Saturday, 31 July 2010

'Blackone' by Jive Grave

Jive Grave is the latest incarnation of Geo Wyeth, aka Novice Theory. I first came across Geo in October 2008 when he supported Justin Bond's show, 'Lustre', from which he got a place on 'Later... with Jools Holland'. I loved his album, 'At The End We Listen', and the follow-up EP, 'Ordinary Death' in 2009. Then he gathered some musicians around him and became Jive Grave. They've just issued their first record, an EP called 'Blackone' which is available from iTunes and Amazon but it's better to download it from Bandcamp since more money goes to the band that way - do the clicky thing here.

Here's one of the few videos I've found of Jive Grave playing a song called 'Daughter Song' - it's not on the new EP but I like it.

JIVE GRAVE at rockwood music hall from Geo Wyeth on Vimeo.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

In Here, Everything Is Beautiful

As you'll know (of course you will) Miss Amanda Palmer is starring as the EmCee in a new production of 'Cabaret' in Boston and work is in progress to turn all the ideas into a reality. Rehearsals have started and the first artwork has been released. It's my job to show you:

I am *so* tempted to go and see it...

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

'Gutted: A Revenger's Musical' at the Riverside Studios

Last night we went to see a preview of a new comedy musical, 'Gutted: A Revenger's Musical' at the Riverside Studios at Hammersmith. It was funny, it was rude, there were lots of laughs, lots of songs, cross-dressing, lots of murders, one failed hat, three very big hats, an expansive shower curtain and, um, more murders. Oh, and Mr Jim Bob from Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine playing three roles, one of which was an ageing pop star looking after his rider of beer bottles very carefully. He had a sparkly jacket and shades so he must be a pop star.

The blurb for the show reads:

Warning: This show does include songs, jokes and people off the telly. Ward and White's Gutted is a new musical about love, murder, revenge and idiots; from the creators of sell-out cult hits Karaoke Circus and Psister Psycho. The cast includes The Penny Dreadfuls, Anna Crilly, Katie Wix, Doc Brown, Colin Hoult and special guests.

I thought it was great fun, opening with The Penny Dreadful trio dressed as grotesque ghosts or zombies that only our heroine can see. They encourage her to murder all the remaining family members of her new husband who, for some reason, murdered her parents 15 years earlier when she was a child, hence the revenge bit in the show. Helen George plays our heroine, Sorrow, merrily singing about killing off the family by sitting on their faces , sawing off heads or stabbing them with garden implements in rather delicate places. Her husband is played by Colin Hoult who packs a great punch as the obnoxious rich toff and he magically reappears as each of his family members when it comes time to kill them. In that respect it's very reminiscent of 'Kind Hearts and Coronets' but oh so much ruder. And with music.

It's only on for a couple of nights at the Riverside, a preview before opening at the Edinburgh Festival on 6 August - if you get the chance you really should see it. It only lasts for 1:40 minutes so there's no interval but it's guaranteed to get you chortling and leaving you wondering why they pronounced semen as 'simin' (to rhyme with 'wimin', obviously) and asking where the nearest Nando's is... amongst other things. It's great fun - go and see it!

Monday, 26 July 2010

Whatever happened to the Teenage Dream?

Have you ever had that deja vu moment? On the High Road this morning I saw a lad in a Clash City Rockers tee shirt. He would've been early 20s at the most and he was wearing a tee shirt (black, of course) with a legend from 1978, years before he was born.

When I was his age that would've been shameful. It was against the unspoken law to like anything your parents might like and that was part of the unspoken rule about music - like stuff that your parents will hate. So why would you wear a tee shirt with a legend from your parents generation?

I've seen various other tee shirts over the last few weeks on youngsters who may or may not have realised their meaning, like The Who's Spitfire logo and Joy Division's 'Unknown Pleasures' album cover. Is this because they are truly iconic symbols of rebellion or that the youth of today think they still look good from a design perspective? Or don't they have any symbols of rebellion of their own?

To quote Marc Bolan, 'Whatever happened to the teenage dream?'

Update 28 July: Today I saw a lad in a 'Mott The Hoople' tee shirt...

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Andy Scott Bootleg?

On a whim I went onto eBay the other day to see if there were any records by Andy Scott, y'know, *the* Andy Scott, the lead guitarist with Sweet who had massive hits in the Glam era of the early '70s. Andy still tours with Sweet (although he's the only original member) and co-produced Suzi Quatro's last (excellent) album. I found his album, '30 Years', which is a compilation of his 1980s solo singles (including 'Krugerrands', the only song of his I've ever found online). The write-up said it was a limited edition "2nd pressing" (whatever that means for CDs). Naturally I bought a copy on 'buy now' rather than 'bid' and it arrived really quickly.

