Thursday, 30 April 2009

Happy Birthday Amanda!

Today we celebrate the 33rd anniversary of Amanda Palmer's appearance on this earth, bringing joy and light and numerous swear words to the world. To celebrate I give you 'Leeds United', my favourite video from 'Who Killed Amanda Palmer' and one I could've been in (yes, I know I've said that before and I'll no doubt say it again).

Happy Birthday Amanda!

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Amanda Surfing

I wanted to share this photo from Amanda Palmer's latest blog - crowd surfing at the Coachella festival last week. In'it fab?

The little minx is currently in Boston doing a play in her old high school with no plans to make another record or to tour. What am I going to do for the rest of the year?

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

David Benson in Frankie Howerd

Tonight I went to see David Benson in his show, 'To Be Frank - Frankie Howerd and the Secret of Happiness'. I didn't find the secret of happiness but I had an amusing evening out.

I saw David's Kenneth William's show last year and enjoyed it so thought I'd see his take on Francis. The first half of the show was David explaining where the show came from which, in a way, was a career retrospective, telling how he needs a connection to his subject matter and his journey to find the script for a sketch Frankie only did for one week back in 1961 or thereabouts and then dropped it. I don't understand why it had to be that particular sketch, but that doesn't really matter, it's the journey through the comedy greats of yesteryear that matters as David drops all the old school comedy names he can think of, including Eric Sykes, someone I haven't thought of in years.

He then evens it out by recounting his career as being in the major league ten years ago to Graham Norton's minor league and look how their respective careers have turned out. Bitterness? O no, he just goes on an imaginery killing spree... The second half of the show (which is much shorter) is a recreation of the Frankie Howerd sketch he went in search of in which David reveals himself to be the mightly Lurcio from 'Up Pompeii' and does lots of double-entendres, shows off his legs and ends with a song 'n' dance.

This performance was, as we were told, only the second time he's ever performed the show in London and I'm pleased I saw it. It's not as finely honed as his Kenneth Williams show but, then again, it wouldn't be since he toured that show for over 2 years ending up in the West End, but it was still very enjoyable. I got a biography of Frankie at Christmas that is in the pile waiting to be read so this show gives me a few hints at which bits to pay attention to. David returns next week in his Noel Coward show so I think I'll turn up to that one as well.

And congratulations to Right Nasty Productions Inc for an enjoyable night out.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Amanda Palmer - 'What's the Use of Won'drin'?'

I don't understand how this new video slipped past me but I've now found it and it's my duty to share. Sweet and 1950s genteel, baking cakes with sweeties and baked beans, two women and a feast on the table. Watch it 'til the end for the surprise feast and the oh-so wicked grin... Enjoy!

Friday, 24 April 2009

Marianne at the Beeb

Tonight was the first airing on BBC Four of the Marianne Faithfull gig at the old St Luke's church at Old Street that I was lucky enough to get tickets to a couple of months ago.

Marianne was looking and sounding good, the sound was much better on telly than sitting in the balcony of the church. I think my favourite song was 'Sister Morphine'. No doubt the concert will be repeated so, if you get the chance, make sure you see her.

Woo Hoo Tits!

Isn't it just typical that a week after I get back from Barcelona I find out that Amanda Palmer is on the cover of a Spanish magazine with a photo-shoot inside. Amanda is never shy in coming forward and she's pictured in a fashion shoot in - and out of - various odd Euro-clothes.

Amanda's just done the Coachella festival in Americaland and this all serves to enhance her reputation as a live performer. I quite like this photo of Amanda with fans spelling out 'Amanda Fucking Palmer' which they repeated on stage for the hoardes to see.

The big Amanda news is that the 'Who Killed Amanda Palmer' DVD will be released on 16 June. More details to follow.

Purple God Music

For some reason, Prince rarely seems to pop up when I put my iPod on shuffle so, today, I thought I'd have a Prince day on my way to and from work. I plug my Ipod into my ears and live in my own little world while wending my way through the rush hour crowds of central London. And today I was accompanied by the transcendental entity known as Prince.

