Tuesday, 31 July 2007

'The Car Man' at Sadlers Wells

Matthew Bourne's 'The Car Man' (subtitled, 'Bizet's Carmen re-imagined') at Sadler's Wells helped me say farewell to July tonight. Hot, sweaty and sexy, full of energy and movement with every corner of the stage in motion.

Set in small-town America (population 375) in the '50s, the action is based around a garage and diner run by a gawky owner with a beautiful wife who strays when a drifter appears to work in the garage. The drifter not only causes the wife to stray but also seduces the young hired-hand and shags him in a car leading to both the wife and the hired-hand dancing in ecstacy and the joys of new-found love. Oh, if only life continued in this vein for the small town but, needless to say, it doesn't.

This was an excellent production (as you'd expect) with slick choreography, simple but effective sets and a glorious and atmospheric interpretation of Bizet's music. I liked the mingling of sexual preferences from the start (two of the garage hands are obviously lovers, others seem ambiguous) and was slightly puzzled at the quiet ripple of 'ooohhs' from sections of the audience at the first man-to-man kiss during a play fight.

The continual movement on stage kept the pace going, with characters doing something in the corners of the stage while the centre was telling the story, only slowing for a few set pieces when the dancers were left centre-stage. Sexual tension littered the stage with touching and seduction and bodies supine after sex. Darkness and danger are never far from the surface though, and we witness a rather distressing prison rape scene, which, from the bruises on the hired-hand's torso, suggests it's been a regular occurance, turning him hard and careless when he meets his own love again. In the end, however, small-town America takes care of its own.

I'm not a fan of dance at all but I like Matthew Bourne's productions. This is the third I've seen ('Swan Lake' and 'Play Without Words' were the others) and once again I've been rewarded by a thoughtful production that lifts the spirit. I'm looking forward to the next.


Well, I did say I was *bored*...

Friday, 27 July 2007

South Bank Afternoon

I've had a lovely afternoon wandering round the newly opened South Bank complex, the rain kept off and the sun even emerged a few times. I took lots of photos (that's a warning).

I had a nice long lunch and gossip with Wee Don Kerr, catching up on news and doings in Wagamamas and then wandered along to the National Theatre to see the insect circus museum and sit outside in the sun for coffee . The Insect Circus museum was wierd but fantastic at the same time, with little clockwork exhibits of snails pulling circus wagons and beetles running round the big top ring. Most strange and extraordinary and bursting with colour.

Wee Don scarpered and I went into the National Theatre bookshop for a browse. The National Theatre itself was like a mausoleum, cold and empty - I think I've only ever seen it buzzing before a performance before, it's a very different place in daylight. I got a small copy of Shakespeare's 'Sonnets' and the soundtrack to Matthew Bourne's 'Play Without Words' a totally groovy and moody '60s jazz score by Terry Davies.

I inspected the refurbished Royal Festival Hall and noticed an installation filling up the entire rear area of the ground floor, a maze made from soapboxes with handwritten notes all over with comments and messages from previous visitors. I noticed the saddest thing ever on leaving - an empty ice-cream stand pushed out of the way against a wall. Can anything be sadder than that?

Time for a wander along the south bank, people watching and thinking what a great city London can be. The big wheel dominating the riverscape, Parliament at one end and St Paul's visible in the distance, the cables of Hungerford Bridge, the living statues and the merry-go-round and hoardes of people enjoying the afternoon sun.

Then I noticed Antony Gormley, here, there and everywhere, casts of his naked body on the pavement and on top of buildings all round the place, so thought I'd go to see the 'Blind Light' exhibition at the Hayward Gallery. Now, I know I'm supposed to say it's all about spaces and distortion and all that stuff, but I think I'll just say it's wierd. Some of it wonderful, but still wierd.