Now, much as I'm delighted to have the record and the sound is ok, it's the packaging that let's it down. The cover is badly printed (my inkjet printer would do a better job), the CD picture is a poor quality still from the 'Krugerrand' video, there is no 12-page booklet, there are no copyright or trademark symbols anywhere on the CD or packaging, there is no sign of a record label or credits for anything (other than song-writing credits). I'm thinking the absence of everything that would make it a legitimate record shrieks bootleg.

On the other hand, I'm happy with it even though I paid more for it than I would for a new record from HMV. It's from eBay so it's not likely that Andy would get any royalties but, if it was second-hand, he'd at least have had royalties from the first purchase. Those potential royalties will long ago have been reduced if someone is just burning and re-selling the record over and over. I'm in a quandry - what, if anything, should I do? Other than listen to it on repeat, of course?

Friday, 23 July 2010

'Hair' and Beard Love

To round off my week away from work we went to see 'Hair' tonight - yes, again, but it definitely rewards repeat viewings and this time we were in the fifth row, nice and close to the stage. As seems to be traditional with my visits to 'Hair', someone was off and this time it was Caissie Levy who plays Sheila, Democracy's Daughter, and she was replaced by Megan Reinking. Berger was played by Steel Burkhardt now that Will Swenson has left the show and he's a very able replacement, easily making the role his own and having an effective relationship with Claude.

Sasha Allen's voice is as big as ever, Gavin Creel is as energetic as ever, Kacie Sheik is as pregnant as ever, Darius Nichols is as cool and sexy as ever and Allison Case wins the award for being lovely because she is. Allison plays Crissy who sings about her lost love, 'Frank Mills' - I hope they meet again sometime - and who is also the hippy featured on all the posters with her arms in the air welcoming the sun.

It was great being so close to the stage to see all the little ad-libs and the friendships on stage, people who've worked together for ages and know where they can bring their personality to bear on their part without throwing everything out of kilter. It was also fun to see Gavin re-starting the big song of the show, 'Hair'. because he'd been thrown off his step by one of the lads having dirty hair while he was fondling his way along the cast (or that's what he said anyway) - no disaster, he made everyone laugh instead. He then crawled out into the audience just along from where I was sitting, stroking and fondling everyone's hair. I didn't get a fondle but I did get a hippy flower that is now sitting in a glass of water in my kitchen.

At two points tonight my mind conjured up Alex Harvey (just as Jeanie conjures Claude). Alex was in the London HairBand and recorded a few 'Hair' songs (including on the 'Hair Rave-up' record) and whenever I hear 'Donna' and 'Electric Blues' I think of Alex. The current HairBand look a bit, um, mature, and I wonder if any of them played with Alex back in the day. At the first sign of falling snow at the end of the show I can't help but think about when I saw the show in New York on the eve of Snowmaggedon with everyone laughing at the references to a snow storm which was developing outside the theatre.

One of the joys of the show is being able to join the cast on stage at the end for a mass freak out and I'm pleased to say I did it again tonight. At the end we met Alison (again) and when I turned round there was Woof (aka Luther Creek) saying, 'I like your beard, man' to me. I said thanks, I had meant to put some beads in it ('Mmm beads' he said, eyes widening with interest) but that I'd just trimmed it so it was too short. He stroked his own beard ( a Van Dyke, I think) and said he'd just trimmed his so he understood. It's nice to share beard love.

It's a great show, full of life and love and no little sorrow, but leaves you uplifted and going out into the night with a big smile on your face - or at least it does me. I'll be sad to see it close. At least I have the cast recording from the cast I've seen.

Now all I need to do is learn how to levitate a building and yip up the sun. I shall take lessons.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

HAIR: Leaving London On A High

'Hair' has been one of the most joyous theatrical experiences of 2010, firstly in New York and then several times in London, including dancing on the stage of the The Gielgud Theatre, not once but twice. And I'm looking forward to seeing it again tomorrow night!

Here's a farewell video from the hippies:

Tribute to Kirsty MacColl

A celebration of Kirsty MacColl and her songs is taking place at Shepherd's Bush Empire on 10 October, on what would've been her 51st birthday and (in December) the tenth anniversary of her death in an avoidable boating accident.

Performers on the night will include Alison Moyet, Amy MacDonald, Andrea Corr, Billy Bragg, Catherine Tate, Clare Maguire, David Gray, Eddi Reader, Ellie Goulding, James Walsh (Starsailor), Jackie Clune, Kim Wilde, Phill Jupitus, Omar Puente, Shane MacGowan plus special guests. All profits from the night go to Kirsty's charity, Music Fund for Cuba.

Tickets are already available through some pre-sales and go on general sale tomorrow. It's nice to see the show already included in mailings from Shepherd's Bush and Ticketmaster and, no doubt, in all the usual places so you'll be able to buy tickets from your ticket-seller of choice.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Italian Renaissance Drawings at The British Museum

Yesterday we went to see the exhibition of Italian Renaissance drawings at the British Museum, nicely subtitled 'Fra Angelico to Leonardo', two of my favourites. As ever, I only managed to get there in its last week so if you fancy seeing it you'd better get a move on.

