Friday, 30 November 2007

"HA HA you look like a girl..."

Brian Viglione is one half of The Dresden Dolls and therefore automatically a great hero. My opinion of Brian has increased after reading his thoughtful piece on the Matthew Shepard Foundation website for young lesbian and gay people, and those not sure about their sexuality.

Brian's short essay tells of his love for wearing women's clothing and how he used to trade clothes with his girlfriends. I like the story he tells of when he was aged 10...

The story I always tell people is I was about ten years old, swimming at my grandmother's house. My cousin and I were in front of a mirror and he had a buzz cut hairdo, I had a little kid mullet. All of a sudden, he bursts out laughing and pointing at me and the bit of wet hair that was kind of curled around my neck and says,"HA HA, you look like a girl! You look like a girl!" I did look like a girl. I had very soft features for a boy and with my hair a bit longer, it wasn't a hard sell. But his teasing didn't make me feel bad. I thought I looked kind I was intrigued by my androgyny and felt almost empowered by it. So I grew up thinking that since I certainly wasn't born to look like some gruff, muscled out, Dude-Guy, that I might as well work with what the good lord gave me, which happened to be a good, sassy, pout and a sweet ass. So, off I went.

Having had the honour of meeting Brian a few weeks ago I can report that he doesn't look like a girl and that he does have a great pout. I can't comment on his ass, though.

He looks good in a frock. One of my favourite Dolls videos is 'Backstabber' with Amanda in man-drag and Brian in woman-drag exploring each other's tattoos of the names of previous lovers. It's marvelous fun!

I'm actually quite proud of Brian for writing that piece for the website. Not just writing it, but then promoting it and the site through the Dolls' MySpace list. As Brian says, "Don't ever give up on yourself."

Thursday, 29 November 2007

More lights

I was walking along the Strand this evening and I accidentally glanced towards Covent Garden, saw an array of lights and somehow found myself wandering round the halls of Covent Garden gazing like a rabbit trapped in headlights at the Christmas lights.

What do you think?

Beardies of the world unite!

"Four police officers in Texas have filed a lawsuit arguing that a ban on wearing beards is discriminatory." source: BBC News

Equal rights for Beardies! We'll fight em in the streets and in the barbers! Right on!

What am I wittering on about? Read this and be disgusted and outraged at such base discrimination. I am shocked, I tell you, shocked. Us beardies need to stick together.

Good grief!

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Lights... camera...

It's always a bit of a shock when the clocks go back and the nights draw in, getting darker sooner, but it also means we're heading into the festive season and that means lights.

I like inspecting the Christmas lights and displays around town. Generally, we're not very inventive when it comes to Christmas lights and more doesn't always equal better. Sometimes it's the simple ideas that work best.

Carnaby Street usually puts on an interesting display and this year is no different. It's gone for paper chains, except they're not made of paper and they're huge. They work in daylight as well as night so should provide a consistent display.

The lights on Regent Street have been boring over the last few years, usually tied in to the latest cartoon film which is too commercial for my liking. Regent Street is one of the grand crescents of London and should be treated with respect when it comes to lights. This year is a bit different and it's gone all avant guarde with these motion-sensitive globes that change colour randomly (needless to say, they're white in all my photos but they do change colour). I'm not sure what they're meant to represent (if anything) but they're better that the heavy advertising of the last few years.

My local lights are, of course, lovely. Well, they're actually the same ones we've had up for the last few years but I like them, simple and cheerful. I got the bus home tonight and seeing them ahead of me on the road on Streatham Hill was like a warm welcome home.

If I find any other interesting light displays over the next few weeks I'll be sure to report them so watch this space.

Monday, 26 November 2007

The Queens of Lovers Rock at the Jazz Cafe

A shocking two days after the event and I finally have time to blog about being in the presence of the great Janet Kay and Carroll Thompson at the Jazz Cafe on Saturday night. Both operate under the title of 'Queen of Lovers Rock' (a gentle form of reggae for the uninitiated) so it's nice to see them share a stage.

I first saw them back in January at the Barbican and was impressed (and a little awestruck). Janet's been around forever, having her first hit in 1978 with the lovely 'Silly Games'. I wasn't that enamoured back then - I prefered my reggae to have balls and bite, more Linton Kwesi Johnson than Janet Kay. I've learned to appreciate other forms of reggae since then, particularly the great Jimmy Cliff and John Holt (John is playing the Jazz Cafe this week but he's sold out so no chance of my seeing him) and, of course, Desmond Dekker. I indulged a bit in the Trojan boxsets over the summer so have been exposed to loads of other singers and bands from the '60s and '70s I'd never heard of. I don't hear much reggae these days - at least outside my house - which I don't quite understand since there's so much good old stuff, or maybe the newer stuff doesn't cut it?

