Shining Levels Pop Recs Sunderland 7 June 2019

How could I forget to review this concert? The Shining Levels are a band that features my own daughter, Laura, and who has been performing songs based on the book the Gallows Pole by Benjamin Myers. I saw them several times before the lockdown and this concert was very local, in Sunderland, and only a few streets away. The concert took place at Pop Rex, which some of you will remember as The Bunker, a recording studio and, in its previous location, a venue where I saw anarcho-punk bands such as the Poison Girls and Dirt.

Pop Recs Ltd is an independent record shop, which also has an art gallery, shop, and steaming cups of coffee. Pop Recs Ltd, which is owned by local band Frankie & The Heartstrings, is currently located on Stockton Road. In its time at its previous location on Fawcett Street, Pop Recs Ltd played host to some of the most exciting live music gigs in Sunderland, pretty much every week and more often than not for free. Great bands playing gigs at Pop Recs Ltd have included Badly Drawn Boy, Maximo Park, Edwyn Collins and James Bay.

What can people expect from your show at Pop Recs on Friday 7th June? (NARC, June 4th 2019)
An hour or so of complete musical escapism, we will set the tone for meditation, a musical seance which we can all enjoy together.

And that is exactly what we got, the lovely swirling vocals of the three girls, complete with flute and violin and the earthy, grounded vocals of the two boys. Unfortunately, we arrived late, at least in terms of getting a good space, and I was seated at the back in my wheelchair unable to see much over the heads of the people standing in front of me. But such is life nowadays, nonetheless, I could hear the lovely sounds which filled the room and made their way out into the dark street outside.

“Inspired by the real life events of 18th century Yorkshire criminal gang the Cragg Vale Coiners who operate in the Upper Calder Valley in the Pennines, the album’s source material, The Gallows Pole by author Benjamin Myers, has rapidly become a modern cult classic. It is the first novel to be signed to Jack White’s Third Man Books and will be published in the US/Canada in November 2019. It has also been optioned for film adaptation.

Drawing on a shared childhood and background with the author, The Shining Levels’ music explores themes from the book: an England divided, the potency and mystery of remote rural landscapes, industrial progress, the changing seasons, shifting fortunes, self-delusion and self-aggrandizement, poverty vs wealth, societal power structures – and strange visions of mythical creatures….. the bucolic meet the technological, and the rural collides with the digital to thrilling effect. “There’s certainly a nod towards what many may consider English folk, certainly in Laura’s beautiful plaintive voice,” elaborates Davey [of the band]. “But there’s also pounding drums, overdriven electric guitar, loops, and samples all over the place. So I think to call it folk music would actually be doing it a disservice. It’s a set of quite different songs and moods forming a larger soundscape that hopefully takes the listener on a unique journey.” (Piccadilly Records, 2019)

Another lovely evening with a fantastic band who I look forward to seeing again once we are out of the lockdown. I know that the band is working on new material which I look forward to seeing them perform very soon.

The 34th Annual Tibet House US Benefit Concert Virtual Edition 17 Feb 2021

TibetHouse_Announce_1200x1800So once again, I ventured into the virtual world of live streaming. This tempting event was to celebrate the 34th birthday of Tibet House in New York. Unknown to me, there is an event every year to mark the birthday of the opening of Tibet House, largely orchestrated by Philip Glass and often featuring artists who I admire, such as Patti Smith in particular. So, when I read the streaming included Iggy Pop, Philip Glass, Patti Smith and none other than the Dalai Lama himself, I could not resist buying a ticket for virtual attendance.

