makeshift catwalks are being contrived among equally off-limits looms that once span with life, but which are now educational ornaments to remind visitors of their former function. Across in the court-yard, with the Sun shining down past where the roof used to be, Grid Iron theatre company are rehearsing Yarn, their latest site-specific show. Music is playing, and, as the six actors gingerly parade their way around the space, navigating the puddles as they go, a low-k

Giant Tank vs The Fringe 2007

Edinburgh’s premiere promoters of aktionist noise happenings commemorate a decade of cottage industry chunder with three bloody Sundays of non-Fringe-based hissy fits. Five reasons for their essentialness follow. 1 It’s not music. It’s just noise And there is nothing like it. The events feature Wire magazine-approved acts from Paris, Brighton and Leeds, including several you may or may not have ever heard of. Do Ashtray Navigations, Ocelocelot, Shareholder, Towering Breaker, Made Out Of Wool, Eye Shaking Kingdom, Blue Sabbath Black Fiji, Muscletusk or Playground Meltdown ring any bells? 2 Its not big. Or clever But at various times it promises a stomach-churning, vomit-inducing, spiteful, ugly and puerile racket. All of which are to be encouraged. 3 It repeats itself Usurper play three times, though you won’t always hear them. The GT house band scritch, scratch, bubble and squeak as the quietest unplugged act ever. 4 It’s got the best merchandise stall on the planet An array of ha


Spies In The Wires@Cabaret Voltaire, Edinburgh, Thu June 14 2007 4 stars The whiff of freshly heated maize that accompanies Sellotape’s vocal version of Hot Butter’s 1972 electro-disco hit, Popcorn (the first ever totally synthesiser-based single to chart, pop-pickers), may take its subject matter literally, but it’s still a lot more subtle than Crazy Frog’s pummelling desecration of one of the catchiest ditties in pop history. Fronted by uber-bobbed girl about town and PVC-panted mein hostess of the Girlelectro night at super student hang-out The Southern, Viki Sellotape, Sellotape the band do that Rough Trade circa 1978 Ladbroke Grove squat rock shamble. Making their live debut, they go hell for, um, leather with an energetic and unstudied bounce through the DIY post-punk messthetics handbook. Think Kleenex or the Delta Five, with an in-built ramshackleness tempered by a vocal style betraying a smidgen of Siouxsie Sioux. It’s the contents of the popcorn making machine, though, whi

Gay Against You

The Subway, Edinburgh, Mon 11 Sep 2006 3 stars What to do with a sparse audience on a soggy Monday night? If you’re electro-saccharine noise terrorists Gay Against You, you drag all 20-odd onstage with you, thus immediately quelling the venue’s structural awkwardness. In G.A.Y.’s world of playground chalkboard subversion, audience participation has never been so much fun. Clad in micro-shorts and 118 118 running vests, these two little boys hurl themselves into their routine with a recklessly scattershot abandon that might fall apart any second. More than mere comedy gabba, this is how Prince would’ve sounded if he’d been born a hyperactive Gameboy addicted runt, soaked in sugar, and spewed up the vilest tones a Casio can conjure. The List, issue 560, 2 Oct 2006 ends

Instal08 - 6 Reasons Why

The Arches, Glasgow, Fri 15-Sun 17 Feb 2008 Instal’s three day festival of left-field sound has consistently revisited ideas explored by the avant-garde half a century ago. This year they focus particularly on attempted subversions of bog-standard us-n’them gig protocol in a multitude of ways. 1 Personal Space – You’ll have missed Edinburgh minimalists Usurper performing in a skip beside cartoonist Bud Neill’s Lobey Dosser statue of cartoonist in Glasgow’s west end, but if you’re quick you’ll still catch Blood Stereo’s pilgrimage to the Blackburn community hall they grew up beside. 2 Self-Cancellation – In which founder of auto-destructive art Gustav Metzger co-opts musicians such as John Butcher and Rhodri Davis to negate the creative act itself. Tubas will be filled with sand. Ice will melt. 3 Translation – Sound poetry and sound art snuggle up via poet Kenneth Goldsmith, text-based artist Simon Morris and others rewiring the word. 4 Energy Births Form – A wig-out by any other n

Instal06 - Born Free?