Janet and Carroll have their stage act down to a tee, sharing the stage and the band, showcasing someone else mid-set and leaving their hits till the end. They were on for over one and half hours and only left when they were rushed off due to a 'club night' starting after their set. They were great fun, chatting away to the audience, reminiscing and hardly ever still, too busy moving to the music and those reggae beats.

Carroll came on first for three songs, then Janet for three songs and then swapped back and forth in that pattern. Gentle, happy music. They've got complementary voices so work well together, but we didn't get any duets. It was nice to see them sitting at the side of the stage when the other one took the mic, singing along with the backing singers, obviously familiar with each others songs but they also seemed to like them.

The highlight of Carroll's part of the set is 'Hopelessly In Love' and Janet's is (obviously) 'Silly Games' (and yes, Janet can still hit the high notes). Janet also took over the drums to play the first half of 'Silly Games', which she seemed to relish. Other songs of note included Carroll's great version of 'Breakfast in Bed' (which I'd never dreamed of with a reggae beat) and Janet's 'You Made Me So Very Happy' (that was a thrill if only because it's the first time I've heard Brenda Holloway's great song live). It was also great to hear the band play some reverb-erb-erb-erb in a couple of Janet's songs - not heard that in an age! They've got great stage presence, not in a starry way, but they're professional and know how to work a crowd (and it was packed out for them on Saturday). All in all, it was a great night with some fun and funky music and lovely voices and songs. Why aren't they bigger?

After the show we headed over to the merch stall where I bought a copy of all the available CDs (five in total) - for some reason neither of their records are easy to get in this country which I don't understand at all. Janet's signed to Sony Japan and is big out there but just try to get any of her records over here! They've got a new joint record out, 'Side by Side', which has some great tunes. They did a signing afterwards so I happily queued for the chance of an autograph and I was rewarded with big smiles, hand shakes and the great Queens allowed me to take a photograph.

If you get the chance go and see them - you won't regret it.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Is This How Rumours Start?

Imagine my excitement when one of my Google alerts included the statement that X-Ray Spex were getting back together for a reunion gig at the Roundhouse on 6 September 2008 (yes, it was that specific).

Now, I love Poly and the Spex and this blog is named in honour of one of their songs. I was talking with Chris following the Pistols gigs about which other 'impossible' gig I'd like to go to and X-Ray Spex were name-checked. 'Impossible' in the sense of not even dreaming it might happen, just like the Pistols gigs came out of the blue.

'Germfree Adolescents' is 30 years old next year, so wouldn't a reunion be fab? I've still got my copy of the original vinyl as well as on CD. It's been re-released on CD several times, both as a stand-alone album and as the basis of a compilation, and it's been re-released again as a digi-pack edition. I was a big fan back in the day and still am - Poly was ahead of her time in her songs about consumerism and the environment.

I also love 'Conscious Consumer', the reunion album from the '90s that I only discovered a couple of years ago. It's not the raw Spex of the '70s (and why on earth would it be?) but there are some great songs on there, with Poly's words and Lora's sax wailing away. 'Party', the closing track on the album, is one of my favourites, a simple little song that does it for me everytime, putting a smile on my face and making my feet twitch.

Poly's solo work is few and far between but well worth tracking down, 'Transluscence' and the 'Gods and Goddesses' EP. She still sings occasionally - most recently on a duet with Brian James on his latest record - and turns up around the place whether it's on Don Lett's 'Punk' DVD a couple of years ago or backstage at the Pistols gigs at Brixton a couple of weeks ago.

Not sure I've ever mentioned it on here, but I also tracked down a Lora Logic compilation CD from Canada. I bought Lora's 'Essential Logic' EP back in the day and it was great hearing that again on the CD.

Hhmmm... a Spex reunion.... now, wouldn't that be a fab thing?

Friday, 23 November 2007

God Save The Sex Pistols

According to God Save The Sex Pistols the Brixton gigs were filmed by Julien Temple along with scenes of the Pistols around London. Sounds like the DVD will be a documentary rather than a 'live' show. Release is planned for 'spring/summer 2008'. The site also includes a reference to the London Paper interviewing Paul Cook and him saying that the Pistols will play the O2 next year. Hhmmmm >strokes beard< a gig to launch the DVD maybe?

Watch this space...

Thursday, 22 November 2007

My New Lamp

This evening Chris took me to Cressida Bell's 'open studio' out in the wilds of Hackney for her pre-Christmas show with wine and sweets and a little Christmas tree and her goods on display. I like Cressida's stuff and it's nice to walk in and see the printing tables covered in scarves and cushions in all colours and designs, a mass of colour that pulls me in (I do like a bit of colour).