“Tibet House US was founded at the request of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who at the inauguration in 1987 stated his wish for a long-term cultural institution to ensure the survival of Tibetan civilization and culture, whatever the political destiny of the six million people of Tibet itself.”

dali lama tibet“I feel that Tibetan culture with its unique heritage –born of the efforts of many human beings of good spirit, of its contacts with Mongolian, Chinese, Indian, Nepalese and Persian culture, and of its natural environment – has developed a kind of energy which is very helpful for cultivating peace of mind and a joyful life. I feel that there is a potential for Tibet to help humanity, and particularly our Eastern neighbour, where millions of young Chinese have lost their spiritual values. In this way, I feel very strongly that Tibetan culture will have a role to play in the future of humanity.” (His Holiness the Dalai Lama)

iggy 1 tibetThe show started with a very dark performance by Iggy Pop of the Dylan Thomas poem “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night”. Iggy was staring right at me, his deep rasping voice emanating from his stark, wrinkled face. Quite scary stuff and not what I expected, but a great introduction to the concert.

Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” (Dylan Thomas, 1951)

This was followed by a musical performance by avant-garde artist Laurie Anderson. There were quite a few artists who I did not recognise but each one performed a unique and appropriate contribution to the evening. Jessie Paris Smith, daughter of Patti, performed a solo acoustic “Monster”, followed by the Black Pumas. Then someone more familiar appeared. Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips sang “Flowers of Neptune” from within the familiar bubble, which I have seen him perform from before.

After contributions by Angelique Kidjo and Brittany Howard, the more familiar face of Annie Lennox appeared at the piano singing a short set of “You Placed a Chill In My Heart”, “Cold” and finishing with the Eurythmics “Here Comes the Rain Again”.

After several further offerings, Eddie Vedder, performed Pearl Jam’s “Can’t Keep” on ukulele.

tibet alan and philWe were then treated to a video from a previous concert; of Philip Glass accompanying the legendary beat poet Allen Ginsberg. Stunning stuff, which brought back memories of when Laura, David, Shauna and I travelled to Edinburgh Playhouse and were lucky enough to see Patti Smith perform an evening of Allen Ginsberg poetry, again accompanied by Philip Glass on piano.

Philip Glass is, of course, widely recognised as one of the most influential composers of the 20th century. He is one of the fathers of minimalism, although he often rejects this title. His striking repetitive style has influenced many important popular music artists, including David Bowie, and he regularly, to this day, provides accompaniment to poetry readings by artists such as Patti Smith.

Alan Ginsberg was a seminal figure in the “beat” movement, promoting, through his poetry, anti-war messages, the counterculture, sexual freedom and Eastern religion. I have a vague memory of him appearing at Morden Tower, Newcastle University in the 1970s, and for some reason, I did not go along; something I regret to this day.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama spoke to us, marking the importance of Tibet House and its significance to culture and religion.tibet patti

The evening concluded with Patti Smith and her daughter, accompanied by Joan Baez and many more of the performers, singing very appropriately “People Have the Power”.

Not quite what I expected, but nonetheless an enjoyable event.

 

Academic Archers Conference 20 February 2021

This entry is somewhat of a diversion from my usual classic rock reminiscences. Please bear with me, and I will explain the context.

My daughter Laura is a big fan of the radio programme “The Archers“. She has listened to the programme ever since she was a little girl; for at least 20 years or more. More recently she has got involved in the “Academic Archers” community, as discussed below.

Academic Archers is a community of  BBC Radio4’s  The Archers fans with an academic interest in the show.”

archers 1“Academic Archers is an experimental form of academic community which uses The Archers as a lens through which wider issues can be explored. As a community we share our knowledge of the programme, our research interests, and a lot of laughs, creating the academic field if you will, of Ambridgeology. In all that we do, our values are to be ‘curious, generous and joyful’. “

“We do this out of a love of the programme and of our subjects and the conference is intended to link the two to illuminate and explain life in Ambridge and use this to throw an interdisciplinary light on wider social issues too.” (Nicola Headlam)

This year, Laura decided to take things a step further and join in the Academic Archers conference, presenting her paper entitled: “The View from Lakey Hill: How The Archers empowers, liberates and enables blind and visually impaired listeners”.

archers 2The paper will ultimately become a chapter in the next Academic Archers book; one of which is produced each year to coincide with the conference. Her chapter will appear in the book which will accompany next year’s conference. The 2021, and sixth, annual Academic Archers conference was held at University of Felpersham, The Orangery at Lower Loxley, The Tea Room, Grey Gables, Brookfield Barn, and The Bull*, across the weekend of 19-21 February 2021. With special guests, DumTeeDum, Ambridge on the Couch, and Roy Tucker, aka, pub landlord and actor, Ian Pepperell, and long-time scriptwriter, Keri Davies!

