Metromagazine29 October 2005

Published: 04 August 2005
Previews: Beth Nielsen Chapman, Supergrass, Urban Oasis
MOST new musical stars nowadays are so hyped before they even release a song that we know more about them than about their music.

Not so Beth Neilsen Chapman.

A straw poll reveals few people recognise the name, but it's impossible to have been an earth-dweller for the last few years and not to have heard some of her musical creations.

As well as having written songs and melodies for artists such as Neil Diamond, Willie Nelson and Bette Midler, her compositions have featured in ER, Dawson's Creek and films such as Calendar Girls.

This songwriting success has clearly relieved the pressure to seek commercial acclaim as a performer, and Chapman clearly makes whatever music she wants to - the latest offering being a collection of Latin Hymns.

Since her first in 1980, Chapman has released several albums of her own work but she didn't really become famous, even in her native America, until 1997 when Elton John performed her track Sand and Water to express his grief about the death of Princess Diana.

Brought up as an all-American air force brat, Chapman is a widow, whose husband Ernest died of lymphoma in 1994, and much of her work deals with grief and loss.

Some of it's a bit miserable, but her show has had great responses elsewhere. And it's a great departure in the image-obsessed music world to think that it's still possible for somebody to be really famous without anyone knowing what they look like, so she's probably worth seeing. Academy, Wednesday.

AN ORIGINAL way of getting around the city centre ban on street drinking is available in the Northern Quarter.

The area is hosting an art installation which claims to bring the tranquility of nature into the city - and fortunately also involves drinking beer.

Fresh from being displayed in London, the Hoegaarden Urban Oasis has now been put in place in Dale Street.

The installation is designed to look like a pub growing out of a turf carpet. The bar will be completely covered in grass, while tables and chairs will appear to be at various different stages of growth.

Keep of the grass signs will be placed around the installation, and a jukebox will be belting out the soothing sounds of nature instead of Britney Spears.

The idea is the brain-child of The Office of Subversive Architecture, whose previous projects have included making a redundant signal box look like a suburban home, and who say their installation "challenges the relationship between urban and natural environments and looks at the effect this manipulation of space has on city dweller.

They go on to say it is "a physical and mental oasis for urbanites to step into, interact with and unwind from city life."

The good news is, as it has all been sponsored by the makers of Hoegaarden, large quantities of the Belgian wheat beer will be on hand to accompany the obligatory chin-stroking. until Wednesday.

MANCHESTER'S arch muso headquarters seems an unlikely place for the former britpop kings to premier their new work.

However, Supergrass have moved on a long way from singing about having fags and putting them out.

The trio are embarking on a tour of smaller, more intimate venues to introduce the world to their fifth album The Road to Rouen. Singer Gaz Coombes admits the plan, to play acoustic versions of the songs and show a more musical side, is something they have never tried before.

The band are better known for electric live performances, leaping manically about festival stages as they belt out a series of ludicrously catchy three-chord wonders.

But although the band have said the new album will have a "funkier" sound than previous releases, the sneak preview we've already heard, piano ballad St Petersburg, does suggest a - gulp - more mature direction. This may not be a bad thing. While Oasis continue to plough a familiar-sounding furrow, Blur and Pulp have ensured their survival by morphing into something completely unrecognisable from their chirpy mid-90s selves. With songs like Moving, Supergrass have already proved they have more about them than many first assumed. And you don't really want a bunch of 30-somethings singing about teenage drug busts and keeping their teeth nice and clean. RNCM Monday.

A CHANCE to see new work by emerging artists is on offer at the Royal Exchange.

The third annual Blue includes extracts from emerging artists' latest projects, including new writing, puppetry and poetry.

Friday's performance includes a dark adult version of Three Little Pigs and puppetry work from HooHah Productions. Saturday will see two rehearsed readings of new work in progress from Sandra Yaw and Pam Leeson, and Latin compositions from Cucumba Rumba.

For more information visit