One of my favourite bits n bobs at home is a lampshade I bought from Cressida two or three years ago that I think of as my 'garden' lampshade with trees of different shapes and colours painted round the shade. When I went over to look at the lampshades this evening my eyes kept swivelling over to a shade with a more geometric pattern and a matching base. My eyes kept finding it amongst all the other lamps and shades which can only mean that I like and need it.

I also got a lovely woollen scarf in reds and blues in the 'Indian stripes' design (same design, different colours to the photo on Cressida's website). I was surprised that she remembered that I'd bought the same scarf last year, but that time in greens and purples and in silk. What a memory! I like the design.

Here's a photo of my lovely new lamp with my 'garden' lampshade in the background. Oh, and the picture of the parrot is actually painted on a feather and is from Canadaford.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

War Horse

Tonight saw a break from the relentles gigging of the last couple of weeks to the more serene and civilised theatre-going of the National Theatre and the production of 'War Horse'.

I found it strangely moving and harrowing. The tale of young Albert who loves his horse, Joey, so much that he enlists in the army during the First World War to rescue him. He's raised Joey from a frightened colt to become a magnificent stallion, a horse fit for an officer and the officer is dramatically killed during the first battle. Joey is rounded up by the Germans and put to work pulling an ambulance and then a cannon, before tanks come on the scene and Joey runs wild through no-man's land...

The star of the production is Joey and Joey is a puppet. An eight feet tall puppet manipulated by three men but, strangely, it's easy to ignore the humans and see Joey as a horse, with all the gestures and twitches of a horse. Similarly his rival and then friend, Topthorn, a black stallion to Joey's chestnut colouring. Both are huge and very 'horse-like' but other horses in the production are more lightly drawn. There is also a little girl puppet and a comedy goose as well as swallows and a nasty crow that pecks at dead bodies on the battlefields. I *like* the goose.

The play gradually drew me in through the careful plotting, the excellent acting and the wonderful puppeteers. I was particularly taken with Thusitha Jayasundera as Albert's young mother who projected that right mix of pragmatic farmer's wife and woman who will take on the world for her men, a sympathetic character played very well with the universal cares and woes of mothers everywhere.

The staging was both simple and incredibly elaborate. A relatively bare stage for most of the production with atmospheric lighting and restrained use of props, presumably so that nothing took away from the glory of the horses. Lots of attention to detail from swallows flying on the sunny summer morning that opens the play to the death crows of the battlefield, little touches that show someone has really thought it all through and secured the funding to fulfill their vision.

It was also terrible. The horror that is war and the hell that was the First World War are stark. The petty rivalries of the farmers' extended family pale into insignificance after the first battle in France with the cavalry shot to ribbons and the dead men and horses littering the stage while we go back to Devon for Christmas 1914 when Albert gets a bicycle to make up for the loss of his magnificent horse. Then follows the degradation of Joey as he survives the first battle, the dehumanisation of the troops as some of them fight to hold onto their humanity and others don't, becoming automatons and puppets of their leaders themselves. This should be mandatory viewing for all our leaders.

It stirred memories and made me think of my Granda. He was a soldier in the First World War who lost an arm, wounded and delirious in no-man's land and saved by a young girl in a bombed farmhouse (rather similar to the second act in that respect). The things he must have seen (and probably done) don't bear thinking about and that's probably why he didn't speak about the war until his last few years and it was then that I got to know him a little.

One of my earliest memories of him is going with him to his allotment when I was about five on a sunny afternoon, wandering through the fields and he took me to see the horses. Granda had a way with animals and the horses were his friends - virtually everybody and everything was Granda's friend. He picked me up with his one arm and put me on the back of one of the horses and then walked away, turned and made a clicking sound with his mouth and the horse trotted over to him with me on it's back. I was terrified but all he was doing was giving me the thrill of my first (and only) horse-ride. He was a daft old bugger with a fondness for booze and I wish I'd known him better.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Sunday, 18 November 2007

From one Beverley to another ...

Some readers may recall that I was booked to see Buffy Sainte-Marie play at the Highline Ballroom in New York back in June this year. But I went into hospital instead to have a part of my anatomy ripped out.

Well, Buffy is playing the Highline again on 28 March 2008 and I've booked tickets. I *will* see Ms Sainte-Marie. And, of course, March is when her new album is due out, so maybe this will be a 'launch' event?

Many thanks to Christopher for finding out that important news!