I decided to register for the conference, without Laura knowing (sneaky or what?) so that I could watch her presentation, on Zoom, along with around 200 other Archers fans/academics.

Laura’s presentation was excellent, and it was lovely to see her speak to her virtual audience. It is strange how Covid is opening up a new virtual world for many activities, such as this. She got a nice surprise when I revealed to her that I had been secretly watching her presentation. I was so proud!

 

The Who Wembley Stadium July 6, 2019

who tix 2019 2I have taken some time to write this account of my trip to see The Who at Wembley Stadium. There are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, I wanted to describe something of the logistics of my trip, and secondly this was not a normal Who concert and it has taken me some time to decide my genuine opinion of the event. So here is the full story starting with the logistics of buying tickets.

Before my accident, buying tickets was very different, and much easier. I would go to my computer; a few clicks and I had my tickets! Ticket buying is very different now that I need a wheelchair space. I have to locate the accessible phone line and phone that number, only to be put into a queue, listening to music until I finally get through to an operator. I am then allocated my spot in the stadium and a free ticket for my carer. Sometimes I could be in the queue for over one hour, hoping to get tickets. This is admittedly much easier than queueing for tickets which I did many times in the 1970s. I once queued 28 hours outside Newcastle City Hall to buy tickets for the Rolling Stones!

Tickets for major rock bands have always been relatively expensive. In recent days they have reached exorbitant rates. The Stones can charge up to £1000 for prime seats and Who tickets are much more reasonable at £200 a pop. However this was still expensive for The Who and they received some bad press as a result.

One fan wrote: “The Who charging circa £230 for front block at Wembley is disgusting. All they’re doing is ripping off their loyal fans that have probably seen them many a time. Plus to make the pitch all seating when they know everyone will stand is obscene. Just comes to pure greed.” Another aggrieved fan raged: “The Who are asking £79 plus postage for the worst seats in Wembley, and £212 for the best. Talk about taking the p***.” https://www.nme.com/features/why-are-artists-and-concert-promoters-whacking-up-their-ticket-prices-2454221

The logistics of travelling to a major gig have changed since being in a wheelchair. I need to plan ahead carefully. I book an accessible taxi to the train station, accessible seats on the train and two hotel rooms (one disabled room for me, one twin room for my carers). I take two carers with me, for different shifts during the night. Booking the train involves phoning the accessible travel line and then another number to book train tickets. I need to arrive at the station early and look for the friendly guys with a ramp who assist me on to the train.

whp pixSome nifty manoeuvres around a tight corner take me to my seat accompanied by my entourage of carers. A small bottle of red, a bacon sandwich and I am set up for the journey direct from Sunderland to King’s Cross station, courtesy of Grand Central trains. Then onward to the tubes and we are on our way to Wembley. Now what I never realised, until I was in a wheelchair myself, is that not every tube station is wheelchair accessible so you have to choose a route that enables you to change tubes at a station which is accessible. Luckily the line from King’s Cross to Wembley Park is completely accessible, so all sorted. Then we check into our Premier Inn, which is only a few minutes walk from Wembley Stadium me in my accessible room, and my carers situated only a room or two a way.

We have a short rest, a bite to eat and then we make our way to the stadium. Being mean, or on meagre income (choose whichever you wish) we are situated towards the back of the stadium in the cheap seats looking right down onto the stage. Nonetheless we have a reasonably good view of the proceedings. We catch the end of Eddie Vedder’s set, having missed the Kaiser Chiefs. At the point at which we enter, Eddie is in full throttle, the crowd loving it.