The Arches, Glasgow, Fri 13-Sun 15 Oct 2006 Instal, the annual festival of experimental music in Glasgow, has attracted equal amounts of flack and praise in its six year existence. Critic Neil Cooper and Instal curator Barry Esson go head to head to debate its pros and cons in a virtual dialogue. Neil Cooper Instal’s now in its sixth year, and has grown considerably since it started. I’m not convinced, though, that bigger is necessarily better. Barry Esson If you’re into this kind of music already, then of course you’ll be happy to see more of it. If you don’t know much about it and fancy trying to find out more, then if there are more acts, over a wider range of styles then hopefully you’ve got an even better chance of finding something you love. NC When Instal started, Le Weekend in Stirling and Free RadiCCAls at the CCA were running. Now, there’s Kill Your Timid Notion, Subcurrent and Dialogues. That’s a very crowded arena for what’s essentially a small marketplace for ‘left fie

Uni And Her Ukelele

Fence Club 2 @ The Caves, Edinburgh, Thu 14 June 2007 The ukelele’s place in contemporary pop is usually resigned to playing second, um, fiddle to more conventional, less novelty-inclined instrumentation. Where George Formby and Tiny Tim’s eccentric schtick was strictly Kodachrome, however, Uni And Her Ukelele, aka Heather Marie Ellison, is a day-glo riot of candy-coloured tutu, kids TV presenter tights and sparkly silver eye make-up. The San Francisco belle may be at the bottom of the bill of this latest and increasingly homogenised Fence Records love-in, but, with her uke Sally Luka in tow, she’s by far the most interesting thing on it. Because, behind the rosy-cheeked apparel, chorus girl ditziness and wonky dance moves, is a handbag full of classic 1960s girl pop that could have shimmied out of The Brill Building, loaded up on bubblegum and busked its way into your heart with would-be Wall Of Sound power-pop show-tunes pared back to one-gal-band basics. Somehow, miraculously, Uni


Optimo@Sub Club, Glasgow, 1 April 2007 When Blurt play Optimo on April Fool’s Day, it will be vocalist/sax player Ted Milton’s first Glasgow performance since supporting the late Ian Dury at the now demolished Apollo almost 30 years ago. That was in the guise of Mr Pugh’s Velvet Glove Show, a demented Punch and Judyesque puppet act Milton fronted for 15 years prior to forming his No Wave-styled trio. Since an inspired appearance by Mr Pugh on Factory Records boss Tony Wilson’s TV show ‘So It Goes’ led to a brief tenure on the label, Blurt have released more than 20 under-the-radar albums. Highlights, including their magnificently titled debut single, ‘My Mother Was A Friend Of An Enemy Of The People,’ can be found on two essential ‘Let It Blurt’ best-ofs. It’s a long way from Milton’s original calling as a bookbinder and poet, whose work appeared in The Paris Review and seminal 1960s UK Beat compendium, Children Of Albion. Milton’s subsequent saxophonic epiphany, however, proved to

Trash Fashion/586

Spies In The Wires@Cabaret Voltaire, Edinburgh Thu 10 May 2007 How smarty-pants London quintet 586’s charming concoction of shouty, dancy pop-pummelling got itself hijacked by the smattering of glow-sticks-to-the-max joke-New Rave trendies in evidence tonight is Scooby-gang mysterious. Six months back they’d have been hailed as post-punk pastichists extraordinaire. Then again, as with many of their compadres emanating from that particular cultural blip, 586’s sound is actually pre-punk, their reedy confection of mid-70s dressing-up-box dramatics and fair-ground boy/girl Dub more resembling that long-lost missing link between Glam and New Wave, Deaf School. To be applauded, then. 586’s finest moment, ‘Saying My Name,’ may be the result of drug-n’-cheese induced paranoia, but in terms of over-ripe Cheddar, Trash Fashion prove themselves as equally willing to embrace self-parody as they are in the YouTube-available mockumentary highlighting their east London antics in a manner more rese

