Tagged: gig

Maybe It’s Because…

I’m a Londoner, that I love London so

It’s a song my father used to sing me when I was a child (even though he was from Dundalk via Dublin, though to be fair he also used to sing Molly Malone) but it only occurred to me last night how true it is.

I was at the Sydney Opera House to see The Cinematic Orchestra do a set with the Sydney  International Orchestra with a special visual ‘backing track’ by The Light Surgeons. It was, in a word, epic. And as I sat there, on the other side of the world, listening to an amazing group of musicians play music which had tinges of jazz, Italian movie soundtracks, afro-beat, hip hop, folk and everything in between, it got me thinking about London.

Because, to me, precisely because they sound so globally eclectic, The Cinematic Orchestra sound like the sort of group who could only have come from London. I’m sure that the musicians are from all over the world, but it always strikes me that people come from all over the world to create something truly new.

New York is always lauded as the city of immigrants, whilst Australia was the destination for one of the largest migrations ever, but both of them are still, in many ways, a little segregated. And they’re also new at this game. London on the other hand has been welcoming and absorbing immigrants since the Romans arrived two thousand years ago.

I used to like to paraphrase Douglas Adam’s take on the famous Samuel Johnson quote by saying:

Someone once said that when a man is tired of London he’s tired of life; the suicide rate quadrupled overnight

And I also used to like to repeat a description of London from a black can driver that I heard in a documentary about London cabbies. He said that he quit his job when London was no longer a city but just:

7 million strangers I hate

And both of these are true. Londoners love to put themselves and their city down in a way that doesn’t seem to happen in other cities.

As I was watching fireworks to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the birth of the Australian navy a couple of days ago my friend made the very insightful observation that Sydney celebrates itself like almost no other city. And that’s no bad thing. But Londoners like to mock their city because, really, underneath it all, we know it’s amazing. Most of us, I would imagine, share Stephen Fry’s view when he compared London, and the English language, to Paris, and French.

A few years ago I joked that:

I have no soul, just a map of Soho burned on my heart

I guess I meant it as a way of putting myself down. But really, I think it’s a badge of honour.

The Cinematic Orchestra’s performance last night was a perfect example of this; at time spine-tingling, at times almost over-whelming, at times incredibly funky.

If anything, my only criticism would be that they tried too hard to be sophisticated, and went a bit John Coltrane (at his noodly worst) when they are at their best when their obvious love of the grimier side of modern music, whether that be rave or hip hop comes through.

It was a privilege to witness though and I came out of it as proud as I’ve been in a while to be a Londoner. Like most people who claim that distinction, I’m not actually from the city, but it took me to its heart.

(And yes, I realise that the image at the top of this post if of a piece by a French artist, but it’s in Soho and I never claimed to be consistent)

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U2 360° Tour: Croke Park, July 2009

So last Saturday I went to see U2 at Croke Park, in their home town of Dublin.

Whilst they didn’t play Stay (Faraway, So Close) they did put on quite a show, including a recorded message from the International Space Station; very apt coming so soon after the 40th anniversary of the moon-landings.

Being the rock & roll heroes they are, U2 were sponsored by a very apt brand: Blackberry.

They also played a song or two, a few of which you might recognise.

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If you even remotely like any of their stuff, and get the chance, go see them. Seriously.

UPDATE: It seems the boys must have read my post because they decided to play Stay on Monday, the gig after the one I went to. Bastards.

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U2 – Stay (Faraway, So Close)

Well, after a hellish few hours at Gatwick Airport and not enough sleep, I’m in Dublin. And following a fun day at Lovebox last weekend, which made me decide I need to see more live music, tonight I’m heading off to see Dublin’s most famous sons, U2, at the city’s biggest stadium, Croke Park.

The tickets are a very nice freebie and mean that I can tick off a band many claim are the best live act in the business, without having to cough up the better part of a ton to do so. It also means that I won’t be directly funding a band who’s frontman spends most of his spare time telling governments to give more in foreign aid whilst at the same time being depressingly ‘rock & roll’ and becoming ‘tax-efficient’, i.e. moving the band’s base to a country where they can avoid paying tax, thereby depriving his own country of the sort of funds that go towards aid budgets. The irony of this apparently is lost on a man who thought it ironic to mix the live links to people caught up in the Yugoslavian civil war with a rock concert.

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It will also mean, I hope, that I get to see them play Stay (Faraway, So Close) which is, I think, their finest ever track. You can see it being played live in the video above – the reason I’ve not used the official video is that U2′s record company have disabled embedding and so for the same reason I won’t link to anywhere that sells the track – I’m guessing that most of you are clever buggers who can find it somewhere without having to get your credit cards out: it’s not as if it would go towards funding foreign aid anyway. However I digress…

Of course Stay (Faraway, So Close) isn’t their most famous song: that’s probably something like With Or Without You or Where The Streets Have No Name which, fine songs though they are, are perhaps a tad overblown. Or it might be One which is, along with Imagine, one of the most over-rated songs of all time: a load of fortune-cookie philosophy strung along to a catchy tune – undoubtedly good, but hardy a work of genius.