Now I have seen the Who many times, having watched in disbelief a crazed Pete Townshend smashing his guitar in 1973, the return of the band after the passing of drummer Keith Moon, and more recently after the loss of bassist John Entwistle. Today two original members of the band remain: guitarist Pete Townshend, and vocalist Roger Daltrey. However, the soul of the 1960s mod band continues. This was a special concert; the Who were to perform with a full orchestra. They opened with songs from their 1969 rock opera Tommy, followed by “Who Are You” and some new tracks. The orchestra left the stage and the band moved into familiar territory, playing early hits “Substitute”, “The Seeker”, an acoustic version of “Won’t Get Fooled Again”. The orchestra returned to support the band in a segment from Quadrophenia. They finished with “Baba O’Reilly” and no encore. A different show, but still enjoyable. We took a short walk to our hotel.who prog 2019

Reflecting back on the concert after some time, I remember the distance between ourselves and the band, and the fact that the stadium was far from full. What I could see was The Who surrounded by an orchestra in a massive, cavernous stadium. There was little atmosphere. The sound was good and comparatively clear given the nature of the venue and the band performed well. I’ve seen The Who with an orchestra before, performing Quadrophenia at the Royal Albert Hall and it worked quite well. However, this time it didn’t quite gel and I long to hear the old rock band that is so familiar to me. As a concert this was good but not great; however for me, these days any chance to see The Who live is worth taking.

A few drinks at the hotel bar, a restful evening and up in the morning to take a somewhat torturous trip around the tube network (one of the lines was closed). We were back home for mid-afternoon, none the worse for our adventure.

As I write this, I’ve just heard that The Who have cancelled their 2021 concert tour as a result of Covid. I was to see them at Newcastle Arena in a months time. We live in strange times. Let’s hope it isn’t too long before I can experience The Who in concert again. And many thanks to my great carers Alison and Joanne who supported me during my adventure.

Setlist

With Orchestra: Overture; 1921; Amazing Journey; Sparks; Pinball Wizard; We’re Not Gonna Take It; Who Are You; Eminence Front; Imagine a Man; Hero Ground Zero; Join Together.

Band Only: Substitute; The Seeker; Won’t Get Fooled Again (acoustic; Roger & Pete only); Behind Blue Eyes.

With Orchestra: Ball and Chain; The Real Me; I’m One; The Punk and the Godfather (with Eddie Vedder)   ; 5:15; Drowned; The Rock; Love, Reign O’er Me; Baba O’Riley

 

 

David Bowie: A Celebration; Orchestrated by Mike Garson. 10 January 2021

bowie 1Yet another streaming event. Well it is all that is available the moment. This one was a bit different. We were promised a 3 hour extravaganza celebrating David Bowie’s birthday and featuring artists from around the world all performing together through the power of modern technology. The whole event was orchestrated and planned by Mike Garson, David Bowie‘s piano player from around 1973 and then throughout his career. The artists ranged from those who names I recognised: Duran Duran, Macy Gray, Boy George, Rick Wakeman, Ian Hunter, Ian Astbury, Joe Elliot, Adam Lambert and Peter Frampton and many others who were less familiar to me (probably because they are more recent and up-to-date than my old guy musical tastes and knowledge). We were also promised a band consisting of musicians who accompanied David Bowie throughout his career: Earl Slick, Carlos Alomar, Tony Visconti, Tony Levin and many others.

The event was originally set to be screened at 2 AM UK time on 9 January (it was being streamed from Los Angeles). So I set my alarm for 1:45 AM and woke up ready, excited and intrigued, for the ongoing proceedings. Unfortunately, after a short delay of a few minutes Mike Garson appeared only to tell us that thebowie mike g event was postponed by one day, due to difficulties relating to Covid. “We’ve been working around the clock for months putting together an amazing show for you. Due to the difficulties in the world and the situation with COVID in Los Angeles, we’ve had to move the show 24 hours to tomorrow at the same time. Hang in there with us – just for one day.” So back to sleep I went.