I now understand why my iPod pixie chooses not to spin many Prince records when he does the shuffle. The pixie is obviously very moral and Prince is, not to put too fine a point on it, a sex-mad beast. I heard 25 or so songs today and all, yes all, were about sex or love in it's sex incarnation. Now, I know Prince has written songs about other things, but they didn't pop up today. Just sex and more SEX.

I was thinking, 'Hey Prince, cool it mate, I'm in public here, y'know, tone it down a little'. And did he? No. He sang about doing... then about doing this .... then moving onto.... then he... and then finishing with a cigarette.... Phew! I was exhausted just listening. Anyone got a spare ciggie?

My favourite songs today were 'The Continental' and 'Guitar' - I feel positively spurned when he sings, 'I love you baby, but not like I love my guitar'.

Maximo Park - 'Let's Get Clinical'

I'm not sure if this is an 'official' leak or not but another track from the Maximo's new album is available for download, this time on Vainzine, 'Let's Get Clinical'. Clicky to go there... I'm sort of trying not to hear too many tracks - I want to hear the new album as a complete experience.

Anyway, here's the new single, out on 4 May:

Wednesday, 22 April 2009


Those of you of a certain age might remember Valerie Harper as 'Rhoda', a spin-off from the Mary Tyler Moore show in the early '70s. It's finally available on DVD and I'm delighted to have received the shipment confirmation from in Americaland.

It's the story of the adventures of Miss Rhoda Morganstern in her native New York. I remember huge flares and head-scarves, Carlton the Doorman and lots of spiffing banter. I am *so* looking forward to seeing this again. I loved early MTM and have the first four series on DVD but I switched my allegiance to 'Rhoda' when it was broadcast. I hope it lives up to my memories...

Monday, 20 April 2009

'Who Killed Amanda Palmer' Book Pre-Order

The photo-book of Amanda Palmer's death is now available for pre-order.

Amanda is drip-feeding sample photos from the book and I quite like this one, three girls poking a dead Amanda with a stick.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

'Madame De Sade' at Wyndham's Theatre

Continuing the series of plays at Wyndham's Theatre under the Donmar in the West End banner is 'Madame De Sade' by Yukio Mishima. It's a play for six women and that, in itself, makes it a bit different.

It's the tale of the Marquis De Sade's excesses told from the point of view of the women in his family by marriage and their acquaintances. It opens with two friends of the family waiting in a large and bare drawing room talking about the reasons for his arrest, deliciously describing the pervertions and whips and aniseed sweets laced with aphrodisiac. This sets a theme in the play since every now and then one of the women takes control of the stage to declaim loudly about whips and blood and the latest scandalous revelations, and the lighting changes to emphasise that character. It's a trifle predictable really and why does it take so many words to describe an orgy each time? I suppose that's a sign of the age of the play - back in the '60s it would probably be a bit shocking but today, at least the way some of the audience were laughing, it's just a bit titilating.

It's a play in three short acts spread over 18 years with a total running time of 1:45 hours. Each time the year changes we see the women in different lavish frocks and wigs to reinforce the time shift. The drawing room stays exactly the same, however, although the lighting changes. It's a nice set and nice costumes but that seems to emphaise how much needs to come from the characters to make the play work. The play has had mixed reviews and I can understand that. Judi Dench is exactly as you'd expect her to be, a solid performance but my favourite was Frances Barber as the debauched countess who delivers the first salacious and lurid description of the crimes of the Marquis. She was on top form and great fun.