Stay (Faraway, So Close) however is quite possibly a sign that the boys from the Northside really have been touched by genius: it comes from one of their most interesting periods and is restrained, intelligent and utterly beautiful. The lyrics are some of old Bonio’s best, with my particular favourite being the two lines which are somehow both funny and tragic:

You used to stay in to watch the adverts
You could lip synch to the talk shows

Apparently inspired by Sinatra it was recorded in Berlin during the Achtung Baby sessions (probably the best baggy album after Happy Mondays’ Pills ‘n’ Thrils and Bellyaches). It’s also apparently one of Bono’s favourite tracks and one which he thinks is underrated. He’s right.

Trabant by Leandro’s World Tour on flickr

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The Stone Roses – I Am The Resurrection (Live In Blackpool, 1989)

Next month will see the 20th anniversary of the release of the iconic eponymous debut album by The Stone Roses, one of the greatest ever albums and arguably the best ever debut album by a British band (along with offerings from Tricky, Massive Attack & Oasis to name but a few). I was planning to host a night to celebrate the fact (though I should probably be mourning the fact that I first really got into music 2 decades ago) but will now be in Dublin. Because of that I think that I will try to pretty much dedicate the blog to the Roses and other great stuff from, or inspired by 1989 (a great year for music by the way).

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And to kick it all off, what better than this, the version of the Roses’ best song from what many claim was their best ever gig: I Am The Resurrection performed at the Empress Ballroom in Blackpool. Whilst the recording highlights the fact that Ian Brown always sounds better in studio recordings than he does live, something I can vouch for having seen The Roses twice (though without Reni) and and his solo act once, it also shows exactly why they made a generation think that these were their Beatles.

Whether it’s Brown shouting fortune-cookie style soundbites (Who is & who isn’t? Who is & who isn’t?), Reni’s impossibly funky drumming or John Squire’s Hendrix-esque solo, this was a band at the top of their game. Of course, like all the best bands, eventually The Stone Roses blew it. But maybe if they hadn’t this wouldn’t feel so special now. Whatever, it’s bloody amazing. Enjoy.

Big hat-tip to Paul Delaney for sending me an MP3 of this version of Resurrection.

Stone roses image by GorupKa on flickr

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Q-Tip & Gilles Peterson Playing The Roundhouse

So apparently Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide show has been on Radio 1 for ten years. As with so many other things these days, that makes me feel a bit old as I still remember his show on Kiss (as I’m sure many others do too) and actually still think that the slot he had on a Sunday evening was the perfect one for his music and is one that Radio 1 should put him on at. They should certainly take him out of the grave-yard slot he currently lives in (2am on Wednesday night/Thursday morning).

I was chatting with someone about Mr Peterson the other day and we were saying that it’s a national disgrace how the BBC simply don’t recognise what they have in Gilles: as far as I’m concerned he, more than Steve Lamacq, Zane Lowe or Colin Murray (FFS!) he is the true successor to the late, great John Peel. His talent for mixing up genres and his obvious passion for music in all its many forms, means that he’s the one now doing what Peel used to do so well – introducing people to music they simply wouldn’t hear elsewhere.

Anyway, to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Worldwide being on Radio 1, Brownswood are putting on a gig at The Roundhouse with a rather fantastic line-up.

In the recent All Winners poll of the best records of 2008 Q-Tip’s track with Norah Jones, Life Is Better, was named as the best track whilst the album it comes from, The Renaissance, came second after Erykah Badu. All very satisfying as it’s not too different to my own selections of the best songs & albums from last year.

Anyway, with Q-Tip and the excellent Little Dragon (whose debut album I reviewed on Fly) playing live, and Benji, bPm & Gilles spinning tunes, it should be an amazing night. Unfortunately I won’t be able to make it (though I’ll be in Dublin with some very lovely people so don’t think I will be too sad) but I would very much recommend that everyone else tries to get tickets. And in the meantime you can check out this awesome Q-Tip mix that someone called Lefto has done for Gilles or listen to Scribbled Paper, the achingly beautiful closing track from Little Dragon’s album.

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And I’ve just realised that this is only the first of a number of events to be held at The Roundhouse to celebrate 10 years of Worldwide so I will definitely be seeing you at the second!

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The Streets At The Electric Proms

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After getting in from the opening night of the ABSOLUT House of Masquerade last night I caught the last half hour of The Streets’ performance at the Electric Proms. I thought about buying tickets for it when it was first announced and have to say that I’m now gutted that I didn’t.