Now the deal was that you had a 24-hour slot in which to view the three-hour event, so this time I decided not to rise at the early hour of 2 AM. Rather, I settled for watching the event later in the day on Sunday 10 January.

The event itself exceeded all of my expectations. It really made the most of modern technology, seamlessly drawing together artists from all over the world; some live, some I suspect recorded, all on different screens yet all playing together. Fantastic. Mike Garson took us through the whole event, introducing each artist and the song and played piano on all, but one (I will explain this later) of the songs.

bowie duranThe concert started with Duran Duran playing “Five Years”, the opening track of Ziggy Stardust and one of my favourite Bowie songs. I suspect this choice of opener paid tribute to the fact that Bowie sadly passed away almost five years to the day, a few days after his birthday. Now I have lost touch with Duran Duran. It is many years since I have seen them and I used to be a fan in the 80s, back in the day. I was pleasantly surprised how well they delivered, no nailed, this classic track; Simon Le Bon almost spitting out the vocals. A great opener. But there was more to follow. An electric version of “Moonage Daydream”, followed by Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins meandering around the screen in his own TV, lost in a “Space Oddity”. An excellent version of “The Man Who Sold the World”. Gary Barlow punching above his weight throughout “Fame “. And so it went on. Bowie classic after classic, mixed with some less familiar tunes, Mike Garson constantly present on a grand piano. Macy Gray popped up on a screen to the left singing one of my Bowie favourites “Changes”, doing it full justice. A tribute to Mick Ronson and his wonderful version of “Slaughter on 10th Avenue” performed by Kevin Armstrong, bringing back memories of seeing Ronson perform it on his solo tour, in Newcastle City Hall many years ago. bowie joBowie fan, and Def Leopard front man, Joe Elliott sang “Ziggy Stardust” paying tribute to a hero of his youth, as he often does. Ricky Gervais popped up for a moment to introduce “Little Fat Man” harking back to Bowie’s performance of that song on his TV show Extras.

Actor Gary Oldman performed a highly emotional version of “I Can’t Read”, soon followed by a great rocking version of “Suffragette City” performed by none other than Peter Frampton. Ian Astbury of the Cult performed “Lazarus” and then Mike Garson handed over his piano stool to Rick Wakeman who appeared in a virtual box delivering the introduction and wonderful background to “Life on Mars” as he did on the original version so many years ago; the song being performed by new voice Youngblood. Boy George delivered a highly theatrical performance of a trio of classics: “Lady Grilling Soul”, “Time”, “Aladdin Sane”. Then my hero Ian Hunter appeared to the left of the screen and performed his tribute to Bowie “Dandy”, followed by “All the Young Dudes” (of course). Current Queen front man and star in his ownbowie ian h right, Adam Lambert, performed an appropriately dramatic version of “Star man”. I can’t claim to recognise the name Bernard Fowler, but I did recognise the man as a long time singer for the Rolling Stones. He performed a number of songs during the show, and closed the event with a powerful rendition of “Heroes”. A fitting end to an incredible event. One which finally realised the potential of streaming and modern technology. An excellent tribute to a genius who I feel so privileged to have seen in performance several times. David if you were watching somewhere out there I’m sure you would have approved. Mike Garson is to be applauded for doing a wonderful job in putting together an excellent event. After the show the team behind A Bowie Celebration tweeted: “Thank you David. And our thanks to you all for coming together in a world where that has been so difficult. This couldn’t have been done without you, the amazing Bowie alumni family, our special guests and wonderful behind the scenes team at @rollinglivepro.” I even bought a signed copy of Mike Garson’s book! I will post an image of it here when it arrives.

bowie stones singerThe reviews in the press were almost all extremely positive. “In almost impossible circumstances, Garson pulled off a herculean task, doing Bowie proud, at a distance.”(Mark Beaumont in The Independent). “All that was missing was the star himself and the global audience, who were surely out there, singing in their homes.” (Dave Simpson in The Guardian).