It wasn't too crowded for a late lunchtime on a Tuesday and I think we'd timed it just right to avoid the morning crush of tourists and the afternoon tourist session. None of the framed drawings were roped off so you could get very close which was good for me so I could do the peering-over-glasses thing to see them in glorious close-up. It was also nice to see some drawings that were on top of or beside earlier ones to use the paper more effectively by squeezing on more drawings, scribblings and doodles. There were loads of drawings to wander round and gawp at, ending with a large drawing by Titian.

For an exhibition with Fra Angelico in the subtitle I was rather disappointed to see only one drawing by him, a delicate small drawing of King David, but it was nice to see nonetheless. Other drawings I'd steal from the exhibition are a drawing of a leg by Leonardo da Vinci, 'St George' by Raphael (although I thought the dragon was a bit wimpy), a page of drawings of baby Jesus throwing a kitten around by Leonardo, an allegorical drawing by Mantegna called 'Virtus Combusta' (Virtue in flames) that I found strangely compelling and a drawing of two cheetas by a follower of Giovannino de Grassi (no, I've not heard of him either). Unfortunately, the selection of postcards and merch wasn't very good and I couldn't find a copy of 'King David' so here it is on the web.

I quite liked Chris's description of the exhibition - some doodles by some Italian lads...

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Public Image Ltd at Shepherd's Bush

Last night we went to see Public Image Ltd at the O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire on the first night of their current UK tour. I was lucky enough to see PiL at the Electric Ballroom last December and I have no hesitation in saying they were better last night. The band were tighter and the sound was more dense, a wall hitting you head on - a scary moment if 'Death Disco' was coming straight at you! I couldn't help but wonder where today's challenging and rebellious music was and decided it was on stage right in front of me.

There was no support band, just PiL coming on stage just before 9pm and staying there for two hours. After about an hour and a quarter John commented that that was when the young bands would leave the stage but PiL will just keep playing, and they did much to our delight.

They opened with 'This Is Not A Love Song' followed by 'Poptones' and were off and running. I was pleased they didn't open with 'Public Image' (as at the December gigs) and that threw it all up in the air, clearly signalling that this wasn't just a re-run of an earlier show but a gig from a band with a significant back catalogue. Songs included 'Albatross', 'Tie Me To The Length Of That', 'Death Disco', 'Four Enclosed Walls' (which he dedicated to any critics of the recent gig in Israel), 'Warrior', 'Chant' and 'Psychopath' (from John's solo album).

'Religion' was prefaced by comments about the Pope and paedophile priests, making John's view of the Catholic Church quite clear. He wanted more bass throughout the song and it sounded great to me. John didn't talk to the audience as much as he did last year, focusing on keeping the gig moving forward, but he had a couple of diatribes against the balcony for people sitting down, but that's generally why people are up there in the first place. The *really* important thing he mentioned at the end was that PiL would be making a new album later in the year (without a record company) and then tour it - now, that was music to my ears!

After taking a cigarette break PiL came back with 'Public Image' (which was amazing), 'Rise' and 'Open Up', a great triumvirate of noize to further assault our poor ears, with virtually everyone up on their feet and dancing in their own way (yes, even me). My ears were ringing as we left, something that hasn't happened for ages and, you know what? I'm pleased they did!

As ever, at Shepherd's Bush, none of my photos are very good but I include them here to give you a feel for the atmosphere of the place and the gig. I'm looking forward to the next tour!

Monday, 19 July 2010

UkeleleHead Is Here!

Amanda Palmer's new ukelele record is now available for download so head on over to her website to do the clicky thing. Be sure to drop some dosh in the virtual hat too.

'Amanda Palmer Performs The Popular Hits of Radiohead On Her Magical Ukelele' by Amanda Palmer is available for download today and in hard copy tomorrow with a range of bundles including ukeleles painted by Amanda and Team Chaos. There are records on cherry red vinyl, tee shirts in aqua and (of course) black, badges, alternative artwork and loads of other goodies. All available tomorrow afternoon (UK time).

I've already downloaded the record and popped it onto my iPod for listening on my way to Shepherd's Bush to see Public Image Ltd tonight. Two joys in one day - how lucky I am!

Saturday, 17 July 2010

I Am A Purple Magnet

I bought a linen purple shirt for my holiday in Barcelona at the start of June. It's lovely and cool for the high summer temperatures and I've worn it three times so far, and each time it's magically brought out the purple in other people.

Now, I'm not the most observant of people. I've walked past people I've known for years in the street because if I don't expect to see them, then I simply don't see them. All too often I inhabit a world of my own when I'm out and about and the rest of the world just floats on by. Unless I'm wearing my purple shirt.