It kept me engaged most of the time (although at one point I did plan by next delivery from Sainsbury's) but it was over-wordy and seemed a bit soul-less and lacking in warmth to draw me in to the heart of the play. Still, it was a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Barca Nosh 'n' Grub

Barcelona has a nice selection of eateries as well as a nice selection of things to do and see. It was a relief to find that all my favourite places from previous visits were still open and thriving. Costs were probably on par with what I remembered but, of course, the poor exchange rate with the Euro at the moment made them more expensive but that's just the luck of the draw. A few places of note:

Cafe D'Estiu

Formerly known as the Cafe de Museu Frederic Mares since it's located in an enclosed square behind the museum, it's a haven of peace away from the bustle of the narrow gothic quarter streets. It's reached through a side entrance and you walk through a courtyard of orange trees (they were laden with small oranges last week) to an open air set of about a dozen small tables serving snacks and drinks. It's a lovely little cafe with good service and good food and it's great to escape the crowds and sit down for a reviving drink under an umbrella in the sun. This photo makes it look a bit gloomy but that's because it was taken in the late afternoon.

La Princesa 23

A lovely bar/restaurant near the Picasso Museum that serves simple food in big quantities and bottles of cava at very reasonable prices. It's a bit Moroccan influenced in design that gives it a different feel, but it's a very relaxed place with a telly showing old Scooby Doo cartoons for some reason... A good place to relax after exploring the gothic quarter when you needa sit down and a glass of cold cava.


This is a new restaurant for me, part of the AnGrup chain and certainly lives up to the standards of the other restaurants in the chain in Barcelona. It's right on Las Ramblas and reached up a flight of stairs to the restaurant proper, interesting lighting and a relaxed atmosphere. The food was lovely and the highlight for me was a green salad with the most delicious dressing. Unfortunately, Chris asked what the 'white penises' were which instantly put me off them - by strolling round the market the next day we found out they were white asparagus. I did, however, eat the purple viola flower.

La Pizza Nostra

A small pizza place down the road from the Picasso Museum in the gothic quarter whose claim to fame is that it serves 'half n half' pizzas if you want one - each half being a different pizza. And here's mine - one half was cheese and onion and other was five cheeses (with olives). Yumbo! This is such a great idea for pizzas that it's surprising that everywhere doesn't do it. I also had my first Von Damm beer there (there's a big distillery on the outskirts of the city). La Pizza Nostra is a mandatory eatery for every visit to Barcelona.

4 Cats

This is another new eatery for me, down a narrow street off the Portal De L'Angel (and only a few minutes from the hotel), covered in artwork and original colourful tiles. It opened a hundred years ago and was a haunt of Picasso and the arty set (Picasso held his first ever exhibition in its back room). Of course, it's a bit of a tourist trap but it's also a fun way to have a meal with the ultra speedy service and the themed crockery and ceramic mugs of beer. It's a bit expensive but I'd certainly go back provided I could have a table on the little balcony in the back room - that's the place to sit!


Citrus is one of my all-time favourite restaurants, part of the AnGrup and in a prime location on the first floor of a building on the Passeig De Gracia. The food and drink is always top notch and quite reasonably priced, efficient service and citrus-themed surroundings, the best seats overlook the Passeig outside and, if you're lucky, look over to Gaudi's Casa Battlo on the other side of the road. It also does wonderful puddings! It's a very civilised eatery for a last night meal.

The most disappointing place to eat was Mussol, another AnGrup restaurant, but which, despite being a nicely designed place as I'd come to expect from AnGrup, was the exception to the rule. It's mainly a grilled food place which limits my options (being vegetarian) but thought it would be nice to try another place for lunch. I ordered grilled vegetables (the only non-meat or fish option) and got a plate of raw vegetables that had been grilled and nothing else, no sauce or dressing. I chewed a small chunk of artichoke for 5 minutes before admitting defeat and just picked at the other rather unappetising veges. Being vege in Barcelona, famed for seafood and meats, is a trial but I always find something nice, but not in Mussol. It had a nice owl motif though...

There are lots of eateries to choose from in Barcelona - they're everywhere - but these were some of my favourites and well worth visiting. I'll certainly go back to them on my next trip.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Justin Bond - 'Pink Slip'

Justin Bond has finally released his first solo ep, 'Pink Slip'. It only seems to be available through an American download site at the moment but clicky on the picture to whiz on over there to listen to samples of the songs and then download 'em.

