Saturday, 31 October 2009

The Unthanks - 'Here's The Tender Coming'

Here you go, hinny, here's The Unthanks singing the title song from their latest album, 'Here's The Tender Coming'. A lovely song it is too, and a great performance on Jools Holland.

Friday, 30 October 2009

SLADE - 'Merry Xmas Everybody - Party Hits'

A new SLADE compilation album will be released on 23 November, just in time for Christmas. Including their Christmas songs, a New Year song and some big hits, it's a nice selection. There's nothing here that hasn't already been released, but I'll be getting it anyway.

  1. Merry Xmas Everybody
  2. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
  3. Mama Weer All Crazee
  4. Let The Good Times Roll / Feel So Fine
  5. Coz I Love You
  6. Gudbuy T'Jane
  7. We're Really Gonna Raise The Roof
  8. Cum On Feel The Noize
  9. My Baby Left Me
  10. Skweeze Me Pleeze Me
  11. Let's Have A Party
  12. Hey Ho Wish You Well
  13. Let's Dance
  14. I'm A Rocker
  15. My Oh My (Swing Version)
  16. Standing On The Corner
  17. Do You Believe In Miracles
  18. All Join Hands
  19. Okey Cokey
  20. Here's To... (The New Year)

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Norman Painting RIP

It is with deep sadness that I have to report that Norman Painting has died. Norman was - and will always be, for millions of people - Phil Archer in 'The Archers' radio serial. 'The Archers' has been going continuously since 1950 and Norman was in the original pilot episode.

I started listening to 'The Archers' in the '80s and have been an on-off addict to the Sunday morning omnibus programme ever since. Phil Archer, as you'd expect from his name, has been central to the show forever. In the last few years he's been more in the background as his son David takes the lead for the Archer family in the small farming village of Ambridge. Very few of us live in the idyl of Ambridge but we can escape there once a week in the omnibus.

Farewell Norman, and thanks.

Amanda Writes To Robert Smith

If you've looked at this blog before then you'll know I like music. I like all sorts of music, I still buy hard-copy music and I still go to gigs. I still get excited by discovering new music and I am loyal to my heroes. But I haven't always been like that. And that is very much what Amanda Palmer writes about in her latest blog, an open letter to her old hero, Robert Smith of The Cure.

She writes about how she loved Robert in high school, bought all his records and ephemera and wanted to be like him. Then she grew older, started The Dresden Dolls (for which we are all thankful) and lost the true faith, not listening to music anymore and becoming A BAD FAN. Luckily she discovered him again at the Coachella festival she was also playing at, saw the error of her ways and the entered light again. Read her long, looong posting here.

I admire Amanda an awful lot and her new posting simply raises her higher in my estimation. She shares herself with her fans to an extraordinary level and sometimes I read her blogs cold, sometimes I can't help chuckling and sometimes she moves me because I know exactly what she's talking about. And I mean *exactly*.

My first ever 7" single was 'Lola' by The Kinks (backed with 'Berkerley Mews') at Christmas 1970 and my first long player was a best of by The Seekers. I collected and loved hundreds of records through the 1970s, some travelling with me to university and then my move to London. But I then got wrapped up in 'real' life, the need for a job, for a roof over my head and clothes, food and all the trappings of the world. I've mentioned before that I don't recall the mid-'80s well at all and that's because I was trying to make a life for myself. And that was my 'break' with my previous first love, music. I started re-connecting again in the late '80s, but with a new set of heroes. My glam and punk heroes were no more and the world had moved on. I left the true faith behind.

And then, seven years ago, my love of music was re-born and the CDs and gig tickets started to pile up. I rediscovered old heroes who had never really gone away, I'm the one who moved away. But not again. I know who I am now and I hope to stay me for a long time to come. I have met some of my heroes now and I hope to meet more in the future. I *will* buy their next album, I *will* be loyal, in part because it's my job to keep my heroes going, let them know they are loved and respected, and I *will* be there at the next gig. That's my part of the bargain for stealing a small part of my heroes. My tastes are probably set by now and I won't give up my existing heroes, but I will add to them as I discover new and exciting music.

Thank you for a very thoughtful blog, Amanda. I still think back to meeting you after the Alan Cumming show in London over the summer and you getting up off the floor and giving me the biggest, skweeziest hug imaginable after I'd had an awful day. I *will* be at your next London gig. I *will* buy your next record and DVD. I *will* continue to read your blogs as soon as they're posted. And I *will* post the occasional and gratuitous photo of you in my blog (sorry!).

As we all know, Punk Cabaret Is Freedom!

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

The Dead Weather - 'I Cut Like a Buffalo'

I have no idea what this is about but it's worth watching. I saw 'em on Friday and they made me download their album. There's an awful lot of black clothing on that stage. Let your inner goth out...