Le Weekend 2007

Tolbooth, Stirling, 25-27 May 2007 Experimental music festivals are currently so voluminous as to arguably be considered more over-ground than under. When Le Weekend first set the trend back in 1998, however, the landscape was a very different place to the one its tenth anniversary three-day wig-out now occupies. The previously strict demarcation between free jazz, electronica and a then fledgling noise scene has this year given way to an array anything-goes approach. So, just as Falkirk pianist Bill Wells introduces Teenage Fanclub’s Norman Blake to a collaboration with trombonist Annie Whitehead, To Rococo Rot’s Stefan Schneider and electronicist Barbara Morgenstern, Phantom Orchard unites harpist Zeena Parkins with Ikue Mori, once drummer with New York No Wave pioneers, DNA. Beyond such an inclusive roster are three especially exciting Le Weekend commissions. The One Ensemble Orchestra’s debut live show finds Volcano The Bear’s Daniel Padden fleshing out his low-key improvisat

Tatsuya Nakatani, Raymond MacDonald and Neil Davidson

Classic Anxiety Dream@The Meadow Bar, Edinburgh, Mon 18 July 2007 4 stars Last time Edinburgh hosted a weekly improv night was in the mid 1990s, when Lindsay Cooper’s Free Underground took over Monday nights at Henry’s Cellar Bar. Classic Anxiety Dream occupies similar terrain, and, judging by the amount of bodies squeezed into The Meadow Bar’s bijou upstairs function room, is filling a serious gap in the musical calendar. Nakatani is a Japanese, New York based percussionist who previously worked with Glasgow based sax player MacDonald and guitarist Davidson on the recent Aporias album. The final date of this UK tour finds the trio exploring similar percussive avenues, as Nakatani largely eschews conventional drumming in favour of bowls, gongs and rocks, while Davidson attacks his fret-board with a paint stripper and MacDonald skitters busily into his horn. For the second set, Phil Bancroft adds melodious tenor sax. Sods law, Classic Anxiety Dream moves to The Wash on The Mound f

Birchville Cat Motel

Tremors@Stills Gallery, Edinburgh, Wed 10 January 2007 4 stars Last time Stills Gallery white-not-quite-cubed space played host to live music was in 1998, when Quebecois baroque apocalypsists Godspeed You! Black Emperor marked their low-key live UK debut before a phone box capacity audience (ignore the 8 million who claim to have been there – they’re liars) by attracting the attention of the local constabulary before blowing the gallery’s fuse-box . This is only mentioned because, 8 years on, New Zealand’s noise conjurer Campbell Kneale, on the second date of his Scottish central belt sojourn, manages to avoid both interventions, despite being twice as loud as his forbears. Not only that, the 100-plus in attendance demonstrate just how much the climate has broadened. Then again, with a slowly insistent martial pounding providing backbone and shape to the brain-bending layers of noise fizzing out from Kneale’s box of tricks, this is cheerfully old school industrial sturm-und-drang. B

Sixteen/The Severed Head Of Comrade Bukhari

The Arches, Glasgow - Tue 9-13 April 2008 Sex, violence and other-not-so cheap thrills have long provided outlets for corruptible youth in search of unknown pleasures. That's certainly the case in this double bill of work provided by this year's winners of the Arches Award for Stage Directors. These two very different rites of passage suggest a bleakly inquiring collective psyche at play. Rob Drummond's Sixteen invites us to a coming-of-age party for the absent Sara, who plans to celebrate the occasion by having sex with her older boyfriend, Tony. He sits downstairs with Sara's mum and dad, whom age has withered into a frustrated impasse of sexual dysfunction and double entendres. Played in real time in the hour leading up to midnight, the increasingly oddball exchanges reveal Drummond as a purveyor of nouveau absurdism, made all the ickier in domestic close-up. In The Severed Head of Comrade Bukhari, Daljinder Singh takes a script by Oliver Emanuel (for which she pr