Beverley Knight at the Royal Albert Hall

Last night was Beverley's night and she seemed a little bit thrilled to be playing the Royal Albert Hall. It's quite prestigious in its own way but I always find it an odd building, a warren of corridors to get into the auditorium and in the middle of nowhere in Kensington, mid-way between tube stations (I rely on Chris for directions as a former Kensington kid). The concert (one doesn't have 'gigs' there) was being recorded so I'm hopeful for a DVD release at some point.

We missed the support acts and were ushered to our seats in the second row from the stage (big wow for being that close!) while they put the finishing touches to the stage, with big cloth drapery partially obscuring the old gold organ behind the stage, all of which looked great with the lightshow. The band and singers were at the back leaving the front of the stage free for Bev to prowl and kick and jump and dance away to her hearts content - she's an athletic kinda gal on stage.

Lights dimmed and on she came, all slim and good looking in a short kimono-stylee mini-dress, all thighs and stilettos below and wild mane of hair above, eyes sparkling and a big smile for the adoring welcome she received, glancing round the packed round hall, all of us there to see her. It was great being so close - a mere few yards away - so I could see her properly. What great photos I could've taken! Instead, I threw myself into my role as backing singer for the night, singing along, clapping on cue and doing my own boogie when instructed and when the music forced me. Bev ain't good for a bad back (I must have a word with her about that).

She was on stage for over one and half hours singing songs from across her career but focused on the hits and the latest album, 'Music City Soul'. And what a great performance. She hasa great voice but doesn't just belt 'em out, she controls her voice and doesn't go in for all that so-called diva crap of wailing up and down the register for the sake of it - Beverley's a proper singer. And a writer - it's easy to forget that she writes her own songs and has a great ear for melody and words.

She's also very fit and in good shape, and no wonder when she bounds around the stage like a thing possessed, making sure all sides of the audience get a good chance to see her. She was on top form.

Favourite songs last night were a stonking extended version of 'Flavour Of The Old School' with the singers joining her up front for some co-ordinated moves, a mellow 'Shoulda Woulda Coulda', a rip-roaring 'Piece Of My Heart' (which always sounds so much better live than on record), 'The Queen Of Starting Over', 'Greatest Day' (with smiles all over her face) and, of course, my favourite, 'Come As You Are' (it sounded a bit muted last night but great nonetheless). The encore was great too, with 'Gold' and the wild 'Black Butta' with Bev struttin' her funky stuff all over the stage.

It all seemed to be a bit much for Bev at the end, her big night at the Royal Albert Hall, and there were tears as the lad singer hugged her and led her to her place in the centre for the big group bows before leaving the stage. When she came on stage at the start she said something like. 'And they said this would never happen', meaning her playing there, so perhaps this was a longtime dream come true for wor Bev'lee?

It was a great show last night and had me on my feet for almost the whole time - well done, Bev!

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

"The Best Band In The World"

Ears still ringing from my third benediction with the Pistols, I sit here thinking what on earth can I say that I haven't already said following my previous two benedictions and blogs (see below, dear reader). Shall I point out that they were fabulous? That they were vicious? That John was a dancing Quasimodo as he pulled shapes and hopped around the stage, doing what I think of as his 'public image' dance, swaying from side to side lifting knee and opposing arm, pogoing, working the crowd into a lather. O yes, I could say all that. And more.

They were on top form tonight, John's vocals savage and scathing by turns, sharing his wisdom ("Never trust the middle classes - ever!"), telling us how gorgeous he is ("I've got better tits than Madonna" as he pulled up his shirt to show us - and he's right, he has), drinking Red Stripe and gargling with brandy. Going back to his monitors every now and then to refresh his memory with the lyrics (he commented that you'd think he'd remember after singing them for 30 years), having a swig and then launching into another marvelous song.

Steve and Glen were tight as ever, mimicing each other on either side of the stage and going in to Paul's podium at the end and start of every song, Paul being the backbone. Classic riffs like the opening to 'Pretty Vacant' and the best drum roll ever in 'Holidays In The Sun'. What a class band they are, tight and powerful, throwing out that wonderful, scary sound, so right for John to overlay his fearsome words.

John did all the talking (of course) and only referred to the band twice. At the end of 'No Fun' when he'd run out of words to spit at us but Steve was still playing the riff facing the speakers and John called out 'Oi fatty!' to get his attention. The second time was at the very end after the encores when he threw out his arm to refer to the band and said, "They're the best band in the world". He's a softy at heart.

Top tunes tonight were a killer version of 'Submission' extended on the long play out and very hypnotic (at least to those of singing and swaying along to it), '(I'm Not Your) Stepping Stone' (with John changing the words to 'I'm not your rolling stone'), 'Seventeen' which sounded wild and frantic and, of course, 'EMI'. The four singles were great - is there any feeling quite like singing 'no future' in 'God Save The Queen' or 'I wanna be Anarchy' in 'Anarchy In The UK' and not being able to hear yourself because of the sheer noise? Everlasting anthems.