Morrissey at the Royal Albert Hall

It's always a bit of a drama with Morrissey. First he cancelled his show at The Royal Albert Hall in May and re-scheduled it for last night, then he collapsed on stage in Swindon at the weekend with speculation about the next few gigs, including London, but luckily he sauntered on stage and tore into 'This Charming Man', followed shortly by 'How Soon Is Now', two of my favourite Smith's songs.

With a powerhouse of a band behind him, all neatly turned out in white shirts and black trousers, with Morrissey in blue shirt and jeans, he put on a great show. Or at least I think he did. My problem was with the seats. The gig sold out very quickly earlier in the year so the best tickets I managed to nab were way up in the circle which I wasn't too worried about until I saw where they were - right above the stage. At any given time I could see about half the stage and more often than not I was able to see Morrissey's head and shoulders and little more. I can, however, confirm that there is no bald spot on the quiffed-one's head. He continues to be blessed with a full head of hair.

Because of where we were, up in the gods, it also meant the sound was a bit fuzzy and echoey since the banks of speakers were pointed to the front of the venue. Everyone around me seemed to be thoroughly enjoying Mozza so I assume it was just me. I've always been lucky enough to get tickets in the arena or stalls areas so have always had a good view at the Royal Albert Hall. And, of course, it's at a Morrissey gig that I get bad seats - this is the third time I've seen him and both previous times have been plagued with problems, so maybe it's just not meant to be?

Still, he seemed to be fine, wandering round the stage and even joking with the audience about his collapse a few days earlier. At one point he lay down on the stage during a guitar solo and later said that the doctor had advised him not to smile... to which he replied that he didn't anyway. He only played for about 1:10 and then came on for a one-song encore, so he wasn't on stage for long, but everyone left happily enough at the end - apart from the crowd at the front of the stage who were still fighting over the shirt he took off on stage and threw into the audience. I suspect the last few stalwarts are still there now tussling over who carried home the trophy of a sweaty Mozza shirt.

Favourite songs were 'This Charming Man', 'I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris', 'Irish Blood, English Heart' and the encore of 'First Of The Gang To Die'. I also liked 'The World Is Full Of Crashing Bores' which Morrissey prefaced by saying he'd noticed an increase in the number of celebrity chefs and none of them were vegetarians. Good on you for that.

I can't pretend I enjoyed the gig, but that was down to the venue rather than Morrissey. In future, unless I can get seats lower down or at worst in the middle of the circle at the RAH then I won't bother. The disappointment isn't worth it. I hope the rest of the tour goes as well as last night.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Loud, Fast, Brash and Dirty

You might remember that back in August I had an urge for some loud, fast, brash and dirty music and ended up with Toyah. I look back on that now with a faint air of amusement. I now know what I wanted, but it's taken a while for it to work its way through my sub-conscious. What I obviously needed was some Motörhead! I just didn't see it at the time.

What could possibly be louder (other than SLADE), faster, brasher or more dirty than Motörhead?

Back in the punk wars of the late '70s, Lemmy and Motörhead were the only metal band it was vaguely ok to like - they even toured with The Damned. Lemmy was - and still is - the epitome of everything your parents warn you against and that's part of his attraction. He also sang lead vocals on Hawkwind's 'Silver Machine', their only hit single, and later got sacked for drugs. Lemmy? Drugs? How is that possible? He was bad then and he still is.

Motörhead is still going strong and even has a new album out. Not that I'll buy it - I'm content with the 'best of' of old tunes I've just downloaded for £2.49. My head is banging on overtime to make up for lost time.

Green Shoes

Now, this may come as a surprise to many of you, but I don't actually own a pair of green shoes. Shocking, I know.

It occurred to me today that I wanted a pair of green shoes. I suspect mid-life crisis is involved here - I haven't had one yet so it must kick in soon or it'll be too late. There are the stereotypes of buying a red sports car or a flash motorcycle, but I think I'll express my middle age with green shoes.

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm not fashion icon material at all, and I have no aspirations to be one either. I see shoes as something you put on your feet to go out in, protect the feet from broken glass and keep warm in winter. I'd much rather go barefoot.

My shoes are the epitome of foot boredom but I was, once, for a short while, a minor-league trend follower. Do you remember back in the early '80s (those of you old enough to remember, of course) there was short-term fad for suede calf-length boots? Pixie boots as I used to think of them. I had a pair of pixie boots and they were purple (it was either purple or a pallid grey so purple it was). That's about the only time I've been even vaguely radical in the foot department.

So. I want a pair of green shoes, and not boring bottle green either. I want *noticeable* green. No idea where I'll get them from though, so any suggestions are more than welcome. Maybe I need to stalk Camden market or Carnaby Street or somewhere like that. Suggestions welcomed.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Time

I've been having odd thoughts about time today. In the wee small hours of this morning we left British Summer Time behind, put the clocks back, and, suddenly, we're heading into winter. I quite like the fact that time was invented in Greenwich, less than ten miles away from where I'm sitting, over there (*points*). All time stems from the Greenwich meridian so I blame Greenwich for the darker nights but who do I blame for the arbitrary nature of BST v BST?