I noticed the effect first of all in Barcelona - when I wore the shirt loads of other people seemed to be wearing purple as well. Then I wore it to the Elephant Parade a few weeks ago and, again, it brought out the purple people. Then, this week, I wore it to see Macy Gray on Tuesday (since she wore a purple suit the last time I saw her play live). When I arrived at work two other people working on either side of me were wearing purple; I went to another floor for a meeting and during the meeting two people walked past the glass walls in purple; I go to lunch and as I walk out the front door of my building someone walks on the other side of the road in a purple shirt... I gave up counting at that point. But when we went for pre-Macy nosh at Melati, what should I notice but that the walls were painted purple...

Does this kind of thing happen to anyone else? Or does my purple shirt have some kind of special purple power?

Friday, 16 July 2010

Dave Hill is OK!

I've just heard that Dave Hill, Lord of Noize and SLADE legend, had a mild stroke last weekend while on tour in Germany. Dave is the original SuperYob and glam-meister from the early '70s and still a great rock showman. He's reported to be OK and relaxing at home in the Midlands.

I met Dave once. It was back in about 1981 after SLADE played at Cardiff Students Union and I was helping pack the gear away (I was a temporary roadie but didn't get to say 'One Two, One Two, Two Two, One Two') and he offered me a cigarette, a Benson & Hedges. I smoked at the time but declined and was stunned that a Lord of Noize had descended from the pedestal to offer me a tab. I would probably have self-combusted if I lit it.

Take care Dave - a lot of us are still waiting for the reunion and want to see you strutting and banging out power chords as part of it.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

New Records

How do you find out about new records? All too often it seems like I find out about them by accident and that can't be good. So I thought I'd share some of my new records with you. Firstly...

Buffy Sainte-Marie - 'Pathfinder: Buried Treasures'

Buffy's new collection only seems to be out in Canada at the moment but it will, no doubt, gradually spread. It's a re-packaging of her early/mid-'70s albums, 'Buffy', 'Changing Woman' and 'Sweet America', all of which were issued for the first time as a double CD a few years ago. They were the missing part of Buffy's catalogue so it was great to finally have them available. The track listing I've seen mixes up the albums and makes it an interesting journey through the songs, opening with the mighty 'Generation' and it's great chorus that ends with, 'I just want to dance with the Rosebud Sioux this summer'. That song stuck in my head for nearly 30 years until it was released on CD.

I hope this new compilation brings Buffy some new listeners.

Kylie - 'Aphrodite'

This is heralded as Kylie's 'return to form', a phrase I can't stand but there is something to it. The new record is Kylie at her dancetastic best, an album full of potential singles that will get your funky stuff shaking whether you want it to or not, a happy, smiling Kylie twirling away and luring us in. And the good thing is that they don't all sound the same (always a danger with dance records). I've only listened to it a couple of times but I'm enjoying it, no slow burners here, they're all immediate.

Eliza Carthy & Norma Waterson - 'Gift'

A record from Eliza and her mam, Norma. This is folk music that relies on the voices of the two women to carry it forward with only sparse musical backing by fiddle, piano and accordion, but it's the voices of Eliza and Norma that make it. I saw both Eliza and Norma a month or so back as part of Richard Thompson's Meltdown festival and there was no mention of this record so imagine my surprise when I saw it in HMV the other night - I grabbed it. I'd never heard Norma before and, as soon as she opened her mouth to sing, it was obvious where Eliza got her voice - the two voices work well together. It's not as immediate as Eliza's last album ('Dreams Of Breathing Underwater') but it grows with repeated listens and I'm pleased to have some Norma in my record collection at last.

One of the photos in the sleeve is of Norma, Eliza and Eliza's baby, so I suspect the title of the record is a gift to the next generation of Waterson-Carthys.

Devo - 'Something For Everybody'

This is another record that could be described as a 'return to form' and I first heard about it in an interview on Radio 4 with Mark Mothersbaugh. Although I loved the early Devo records back in the day, I wasn't sure about this album, but then heard a few tracks, downloaded it and decided it was excellent. There really is some great music on this album and the expected challenging and daft words to the songs. It has some '80s touches (such as the use of synths, just like on Prince's new record) but it sounds bang up to date - a 2010 record, not a piece of nostalgia. The production is rich and thick, multiple layers that produce a solid sound.

It won't be to everyone's taste, but if you liked Devo back in the day you'll love this. Give it a spin!

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

'Living With Brucie'

I've just watched the 'Living With Brucie' programme on Channel 4 about Bruce Forsyth and was moved to comment. He's 82 and has been around forever. He was a star before I was born so, as far as I'm concerned, he's always been there. He's had huge audiences for his telly shows - one third of the population of this country tuned in to his shows in the '70s. That's astonishing. And he's still fronting one of the county's main shows. So why is he just a CBE?

When you think of all the people who've been knighted by The Queen, how come Brucie is only a CBE? He's been around longer than virtually everyone, done more for charity over the years and kept variety alive. He should be Sir Brucie by now (and he would always be Sir Brucie, not Sir Bruce) so c'mon people in power, make it so. And what about Sir Ronnie (Corbett)? And Sir Noddy (Holder)?

