Monday, 31 December 2007

The Plastic Bag Awards 2007

'Tis the season for looking back over the year and thinking about highlights and here are the first annual Plastic Bag Awards, or Baggies as I'll call them. So, without further ado, let's jump in with both feet and see how big a splash we can make.

Best New Album

... and the nominees are:

James Whild Lea - 'Therapy'
Siouxsie - 'Mantaray'
Maximo Park - 'Our Earthly Pleasures'
Suzanne Vega – ‘Beauty & Crime’
Linda Thompson - 'Versatile Heart'
Sugababes - 'Change'

There has been some great new music this year and this is a very difficult decision, particularly with the excellent new albums from Jim Lea and Siouxsie but, for the sheer number of plays on my iPod alone, the award goes to Maximo Park.

Best Gig

I've been to lots of gigs this year, possibly more than in any previous year. It's difficult to choose just one as the 'best' of the year since they're all good (or should be) in different ways and from different perspectives and some bands I've seen several times. Some just have that 'wow' factor (I'd put Prince in that category), some have a thrill factor (Sex Pistols and Siouxsie), some have an emotional link (Amanda Palmer and the Maximos) and others are all that and more.

I've narrowed it down to the following nominations:

Maximo Park - Shepherds Bush
Siouxsie - Roundhouse
Sex Pistols – Brixton Academy (9 Nov)
Patti Smith – Roundhouse
Suzanne Vega – Queen Elizabeth Hall
Beverley Knight - Royal Albert Hall
Amanda Palmer - Bush Hall
Sugababes - IndigO2

It's a toss up between Patti Smith, whose Roundhouse gig was one of those rare events that I just wanted to go on forever with no stray thoughts about the last Tube train home (not to mention her snarled challenge of 'You're not afraid of a fucking pop song, are you?'), and the Sex Pistols at Brixton on the first night I finally saw them after listening to their few records for 30 years. After long deliberation, the Baggie goes to the Sex Pistols!

Best Live Performance

Sometimes magic comes alive when you experience something rather special happening right in front of you. The live performance of a few songs have made sure that magic was afoot in 2007, from Siouxsie's magnificent 'Into A Swan' at the Roundhouse to Amanda Palmer's tender 'I will follow you into the dark' performed a few feet away from me as I sat painfully on the floor, from the joyful venom of the Pistol's 'EMI' to the relief and delight of Shakey's 'Chrome Sitar' at the Marc Bolan tribute in September that changed the evening for me.

Siouxsie - 'Into A Swan'
Sex Pistols - 'God Save The Queen'
Sex Pistols - 'EMI'
Patti Smith - 'Rock'n'Roll Nigger'
Human League - 'The Lebanon'
Amanda Palmer - 'I Will Follow You Into The Dark'
Shakin' Stevens - 'Chrome Sitar'

The winner has to be Siouxsie for that uplifting version of ‘Into A Swan’ at the Roundhouse, music booming, lights going wild and Siouxsie dancing madly in swan shapes... marvelous!

Best Theatrical 'Event'

I'm not sure how to describe this category, but it refers to theatrical events that aren't plays or musicals, so it's a mix of dance and spectacles - how else can you describe the magic that is Cirque du Soleil? I've only nominated five 'events' in this category since they're the only ones that really stand out for me.

Cirque du Soleil's Alegria
Slava's Snowshow
Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake
Matthew Bourne's The Car Man
Matthew Bourne's Nutcracker!

I saw three Matthew Bourne productions this year and they were all excellent. The one imbued with the most magic and therefore the award winner this year is 'Nutcracker!'.

Best Theatrical Drama/Musical

The year started off with a pantomime in Watford and was a theatrical roller coaster after that, with the highs of productions like 'Rafta Rafta' to the lows of things like 'Total Eclipse' and 'Treats'. I went to Oz visiting 'Wicked' again and went to Middle Earth with 'The Lord of the Rings', America with 'Rose Tattoo' and the Caribbean with 'The Emperor Jones'. The nominees are:

Rose Tattoo
The Country Wife
Side By Side By Sondheim
War Horse
Rafta Rafta
The Emperor Jones

The most harrowing visit abroad was to Flanders fields with the 'War Horse' and that wins the Baggie this year. Any play that can get me emotionally attached to the giant puppet of a horse has got to have something going for it. It was a magnifcent production.

Best New Singer/Band

The Baggies close with a look to the future and considers new bands and singers, or at least new to me. It's nice to experience good new music and new talent and I could have included Theoretical Girl and Blood Red Shoes but I have to draw the line somewhere. The nominees are:

Art Brut - supported Maximo Park, already released two albums
Alela Diane - found her through MySpace and saw her play live
Christian Silva - supported Amanda Palmer, album in the new year
Mamas Gun - Bedford Bandstand funksters supreme
Beth Rowley - rich voice and a single of the week on iTunes
Comanechi - supported Siouxsie, the future of rock'n'roll

How can one choose from such an array of talent? The Baggie goes to Alela Diane for a great first album, some haunting and thoughtful songs and a mesmerising performance at the small club I saw her at in NW London. I hope she comes back to London soon.

Looking back at these nominees I can only conclude that I had a good year on the entertainment front! Let's just hope that next year brings half as much joy and wonder...

I could, of course, add some additional categories, such as:

Best Slinky Hug - Amanda Palmer
Best Leather-Clad Bum - Suzi Quatro
Best Sista - Angie Stone
Best Motown Legend - Martha Reeves
Best After-Show Cardie - Janet Kay
Best Music Venue - IndigO2
Best Santa Hat - Dave Hill
Best Santa Beard - me!

... and on that note, Happy New Year!

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