New season: Norwich Arts Centre

TREVOR HEATON, EDP Whats On Editor Norwich Arts Centre continues its reputation as one of the most eclectic – and busiest – venues in East Anglia with another diverse programme lined up. TREVOR HEATON takes a peek.

TREVOR HEATON, EDP Whats On Editor

Theatre, comedy and tons of great music is the successful mix at Norwich Art Centre, a formula which makes the converted church off St Benedict's one of the region's sparkiest venues.

The spring programme promises more of the same, with music across a huge range of genres with the likes of Chris Difford, Nerina Pallot, Soweto Kinch and the James Taylor Quartet - plus top comedy with John Shuttleworth and Perrier Award-winning Laura Solon.

The rock and pop category gets under way with Norwich six-piece outfit - and arts centre regulars - Bearsuit (April 10, tickets £5 adv/£6 door), with more stop-start quirky punk. PJ Harvey collaborator John Parish brings his beautiful yet dark experimental music to the venue on April 26 (£7/£8).

One of the strangest offcuts of the new wave movement was the emergence of American art band Devo, who succeeded in putting the unlikely location of Akron, Ohio, on the musical map. On May 8 the show Beautiful Mutants (ticket prices tba) - featuring Globo - pays tribute to Devo founder Mark Mothersbaugh, who went on to compose soundtracks for the likes of The Rugrats and The Life Aquatic. This is the launch event for the first UK showing of Mothersbaugh's photographic collages, and it's hoped he will be on hand for a Q&A session.

Fridge bassist Adem, who plays on May 16 (£7/£8), uses everything from acoustic guitars to children's toys, overlaid with delicate vocals.

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One of Britain's greatest songwriters, Chris Difford, will call in on May 25 (£10/ concs £8) in a joint gig with Australian singer Lisa Fitzgibbon. Chris, with Glen Tilbrook, wrote Squeeze's much-loved hits including Take Me I'm Yours, Cool For Cats, Up the Junction and Labelled With Love. His latest solo album is I Didn't Get Where I Am.

With echoes of classic singer-songwriters such as Joni Mitchell or Tori Amos, Nerina Pallot (May 31, £10/£11) presents pure pop songs with lush string arrangements.

Vini Reilly's long-running project The Durutti Column has been making music since the very first days of the hugely-influential Factory label. On June 2 (£14/£15) he'll be highlighting tracks from his latest album, Keep Breathing.

Jazz kicks off on April 23 with a double bill featuring Jonny Phillips' Oriole and the Ingrid Laubrock Quintet, which feature a common core of Ben Davis (cello), BBC Jazz Award nominee Ingrid (sax) and Mercury Award nominee Sebastian Rochford (drums). Tickets £10, concs £8.

The brilliant Soweto Kinch will be in concert on May 3 in one of the new season's hottest tickets. With a Mercury Music Prize nomination, Mobo Best Jazz Act and BBC Radio Jazz Award wins under his belt, he will bring his love of straight jazz plus his genre-crossing funky hip-hop and rap vocals. Tickets £14 and concs £12.

Excellent musicians Tango Siempre, saxophonist Gilad Atzmon and drummer/remixer Steve Argüelles join forces in Tangents - New Directions in Tango on May 5 (£10/concs £8). Then there's the groovy jazz-funk of the excellent James Taylor Quartet on June 23, on their 20th birthday tour. Tickets £14/concs £12.

World music fans have plenty of choice in the new season too.

Award-winning Terrafolk (April 6, £12/concs £10) combine ethnic European folk and punk energy, while Rory McLeod (June 8, £8/concs £6) is a veritable one-man world music phenomenon.

Lo'Jo - led by singer and songwriter Denis Péan - blend French musette, chanson, African, Arabic, gipsy, dub, funk and jazzical sounds. Sounds intriguing - find out more on June 14 (£12/concs £10).

Making a return visit (July 29, £10/concs £8) to the NAC is Celloman, a six-piece band led by Ivan Hussey, which has performed extensively in festivals an concert halls and brings together Middle Eastern and African rhythms.

Folk fans can enjoy two acts in May. On the second there's the all-energy Celtic Fiddle Festival, featuring Kevin Burke, Christian Lemaître and André Brunet. Tickets £10, concs £8.

Then, on May 9, it's award-winning flautist and piper Michael McGoldrick (£12/concs £10). Blues lovers will lap up the April 22 visit of Benjamin Darvell, aka Son of Dave (tickets £6/£7).

The sounds of Americana come to the venue on May 6 with the Deadstring Brothers (£7/£8) creating a music which blends flavours of Hank Williams, Gram Parsons and Jeff Buckley.

Then, on June 1, it's an acoustic set from Alejandro Escovedo and his band, featuring songs from his new John Cale-helmed CD The Boxing Mirror. Tickets are £12, concs £10.

A busy music line-up then - but there's more.

Take comedy for example.

Graham Fellows brings his marvellous comic creation, Sheffield singer-songwriter John Shuttleworth to the venue on April 24. It's his first local show for years, so expect tickets (£7, concs £5) to be in demand. John will be introducing Martin Parr's spoof documentary It's Nice Up North, in which John visits the Shetland Isles. Oof!

And current Perrier winner Laura Solon will be in demand too. She's appearing on June 13 with her hit show which sees Laura take on nine oddball personas in a show brimming with on-the-money one-liners.

There's comedy nights on April 11 and May 24 with cult favourites The Book Club, who blend everything from accordion versions of Queen and Radiohead to live Boggle, bizarre readings - and stand-up. Tickets £8, concs £6.

Theatrical highlights include The Glassblower That Sucked (April 5) - imagine Spinal Tap meets the New Romantic era - Lakeside's presentation of Krapp's Last Tape by Samuel Beckett (April 19) and the return of innovative hi-tech company pirateutopia.org with their 21st-century take on Much Ado About Nothing (May 4).

Look out, too, for poetry favourite Wendy Cope (July 13) with more witty and sometimes moving verse about the sounds of the suburbs.

t Ticket details from the box office 01603 660352 or visit www.norwichartscentre.co.uk

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