I went inside the Blind Light whitebox for probably less than a minute, just a few steps and then stood and looked round. I know the whitebox was full of people but I couldn't see anyone - I couldn't see anything except white. Being slightly scared of slipping in the humidity, I exited sharply. Most odd. I liked the Space Station but I loved the Matrices and Expansions, masses of metal wires twisted and soldered with his body-shape inside. I also wondered at Drawn, with eight Antony's in the corners of a square room, most odd walking through that space. I didn't see the point in the Allotment but I loved Antony-spotting from the balconies, seeing his casts on roofs all over the place on the skyline. Naturally I took photos - I even took a few photos in the Hayward (without flash) until I was told very politely that photos weren't allowed (oops, sorry!). It's a great exhibition so if you get the chance to go you shouldn't miss it.

I then departed through the gallery shop for the mandatory postcards and wended my way back to Waterloo and onwards to home. A bit weary but pleased to be out and about for the first time in ages, just wandering round whichever way the breeze blew. I've been out a few times but those have been targeted adventures - there and back - with no wandering. I've *missed* wandering. I will do more in future. And thank you to Wee Don for the earlier entertainment!

So, here are some photos of my afternoon on the South Bank:

Thursday, 26 July 2007

Christmas in July

34 years since I first saw Slade (in Newcastle) and 26 years since I last saw them (in Cardiff), tonight it was a pleasure and a privilege to see them again as Slade strode onto the stage at the Cannizaro Park Festival in Wimbledon. Only Dave and Don are still there from the original line-up, with Mal McNulty on vocals and guitar and John Berry on bass and violin. Nobody could replace Nod and Jim but Mal and John give it good go and were a pleasure to see.

Opening with 'We'll Bring The House Down', the pace only slowed for 'Everyday', the mandatory 'slow song' in the set with a massive crescendo with 'Get Down And Get With It' to close. They played my favourites from the glory years, 'Take Me Bak 'Ome' and 'Mama Weer All Crazee Now' both got me singing along, and clapping as instructed by Dave. I was surprised by 'Coz I Luv You' (my first Slade single from 1971) with John on violin and a rousing version of 'Far Far Away'. From the '80s were 'My Oh My' and 'Run Run Away' but I was more thrilled by the earlier songs.

Don was a dynamo on drums, the man never stopped! Head down, he just pounded away on his drums like a thing possessed, almost as if once he slowed down he wouldn't get back up to speed. Now there's a role model for modern drummers! And Dave strutted round the stage just like in olden days, one arm aloft encouraging the crowd while he played with one hand, guitar riffs right, left and centre. He changed guitar at one point and came on with a new SuperYob guitar with little blue lights in the frett! Wow! He's the original SuperYob!

The encore was a great version of 'Cum On Feel The Noize' and, naturally, 'Merry Xmas Everybody' with Dave in Santa Claus hat! The crowd wildly singing along to 'Merry Xmas' in July in Wimbledon, a wierd but wonderful thought, and Dave wished us a merry Christmas and peace.

Highlights for me were stonking versions of 'Gudbuy T'Jane' and 'Take Me Bak 'Ome', great songs, powerfully played by a powerful - and loud - band. I had a big smile plastered across my face for most of the gig and I was close enough to the stage to catch Dave's eye a few times. He won't remember me at all but I remember him. They were great fun and a good-time band which is what they always were, giving the audience a great night out.

After all these years, at last I've been Slayed again!

Woman's Hour Punks Out

My daily routine over the past couple of months has included listening to Woman's Hour on Radio 4 on weekday mornings. This morning I was only half listening when I heard a voice and started paying attention - Poly Styrene!

There was an interesting article about a new book by Helen Reddington, 'The Lost Women Of Rock Music: Female Musicians Of The Punk Era' and that caught my attention. What a great idea for a book and for a radio article (a TV series would be even better, of course). Exerpts of music and bits of chat with various punky types - X-Ray Spex, The Adverts, The Slits and loads more. No Siouxsie, though (but she was never 'lost'). It should make for a good read - but not at £55. I'll wait for the paperback edition.

The article should be available on Radio 4s 'listen again' facility at some point so try for it here.

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Vain Thing

I am a vane thing, vein I tell you, vain. Like, I get a beard and I get snap happy with my phone. Then I not only get it trimmed but I also get new glasses - on the same day no less - and *click* there's no stopping me.