Those of you who are based in the UK can watch the gig on the iPlayer for a week or so & I’d highly recommend it. Everyone else should go out and buy his album Everything Is Borrowed: it’s a really lovely piece of work, with only one duff track and is, I’d say, his best since his debut Original Pirate Material. If you’re not sure, check out the title track above, I Love You More below, or you can still get a free download of the amazing track The Escapist.

The Streets – a truly Great Briton and, I think, a national treasure in the making.

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Radiohead – Weird Fishes (Live At Rock Werchter Festival, Belgium)

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This last weekend saw me at the Rock Werchter Festival (the official site seems to be bust) just outside Brussels, for my best mate’s stag do. We were only there for the Saturday and the headliners were Radiohead. They’re a band I’ve sort of drifted away from recently as they explored the furthest reaches of modern rock, but I’d been assured by people who’d seen them at their recent Victoria Park gigs that I’d be in for a treat. Boy were they right.

They’d also told me that much of the set-list was made up of tracks from their most recent album, In Rainbows and in anticipation of this I’d finally gotten round to buying the album. Yet, for a variety of reasons, I didn’t actually get round to listening to it in advance of the gig. Despite this, when the opening chords to Weird Fishes, one of the tracks off of In Rainbows, rang out across the packed crowd, I could have sworn that I’d heard it before.

In fact I hadn’t but, having listened to the album almost non-stop since getting back from Brussels, I’ve realised that it’s simply that Weird Fishes is such an amazing song that as soon as you hear it it feels like an old friend. It’s got to be one of the best things that Radiohead have done in years and as such was undoubtedly one of the highlights of the festival. The delicately picked guitar, fevered drumming and Thom Yorke’s pained vocals were perfectly set off by the immense wall of blue lights which were all I could see from our spot about half-way back in the crowd.

I realise that it’s probably vaguely sacrilegious, but I have to admit that I didn’t actually stick around for the whole of Radiohead’s set, as we decided we needed something a bit more lively; unfortunately the DJ sound-system where we’d spent a lot of the night had closed by this point, so we ended up just heading home. Still, having seen Gnarls Barkley play Crazy earlier in the day, danced as the DJ dropped The Eurythmics’ Here Comes The Rain Again just as the skies opened, and discovered Radiohead’s Weird Fishes, I really can’t moan.

See you at Rock Werchter ’09? Here’s the Scotch Mist version of Weird Fishes whilst you think about it.

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Paul Weller At IndigO2

Earlier this week a friend and ex-colleague was kind enough to take me to see one of my heroes, Paul Weller, at an exclusive gig at IndigO2, the ‘smaller’ room at the O2.

Off the back of his ‘return to form’* album, 22 Dreams, Weller was on amazing form and delivered a rocking set. He was also very amusing, commenting before one of the songs off of one his more recent albums:

This is a song off an album that no-one thought was any good. Apart from me

Highlights included Walking On Broken Stones, You Do Something To Me and a very apt Eton Rifles (I’m glad that I’m not the only one who wonders whether David Cameron has ever read the lyrics of Eton Rifles, as he claims it’s one of his favourite songs?) With the election of Eton-ite Boris Johnson, and Cameron’s ratings in the polls, maybe it’s time the Mod Father re-released this storming track.

I apologise for the terrible photo above; Weller just wouldn’t stop moving & I’m still getting used to my new camera-phone. I did manage to get a rather nice one on the ferry from the London Eye to the O2 (which I highly recommend, especially as Boris doesn’t control them and you can have a lovely Brahma beer as you motor up the Thames).

*PS – Am I the only one who thinks that a note must have gone round all the critics saying, “Right – Weller’s cool again, let’s all say this is a return to form”? If they’d actually listened to any of his albums since Heavy Stereo they’d have noticed that he’s done some pretty good stuff in the meantime.

UPDATE: All Mod Cons (from the comments below) was also at the gig and managed to get some better pictures.

UPDATE 2: The gig was shown on TV last night (I missed it) and is available on ITV2 for 1 month.

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Brownswood Loves Jazz – Bush Hall, London Oct 31st

This Wednesday sees a rather special gig from those lovely people at Brownswood, and I, for one, can’t wait…


Anyone who has read just a couple of my posts will know that I have a rather large soft spot for Gilles Peterson and his new(ish) record label Brownswood Recordings. It perfectly encapsulates Gilles’ eclectic taste in music, stretching as it does from the dance-floor jazz of Soil & “Pimp” Sessions to the hip-hop soul of Ben Westbeech; the huge ambition of the Heritage Orchestra to the perfectly formed sound of José James.

This Wednesday (31st October) Brownswood are putting on a gig at Bush Hall in London: Brownswood Loves Jazz. Acts performing are Soil & “Pimp” Sessions, José James & Elan Mehler whilst Mr Peterson will be presiding &, I presume, spinning a few records. Tickets are only £10 but seem to be sold out on the web. You can contact the box office directly on 020 8222 6933, but it seems to be set to a fax machine at the moment.

Anyway, it promises to be special, so hopefully I’ll see you there.

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