The encore was 'Bodies' and 'Anarchy' after which the Pistols left the stage and the lights came on. I couldn't believe that would be it, after all it was their last night in London so there must be more. And there was! Lights still on and back they came, John commenting that now that the boring people had gone we could have some fun. He explained that his friend, Denton the Bear, had recently been killed by some Russians for some reason (hence the flag that had been flying above the stage each night) and he dedicated the final song to Denton - 'Roadrunner'! Wow and cor. Blistering!

After that John said he really appreciated us all turning out to see them and called his fellow Pistols 'the best band in the world'. I'd turn out anytime to see you all, John, and yes, you're right (as ever), they are. It's been a rare privilege to see the Sex Pistols in action. They're bound up in legend and mystique, and no little filth and fury, and that's all part of the experience. I've waited 30 years for this and they didn't disappoint, not one jot.

Thank you.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Tom Tom Club 'Mistletunes'

I don't normally listen to festive music until after 1 December but I broke that rule this evening to play the new Tom Tom Club Christmas single which arrived today. There are four tracks:

1: Il Est NĂ©
2: Christmas in the Club (single version)
3: Christmas in the Club (extended)
4: Christmas in the Club (instrumental)

As the blurb says, "Tom Tom Club's very special christmas CD single! Not only great to listen too, but also makes a nice christmas tree decoration. Christmas in the Club features Mystic Bowie & Kid Ginseng."

It's not as bouncey as I'd have hoped for but, after all, one can't bounce too much at Christmas without spilling one's drink, so that's probably for the best.

Monday, 12 November 2007

We Mean It Maaaannn!

Night number two up in Brixton (to paraphrase Linton Kwesi Johnson) and it was time to see the Sex Pistols for the second time. My ears are still ringing from the splendid noise they made.

When I arrived the queue was right round the building so I quickly joined it to try to get a good seat in the balcony and this time I went for the other side of the balcony to get a different view. And I waited. Dum de dum. The Cribs came on and struck me as arrogant tosspots, throwing cliched poses and generally acting up - come back when you've earned the right. While they were setting up the Pistols gear, blow me, but the DJ played 'Public Image' to great applause. Dum de dum. The lights dimmed and then brightened as the doors at the back of the stage opened and on walked four living legends, John and Glen arm in arm. The Pistols are back!

After a brief comment about McLaren being on 'I'm A Celebrity' last night, they launched into 'Pretty Vacant' and hit the ground running. The setlist was the same as on Friday (I think) but I wasn't really counting, I was too busy enjoying myself.

John prowling the stage pulling his Richard III shapes and Steve and Glen keeping the riffs coming while Paul paced them all. Very tight and it looked like they were all having fun. At the start of 'Holidays In The Sun' (while we were singing 'I do like to be beside the seaside) Glen donned a knotted union jack handkerchief for his head and he and Steve did their almost Morris dance routine. At one point John asked if there was anyone in the hall under the age of 40 (to big jeers and cheers).

One of my favourites tonight was 'Problem' which just seemed so right for some reason - "The problem is YOU!". Another favourite was 'New York', with disgust in John's voice (and me thinking of the comments in his autobiography about the New York punks and heroin and the impact on Sid). And the final songs of the main set, of course, 'God Save The Queen' with the backdrop unfurled (John commented that he preferred the Queen Mum) and 'EMI' with everyone joining in the scathing chorus.

The encore was 'Bodies' followed by 'Anarchy In The UK', both of which sounded particularly savage with John throwing down the words like gauntlets, the audience joining in. Only one encore tonight (John again telling us not to be so shy in front of him). Such powerful songs and still powerful 30 years later.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Anxiety. Morality. Free CD

SLADE are joining the dizzy heights of Prince and others and having a CD released through a newspaper. Unfortunately it's The Sunday Mail. I've never bought a Mail or a Sunday Mail. It's just so wrong.

There's an article in it this week to trail the release next week and Noddy's looking good (although I'm not sure about that shirt). It's live and the track listing is:

1. Merry Xmas Everybody
2. Mama We're All Crazee Now
3. Gudbuy T'Jane
4. We'll Bring The House Down
5. Far Far Away
6. Everyday
7. Take Me Bak 'Ome
8. Thanks For The Memory
9. How Does It Feel
10.Cum On Feel The Noize

The issue isn't so much about whether I've already got these songs in live format (and, I suppose, it depends on which live versions are on this CD, which I don't know but assume they're all available on the re-releases over the past year) it's about it being a success. I don't begrudge them for one minute for agreeing a deal with that paper to release the album, and I do want it to be a success.