I ought to be in a position of power.

Macy Gray at Leicester Square Theatre

This evening we ventured into the world of Macy Gray, a world full of beauty and love and sexy people shaking their asses. This is my third visit to Macyworld and it's just as much fun as my previous two visits - she is a madwoman with a unique view of the world, some killer songs and, of course, that voice.

Macy is promoting her latest album, 'The Sellout' (have you bought it yet?), and opened the show with 'Kissed It' from the album, a great glitter-stomp affair and a great opener to set the tone for the rest of the evening. The band all came on stage with her two excellent backing singers (more of them later) in big Afro wigs and then on strolled Ms Gray in a floor-length sparkly frock and the roller coaster began. It was only a matter of time until we all got to our feet and shook our asses at Macy's command.

The band were excellent and delivered a tight and very funky sound, well rehearsed and dropping in behind Macy whenever she stopped talking or getting us to sing and move on to the next section or song. Macy' singers (who I think were on her last tour as well) Mika Letts and Maiya Sykes were voluptuous and full voiced, taking their solos when offered and stoking up the crowd when we weren't making enough noise. Dancing round the stage with Macy when they weren't at their mic stands doing interpretive dancing - one minute being ghetto princesses to 'Ghetto Love' and the next rolling their eyes to 'Related to a Psychopath'. I thought they were fabulous and seemed to be having great fun up there, teasing us and filling in the spaces Macy gave them to make it truly a Macy Gray Show.

Macy was on top form, in great voice and humour. She told us we were sexy and beautiful. We were more beautiful when we shook our asses and more beautiful still when we leaned back our heads and shouted loud enough for God to hear us. She told us that when we were alone and with no-one to talk to, to just be beautiful. She is wise. She also writes and performs killer songs.

Favourite songs tonight were 'Kissed It' (a great opener), a moody 'Ghetto Love', her excellent funked-up version of 'Creep', a liberating 'Sexual Revolution' segueing into 'Do You Think I'm Sexy', and I loved the closer from the new record, 'Beauty In The World'. A spectacular section was the extended version of 'Oblivion' with a bloke dancing round the stage with the lyrics on big bits of paper and the singers strolling round, high kicking and posing while Macy stood on the podium at the back of the stage singing. There was also a great extended version of 'I Try' to close the main part of the show (well, she has to sing that one).

All in all, a great night, Macy on top form vocally and with her banter with the audience, a tight band and some excellent singers giving it their all. Macy knows how to put a show together! Thank you and good luck for the rest of the tour! Oh, and you readers out there, if you get the chance go and spend some time in Macy's world - it's a-compulsory!

Thanks Macy, come back soon!

Monday, 12 July 2010

'Assassins' at The Union Theatre

So there I was, Lee Harvey Oswald pointing his rifle right at me from the library window and then he pulled the trigger...

On Friday night Chris introduced me to the Union Theatre in Southwark, a theatre I'd never heard of before, let alone visited. Friday night wasn't the best time to visit somewhere new, what with the sweltering and humid heat after a long day at work, but it was nice to go somewhere new. I saw 'Assassins' at The Landor Theatre in Clapham in 2008 so thought it might be interesting to see another production of it and I'm pleased I did. It was much better with a proper small band (rather than just a piano) and more professional actors.

'Assassins' is Sondheim's tale of people who've tried to kill a President of the USA, starting with John Wilkes Booth and ending with Lee Harvey Oswald via assassins targeting Ford and Reagan and a few others. The show opened with FBI characters in suits and sunglasses strolling round and setting the context before we see scenes with each of the assassins talking and singing about their background and motivation for killing a president. I liked Glyn Kerslake as John Wilkes Booth and Leigh McDonald as Sara Jane Moore who tried to kill Ford.

It was a large cast, with the FBI characters wandering round and popping balloons for every gunshot as well as the main killer characters and a small band - they almost (but not quite) outnumbered the audience. It's a small theatre with some of the most uncomfortable seating I've ever sat in. My only other criticism is that some of the actors overplayed their roles - they're in a small theatre it's possible to spit across so you don't need to play to the back of the stalls 50 yards away - a bit more subtlety would have been useful.

All in all, I enjoyed it. Turn down the weather and some of the actors, get better seats and turn off the dry ice and it's a production worth seeing.

A *New* Buffy Sainte-Marie Album

Far be it from me to spread rumours - especially about a *new* Buffy Sainte-Marie album - but it appears that that's what we're getting. Or at least an album from the '70s that hasn't been released yet.

In her interview with The Smithsonian a week or so back, Buffy mentioned that she was currently touring North America with two albums, the excellent 'Running For The Drum' (of course) and an album called 'Pathfinder: Buried Treasures' on Appleseed Records. I've never heard of 'Pathfinder' or seen it in any of the discographies so I emailed Buffy's MySpace site and got the message back that it was being re-released in the USA and Canada and they were working on a UK release date. Scurrying off to Amazon Canada I found this...