Tony Wilson

Born February 20 1950; died August 10 2007 Without Tony Wilson, or Anthony H Wilson as he styled himself when at his most pretentious, modern music, popular culture and urban regeneration simply wouldn’t exist in the same way. As the co-founder of Factory Records, which birthed Joy Division and Happy Mondays, two of the most influential bands of the late twentieth century to have grown out of Manchester’s post-punk scene, as founder of the world’s first super-club, The Hacienda, or as an iconoclastic broadcaster and motor-mouthed media pundit and bull-shitter immortalised by Steve Coogan in the film, 24-Hour Party People, Wilson’s flamboyant signature is embedded in a modern world which never quite repaid its debt or gave him the credit he deserved. With the Edinburgh International Film Festival screening of Control, Anton Corbjin’s biography of Joy Division singer Ian Curtis, who hanged himself aged 23 in 1980, less than a week away, Wilson’s death last week of a heart attack fol

They Shoot Horses, Don't They? - Citizens Theatre Community Company

People Are The Ultimate Spectacle. So read the tag-line of Sidney Pollack’s 1970 film, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? Set in Hollywood during the depression hit 1930s, this adaptation of Horace McCoy’s novel charted the fortunes of a group of contestants in a dance marathon, a public spectacle cum freak-show whereby those who could keep their feet in motion for weeks at a time would win a $1000 dollar prize. Some were movie star wannabes hoping to be spotted by any passing big-shot director. Elsewhere on the floor were circuit regulars, old timers who’d long since lost sight of their dreams and were addicted to the rush of the spotlight. Others were just grateful for a free meal. Almost 40 years on, things haven’t changed much. The biggest draws on prime time TV are reality shows populated by people desperate to be somebody. In the Citizens Theatre’s rehearsal room too, there’s a real sense of do or die in the air. A week before the theatre’s Community Company opens its production of

Back To The Barricades - Edinburgh International Festival 2008

There’s a whiff of old time radicalism in EIF’s theatre programming this year, and it’s not just about the stencilled lettering that headlines its eleven shows. In his second programme, Jonathan Mills has set an explicitly political agenda that crosses art-forms and generations as much as cultures. Heiner Goebbels wowed Edinburgh with his previous multi-media spectacles, Hashirigaki and Eraritjaritjaka. I Went To The House But Did Not Enter sees the return of the maverick director and composer in a collaboration with The Hilliard Ensemble. Where Hashirigaki mixed and matched The Beach Boys with Gertrude Stein, this still being developed production for Theatre Vidy-Lausanne looks to T.S. Eliot, Maurice Blanchot and Samuel Beckett to explore the meaning of the very naked ‘I.’ East West Theatre serve up a Bosnian language adaptation of Nigel Williams’ community theatre favourite, Class Enemy. Set in an unruly classroom where order has seriously broken down, this new production shifts t

Don Letts

Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh, April 12th 2008 What would you do if a voice of a generation ran off with your girlfriend? In the case of Don Letts, who introduced reggae to snotty nosed punks during his year zero residency at The Roxy, he understandably took the huff. Thirty years on, Letts has forgiven said cuckold, Clash frontman Joe Strummer, though it did mean he missed a now legendary Rock Against Racism gig at London’s Victoria Park. “I was young and all I could think of was my male pride,” Letts remembers today. “The bigger problems of the world were put on the back burner that day, but Rock Against Racism has survived, and is even more important today than it was then.” While Strummer is no longer with us, Letts will be Dj-ing at RAR’s 30th anniversary show at the same venue. He’ll also be popping into Edinburgh’s Voodoo Rooms for a Saturday night session to be savoured. “I describe my set as the history and legacy of Jamaican culture,” says a man who has made crucial celluloid st

Paul Haig

Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh, 13 April 2008 When Josef K named their solitary album ‘The Only Fun In Town’ in 1981, it was as dry a statement on Edinburgh nightlife as a band named after a Franz Kafka character could muster. Almost thirty years on, ex Josef K vocalist Paul Haig is still looking for that elusive good time on his equally arch ‘Go Out Tonight’ album. Its release also marks Haig’s first full live gig since 1989, and, after 15 years producing instrumental soundscapes, has seen him find his voice again in a full band situation. “It had to be done,” says Haig. “I get very nervous about these things, but I’m trying to approach it all in a more relaxed manner and not get too freaked out by it.” It’s been something of a low-key renaissance for Haig. 2007’s Josef K compilation, ‘Etymology,’ demonstrated their key influence on a new generation of jangular-guitared young men. Following his Cathode Ray project, Haig played special guest star at a tribute to his late friend, collabor