The trials and tribulations of a fan...

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Sex Pistols at Brixton Academy

Thirty years of waiting and I've finally been Pistolled. With a capital 'P'.

Last night was Sex Pistols night, planned with military precision based on my scouting mission when I saw the Maximos there a few weeks ago. Through the ticket barrier then the gauntlet of security, straight through the foyer to the merch stand (obviously), then double back to get bottles of coke for later and upstairs to the bar and into the hall to grab seats and stay there for the rest of the evening. I was surprised to see the front half of the seats already well populated but we still found good aisle seats which should, at least in theory, give us a good view. Additional spotlights were fixed to the railing that partially obscured the view of one side of the stage but that wasn't too bad (they were filming the gig). Purple lights were streaming all over the place as the hall gradually filled up. The support band were The Thirst who were loud and fast and I couldn't make out a word of the songs but that didn't matter. It was the main act I was waiting for, nervous and hoping they would shine.

The tension rose every time something happened on or around the stage, loud music pumping from the onstage DJ, the stage sparse and simple, Paul's drums covered and off to one side. The lights went down and cheers erupted. I was looking to both wings to see where they would emerge from but they didn't. Instead, the back of the stage opened and light streamed out as they walked down the centre of the stage. They were here. Roadies wheeled Paul's drums centre-stage as they picked up guitars and John prowled the stage responding caustically to shouts of 'you fat bastard'.

Guitar rang out loudly, then drums and bass and they launched into 'Pretty Vacant' with John snarling over the top, proudly sporting a day-glo PiL vest over his white shirt. The opening was bit frustrating still sat down as instructed by security but by the third song security gave up and everyone stood and I got a great view of most of the stage and could jig around and sing along to my hearts content. It was them on stage at last and I enjoyed every moment.

The lighting was great and the empty stage gave a nice minimalist look to the event. John prowled the front of the stage, going back to get drinks either from his stash behind the monitors or from the brandy bottle on Paul's podium, gobbing more later in the set to clear his throat. Steve and Glen held the middle-ground, playing off each other and at one point dancing towards each other and then backing away, moving to and fro, and at the start of almost every song both going to Paul's podium. Paul was great on the drums, keeping it all going and controlling the pace of the songs. It was an excellent partnership and far tighter than I'd have expected from a band that plays together so infrequently, all four of them having specific jobs, three making that wonderful noise and allowing John to do his job upfront.

And John was wonderful. Was he Johnny Rotten last night or John Lydon? Who cares, in his sartorial elegance he was magnificent. Swearing, gobbing, challenging the audience, whipping us into a frenzy, howling out those sacred words he penned 30 years ago, still scary and still challenging, unsurpassed as the ultimate bad lads. He's a great front man, joking with us and getting us to sing along to 'I do like to be beside the seaside' as the intro to 'Holidays in the Sun'. And he revelled in the sea of bodies pogoing and swaying from side to side in great waves (looked great fun but I was pleased to be upstairs).

They played all their greats, all of 'Bollocks' and their classics. Great versions of 'No Fun' and I particularly enjoyed '(I'm Not Your) Stepping Stone' with John dancing across the stage in stepping stone steps. The set closed with something unfurling behind them on the stage and John shouting out to 'Mr Lighting Director' to 'get some lights on it, you cunt' and there was the 'God Save The Queen' image on a £1 stamp repeated eight times as a backdrop. And they launched into a killer 'God Save The Queen' as the closer - great stuff!

Oddly enough we didn't clap and go wild for an encore and I'm not sure why. Everyone seemed to be expectant, waiting for more. Was it because we're jaded and know there'll be an encore because there always is? Or were we stunned into submission? Possibly a bit of both - I was waiting excitedly for more.

On they strolled, John saying we should make more noise because he can't hear us - 'never be shy in front of me' he said. And they exploded into 'Anarchy In The UK', one of my all-time favourite songs so I was over the moon. Then the scathing 'EMI' with everyone joining in. And then off they went again, only to return with John saying 'do you want to see my baby?' and holding his stomach - the cue for 'Bodies'!

The stage lights came on as they unslung guitars, waved at the audience and family and friends in the balcony in front of where I was standing and John, putting on his petulant act walking to the side of the stage and saying, 'After all these years and you still don't love us' and walking off. Oh how I do love 'em!

I have finally seen the Pistols, my teenage heroes who I've listened to for 30 years. I didn't see them on the previous reunion gigs because it wouldn't be the same and I wanted to remember the olden days. But this time, as soon as I heard about the 'Bollocks' celebration and the gigs I knew I had to see them. And they were magnificent.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

The Beard

I still have my beard. I'm letting it grow and get bushier for the winter and for Christmas in particular. I've taken to twirling dreadlocks in it. It's a pleasant way to spend some time.