Well, that's the result. Um, I'll just get some more dandelion and burdock pop from the fridge while you mull over the result. My new glasses are varifocals (yes, I am old) so it'll take a little while to get used to them but they do seem marvellous so far.

Monday, 23 July 2007


I've had some exciting news today about the next Sensational Alex Harvey Band (SAHB) tour, nicely titled 'Hail Vibrania!'. I've already got my ticket for the December gig at Islington and they're using that gig to play the whole of the 'Framed' album, quite an exciting idea. The message from SAHB's MySpace reports:

This December sees SAHB embark on the all new "Hail Vibrania" Tour. Every night promises to be a bit different, however, there are 2 extremely special shows that will NOT happen on any other night of the tour.On Wednesday 12 December, at London's Islington Academy, SAHB will perform, for ONE NIGHT ONLY, the entire FRAMED album, from start to finish. This will include special stage show and full brass section. An unbelievable night that is not to be missed - Get your tickets now from www.ticketweb.co.uk.

And on Friday 14 December, for SAHB's annual Xmas show at the Glasgow ABC, as well as being the usual fun packed exciting evening, SAHB will also preview some of the BRAND NEW Material from the forthcoming HAIL VIBRANIA album. You've been asking for this for a couple of years, and now Zal and the boys mean to deliver - IN TRUE SAHB STYLE!!!!!!!! Tickets are available from www.abcglasgow.com.

The Hail Vibrania tour is a turning point in SAHB's history and continuing development. This is a one time opportunity to witness SAHB's past, present and future by being a part of the unique experience that is The Sensational Alex Harvey Band...!!! YOU CANNOT AFFORD TO MISS IT!!!!!

And I won't miss it - I got my ticket for Islington months ago as declared in this very blog.

'Framed' was the first official SAHB album released in 1972 and I saw the band play songs from it in 1973 when they supported SLADE.

I've been exploring early Alex Harvey (pre-SAHB) and have got hold of two very excellent records: 'Teenage A Go Go - The Unreleased Recordings of Alex Harvey 1963-1968' and 'Considering The Situation', subtitled as a journey through the musical career of Alex Harvey. Both are clearly labours of love and have fantastic early songs from the great man - 'Teenage A Go Go' took ten years to gather acetates and get them properly digitised.

It's a fascinating view of Alex, from his early works with his Soul Band (Lulu started singing 'Shout' after seeing Alex perform it in Glasgow), 'Agent OO Soul' to the swinging stuff he did later in the '60s with the Hairband (he was part of the band that played during performances of 'Hair' and they did their own stuff after the shows, affectionately referred to as the 'Hair Rave Up'). Despite the changing styles and sounds of the decade he's still very much Alex Harvey with his wonderful vocal inflections and energy. What a talent he was and a real trooper.

He'd be 72 now but I've got no doubt he'd still be worth listening to. And I bet he'd put on a grand show!

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

An Adventure In A New Tie

I had my big adventure yesterday when I attended the launch of the Parent Know-How Innovation Fund at Vinopolis round the corner from London Bridge station. Hardly an adventure for most readers, I know, and it is part of my job, but it was an adventure for me. Wearing proper trousers and shoes for the first time in six weeks, wearing my colourful new tie (a leaving present from my last job - see below), not to mention a suit (of course), it was almost like old times. And, of course, no wine or alcohol was involved even though it was at Vinopolis - we do have standards, y'know.

I got there ok, no problems with stairs or anything but the problem was my wound - the scar straddles the waistband of my trousers which were rubbing against it every time I moved. What began as discomfort moved onto pain as the afternoon progressed and even now, 24 hours after removing said pain-inducing garment and swallowing various potions, my wound is still sore. When will they make suits with elasticated trouser waistbands?

After a couple of hours I could feel the waves of tiredness beginning again and the annoying thing of losing my train of thought and forgetting what word comes next in a sentence so I said my goodbyes and headed back home, bone-weary by the time I got through the front door. It was nice seeing colleagues again and meeting the new minister for the first time, but I must do something about my stamina and getting tired so quickly. And that forgetful, mind-block thing is a bit worrying. It's happened a few times now in the extremes of tiredness. Maybe it's the pills?