Of course, in the autumn, the nights draw in and mornings get slower to show light, with the sun having a longer and longer snooze before popping over the horizon. The leaves turn red and brown and fall, the temperature begins to drop and the lights of Christmas start to appear. I like our seasons in the UK, I like hot summers and cold winters. I like gradually wearing more clothes in winter, turning on the heating and getting used to more darkness than daylight. It still comes as a surprise to me that it gets dark earlier and earlier as the year draws to a close. You'd think I'd know by now.

As a card-carrying official Christmas-oholic I get irritated by Christmas emerging sooner every year. Both Oxford Street and Regent Street already have their Christmas lights up - but not yet switched on, thankfully - and the shops are gradually starting to stock cards and wotnot. I have a specific rule that the count-down to Christmas does not start until December - I plan things before then, obviously, but don't really do anything. On 1 December all my Christmas CDs get downloaded onto my iPod again and the Christmas DVDs come out and get dusted down. The Tree gets adopted 12 days before Christmas and out come the old (and not-so-old) decorations, some of which I've had forever, and I can remember where virtually every single one comes from. Is that odd? O well....

I've got a great lead-up to the festive season planned this year:

~ Alphabeat at Heaven
~ Brenda Holloway and Chris Clark at the intimate Jazz Cafe
~ Brenda Holloway and Chris Clark and a host of others at Hammersmith
~ 'Sweet Charity' at the Chocolate Factory
~ The Unthanks (formerly Rachel Unthank & The Winterset) at Shepherd's Bush
~ Here Come The Girls at Hammersmith with Lulu, Chaka Khan and Anastasia
~ New York Dolls at The Forum
~ Alison Moyet at The Royal Festival Hall
~ Steeleye Span at The Barbican (*so* looking forward to seeing Maddy and the Steeleyes)
~ 'Nation' at The National Theatre
~ Ray Davies at Hammersmith
~ Pet Shop Boys at the O2 Arena
~ Public Image Limited at Brixton Academy
~ Boy George at the Leicester Square Theatre
~ Matthew Bourne's 'Swan Lake' at Sadlers Wells

And, of course, there's the German Christmas Market along the South Bank to browse, 'Winter Wonderland' in Hyde Park (that's where I got my magik hat two years ago) and, no doubt, lots more to add to the list. I need a pantomime. I need an art exhibition of some sort (maybe a trip to the Tate Modern?). I need Christmas parties. Naturally, I need freezing weather and snow...

Then the cycle starts again and I face a milestone...

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Phew! I got to the end of this blog without referring to Bowie's song of the same name in which Time "falls wanking to the floor ..." O poo, I just did!

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Day Of The Sunflowers (We March On) - Basement Jaxx feat. Yoko Ono

How fabulous is this? Basement Jaxx have taken the happy pills and Yoko Ono is in full-wail mode - go for it! I saw this last night on Jools and it brought a happy smile to my face.

There was a short interview with Yoko earlier in the show and then a clip of John Lennon on 'Top of The Pops' doing 'Instant Karma' with Yoko in the background (they should've shown a video of Yoko, not her husband, and why on earth waste time asking what "karma" means?). She sang a tender version of 'I'm Going Away Smiling' (from her latest album), just her and piano. And then she came back as you can see, with sunflowers and performance dancing being Yoko. Which she does so well, of course.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Amanda Palmer - 'If You Want To Sing Out, Log In'

Amanda Palmer demonstrates the power of Twitter by holding a ninja beach gig at a moments notice and then videoing it because a film director happened to turn up. I've got no idea how many people she persuaded to stand still while she sang 'If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out' by Cat Stevens. Watch it to the end to read all about it.

Punk Cabaret Is Freedom!

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Cerys Matthews at Union Chapel

Tonight I went to see Cerys Matthews play at the Union Chapel up in Islington. I've never seen Cerys before although I've enjoyed her music both with Catatonia and her solo work. I like her voice, her phrasing, her words and I like that she sings in Welsh as well as in English. She's promoting her excellent new album, 'Don't Look Down' which was released in both an English and a Welsh version ('Paid Edrych I Lawr') which, she proudly told us, went straight to No 1 in the Welsh chart. I always had good intentions of learning God's language when I lived in Wales but learned a mere four words so I, naturally, got the English version of the album.

Cerys came on stage alone, sat down ('hope you don't mind' she said) with her guitar and started singing an old Irish folk song followed by a Welsh song. She said she was going to play music in rough order through her life, starting off with the folk songs she learned as a young girl through to the present day, and that's what she did. She was joined on stage by two other musicians playing various instruments, with Cerys on guitar. She mentioned she'd been in a band and travelled the world but didn't mention the name, Catatonia, and the '90s were represented by 'Road Rage' - I'd secretly hoped for more Catatonia songs, but was happy with her powerful version of the song.