Amanda Palmer - 'Three Men Hanging'

I break into this Barcelona reverie to report a *new* Amanda Palmer record. It's a 7" single with Murder By Death on which she sings 'Three Men Hanging' (with Zoe Keating and Lyndon Chester from her WKAP Tour) and Murder By Death perform her 'Another Year' on the other side of the single. There are only 1000 copies on vinyl available from America so, because I'm impatient, I downloaded it from the Murder By Death download site. Head on over there to download it now!


Tuesday so it must be Montjuic, the big hill that overlooks Barcelona which is a mix of formal gardens, museums and the Olympic Stadium from 1992. We wandered to the market on Las Ramblas for fruit for a picnic and then strolled to the funicular railway up the side of the hill. At the top you get some great views over Barcelona which is a surprisingly level city, everything being about five stories tall except for the odd church steeple and the odd tower building.

We wandered along to the formal park built on the side of the hill to explore the pathways and the lush selection of greenery but not many flowers at this time of year. And then we walked along, past the Joan Miro museum (which we went in on the last visit) heading for the Olympic stadium (which was a lot smaller than I'd expected) and the most marvelous communications tower that is straight out of Thunderbirds if ever anything was. It was a great thrill to see it and I took many, many photographs that, now that I can see them on the computer screen, all look vaguely the same, but who cares?

It was very hot in the sun in the open plaza around the tower so we then wandered over to the National Museum of Catalan Art (MNAC) for a much needed sit down, drink and food. And then wandered round the galleries for a couple of hours. The focus is, obviously, on Catalan artists, something I can in principle support, but it does mean that most people will only have heard of Picasso and Dali and they only have a few paintings in the museum since both have their own, dedicated, museums in Catalonia. The ground floor is partly made up of huge Romanesque frescoes rescued from churches and restored in the museum, although virtually all are incomplete. More interesting is the 'modern' gallery upstairs that includes some nice pieces although most seem to be quite derivative. Still, it's worth a visit and I'm pleased I finally got to see it.

There is also a fabulous view over central Barcelona from the front of the museum, looking out over the magic fountain at ground level that comes alive at night in a blaze of colour and music.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

La Pedrera (Wibble)

Blue skies, heat and sun greeted Easter Monday, the Barcelona weather I'd expected, and a trip to La Pedrera, another Gaudi mansion and one I refer to as the Wibbley-Wobbley building. I don't know what it is about this marvellous building, but I love it and I can merrily romp around the roof until I'm knackered.

We waited in a queue to get in for just under an hour (including an ice-cream break) and got the lift to the top of the building. The attic is laid out as a museum to Gaudi and the building but, since I've seen it a few times before, I headed straight for the stairs to the roof and then merrily wandered round in my own little world for an hour and a half. Zoooom.... that was me heading off over the horizon to discover new view of the Knights or simply to take more photos of the the same things I've already taken photos of on previous trips. The act of taking a photograph is what's important and reveling in it. And gnashing teeth at the frustration of people being in the photo. Ggrrrrr...

I love the Wibbley building, up and down steps, wierd chimneys, many in the shape of ancient knights helmets or strange organic shapes, no more than a few steps in a row on one flat surface before being faced with more steps up or down. There are great views over Barcelona and into the hills beyond, including La Sagrada Famila, Gaudi's unfinished cathedral, in the distance. It doesn't take an hour and half to look round, but I just happily wander round and round, looking at the Knights from different angles and then wandering round again.

Even I get too hot up there in the sun and then retreat down to the attic museum and the top floor flat which is open to wander round before heading down to the well-stocked shop and out again at street level. Part of me would love to live in that building and another would hate it - if I lived there would I lose my wonder and admiration? I'm happy to visit it and clamber round like a thing possessed...