And after waking up this morning all bright-eyed and bushy-wotsit I've spent the afternoon asleep. Now, what's that all about? I should be getting better by now, not still falling asleep everytime I take a long blink. O well.

Amanda Palmer at Bush Hall - 3 August

The delightful Amanda Palmer is playing a solo show at Bush Hall on 3 August. Tickets are now on sale (obviously I've already ordered mine but you can get yours here).

Monday, 16 July 2007

Sweet Soul Sensations

I got the best present on Sunday, y'know. A compilation CD created by Christopher of those wonderful '70s soul bands and performers that you never really hear of any more - the Detroit Spinners, Detroit Emeralds, Three Degrees, Roberta Flack, O'Jays and more. What a great sound they made back then, sweet soul sensations indeed. Great voices, smooth sounds, good songs, put it all together into a package and you have near perfection.

After my jaunt yesterday I've spent a goodly portion of today asleep. I think I'm fine and then the eyelids start drooping and closing and I relax and ... then a few hours seem to have somehow passed. I need to build up some more stamina.

I'm going to work tomorrow - we're holding a 'launch' event at Vinopolis tomorrow afternoon and since it's something I'm responsible for I thought I'd better go. I'll wear proper trousers and shoes for the first time in six weeks. And my lovely new tie of many colours (part of my leaving pressie from my last job). Wish me luck.

Suzi Quatro at Wimbledon

Suzi Quatro was headlining at the Cannizaro Festival in Wimbledon, a mere few miles away so I have the opportunity to make up for not seeing her on her first British tour in 1972 (supporting SLADE). Tickets clutched in hand we scamper off to the bus stop for the ride to Wimbledon to be followed by a nice stroll to Cannizaro Park, advertised as a 25 minute walk from the station. My response to that is 25 minutes my arse! Simply walking round the Common from the main road was a good 10-15 minutes and then a further 5 minutes just walking through the grounds to get to the festival site. I needed a sit down when I got there!

The venue was set up like a big U with the stage at the bottom, seating down each wing with the middle left open for people to sit on the grass. The seating was covered (to keep rain and sun off - in this case it was rain which started for short showers a couple of times). The place was only about half full so it must've been an odd sight for Suzi coming on stage in daylight to see the wings half full and very few people in front of the stage. Still, on she came dead on time with a six-piece band in black leather trousers and black tee shirts. Not the ideal start to a gig but that was Suzi up there!

The first half of the show was filled mainly with songs from the new album (new in 2006) and a new song dedicated to and about Elvis that's not yet been released. I like the album and Suzi played most of my favourites from it, opening with 'Back To The Drive' and '15 Minutes Of Fame' and going into a stonking version of 'Rockin' In The Free World'. Wearing torn jeans and with a big ruby red bass guitar slung from her shoulder, Suzi looked and sounded good!

Then a short break during which I got a cup of tea and some biscuits (what's happening to me?) and on comes Miss Q in black leathers for the greatest hits section of the show. It was getting dark by now and, with lights flashing, started to feel more like a gig. People started going into the open area in front of the stage and we joined them. She played all the hits and some live favourites like 'Glycerine Queen'. The crowd really came alive during the biggies of 'Can The Can', '48 Crash' and 'Devilgate Drive' - wow, that's Suzi Quatro up there y'know, and I was (almost) a teenager again! That was a thrill!

Unfortunately, none of my photos came out but here are a few out-of-focus pics to give a feel for what it was like. And I met her afterwards... well, 'met' is a bit strong since she was on the other side of a barrier but she signed the album cover for me and a postcard of the portrait of her in the National Portrait Gallery. She's looking good and puts on a great show - I'd love to see her in a proper venue.

Thank you Suzi!

Friday, 13 July 2007

A day in the life ...