Setlist: Five Years (Duran Duran); Moonage Daydream (Lena Hall and Lzzy Hale); Space Oddity (Billy Corgan); The Man Who Sold the World (Perry Farrell and Etty Lau Farrell); Bring Me the Disco King (Anna Calvi); Fame (Gary Barlow); Young Americans (Corey Glover); Can You Hear Me (Gail Ann Dorsey); Sweet Thing / Candidate / Sweet Thing (Bernard Fowler) ; Let’s Dance (Charlie Sexton); Lady Stardust (Judith Hill); Changes (Macy Gray);  Slaughter on Tenth Avenue (Kevin Armstrong); Conversation Piece (Catherine Russell); Rebel Rebelbowie rick w (Charlie Sexton); Win / Ziggy Stardust (Joe Elliott); Quicksand (Taylor Momsen); DJ / Blue Jean (Charlie Sexton); Where Are We Now? (Michael C. Hall); Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide (Dave Navarro, Taylor Hawkins, Chris Chaney); Little Fat Man (Corey Taylor; introduced by Ricky Gervais); Hang On to Yourself (Corey Taylor, Dave Navarro, Taylor Hawkins, Chris Chaney); I Can’t Read (Gary Oldman); The Jean Genie (Jesse Malin); Strangers When We Meet (Gail Ann Dorsey); Suffragette City (Peter Frampton); Fantastic Voyage (Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross); Fashion     (Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, Mariqueen Maandig); Lazarus (Ian Astbury); Life on Mars? (YUNGBLUD and Rick Wakeman); Lady Grinning Soul / Time / Aladdin Sane (Boy George and Charlie Sexton);  Dandy /All the Young Dudes (Ian Hunter); Starman (Adam Lambert); Under Pressure (Judith Hill and Andra Day); Heroes (Bernard Fowler); Ashes to Ashes (Instrumental over credits).

Patti Smith Birthday live stream 30 December 2020

patti4An invitation from Patti Smith dropped into my mailbox:

“The winter solstice filled me with new energy, I hope for you as well. I am writing to thank you for your support, and spending time with Tony, my daughter Jesse Paris and I on Black Friday. We hope to feel your presence again on my birthday, Wednesday, December 30th. There will be the full band beneath a full moon.”

How could I resist? Celebrating Patti’s 74th birthday with herself and her band in the comfort of my own room. Excellent! There was one small drawback, however. This time the concert was at 9 PM Eastern Standard Time (USA) which was 2 AM UK Greenwich Mean Time. Still a man has to do what a man has to do; so I pressed the button and bought a ticket.

patti7

So it was that, last Wednesday, both Alexa and my nightshift carer Jackie were given precise instructions to wake me up at 1:45 AM so that I was ready for the start of Patti’s concert. The plan worked precisely and I was awake, remarkably refreshed, ready for the show. This time Patti was accompanied by her band including long time member Lenny Kaye, who had also celebrated his 74th birthday only a few days earlier. A small tot of whiskey surprisingly helped keep me awake and was an ideal accompaniment for the early morning (or late evening, depending on your perspective) concert.

patti8

The set was a collection of Patti Smith favourites from throughout her career. She started with “Grateful” dedicated to Jerry Garcia, followed by “Kimberly”. Then we were transported right back to the start with a wonderful “Free Money”, building up to its majestic climax, Patti’s voice sounding as strong and unique as ever. “My Blakean Year” was followed by a short poetry reading. Then it was back to familiar Patti Smith territory, with a number of favourites including “Dancing Barefoot” which she dedicated to her late husband Fred “Sonic” Smith; both of their children performing with her.

patti6

The set climaxed with a great rendition of her collaboration with Bruce Springsteen, “Because the Night”, which she also dedicated to Fred “Sonic” Smith. Hughes in Billboard (2018) declared “Because the Night” “a layered tribute for Fred and Patti’s love, as well as the family and art that came from it.” (Billboard, Hughes, 2018) Then it was time to sing “Happy Birthday” to the great lady herself, complete with birthday cake. I noticed that she blew out the candles with a fan; I guess really blowing them out is not acceptable in the Covid world; it is strange how things have changed in so many little ways. Finally, a lovely hours entertainment closed with “People Have the Power” and a reference to the new political regime in the USA. 3 AM and it was time to go back to sleep. Happy Birthday Patti.