She then took us to Tennessee where she recorded her first solo album, 'Cockahoop', and then songs from 'Never Say Goodbye'. Chatting away between songs, telling us she was going to do lots of name-dropping because she didn't do enough of that, Cerys came across as a very down to earth person, proud of being Welsh, telling us about doing a poetry programme for the BBC and dropping in a reference to being in the jungle (she was on 'I'm A Celebrity' a few years back). And then she was joined on stage by two additional guitarists and she stood up to sing songs from the latest album. These worked particularly well and showed a nice progression from the earlier albums. She then left the stage and returned for the obligatory encore that started off with another Irish song before segueing into the glorious 'Strange Glue' from her Catatonia days (one of my favourites) and finished with 'Arglwydd Dyma Fi' from her first album.

I'm quietly delighted that I've now seen Cerys Matthews live. She's a lovely lady and played a good selection of songs - kudos to her for playing old folk songs that (probably) no-one in the hall knew rather than just playing songs from her albums, but she pulled it off with her voice and personality. Favourite songs were 'Road Rage' and 'Strange Glue' (I feed my demons as well, Cerys), 'Chardonay', 'Ruby' and, from the new album, the great 'Arlington Way' and 'A Captain Needs A Ship'.

After the show Cerys was doing a signing so, along with a load of other people, I hung around for the chance to meet her and get her to sign something - I'd bought her 'Moon Songs' ep of out-takes from the latest album when I'd arrived at the chapel so that will do perfectly. And meet her I did. She signed the sleeve of the ep for me, worried for a moment that she'd spelled my name right when I said I wasn't Welsh, and was very nice.

If you get the chance to see Cerys on this tour, go along and have a great evening out - I'm still smiling. I will definitely see her again when she next plays London. Thank you for a great show, Cerys!

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Alan Cumming and 'The Real Cabaret'

I've enjoyed watching a documentary featuring Alan Cumming on BBC4 tonight, 'The Real Cabaret'. It looks at the background to the 'Cabaret' film and show, travelling back to the Weimar cabaret scene of the '30s, rare film footage of Christopher Isherwood talking about the 'real' Sally Bowles, interviews with John Kander and Liza Minnelli.

Alan played the MC in 'Cabaret' on stage in London and New York so he went in search of the real MCs in the '30s and cabaret in modern Berlin (we see a bog-standard drag act miming to Kate Bush). It also included rather sad footage of cabaret artists performing in the concentration camps - performers to the bitter end. Alan makes a good job of presenting it so, if you get the chance, try to see it.

'What good is sitting all alone in your room?'

Monday, 19 October 2009

Maximo Park - 'Twelve'

I bought the new 12" ep from Maximo Park, 'Twelve', a week and a bit ago at their gig at the Royal Albert Hall. I've only just got round to digitising the vinyl record and have listened to it a few times now.

There are four tracks - three are remixes of 'Let's Get Clinical' plus one remix of 'A Cloud Of Mystery', both originally from the last album, 'Quicken The Heart'. I have to say that, if it wasn't for Paul's voice, I'd have no idea that it was Maximo Park under all the studio knob-twiddling. I'm not a great remix fan - if a performance is good, why does it need remixing?

The 'Clark Remix' of 'Let's Get Clinical' features Paul's voice morphed into that of a Dalek (spooky) but I think that that plus 'A Cloud of Mystery' are my favourite remixes.

I was surprised - and pleased - to see that I was the first member to play the songs on Last.fm.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Don't You Love Charlie?

In a nice kind of way, of course. Charlie Brooker has a nice style of cynical rant about lots of aspects of modern life or, well, life in general, pinpointing stupidity with his eagle gaze and then burning it with his giant-sized magnifying glass. He did it again today in his column in The Guardian in which he casually rips to shreds an article by Jan Moir in The Daily Mail. Read Charlie's article here.

Part of me hates posting this - why on earth should I give the breath of publicity (even if it's just through this little blog) to a hateful person like Moir? why am I, even indirectly, giving possible credence to her plainly barmy and unsubstantiated assertions, her casual and unthinking homophobia? I'm not. I don't want to be in that ball game. Good on Charlie for ridiculing her and her stupid theories. Why does she have a problem with civil partnerships and gay and lesbian people? Why does anyone? And playing on the sad death of Stephen Gately as a convenient event on which to spin her wierd ideas is awful.

I came across Charlie's article just after reading about a gay man killed in Trafalgar Square apparently for being gay. This is Trafalgar Square I'm talking about, the big public square in the centre of London with loads of people day and night, a police station round the corner and, all over the summer, the focus for Anthony Gormley's Fourth Plinth project with lights and cameras all over the place. So why did two teenage girls and a 20-year lad feel safe enough to kick a 62 year old man to death three weeks ago because he was gay?

Now, I doubt that the apparent killers are Daily Mail readers but this is just a different aspect of the same problem. Why do people hate complete strangers for no reason at all other than they're gay, or black, or Muslim or some other reason that just says 'different'? I don't understand that, I never have. Can someone enlighten me?