I'm chipper again today (I should use "chipper" more often). Woke up this morning and actually *woke* rather than just lumbered out of bed. That feels so much better. Then set about doing things:
  • I went to the opticians for a sight test and then ordered some varifocals (my eyes are old);
  • I posted a birthday card to my sister-in-law (older sis, who's younger than me, not younger sis);
  • I went to the gym - big *yay* - and did 10 minutes on the cross trainer and then did my back exercises on the floor. 10 minutes is a bit crap really but it's a start. Then went to the pool but a class was about to start so I just sat in the steam room instead. There are lots of mirrors in the changing room and it was relatively quiet so I inspected my scar which looks to be healing nicely;
  • I picked up my suit from the dry cleaners (needed for a work event next Tuesday at Vinopolis, a dry event, obviously);
  • I came home for food and more pills, I watered the flowers on my table which were going dry, I thought about paying the electricity bill but put it to one side (again);
  • I went to see the nurse at my GP surgery for a diabetic check-up and I'm doing ok, slightly up on the last full results from November - not too bad but I must do better;
  • I arranged two more doctor's appointments over the coming weeks;
  • I came back home, lay down for a minute on the bed and three hours passed ... my bed and my couch both have the properties of a Tardis in that respect;
  • I then ate food and swallowed tablets and watched telly (food included more peapods).
So there you have it, dear diary - a day in my life. Well, not really. I don't often do this much in a single day - at least not over the last five weeks - so I thought I'd record it, time-capsule-like for posterity.

Siouxsie Sioux - 'Into a Swan'

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Five Weeks

Five weeks ago today I was in a hospital bed with a saline drip in my left hand, a morphine machine attached to my right hand, a 'drain' coming out of the right side of my back and lying flat on my back a little confused and a little pleased the worst was over. Five weeks. It seems ages ago. Didn't the school summer holiday seem to last forever when you were a kid? and that was only six weeks...

It's been a funny old five weeks, really, most of it having been spent in my living room, sitting in different chairs, getting up to wander round the room , lying on the bed to do my exercises, getting drinks from the kitchen, chatting on the phone and sitting down again. Five weeks off work would be glorious if I could actually do something. At least the weather's been awful so I haven't been gazing longingly out of the window.

I'm at the frustrating stage of getting back to normal. I feel more or less fine at home and I can do things, I can get the bus and tube, I can finally get about a bit, and then I suffer for it. I actually went into work yesterday, just for a couple of hours to see how easy it would be, remind them I exist (I'd just started a new job, after all), get an update on what's been happening with all the changes across Government and see how it affected my work.

I felt fine at first but after an hour or so it became more of a strain, discomfort from moving around so much and waves of tiredness. I'd had enough after a couple of hours, said my farewells and made a fast (-ish) escape. The tiredness is a funny thing, coming in waves, making it difficult to keep my eyes open (almost as if my body is teling my brain it needs rest and the brain just shutting down), feeling light-headed and, most strange of all, forgetting what I'm saying or thinking mid-sentence... I hope that's a result of the tiredness and the drugs!

I was really tired by the time I got home and went into snooze mode. After rest and food I started feeling better, convinced that a good night's sleep would do the rest. It didn't. I woke up this morning a bit listless and not quite with it. I decided I should keep pushing myself otherwise I'll never get better so thought I'd go to Croydon for some retail therapy. By the time I reached the bus stop I'd changed my mind, just walking there had worn me out. By now, late evening, I'm feeling fine again, and that's what I mean by being at the frustrating stage - I feel so much better and can do things that I couldn't do just a couple of weeks ago but I suffer if I push myself too far, and 'too far' isn't really very far at all...

I felt the same after going to see the physiotherapist at St Thomas's Hospital on Monday. I was only there for about an hour and most of that time was spent talking, not actually exercising. I was given some stretching exercises to do for two weeks and then add in some strengthening exercises (all of which are illustrated on print-outs so I don't forget). I go back to see the physio in four weeks time and then start a weekly 'spinal conditioning' class at the end of August (the earliest they could book me in).