My hopes are well and truly up. More news when I get it!

Prince - '20Ten'

Prince's new album, '20Ten', was given away free with the 'The Mirror' on Saturday. Some of the songs sound so '80s that I can't decide if it's meant to be self-parody, a 'return to form' (whatever that means), whether he's rediscovering what made him a global god back in the day or whether he just found an old synth in a box in his attic and started playing with it.

It's great to hear some new Prince music but my favourite track is the 'hidden' tenth track, 'Lay Down' which sounds very 'now' and has the great line, 'From the heart of Minnesota, here comes the Purple Yoda' - I *love* that line. Only Prince would dare and only Prince could get away with it.

Give it a listen and let me know what you think.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Buffy Sainte-Marie on Uprising Radio

A great interview with Buffy about being blacklisted, the beauty and power of the three minute song and about the latest album, the great 'Running For The Drum'.

There's also a nice interview in the Smithsonian Magazine in which Buffy says she likes Lady Gaga.

And another video, this time by the National Film Board of Canada in which Buffy sings the opening of 'No No Keshagesh' and ends with a great short clip of a concert in Canada with native dancers on stage - I hope this hints at a live DVD sometime...

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Amanda Palmer - 'Idioteque' video

Get a big ole smooch from Amanda and listen to 'Idioteque' from her new album, 'Amanda Palmer Performs The Popular The Hits Of Radiohead On Her Magical Ukelele'.

O yes!

Amanda Palmer - "Idioteque" Fan Art Gallery from Amanda Palmer on Vimeo.

Devo - 'Something For Everybody'

Nobody tells me anything. I sort of knew that a new Devo record was coming out but no-one told me how good it is. Seriously. 'Something For Everybody' has just that - it's got a great, full sound, '80s chops, daft lyrics and generic madness. Take a listen to 'Don't Shoot (I'm A Man)' and then go and buy the album. Would I lie to you?

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Buffy Sainte-Marie and Interviews

Buffy is still touring and still being interviewed, most recently on CBC about the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation programme. In her live shows Buffy sings a harrowing version of Floyd Westerman's 'Relocation Blues' about the residential schools set up across Canada and the Canadian Government has now apologised to native Americans for the schools.

Buffy was interviewed on CBC by Carole MacNeil (a nobody as far as I'm concerned) who asked Buffy the most inane questions. It's one of those interviews where Buffy's answers actually make sense of the interview - if she answered literally, there'd be no interview. That's lazy interviewing, so please think about your questions and the issues in future.

I'd love to hear Buffy sing 'My Country 'Tis Of Thy People You're Dying'. I first heard that song when I was about 16 and that initial chill still haunts me.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Oxford + 31 Years

I've mentioned in passing that I used to go to college in Oxford in this blog. I went to Oxford in September 1978 and left in March 1979 - at that point it was Oxford Polytechnic and today it is Oxford Brookes University. I went there to study English and History of Art and left because of the modular nature of the course, doing a bit of this and a bit of that was unsatisfactory, so I left to become a waiter in a little hotel north of Ambleside in The Lake District. My decision-making abilities haven't really improved over the years.

I went back to Oxford on Saturday for the first time in 31 years to see 'The Harder They Come' at the Oxford Playhouse and I'm so pleased I did. Not only was there the expected great performance but I got to see some of Oxford and relive some of my memories. I was only there for six months so it doesn't have the same nostalgia value at Cardiff where I eventually went to university and lived for three years, but it's still been this vision in the background of my memory.

After picking up tickets from the Playhouse we went to the Ashmolean Museum, almost opposite the theatre, to look at the art. Despite its history, it's not that different to most provincial museums, but it does have some nice paintings, including a few by Samuel Palmer, someone you don't find everywhere.

Then out into the streets of a madly full Oxford city centre on a Saturday afternoon. Hardly able to move, the streets were full of tourists - I hesitate to say 'and locals' - with a multitude of languages being spoken. The narrow streets were incredibly full and I ended up walking on the roads more often than not. Heading away from the city centre, past Magdalen College and bridge, turning left up St Clements and we found the Oranges & Lemons pub that I've mentioned in this blog before. In the olden days it was a punk pub. Today it's called the 'Half Moon', a more comfortable pub. I remember the mainly punk jukebox with disco tracks from Donna Summer and Rose Royce. I recall the small stage and regretting missing Patrik Fitzgerald. It's a bit plush now. We didn't have time for a drink of remembrance but maybe next time.

After the afternoon performance of the show we wandered past the Sheldonian Theatre and Radcliffe Camera and ended up on the High Street and popped into the Chequers pub for an early evening meal in the narrow courtyard. That was really nice and harked back 31 years ago when I was last in the pub. And then it was the train home, back to London.