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Merry Xmas 2009 Tour

Slade are hitting the road again for their annual Merry Xmas Everybody Tour, starting in December (not *original* SLADE, you understand, but still with Dave and Don). I hesitate to say this, but I'm in two minds whether to see them this year. I was all excited about seeing them at Shepherds Bush last year and then the gig was called off at the last minute due to "illness". Despite foolishly holding onto my tickets waiting for a re-scheduled show, it was finally cancelled in August this year (a mere eight months later).

This year, the London show is at the Indigo at the O2 Arena, smaller than Shepherd's Bush so it might actually sell enough tickets to go ahead. I hope so. In any case, here are all the tour dates:

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Buffy on 'Democracy Now!'

There's a great interview with Buffy Sainte-Marie on the 'Democracy Now!' website broadcast on Colombus Day in America (12 October). Buffy's looking good in her sparkly jacket and speaking candidly, including saying 'no' to singing 'Now That The Buffalo's Gone'.

It's a very candid interview and Buffy is obviously comfortable and happy, talking about past and present, talking about the background to some songs, like 'Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee' and how Elvis's people wanted some of the royalties when he recorded 'Until It's Time Fot You To Go'.

Considering it's an hour-long programme, it whizzes past very quickly. The first 20 minutes are scene-setting and Buffy starts speaking at 23 mins. Take a look and learn something - I did.

Buffy Sainte-Marie on Tour in the UK 2010

More dates have been announced for Buffy's tour of the UK in January 2010:

24 Jan 2010 The Anvil, Basingstoke
25 Jan 2010 Leamington Assembly, Leamington Spa
28 Jan 2010 The Sage, Gateshead
30 Jan 2010 O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London
31 Jan 2010 Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton

Check Buffy's MySpace page for updates on the tour and news (click the photo):


I've already got front row tickets for the circle at Shepherd's Bush (yes, there's allocated seating for a change) but am tempted to go to The Sage in Gateshead as well. I visited the venue for the first time in July and decided I'd make the trip to see a concert there at some point to sample the place in action. But who'd have ever thought it - Buffy going to Gateshead...?

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

X-Ray Spex Live at The Roundhouse DVD/CD

"Some people think little girls should be seen and not heard ..." Just try keeping Poly Styrene quiet, that's all I've got to say. Roll on 9 November for the live DVD and CD (and it includes the new song 'Bloody War'). I was there y'know.

The Slits

Those nice girls, The Slits, are back with a new album and gigs.

'Trapped Animal' is released next week and, from the clips I've heard, sounds good. There's also a new 2xCD version of 'Cut' being released to celebrate it's 30th birthday this year including the John Peel sessions (I taped them back in the day) and various demo and alternate takes of their classics. They're playing around the country this week and playing the University of London Union this Friday (16 October).

Sunday, 11 October 2009

KirstyFest 2009

This afternoon I attended KirstyFest 2009, the celebration of the life and work of Kirsty MacColl. Kirsty was killed in a diving tragedy off the island of Cozumel in Mexico in 2000 and, ever since, fans and admirers have got together to celebrate her life on the closest Sunday to her birthday. Today would have been her 50th birthday.

The Kirsty Krew originally got together to buy a memorial bench on the south side of Soho Square, echoing one of her songs from 'Titanic Days'. The celebration has gone much wider than the first dozen or so fans who were moved to mark her life with a permanent bench in Soho Square, and each year the celebration gets bigger and bigger. Jean MacColl, Kirsty's mother, always turns up to tell us about developments with the Justice For Kirsty campaign and Kirsty's sons have started attending as well.

I've been a few times, accompanying Chris (one of the original bench stalwarts), and it never ceases to amaze me how many new faces there are at each event. This is a testament to the power of Kirsty's music and the legacy she's left behind her. This year the event was held in the Phoenix Club (underneath the Phoenix Theatre on Charing Cross Road) and organised by Claire, so well done!

It's nice that it's attended by celebs as well as mere mortals, and some of the names I didn't see were Holly Johnson, Phil Jupitus and Steve Lillywhite, although I did see Janice Long. I just never look in the right direction. Still, it doesn't matter about them - it's about Kirsty.

Maximo Park at The Royal Albert Hall

Friday night saw the long-awaited gig by Maximo Park at the Royal Albert Hall in London, the first time they've played that august and very round venue. I never understand the seating plan for the hall, so as soon as we got there I had to go into the auditorium to see where I was sitting and found I was to the right of the stage and three rows back, but only a matter of yards from the stage, so I was satisfied. Then a whiz through the outer round corridor to find the merch stand and a chance to buy the new 12" ep that gets properly released in November (it sold out very quickly). Then I could relax and wait for the show to start.