What else has happened in the past five weeks? Well, I've got the beard! I hesitate to say I've grown one since that implies a positive act whereas mine's just appeared through laziness really. I've started to shampoo it - is that how one washes a beard? I'll have to hunt out a beard-grooming website - there are sites for everything so I don't see why there shouldn't be one for grooming. And to feed by vanity, here's a photo of me (with beard) in front of Parliament (to prove I went to work).

I've also bought far too many CDs. Sitting at home bored and with access to a computer day after day isn't very sensible even if my credit card company loves me. A sample of my new music includes:

Buffy Sainte-Marie - Vanguard Visionaries
SLADE - You Boyz Make Big Noize
Lulu - To Sir With Love! The Complete Mickie Most Recordings
The Human League - Travelogue
Art Brut - It's A Bit Complicated
Dame Shirley Bassey - Get The Party Started
Bittybox - Smalltime
The Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not
Iggy Pop - A Million In Prizes - The Anthology
Toxik Ephex - Punk As Two Fucks
Donna Summer - Bad Girls (Deluxe)
Sylvain Sylvain -New York's A Go Go
Donovan - Sunshine Superman
Patti Smith - Gone Again
The Kinks - Something Else By The Kinks
Andy Williams - Music To Watch Girls By - The Very Best Of Andy Williams
Pete Shelley - Homosapien
The O'Jays - Love Train - The Best Of the O'Jays
Joni Mitchell - Hits
Humanwine - Fighting Naked

That's not bad, I suppose, but it's not a complete list either. It's an odd selection - some new stuff but mainly old stuff. I'd much rather browse through a record shop that shop online.

I've also re-discovered the joys of pea-pods! I saw some in Sainsbury's and grabbed a pack to see if they still tasted as fresh as they used to 40 years ago when I nicked them off the vine in my Granda's allotment... Obviously they don't taste as good as my Granda's but it's a great taste. And shelling them adds to the enjoyment!

I haven't read much, I haven't worked on my website (it hasn't been updated in over a year now), I haven't had any alcohol at all, I haven't been out much... what a waste of five weeks. At least I no longer have a slipped disc.

Monday, 9 July 2007

Siouxsie Preview

Click here to listen to short samples of some of the tracks from Siouxsie's new album, 'Mantaray', due in September.

I am liking what I hear muchly.

Sunday, 8 July 2007

Grey Beard

Mmmmmmmm..... I'm not sure.... But wasn't Grey Beard a pirate?

Yes? No? Maybe? Answers on a postcard to ...

My New Favourite Band

My new favourite band is PottedHeid. They're described as "ethno-techno-folk-rock-fusion" which doesn't really describe them at all. Or maybe it does. Click over to their MySpace site to listen to some samples.

I came across them on a free CD I was sent by Topplers Records - readers might remember my joy at getting a CD of Steve Treatment music from them last year. The CD is a compilation of lots of Topplers affiliated bands and PottedHeid had a song included on it called, 'Saudi', which is an electro mix of bagpipes and Arabian wailing with a stomping beat... erm, or something like that. Anyways, I liked it so went exploring and downloaded tracks from various places - now I just need to wait for their album.

Isn't the Internet a fabby place?

Friday, 6 July 2007

Buffy Sainte-Marie - 'Vanguard Visionaries'

Finally I have Buffy's new record - it arrived from America faster than ordering it here and at less than half the price (including postage). With the remainder of the saving I also got 'Too Much Too Soon' by the New York Dolls.

So, the new record. It's part of a large series of records to promote Vanguard, artists signed to Vanguard at some point and their Vanguard records. Packing is minimal (a folded cardboard cover) as is information about Buffy, just a list of the songs and a list of other albums by Buffy available from Vanguard. Other than the two lists, the text is all about Vanguard. No photos other than the cover, no biography, nothing.

As for the music, just 10 tracks totaling 34 minutes, all songs already available on other CDs and no bonus material. The tracklist is also wrong when it notes the final track as being 'For Free' when it's actually 'Quiet Places'. The list inside notes the writer and publisher of 'For Free' so is it a mistake to include 'Quiet Places' on the CD or a mistake to note 'For Free' on the packaging? Most odd.