I found the experience rather odd. As I've said, Oxford doesn't hold the same level of nostalgia as Cardiff, but it's still part of my past. I remember my first freedoms from my parents, living alone for the first time, the indirect class war between people at the Poly and those at the 'real' university, despite academic distinctions. It was all so odd, and I wasn't the most confident of people at the time. The visit reminded me of my history of art tutor who had the most amazing gray and nicotine stained hair it was possible to have but I can't remember her name...

The past is a strange land. Some things spring to life and others don't. But does it matter? I think it does. My memories came to life and I remembered walking the streets and visiting the colleges and then I saw a group of male students dressed as monks in brown robes and their girlfriends dressed as nuns in miniskirts - how original. I think the sight of those young people having fun reminded me that I didn't belong there and I don't want to be associated with that aspect of the town. Posh lads and lasses who have no real idea what life is like for the majority of the country and the world. It's not their fault I suppose.

I'd be a different person if I'd stayed in Oxford. I'm pleased I'm me.

Maximo Park - 'Quicken The Heart Remixed'

The Maximo lads have released a load of remixes of tracks from their 2009 album, 'Quicken The Heart'. The remixes were done as part of a project up in the North East and here's Lukas to explain it:

Maximo Park Remixed - An Introduction By Lukas from on Vimeo.

Some are definitely on the odd side, such as Foxymoron's Dead Serious Ryoga Mix of 'Overland, West Of Suez' and y'know what? It's one of my favourites so why isn't it available for download? Twelve of the thirty-three remixes are available to download so I instantly have a new Maximo Park album, all for free - thanks lads, and thanks to the remixers!

Head on over to the Maximo Park site to stream and download the tracks.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

'The Harder They Come' at the Oxford Playhouse

A final viewing of 'The Harder They Come' on stage before it vanishes for the time being took place in Oxford yesterday afternoon. The play is strangely life-affirming despite it's subject matter and the comic moments, the music, singing and dancing complement it perfectly. Great acting and great musicians bring the Jimmy Cliff film to life on stage and I've been delighted to be part of the experience seven times now.

A mere one hour train journey from London Paddington and a ten minutes walk into town to the Oxford Playhouse with it's newly refurbished front of house with a nice bar area that sells Guinness and a range of odd beers. We went in and found Precious talking to one of the audience so I mustered my courage and said 'Hello Precious' as we walked by, an instant sign that I'd seen the play before and she said 'Hello guys!' back. Sitting four rows from the stage is the closest I've ever been to the stage, right in the middle of the row for a perfect view.

It was the same cast as I saw at Wimbledon a couple of weeks ago (except the policeman had been promoted to Inspector and he made a very good job of it, especially during 'Pressure Drop'). Pinky and Precious made a very convincing partnership, having grown further into their parts and Miss Daisy was as dangerous as ever with her bottle of rum, scaring off the police when they come searching for Ivanhoe. Matthew J Henry has also grown into his part as Ivan, still giving it his everything in the intricate and exaggerated dance moves.

I was most impressed with the whole cast and musicians, all of them putting everything into their parts despite it being a hot and humid Saturday afternoon and the theatre being only half full. Despite the lack of bodies in the audience we made up for the numbers with the noise at the relevant places and getting up to sing and skank along with the cast for the megamix at the end.

It was a nice way to say farewell to the show that's given me so much pleasure and no few fond memories. Like Pedro giving us a 15 minute ganga break at half time (I still haven't found the ganga ice-cream) and his trademarked 'blessed love', Longa stealing sweets from the audience, Chris Tummings inspiring the fear of audience participation when he played the Inspector and being called 'huggly', Pinky and Precious, Miss Daisy and Miss Brown with her hats ('international style, local prices' - I protected mine yesterday, just in case) Elsa-mon and Ivan with his dancing and, of course, all those great reggae songs from the '70s. And, yesterday, I discovered beer-mats on the tables advertising the show with a photo of Pedro on one side and Ivan and Pinky on the other side - naturally, I borrowed a couple as souvenirs.

If you get a chance to see this show on the rest of its tour then don't miss it. Looking at the cost of tickets, my train fare and the ticket for the show together cost less than my ticket to see 'The Tempest' last week, and I know which production I prefer.

Thanks for all the fun guys, it's been great! I'll be watching out for what you all do next.

'The Tempest' at The Old Vic

Last Thursday we went to see 'The Tempest' at The Old Vic, part of the Bridge Project and directed by Sam Mendes. The Bridge productions use American and British casts in a season of plays and, last year, I saw 'The Winter's Tale' as part of this project. This year's plays are 'The Tempest' and 'As You Like It'. I've never seen 'The Tempest' performed so this was a good opportunity to finally see it.

'The Tempest' is a tale of enchantment and love, of magical beings and exotic nature, of colour and movement... so imaging my disappointment when on came men in grey suits. We'd already had a daft scene of Prospero casting his spell by splashing water on himself and then on the circle of sand in the middle of the stage to create the storm that gives the play its name. We then switch to the ship in the middle of the storm and the men in suits and the king in an admiral's uniform. I'm afraid, that's when it started to lose me.