On walked Duncan, leading the band onto the stage, strapping on his guitar and, by the time Paul joined them on-stage, he was ready to play the intro to 'That Beating Heart', a strange choice for an opener but they were off and running. It was great being so close to the stage for a change - the closest I've ever been at a show so I could really see them. They're a solid band, playing a well-practised set allowing Paul to run and jump around the stage like a thing possessed, and in a trilby rather than a bowler. He wasn't still for a moment, jumping onto the raised platforms to be better seen - and see - the crowd in front of the stage.

We were promised surprises and surprises we got, with a small brass band appearing after the first half dozen-or-so songs for a few songs and then, on the other side of the stage appeared an all-girl string quartet for Paul to sing solo with them and then be joined by Duncan on acoustic guitar to do a wonderful version of 'Going Missing'. It worked really well, a testament to the quality of song-writing. And then, later, Paul left the stage to climb into the balcony on my side of the stage and Lukas did the same on the other side, running round the balcony to reach the giant organ so he could launch into the heavy opening chords of 'Acrobat'. I'm not sure if I've seen them play that before and to hear it with the booming organ of the Royal Albert Hall in the mix was quite special.


The whole gig was a bit special. Maximo Park have made that subtle move to maturity, eager to push the boundaries with their music and having the quality of songs and musicality to do so. I was most impressed - I was expecting punky-pop and I got that in great big dollops but I also witnessed thoughtful artistry - they're clearly ready for an evolution. This bodes really well for the next album.

Favourite moments? Oh, there were lots of them. They played songs from each of the albums, including some they rarely play, such as 'Acrobat'. I loved (because I always do) 'The Coast Is Always Changing' and 'Apply Some Pressure', 'Karaoke Plays', 'Your Urge', 'Parisian Skies' and 'Girls Who Play Guitars', and, from the latest album, 'Questing Not Coasting', 'Tanned', 'Let's Get Clinical' (dedicated to Olivia Newton-John) and 'The Kids Are Sick Again' with the brass band. After making us work for an encore we were treated to another favourite, the magnificent 'Our Velocity'. Enjoy myself? O yes!

The gig was a triumph and the Maximos have yet to disappoint, with a goodly selection of songs from their albums to keep everyone happy. There was no 'Limassol' but something's got to give as they add more songs to the stage show. It wasn't filmed but a few videos have appeared on YouTube so take a look. Now, when's the next tour, lads?

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Gladys Knight at Wembley

Thursday night and a trek north to Wembley Arena to see the majestic Gladys Knight on her farewell tour. I saw Gladys three years ago at the Royal Albert Hall and thoroughly enjoyed her performance so I was looking forward to seeing her again. By the time we got there Tito Jackson (the support band) was already on stage so it became a debate between getting a beer and seeing a legendary Jackson - Tito v beer - and I'm afraid beer won (after my day at work I deserved it). I decided I'd made the right decision when I heard him to a extensively extended 'Walking The Dog' and then a woman singing 'I'll Be There' and 'Shake Your Body Down To The Ground' - c'mon Tito, if it's not Michael singing then it should at least be you.

Into the arena, found our seats and noticed cameras around the place since the show was being filmed (for a DVD I hope) and I reluctantly decided to obey the signs saying 'no photography' for a change, so there are no photos of Ms Knight, but she looked good in purple trousers and a sparkly off the shoulder number. There was a nice theatrical set with steps down onto the stage, the band on the raised level and four backing singers at each end of the stage with lots of space for Gladys to move around. As soon as she appeared at the top of the steps the whole crowd surged to our feet - that's Gladys Knight up there y'know! As she was off, putting on a great show for the next two hours.

Gladys still has her lovely powerful and warm voice and a back catalogue to kill for, and she took us on a musical journey from her first hit with The Pips, 'Every Beat Of My Heart' in 1961 and then moved us forward through different musical styles through the decades to her latest album three years ago. Never still and never sitting down, she kept moving across the stage, singing, chatting and joking with the crowd, a consummate performer.

And then on came the rogue Pip, Bubba Knight, Gladys's older brother who somehow found out that she was doing a show and decided to come over to London to help her out. Asking Gladys to hold his coat he then went into a great James Brown routine, energetically ruling the stage and ending up kneeling on the floor, unable to get up until Gladys did a Pips twirl and pulled him to his feet - "pretend like we've choreographed it" says brother Bubba. Daft as a brush but with a great voice and moves, he could show a lot of the latest crop of "stars" a thing or two about how to work an audience. He's got a great line in comedy and, with Gladys as his straight-woman puts on an excellent interlude in the show. Bubba is my favourite Pip, o yes.

Later in the show Gladys introduced us to her special guest, Dione Warwick, who looked a bit frail coming down the lighted staircase but, after singing Gladys's praises broke into song with Gladys joining in the choruses and singing her own parts in 'That's What Friends Are For'.

Gladys can give us heavy soul and heavy show-biz by turns with a voice that puts many of today's "stars" to shame - that lady can sing! Favourite moments for me were 'I Heard It Through The Grapevine', 'Midnight Train To Georgia', a dramatic 'License To Kill' and 'Save The Overtime For Me'. I'd also single out the encore - a definite highlight - a soulful version of 'I Will Survive' that, after the first verse exploded into it's discotastic glory sounding fresh and new with Gladys's voice.