Setlist: Grateful; Kimberly; Free Money; My Blakean Year; Poem; Ghost Dance; Dancing Barefoot; We Three; Beneath the Southern Cross; Because the Night; Happy Birthday to You; People Have the Power

Live Birthday Performance with her band: Patti Smith, Lenny Kaye, Tony Shanahan, Jay Dee Daugherty, Jesse Paris Smith and Jackson Smith

SARAH BRIGHTMAN: A CHRISTMAS SYMPHONY Live stream concert 20 Dec 2020

SARAH TIX

So here I am “going” to my second live streaming concert! This could become a habit until I can venture out into the real gig world again (please bring on that day soon). Now I have always had a fancy for seeing Sarah Brightman. She is a sort of guilty pleasure who I almost went to see in London couple of times, but “bottled out”, with some regret now. The concert was advertised as below. Plus you could buy a package which included the concert, a programme and a ticket (yet to be delivered from the USA). How could I resist? After all, this is almost like a real concert; I get a programme and a ticket for my collection (and to display on here when they arrive). What’s not to like? I am IN!

SARAH 2

SARAH BRIGHTMAN lights up the holidays with her first-ever livestream concert event SARAH BRIGHTMAN: A CHRISTMAS SYMPHONY!
Join SARAH as she transforms the historical Christ Church Spitalfields in London and welcomes viewers worldwide into her intimate winter wonderland on December 20th
Together with orchestra, chorister from Trinity College, SARAH has invited special guests Aled Jones, choir Gregorian to join her, and will be reuniting with Andrew Lloyd Webber for a memorable performance of a holiday classic! Curl up with your family and a hot toddy or two, and enjoy what promises to be an unforgettable Christmas spectacle at home with SARAH BRIGHTMAN!

SARAH 4

One thing about streamed events. You have to be careful to remember that they are happening! I almost forgot. I was busy answering emails (as I do most of my time!) Then suddenly I realised that I should be watching Sarah Brightman. We switched over quickly and joined the concert a few minutes late. However this was not a problem, because at the end I could switch to a recording and watch the few minutes I missed.

The setting was a lovely old church in London with Sarah surrounded by wonderful, appropriate Christmas lighting and an orchestra. She started with “Ave Maria”, followed by “Silent Night”; lovely if perhaps a little too traditional for me. She was then joined by Aled Jones to sing “Walking in the Air” which was also quite exquisite. This was followed by “Pie Jesu” with a chorister named Leo and then an ABBA song “Happy New Year” which I am not familiar with; followed by another unfamiliar song “Colder Than Winter”.

SARAH 1

Sarah was then joined by long-term friend Andrew Lloyd Webber for a performance of an old Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice song “Christmas Dream”. Great! The next song sounded familiar; after some thought and some googling I realised it was “Hymn” by none other than Barclay James Harvest; a song I have seen them perform many times before; shame on me for not remembering it. Lovely. Sarah’s voice is exquisite, angelic and very fitting to the mood, Christmas and the surroundings. This was followed by another old Christmas favourite from the late great Greg Lake: “I Believe in Father Christmas”. Sarah then left us while the orchestra played a piece, and she made one of many costume changes into another lovely dress.