The set seemed to be made up of a circle of sand on the stage, presumably meant to be the beach, and the back wall of the stage painted to be like a cave wall, so there were no rustling forests to add the darkness on unknown and unseen fears. We see Ariel, the magical being enslaved to Prospero wearing a dark suit with no shirt, walking slowly and with deliberate movements around the stage, speaking slowly and unimaginatively. Even when he grows angry at his continued enslavement he only raises his voice. That was it.

But raising his voice was a good thing. I thought the sound was awful and found it hard to hear what the actors were saying. Speak up! Project! Enunciate! The bloke who was playing Gonzalo seemed to be mumbling and slurring and I just couldn't make out what he was saying. One of the few who seemed to know how to project his voice was Ron Cephas Jones who played Caliban, but how predictable to cast a black man as Caliban.

Yes, I was terribly disappointed by this. I wanted magic and wonder and was given men in suits and a dark stage. Undoubtedly some people will love its stripped back production, the clarity of vision uncluttered by expectations, etc etc etc. I just thought it was dreary. I won't go on.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Blondie at The IndigO2

Last night we went to see Blondie at the IndigO2, the smaller 'club' space beside the O2 Arena. Blondie has a new album out in September ('Panic Of Girls') so I wasn't sure why they were on tour without an album to promote but I hate to miss an opportunity to see Deborah Harry, the woman who was loved by the whole world in the late '70s/early '80s, including me. I don't care if she's now 65 (sorry Debbie), she's still gorgeous (yes you are) and could teach younger "stars" a thing or two about stage presence and manipulating a crowd (please twist me round your little finger?).

Let's get the negatives out of the way first. Why do I always assume I can eat at the O2? You can't unless you're willing to join a queue to get into any of the restaurants and then put up with poor service because you're a captive audience. There are no 'hanging out' spaces, no use of the space, no seating, no concessions to sell stuff and make money - it's a very sterile place. And don't mention the problems trying to get the tube home... Oi! I said don't mention that!

And one final tip - if you're going to the IndigO2 then don't buy tickets from the venue. I've done it a few times now thinking I'll get good seats and each time I've been half-way or worse back in the balcony with no tickets available for the so-called Kings Row at the front of the balcony. Clearly, they sell their best tickets off to ticket agencies so shop around. I will next time rather than accepting crap seats from the IndigO2 - I bought tickets the day they went on sale and ended up in the second from back row in the balcony and yet the gig wasn't sold out (sadly) so there's a problem somewhere. Anyway..... Blondie ....

The opening act was Little Fish and I'm not sure if that was the name of the band or of the lead singer. I swung between thinking she was just a cheap sound-a-like version of PJ Harvey and Patti Smith and thinking she was making an interesting sound. I'm not sure but I think I'll give her/them the benefit of the doubt.

After a break on came Blondie. Yes, *that's* Blondie on the stage, kids. Except there weren't many kids there. The audience was full of middle-aged (and older) people on an evening out - I didn't feel old at all for a change. Of course, by Blondie I mean Miss Deborah Harry. Debbie has always been and always will be Blondie. She came on stage in a big frilly frock, platinum blond hair (Chris said it was a wig but, obviously, he's wrong) and big sunglasses. The sunglasses lasted for a few songs and were then got rid of.

Chris Stein and Clem Burke are still in the band and I'm pleased they are - they add to the history of the band - but the other three blokes could've been anyone (but I liked the lead guitarist). Chris just stood at his place on the left of the stage playing guitar and singing occasional backing vocals, easy to ignore unless you know who he is. Clem 'I can hit these drums more than anyone else including God in the next 3 minutes' Burke did his thing of just hitting the drums more and more and more... I think he's on some special drummers drug that just forces you to hit everything in sight as often as you can and as hard as you can, and he does it so well. You know when you've been Clem Burke'd!

Once I'd got over that initial 'Wow, that's Blondie!' moment I could enjoy the set. Obviously they wanted to promote the new album and I have to say that all the new songs sound excellent, some fast and furious, some power-pop, but all worth a listen and a bounce to. When Blondie gave away the Christmas single, 'We Three Kings' last year I was very excited - if this was what the new album would be like then I would love it. I think I do. Some of the new songs are on YouTube but I'm not going to listen to them, I'll wait for the album, so roll on September.

They sprinkled the new songs in between the classics and I was overjoyed to sing along along to classics like 'Heart of Glass', 'Picture This' and 'Call Me'. There were extended versions of 'Atomic' and 'Rapture' that sounded excellent with the mad guitar thrash that provided some texture to the songs. 'Maria' was another highlight. Debbie was in great voice and did her trademarked 'go-go dance' to most of the songs.

I have to say I loved seeing them - a big part of it was the 'that's Debbie Harry' factor. The last time I saw them was at Shepherd's Bush 6 years or so ago and they were definitely better last night. They're not a nostalgia band, they have something new to offer and it'll be interesting to see how the new songs are received. I suspect I'll love 'em!