This afternoon I was called out of one of my endless series of meetings to go and brief one of our ministers. He's a new minister so I'm not sure what he wants or how he operates. We shake hands and he says something like, 'we've met before, haven't we?' and I say 'yes, a few weeks ago when we spoke about the new information system'. That was a big meeting with a few people and all the men in suits, not a one to one with me in jeans and open-necked shirt. 'O' he says, looking at me a bit puzzled. So I say, 'it's the beard, isn't it?'. And he says, 'yes!' and starts relaxing. Then we both sit down and get on with the business.

Beards have many uses. Aren't they marvelous things?

Ojos de Brujo at The Roundhouse

Back to The Roundhouse last night to see the marvelous Ojos de Brujo with Chris, sitting at the front of the balcony, centre-stage and with a great view (apart from one of the pillars but that's an aspect of the Roundhouse I quite like).

I found Ojos when I was surfing for Latin music when I got back from Mexico last year - I didn't want traditional stuff, but something a bit more dangerous and Ojos fit the bill perfectly. Latin rhythms, lots of percussion, some hip-hop singing, blended 'world music' and some flamenco thrown in for good measure. And they're from Barcelona (one of my favourite cities). I *like* Ojos and their 'Techari' album is great fun.

I've got no idea who they are, what they've done before joining Ojos or even what they sing about (since I don't speak Spanish) but I love the overall sound they make. Seeing them live was a bit of an adventure - what on earth would happen?

What happened was an excellent concert, excellent music, great singing, an interesting slide show/video show on the big screen and fabulous flamenco dancing. The band came on and started playing and a woman in all her haughty proudness stood still at the front of the stage, spotlighted and waiting... and then she started moving, feet pounding and heels clicking, arms throwing dramatic shapes and her skirt started whirling, faster and faster she moved and I just stared. How do dancers get their feet to move so quickly?

As she left the stage on came Marina to great applause and cheers, Marina being the main Ojos singer. I thought 'what's Macy Gray doing here?' since she was dressed like Macy was the last time I saw her. When she opened her mouth it was plain she was no Macy, a great voice but very different. And from there on in it was one wild song after another for about two and quarter hours (my favourite being an extended version of the Indian tinged 'Todo Tiende').

Marina took most of the vocals but sometimes Maxwell (that good old Catalan name) took the lead with his hip-hop/rap stylings. All the band had their moment in the spotlight with solos and the three percussionists did a collective solo giving the rest of the band a break. They brought on various guests to either sing or play with them, a collective that can grow or contract as needed and the flamenco dancer appeared a few times throughout the set to do her stuff or join the backing vocals. A great spectacle of colour, sound and motion, Marina and Maxwell prowling the stage exhorting the audience to move and sing.

Ojos de Brujo were great fun and I'd definitely see them again. A gig in Barcelona would be an interesting experience...

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Brian Viglione at Islington Academy

Tonight saw a trip to Islington Academy to see Brian Viglione who's playing with Jesse Malin on his current European tour. It was a bit odd, in a way, to go to a gig to see the drummer but Mr Viglione is, after all, a Dresden Doll and that is all you need know.

After two support acts the band came on stage and there was Brian in a red Trinidad football top that only stayed on for the first three songs. I have no idea what songs Jesse was playing but I bet the drumming sounds very different on the recorded versions - Brian is a force to be reckoned with and it was noticeable from the first few drum beats that he is a drummer with a capital D. No thrashing away for the sake of it.

The third song had lots of cymbal and at one point it was crash wallop crash wallop and then a gentle tap on the third cymbal, almost unnoticed but simply highlighted that space in the song very effectively and thoughtfully. I was listening to the drumming, not the singing or the guitars. He's also an excellent showman, arms whirling putting heart and soul into the music and the performance, giving us someone to watch on stage. The guitarists and keyboard player just seemed to sway occasionaly but Brian was up and down off his seat, arms moving, body moving, a spectacle to watch and enjoy.

Jesse's songs did nothing for me and his rambling 'stream of consciousness' talk in between songs got a bit irritating but he clearly has a fan base and they love him. Towards the end of the show he climbed into the audience and, after getting everyone to sit down, happily wandered round talking to the crowd. That was an interesting sight. The only song I recognised was 'Death or Glory'.

I was all for leaving during the encore when Jesse went acoustic but Chris wanted to stay a bit longer and I am so pleased we did. Back came Brian and the band for a final wild song that ended with Brian being very rock and overturning his drum kit before leaving the stage. When the lights went on and people were leaving he popped out to salvage his kit and then had a brief chat with some of the young folks who were obviously there to see him. I hesitated and missed the moment and he vanished back to sort out his kit.