It may be billed as her farewell tour but I hope there'll be many one-off shows in future - thanks for a great night out Gladys!

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Maximo Park - 'Twelve'

The mighty Maximo Park (what I am seeing on Friday at the Royal Albert Hall) will release their first ever 12" ep in November called, surprisingly enough, 'Twelve'. As Paul says in his latest missive from Maximo Heights...

"... it gives me a certain amount of pleasure to announce a special treat for all Maximo collectors in the shape of our first ever 12" single, cunningly titled 'Twelve'. It's a classic format and we wanted to do something more 'dance' because Quicken The Heart is not only sparkling pop, but I find it promotes a wiggle of the backside and a brisk tap of the foot...


Apart from the 'I Want You To Stay' b-sides, we've avoided remixes largely because we wanted to define ourselves outside of our famous label. We approached some artists we respect and put out the call for remixes. 'Let's Get Clinical' proved popular with Clark (his remix is mental!), Tom Middleton (ultra-danceable!) and Hijacker (subtly addictive!), whereas dubstep pioneer Martyn fancied a crack at 'A Cloud Of Mystery' with intoxicating results. My vocal gets chopped up and completely mullered in versions that will hopefully appeal to new people as well as those of you with a toe in techno waters.

Preorder Maximo Park - Twelve on 12" Vinyl from Bleep
Preorder Maximo Park - Twelve on 12" Vinyl from Recordstore

It'll be available on the 2nd of November in Germany and everywhere else two weeks later on the 16th of that same month. You can preorder it from Bleep.com and Recordstore above in the form of 12" vinyl and the ubiquitous download. Available separately on download only will be some more "aceeeeed" mixes by Tom Middleton in the shape of a 'Dub' version and a '1989' version, too.

It comes in a nice fluoro-green sleeve and we're gonna bring a few with us on tour tonight. They're currently in transit and those going to the October shows in UK and Germany will have a first chance to hear this collection of beats and bleeps."


Aren't you pleased I told you? And isn't it just the right shade of *green*?

In addition, the Maximo lads have done a version of 'When' by Vincent Gallo (no, me neither) for the Warp20 album celebrating Warp Records' 20th anniversary. It's very dark and moody and available for download as a bonus track on iTunes.

New Year's Eve

I want to be in Boston on New Year's Eve for the Amanda Palmer show with the Boston Pops. I want.

Apparently, she's taking over the whole venue, not just the main concert hall, and has promised many, many wonderful and wierd acts. Maybe it'll be fimed? I can hope.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Beverley Knight - 'In Your Shoes'

Here's a film from Beverley Knight's gig at the ICA a month ago singing 'In Your Shoes'. Absorb the energy. If you look carefully you can see me in profile at the bottom right corner at 3:14. Yes, I was there.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Patrik Fitzgerald - 'All The Years Of Trying'

This evening we went to see 'All The Years Of Trying', the documentary about Patrik Fitzgerald by Dom Shaw, as part of the Raindance Film Festival. The subtitle, 'An Ode To Patrik Fitzgerald', tells you all you need to know about this being a labour of love to an old hero.

Before the film started we were treated to a mini-gig in the cinema by Attila The Stockbroker (who is interviewed in the film) and Scrappy Hood from Milk Kan, with Scrappy doing some acoustic songs (including the new single, 'God With An iPod' that sounded interested) and Attila mainly doing some of his poems and a version of Patrik's 'Backstreet Boys'. That was a nice way to start the evening.

The film itself lasts for just over an hour and is a mix of interviews, old footage of Patrik and some more recent concert material from the last few years. Who would've guessed that Garry Bushell was a Patrik fan? Or that Benjamin Zephaniah credits Patrik with helping him decide to become a poet and move to London? It just goes to show that you don't always know who's lives you touch and how that touch might affect people. I don't know why, but I still remember missing Patrik play the Oranges and Lemons pub by one day in Oxford in 1978 or 1979 - I've missed loads of gigs in my life but that's one miss that sticks in my memory.

The film wasn't of the highest quality, it must be said, either sound or vision, but, for this film, a pristeen and high digital feel would have been totally wrong. Patrik was on Small Wonder Records and part of the 'do-it-yourself' movement so a slick documentary would have been *so* wrong. It also matched most of the older footage and the photos of Patrik which all looked like they were from newspaper clippings or record covers. The look and feel of the film worked for me.

The highlight of the film was, of course, seeing Patrik play live in London a few years ago and in Norway at a celebration of his work. It was quite touching and nostalgic at the same time. I loved seeing and hearing some of those old songs and, a couple of times, wanted to break out in applause at the end of a song like I would at a live gig. And I'm not ashamed to say there was a tear in my eye a couple of times. It's odd that some of his songs, like 'All My Friends Are Dead Now' and 'All The Years Of Trying' were written years ago but could be recent songs from an older man looking back on his youth. They were quite poignant.