Was it worth the wait? Yes, on principle. I'm pleased that Buffy is included in the series and it's right that she has her place in that pantheon. I was also pleasantly surprised to hear the country-waltz version of 'Now That The Buffalo's Gone' from 'I'm Gonna Be A Country Girl Again' (the late Patrice Holloway sang backing vocals on that album, y'know) rather than the more usual acoustic guitar version. For that surprise alone this album gets the thumbs up from me.

Compilations are always tricksy things since we all have different favourites and different views of what might be representative. But if I was ever allowed the great honour and privilege of doing one for Buffy it would certainly have more than 10 tracks on it.

Strange Place

I'm in a strange place at the moment, physically and mentally. I'm largely ok when I'm pottering around at home (so long as I don't have to bend or pick something up from the floor) and that leads me to think I'm ok generally and being a bit of a fraud by being off work. Then I go out and within 50 yards I'm reminded that I've had an operation. It's not just pain or, more often, soreness, it's the bone-weary waves of tiredness. I was out for the first time on Wednesday night seeing Suzanne Vega and I'm still not over that and it's now late on Friday afternoon.

I'm splitting things up in my mind. I need to get over having an operation on my back, with sharp knives carving bits of me out of my body and scraping disc off my bones and organs. I also need to get over the effects of an operation in itself, having my body subdued by anesthetic and invaded by knives. I was under for longer than planned when they saw the mess of my slipped disc and I suppose the longer you're under the longer it takes to get back to normal.

My scar was a little bit inflamed on Wednesday night when I got home and removed my trousers. The scar's about 3" or so in length in the small of back, right where the waistband of any garments lie. I've been wearing elasticated shorts for the last few weeks so they don't press on the wound too much. Trousers are evil things.

I'm also getting terribly bored. It's not even as if I can do much tidying up or re-organising at home since I can't really bend much (although I'm improving). I've got an appointment to see a physiotherapist at hospital on Monday so I'll be asking for exercises I can do to strengthen my back and stomach muscles and what I should do to become more bendy. I ought to move more but I want to move in the right way.

As the great Pete Shelley once sang (and still does) "... b'dum b'dum..."

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Suzanne Vega at the Queen Elizabeth Hall

My first evening out since going into hospital (four weeks ago today) was to see Suzanne Vega at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on the South Bank, and what a treat that was! I've liked Suzanne since first hearing 'Marlene On The Wall' all those years ago and have seen her live a few times and she is always a pleasure to behold. She has a lovely warm personality and a nice dry wit, her voice is a soothing balm and she's a true wordsmith with some killer tunes.

This tour is to promote her first new album in six years, 'Beauty and Crime', and she arrived on stage wearing a trench coat and black leggings to reflect the New York-ness of the album (I kept expecting her to take the coat off to reveal a slinky cocktail dress or something, but she didn't). She played seven of the eleven songs on the album and all sounded great live with the full band behind her. The only song I'd hoped for that she didn't play was 'Unbound', a nice bouncy song that would fit in with her voice and bass section in the middle of the set, just her singing along to the bass player, singing 'Blood Makes Noise' and 'Left of Centre', very powerful versions of both songs.

Suzanne opened and closed the show with versions of 'Tom's Diner', opening with the acapella original version and closing with an extended version with the band giving it some welly. She then came back for two encores. She has such a huge songbook behind her she could have gone on for hours and still not played everyone's favourites. But she played a lot of mine, 'Zephyr & I', 'Frank & Ava', 'Ludlow Street' and 'New York Is A Woman' from the new album and 'Small Blue Thing', 'Caramel', 'Luka', 'The Queen And The Soldier', 'Gypsy' and 'In Liverpool' from her songbook.

I'm very pleased to have seen Suzanne again, especially as my first evening out in so long. She's always worth seeing and hearing and, once again, she's come up trumps. Here are some photos, all slightly out of focus since I wasn't using flash but they should give you an idea of what the show was like and will awaken fond memories for me when I look back at them.

Thank you, Suzanne, for a great evening out!