Casa Battlo

Easter Sunday dawned gloomy and wet in the heart of the Catalan nation, a poor start to Chris's birthday, but did that put a damper on the adventures? Yes, we got soaked! After a short stop at the cathedral to see what happened on Easter Sunday, the old folks holding hands and dancing in circles in the cathedral square and the crowds packed into the cathedral itself, we left for lunch and a trip to Casa Battlo.

We stood in a queue under brollies for maybe half an hour to gain entrance to one of the great Gaudi buildings in Barcelona, the dragon-bone house as I think of it. The front of the building is dappled and the roof is scaled like a dragon's hide, while dragon bones are everywhere. Other than the floor it's difficult to find a flat surface or a straight line, even the doors are slightly curved to differing degrees. It's a magical mansion on many floors and the first floor apartment is open to wander round and so are the attics and the roof.

The first floor apartment is a series of rooms with rich wooden details and gorgeous windows. The dining room ceiling is sparked off by a swirling jelly-fish light fitting that makes the ceiling undulate and then you realise it's not an effect of the light, the plaster of the ceiling really does undulate in waves radiating out from the light fitting. It must've been marvelous to sit there for a grand meal in the old days and look up and see that ceiling almost moving like the crashing waves on the shore and wonder if you've stepped into a magical realm.

The attic is white and cream and full of arched ceilings, like the rib cage of the dragon, various rooms presumably set aside for the servants but a great sight. And from the attic you go onto the flat roof, a great experience for any Gaudi building. It's flat for a wander round but with the trademarked chimneys Gaudi is famous for and a small, secret room built into the dragon scale roof that houses an odd fountain (this is new, not an original). It was raining so we wandered round with brollies but that doesn't spoil the joy of a Gaudi masterpiece.

I'm sucker for any Gaudi building and Casa Battlo is well worth a visit.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Palau De La Musica Catalana

Yesterday morning was bright and sunny, beautiful blue sky and spring freshness in the air. I was dressed for holiday and the locals were in coats and scarves - softies! An hour later the clouds closed in, the temperature dropped and I thought I was in London again. But by then I didn't care because we were in the marvelous Palau de la Musica with a chance to see the glories that a man of vision can create when he has the conviction of imagination.

The Palau was designed by Luis Domenech i Montaner and opened in 1908 to celebrate music and the heritage of Catalonia, the Catalan flag and symbolic roses repeated everywhere in the incredibly intricate and colourful design. You can't just wander round, unfortunately, it's a guided a tour or nothing, but it's well worth going and having the architecture and design explained. It's strange to think that the building was one of the first prefabs - the structures built elsewhere and then put together on site.

The side walls of the concert hall and much of the ceiling is made from glass so it feels light and airy, and has been likened to being inside a music box. It hosts over 300 concerts each year, mainly classical and choral but this week Anthony & The Johnsons is playing. so it has a wide range of events. It would be interesting to hear a concert there and experience the acoustics.

No photography is allowed inside the Palau so here's an image of the concert hall to give you an idea of what it's like.

Saturday, 11 April 2009


I blog to you from the city of Barcelona, city of art and light, of Magister Gaudi and wonderful architecture and, compared to London, wonderful sunshine and warmth. And, of course, hotel wifi.

The hotel is in the gothic quarter with narrow streets and tall buildings and very convenient for, well, everywhere really. And now I'm off to have an adventure...

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Siouxsie & The Banshees Re-masters

The latest batch of Siouxsie & The Banshees re-mastered CDs are now available and they sound good: 'A Kiss In The Dreamhouse', 'Hyaena', 'Tinderbox' and 'Nocturne'. Go on, indulge...

'Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert'

Last night we went to see the new show on the block, 'Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert' at the Palace Theatre in Cambridge Circus. I didn't particularly like the film the first time I saw it, but the second viewing made me a fan so I was looking forward to seeing the new stage version and I wasn't let down at all - it was fabulous.