The Mother Ship

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Tue 25-Sat 29 March 2008 4 stars Douglas Maxwell has long charted the travails of terminal adolescents in search of themselves, and this new play for Birmingham Rep, continues the trend. The difference here, though, is that, in Gerry, the damaged kid who believes in the stories he’s told so hard that he’s about to be beamed up back to his home planet, Maxwell is extending the boundaries of his own world as well as his characters. It’s Gerry’s brother Eliot who the play concentrates on most, though, as he leads the chase to find his sibling, taking in his own rites of passage en route in an amphibious car left to the boys by their dead father. Also on board are Eliot’s pregnant step-mum, a police-man called Constable, Eliot’s lifeguard best mate and a girl who writes pornographic fiction in homage to her space-boy heroes. All wrapped up in layers of obsessive science-fiction geekery, Ben Payne’s production is a playfully inventive delight which, on Chloe L

Single Spies

Kings Theatre, Edinburgh, 24-29 March 2008 3 stars The 1930s Cambridge spy ring suggested that signing up to the KGB was a useful alternative to making satirical whoopee elsewhere. Which is what may have piqued ex Oxford Revue defector Alan Bennett’s interest. His 1988 double bill of one-act plays aren’t really concerned with the cloak-and-dagger derring-do of why Guy Burgess and Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures Anthony Blunt became traitors. Rather, by imagining real-life incidents, cause and effect are scrutinised in a very personal manner. Originally a television film, An Englishman Abroad finds exiled drunk Burgess forming an alliance with actress Coral Browne, who the old soak entrusts to deliver a little bit of the old country in the shape of a brand new suit and some pyjamas. In A Question Of Attribution, Blunt divides his time between his new handlers back in Blighty and the Courtauld Institute’s hallowed halls when an unplanned audience with HMQ ensues. Both pieces remain as

The Apprentice

Oran Mor, Glasgow - Mon 24-Sat 29 March 2008 4 stars Two men in black walk into a cheap hotel room with a contract to fulfil. All buttoned-up in classic gangster chic, old hand Carter and new boy Johnson await their prey. Carter knows the rules inside out, and has little to say on the subject. Johnson is a bag of nerves, and has yet to absorb the old-fashioned protocols of his recently acquired profession. Over increasingly tense exchanges in the pair’s accidental waiting room, however, things change. Martin McCardie’s blisteringly understated two-hander is Harold Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter reimagined for a post Tarantino generation. Here, though, all self-conscious stylistic ironies are scraped off the verbal riffing and renewed menaces put in their place for good measure. It’s a brilliantly precise piece of writing for Oran Mor’s ongoing A Play, A Pie and a Pint season of lunchtime plays. Stuart Davids’ perfectly paced production is awash with cinematic attention to detail in both its

Arches Award For Stage Directors 2008

One of the best things about the Arches Award For Stage Directors Awards since they were set up several years ago is the breadth of work it allows. With a brief for its two winners to concentrate on new work presented as an original idea rather than a finished script, participants can utilise a variety of methodologies. These can vary from taking total ownership of the project from its inception, to employing outside artists in a more collaborative venture. Results have been varied, although the award, now run in association with The Traverse Theatre and the National Theatre of Scotland, has consistently provided early showcases for some of the brightest talents around. These include Davey Anderson, Cora Bisset, Adrian Osmond and Neil Doherty. Significantly, all are noted for taking a polymath’s attitude towards theatre making, with all four having worked between them as writer, actor or composer as well as directors of self-generated work. This year’s Arches winners are typically di