Drat, I thought but we went out to the foyer where Jesse was signing and saw Brian again near the door chatting to someone and Chris engaged him and asked him to sign his 'Yes Virginia' CD which gave me time to get my copy out so Brian could sign the painting of him on the inside sleeve, just as Amanda signed hers when I met her in August. He was clearly in a rush but he was all smiles and chatting, happy to sign and when I said I could tell he was drumming he said thanks, put his hands together and bowed with a grin on his face and then shook my hand. Wow. I've now been kissed and slinked on by Amanda and I've shaken the hand of Mr Viglione. I am happy. He hadn't put his top back on when he came out to the cool foyer so I hope he doesn't catch a chill or anything.

In 'Mandy Goes To Med School' Amanda sings that when she is unavailable her partner Brian would love to take care of you, and says, 'He is a nice man/Thoroughly reliable/He's in a rock band/And he goes to med school....' and it's all true except for the last statement. He *is* a nice man. And very polite. Thanks for being so nice, Brian.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Siouxsie at The Roundhouse

My second audience with Siouxsie in as many weeks and she was magnificent. Truly. I'm so pleased I was there.

First up was Comanechi, a girl drummer/boy guitarist duo who, basically, made a lot of noise, walloping those drums and shouting into the mic, but (dare I say it?) they were fabulous! I have seen the future of rock'n'roll and they can almost play their instruments. By the third song I was grinning madly to myself for the joy of that pair being on stage for the hell of it and having fun. I loved them! I asked for their CD at the merch stall but they didn't have it. And what's with these boy/girl duos with drums and guitar (like Blood Red Shoes who I saw a few weeks back supporting Maximo Park)? Is there a Dresden Dolls duo influence here?

The second support was Akala, another duo (both male), a singer and a drummer and the drummer also pressed the button on the tape machine or whatever to play the music he drummed along to. They were sort of wrappers or hippity hop, a little bit political but intelligent and a bit fun. They're not the future of rock'n'roll but were good anyway.

And then came Siouxsie. The band took to the stage and started playing the long introduction to 'They Follow You' and then there she was, looking great in a silver and black cat-suit affair like her harlequin suit, all stillettos and legs kicking and arms twisting with that mane of black hair. Followed with 'About To Happen' and 'Here Comes That Day', we were treated to virtually all of the new album except 'Heaven & Alchemy' interspersed with a few Banshees classics. No 'Dear Prudence' this time but we were treated to great versions of 'Arabian Knights' and 'Spellbound'. The set culminated with a tremendous version of 'Into A Swan'.

Then *clap clap clap* for the encore and Siouxsie returned to tell us that she performed the next song the first time she played at The Roundhouse. That means it must be an oldie, I thought, expecting 'Hong Kong Garden', but no, the disjoined riffs and wailing vocals ushered in 'The Staircase (Mystery)', surely a rare treat in anyone's book. Then she proceeded to baffle the auience around me by playing 'Kish Kash', her song from a few years ago with Basement Jaxx and a favourite of mine. And as they started to leave the stage, Siouxsie said something like 'I can't face those stairs again' (to get off the stage) and pushed the guitarist back into place to continue the encore. Getting hold of her finger-bells, they launched into 'Israel' followed by 'Hong Kong Garden' and 'Hello, I Love You'.

Siouxsie was in magnificent form, a dervish one moment and a panther the next, a ballerina in killer stilletto boots, high kicking and hopping round the stage, arms whirling and gesturing, one leg on the monitor throwing back her mane of black hair, every eye in the place rivetted on her. I was entranced. Highlights for me were the wonderful 'DroneZone' with Siouxsie prowling round the stage, 'Arabian Knights' and 'Spellbound'. But the ultimate was 'Into A Swan'. It all came together as perfection for that song, the band sounding excellent and Siouxsie in her element, throwing dramatic poses, arching her back and making swan-shapes with her arms, hands interweaving. Something about that performance had me open mouthed in astonishment. It was beautiful, there's no other way to describe it. At least it was beautiful to me.

Does it sound odd to say I feel proud of her? She's not doing nostalgia, she's still challenging and producing excellent music. I saw her on Jools Holland the other night and she blew the other guests away with a flick of her hair. Hers was the most radical music, she was the most dramtic with the biggest stage presence and she was clearly putting everything into her performance. That was full-on Siouxsie and those other bands better not forget that lesson. If they're still doing it in 30 years time I'll be astonished.

Thank you Siouxsie, I'll remember the gift of 'Into A Swan' for a long time.