It's largely faithful to the film with a couple of extra 'scenes' in the second half (presumably to balance it) but it was wall-to-wall camp drag queenery with great disco tunes, a melange of colour and sound that rarely let up, moving swiftly from one set piece to another with a million costume changes. Flambouyant doesn't do it justice. Big frocks and costumes, big wigs, masses of make-up, bitchy banter and, of course, Priscilla herself. One side of the bus collapses so we see the journey to Alice Springs from the inside of the bus, driving over kangaroos, koalas and even a corgi....

I was pleasantly surprised by Jason Donovan, someone I've never really paid any attention to in the past, but he had a nice stage presence and a good voice. The dialogue has been updated for the Kylie generation and at one point when the three chums are remembering the golden age of 'Neighbours' Jason says in an off-hand way that he always preferred Scott to Sharleen. He would.

Normally I try to enlighten you my describing a favourite sequence or song but, with 'Priscilla', that's an impossibility - too much to choose from. I loved the giant silver stiletto on the roof of the bus that slowly extended to the front of the bus and then continued out over the audience. I loved the glitter balls that made it feel like I was inside a giant snow-globe. I loved the three song-birds who descended from the sky every now and then to sing the songs mimed by the drag queens on stage. I loved the disco beats and the indie-Kylie medley. I loved so much more - I had a stupid grin on my face for most of the time while my eyes drank in the unfolding scenes on the stage.

I loved the show and aim to see it again (o yes!) and my only gripe is with the theatre itself which doesn't seem to have been designed with line-of-sight in mind. We were sitting in the grand circle about one third of the way into the row which meant I couldn't see the front corner of the stage where a lot of action took place. The seats are also oddly banked so that whenever anyone in front leaned forward a chunk of stage vanished behind their head. Take my advice and pay more for the stalls or circle, I will next time.

Go and see it. It may not be great art but it is great fun!

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

'Enjoy' at The Gielgud Theatre

Friday night and a trip to the theatre courtesy of Sharon and Eamonn (for which, thanks!) for Chris's birthday to see Alan Bennett's 'Enjoy' at the Gielgud Theatre. It's been rarely performed since it was written back in 1980 and on this occasion starred Alison Steadman and David Troughton. I had no idea what to expect (other than Bennett's lugubrious dialogue) so I sat back and relaxed, waiting to be acted at. And acted at I was.

I'm still not entirely sure what to make of it (hence the delay in blogging) but I enjoyed it, with top notch acting and a lovely little set, although the plot seemed to flounder a couple of times. The set was the living room of a classic back-to-back terrace house, essentially two walls and a carpet that marked the boundaries of the room which, set on a much larger stage, made the whole play feel a bit claustrophic. The lead characters have been married forever and lived in the house forever, know their place in the world and seem to live through their children, one of whom was banished from the house years ago and is no longer spoken about by the dad. It all had a very odd feel and was a world I recognised, more from my Grandparents than my parents, but that world was real.

Of course, it has to have twists and turns, shocks and surprises, but I'm not sure that what was shocking in 1980 is still shocking.

The son (disowned and banished by the father) appears early on as a silent witness to life in the tenements of Leeds that are being demolished. Of course, he's now a woman, but it was so obvious who he really was within seconds of his appearance. The daughter is lauded as being a personal secretary who travels all over the place but is clearly a prostitute and not ashamed of it. She's also a sex model and off to marry a rich man at the drop of a hat - which falls through, of course. Interestingly, it's the mother who recognises all of this and takes it in her stride while the dad doesn't get it - but, then again, Alan Bennett always writes strong women.

There's more, of course, like the yob who looks at porn with the dad but the actor's just a little bit too posh to pull off Leeds-yob convincingly (but it's his first West End role so he'll learn). There's the next door neighbour who plays at being the wise woman but has no real idea what she's talking abut when they think the dad has died and they have to wash his corpse. All life is here.

I don't know why I enjoyed it - I can't point to anything in particular - but I did, and it's kept me thinking about it and reconsidering my views so it's lodged in my mind for some reason. It's not on for long so if you get the chance go and see it.

PS: um, yes, I did nod slightly towards the end of the first half but I'd had a hard, tiring week... that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!