Vanity Fair

Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh - Sat 14 March-Sat 12 April 3 stars The way cultural cycles go, it takes something like a quarter of a century for once radical ideas to trickle into the mainstream. It certainly looks that way in Tony Cownie’s revival of Declan Donnelan’s 1983 adaptation of Thackerey’s novel, penned for his then fledgling Cheek By Jowl company. There are times in this tale of two young womens’ parallel lives in nineteenth century society when the dust-sheets which unveil the action are the most revealing thing about it. Because, while there’s nothing inherently wrong in this slickly realised, elegantly fluid depiction of nice girl Amelia and opportunistic, proto-Thatcherite survivor Becky, it all looks like its been brought to life after a long sleep. The representational, parlour-room approach splits the sprawling third-person narrative between seven actors who multi-task like bilio. At the play’s posh-frocked heart,, Sophia Linden’s Becky is a vivacious bad girl to K

Barry Adamson

Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh - Tue 1 April 2008 3 stars Barry Adamson is a dude. Just how far this purveyor of imaginary soundtracks has shifted has from his original role as left-field bassist of choice with Magazine and Nick Cave’s Bad Seeds is demonstrated by the appearance of a range of Barry Adamson knickers on the merchandise stall. Adamson’s new album, Back To The Cat, is served up with similar bravado on this, his first ever tour to launch it. These days looking not unlike Isaac Hayes, Adamson has clearly studied genre inside-out, if not the off-the-cuff banter that would make him the showman he so longs to be. The impeccable old-time arrangements of his six piece band, however, more than compensate. Whether swinging through the dirty burlesque of new single Spend A Little Time, acknowledging Shadow Of Death Hotel’s instrumental nod to Primal Scream’s Loaded or else letting rip with the Country Soul of Civilisation, Adamson throws shapes like all his Vegas idols rolled into one. T

Steve Reid Ensemble

Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh - Wed 19 March 2008 4 stars Veteran drummer Steve Reid’s ongoing collaboration with folktronicist Kieran Hebden, aka Fourtet, put Reid squarely back in the front-line with three appealingly meandering sets of 21st century fusion. This has given Reid’s own ensemble a higher profile, and a chance with last year’s Daxaar album, recorded in Senegal, to get back into the groove on a much wider platform. Only Reid, Hebden and Russian keyboardist and Daxaar’s musical director Boris Netsvetaev survive the album in this thrilling show, which exposes an even fresher line-up that’s not just pan-global, but pan-generational too. Reid’s introduction references Vietnam and Iraq before he launches into the album’s title track, its crisp, organ dominated Afro-Beat here veering off on all sorts of tangents the album version barely touches. This sets the tone for a set of glorious reinventions, with Joe Rigby’s lead saxes and flute more than making up for the absence of Roger

Trick Or Treat? - The Wrestling

America has turned the traditional Saturday afternoon wrestling bout into a multi-million pound industry that has little to do with the era of Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks. Has this much-loved sport now become too manufactured, conning the kids who idolise today's wrestlers? It's Friday tea-time, and Edinburgh's Meadowbank Stadium is about to witness something out of the ordinary. The first hint of things to come is when a boy, aged no more than 10, scrambles his way to the box office, a #10 note clutched in his hand, and purchases the last of 2000 tickets for the evening's entertainment. ''American wrestling,'' the kid murmurs, with the emphasis on the word American, because that's what it says on the poster. He's seen the pantomime of WWF on Sky, and felt the adrenaline buzz roar through him when Stone Cold Steve Austin whips The Undertaker, and now he's here to see the real thing - live and kicking. ''Wrestling's full of

Gripping Stuff - The Wrestling

ONCE upon a time, everyone knew about The Wrestling. Mick McManus, Big Daddy, Giant Haystacks, Kendo Nagasaki. Once upon a time they were household names, these larger than life cartoon characters with cauliflower ears, bad tempers and, judging by the punishment theyappeared to be soaking up back when ITV's World of Sport beamed these battle-royals into living rooms across the land, unfeasibly high pain thresholds. Saturdays at four o'clock were sacred, and everyone had their favourite, even if it was only to poke fun at the parade of sweaty, overweight men in ridiculous costumes who looked like they'd be more at home on a building site than in a gladiatorial arena. Then there was the hard-core, the ringside Johnnies and the little old ladies who flocked to the live shows week in, week out, travelling the country like a bad impression of a football supporters club. TheFairfield Halls, Croydon; Manchester Belle Vue; Liverpool Stadium: top venues all, where, unlike on the te