I particularly liked hearing Patrik sing 'All The Years Of Trying', a song that starts off with him singing about almost making it but his records not selling as many as the record company hoping they would. The second verse goes:

'But you did sell some records, sold them to the ones who wanted them
Who treasured them and keep them with their other souvenirs
Never to be sold...'

... and I thought he was singing to us in the audience who remember him.

If you get the chance to see the film then go and see it. See a spirit undimmed by the years, someone who does it for the love of doing it rather than fame or money. It would be great fun to see Patrik play in London - and I wouldn't miss the gig by one day this time!

'Into The Woods' at the Landor Theatre

On Friday night Chris and Angela continued my Sondheim education with a trip to the teeny Landor Theatre in Clapham to see its production of 'Into The Woods'. The Landor Theatre is, essentially, the upstairs function room of the Landor Pub and rather small and bijoux, with maybe space for 60 in the audience. I've been there twice before, to see productions of 'Follies' and 'Assassins' and this was very similar in production values and heart. The set was a shelf of giants books of fairytales, some books moved and others were clambered over and under.

The story is made up of interwoven fairytales, giving an alternative take on the basic stories and then, in the second act, follows them through beyond the ending we're familiar with. I'm not entirely sure what this is meant to represent - if anything - but I just enjoyed the little twists and turns, enjoying the rather psychotic Little Red Riding Hood, the witch that just happens to live next door and the reluctant Cinderella who people think is a bit wierd for talking to birds. Needless to say, there's no happy ending when the Giant's wife comes to earth looking for revenge but, hey, that's life.

The production was a bit of a mixed bag. I liked the two pixies who shifted the books and helped with the props but they must've been bored rigid being on stage (or rather, on top of the piles of books) the whole time with no lines. The costumes were very hit and miss, with Little Red Riding Hood's red cape looking like it was top quality nylon and bought from a joke shop, but that's me being nit-picky. I enjoyed it and, in particular liked Orla Mullan as the Witch (who seems to have stepped in at the last minute for the real witch, so very well done to her), Sarah Head as the Baker's Wife and Rebecca Wikking as Little Red Riding Hood.

The production is on for another couple of weeks so there's still a chance to se it.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

SLADE - 'Live At The BBC'

The new record from SLADE was released on Monday, 'Live At The BBC', and this is a new record, not an existing album remastered, this is all-new stuff and my, my, my but it is *good*.

If you're a SLADE fan, you'll have heard most of these songs but not necessarily these versions, live studio versions of great SLADE songs from sessions for BBC radio between 1969-1972. A lot of the songs are on 'Play It Loud' but I think I prefer these versions which sound fresh and under-produced in comparison. It's great to hear the frantic pace of Don's drumming and Jim's bass high in the mix for a change - a truly powerful rhythm section that deserves more credit that they ever get. Don is clearly a powerhouse and right up-front. Dave gets in some guitar solos and Noddy is, of course, Noddy, one of the best ever rock voices.

There are some covers of songs I've never heard before, so not only is this a record full of new versions of loved songs, but there are *new* songs to fall in love with. Ever heard SLADE do 'Nights In White Satin' with Nod doing tender and Dave and Jim doing falsetto vocals? The Beatles' 'Getting Better' and a few others that you wouldn't expect, such as SLADE doing a rock version of a Fairport Convention song? What's that about...?

Needless to say, I'm loving it. The first disc is made up of studio sessions plus four jingles SLADE did for Radio 1. Disc 2 is a live concert recorded at the Paris Studios in August 1972 for Radio 1's In Concert series. The packaging is, again, excellent (kudos to Salvo and Union Square), with some photos I've never seen before and new interviews with the band in the booklet.

Have you got your copy yet?

'Broken Embraces' by Almodovar

Phew, yes, I'm back online and just in time to tell you about my latest outing to see Pedro Almodovar's most recent cinematic masterpiece, 'Broken Embraces'. Chris is a fan of Mr Almodovar and introduced me to him several years ago with 'All About My Mother' and his are some of the few foreign language films I go to - I have a thing about having to 'read' films, y'see.

'Broken Embraces' is typical Almodovar story-telling, complex with lots of twists and turns, a film within a film, flashing backwards and forwards, keeping you engrossed and following the shifting narrative. The world seems so much more interesting in an Almodovar script. It was also nice to see the ensemble he's collected for this film, some of whom I am familiar with.

Penelope Cruz was looking most lovely and turned in a stellar performance as did her leading man, Lluis Homar, who I've seen in a couple of films and who always seems to get a shagging role. I'd also single out Blanca Portillo for praise, once again playing one of those you-know-there's-more-to-her-story-than-she's-letting-on roles that she's good at and, once again, turns up trumps at the end of the film. All of the cast were good and I'd recommend seeing it on the big screen while you still can.

I suspect this is another film that will reward repeated viewings so I'll add it to my DVD list.