We were close to the end at this point and Sarah continued with “Amazing Grace”, “Happy Christmas (War Is Over)” by John Lennon and Yoko Ono. The closer was none other than Roy Wood’s “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day”. All in all a lovely Christmas concert. But, as I observed last time I attended a streaming event, it can never be the same as a live concert experience. I must admit I was quite impressed by Sarah Brightman and I still remain tempted to go and see her should she return to the UK for a concert in the future. Will I attend another streaming event? I have none planned at the moment, but if anything interesting turns up I may well do so.

sarah 5

Set list: Ave Maria: Silent night: Walking in the air (The Snowman) Aled Jones plus chorister Leo: Pie Jesu plus chorister Leo:  Arrival (ABBA): Colder than Winter (Vince Gill); Christmas Dream with Andrew Lloyd Webber; A Coventry Carol with Gregorian; Hymn (Barclay James Harvest); I Believe in Father Christmas (Greg Lake); Orchestral Musical interlude; Amazing Grace; Happy Christmas (War is over) (Lennon and Ono); I Wish it could be Christmas every day (Roy Wood)

Patti Smith A Black Friday Performance Veeps livestream 27 November 2020

patti ticketSo I finally entered the live streaming era. I couldn’t resist, of course, “seeing” Patti Smith “in concert” in a Veeps live streaming event on Black Friday. I must admit to being quite intrigued and excited about how my hero Patti would join me in my living room through my laptop. What would it be like? Could it in any way match a real live event?

Well all was to be revealed at 8 PM on 27th November. Having resisted the rush for online bargains on Black Friday, I made up for it by treating myself to joining Patti, her daughter Jessie Paris Smith and long-term sidekick Tony Shanahan for a concert in my living room. Patti appeared, on time (no long waiting for the artist to appear in this medium) in what looked like her Bowery upstairs room set out as a studio, with her patti tix 2daughter Jessie Paris on keyboards and Tony Shanahan or electric piano.

Patti started with a reading from her book “Year of the Monkey”, followed by a series of songs, most of which I recognised, on which she accompanied herself with an acoustic guitar and the keyboards of her fellow musicians. These included “My Blakean Year”(based around her thoughts and feelings of the poet William Blake), another poem “The Woes of the Young Scientists”, a beautiful cover of “After the Gold Rush” (for Neil Young’s 75th birthday the week before),”Elegie” for Jimi Hendrix, whose birthday it would have been that day (“Happy Birthday Jimi”, said Patti sweetly) and the lovely “This Is the Girl”, Patti illustrating the song with some lovely small hand/arm movements. The set closed with songs from more familiar territory including “Dancing Barefoot”, “People Have the Power” and, finally “Pissing in a River”. Patti was on fine form throughout, looking as lovely and natural as ever. A great performance by all three musicians.patti 1

Well, what are my final conclusions of a live streaming event? Did Patti really join me in my living room? Well, of course not, but there was a strange intimacy to the performance. Did it match up to a real-life event? No, nothing can match the atmosphere of a live rock performance, but it was okay as a substitute during these strange times. Would I go to another such event? Yes, perhaps, depending upon the artist and the context. Did I enjoy it? Come on, yes of course I enjoyed it. After all, it is Patti Smith!

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Setlist: Year of the Monkey (reading); Grateful; My Blakean Year; The Woes of the Young Scientists (Poem); After the Gold Rush (Neil Young cover); This Is the Girl; Elegie; Dancing Barefoot; Beneath the Southern Cross; Peaceable Kingdom / People Have the Power; Pissing in a River

Roger Chapman and Friends play Family, supported by Edgar Broughton 18 Jan 2018 Newcastle Academy

chapman tixAnother trip down  memory lane. This was Roger Chapman, supported by a band comprising of ex Family members and others, playing a selection of Family songs and other Chappo favourites. Add into the mix, my old hero Edgar Broughton as support act, and I was guaranteed a great night.

The venue was half full, comprising mostly old fans of Family. Now Family were always great favourites in the North-East, from the days when they played the Bay Hotel in Sunderland, Sunderland Locarno and Newcastle Mayfair in the late 1960s and early 1970s. I was lucky enough to see them once or twice in those days and pretty formidable they were too. Their music was a mix of rock, jazz and psychedelia; quite unpredictable and topped by Chappos tremendous searing, throaty vocals. I ran into a few old friends and had a good chat with them, which started the night off well.

First up was the legend that is Edgar Broughton. I used to look up to Edgar as a role model; a fearless guy who stood up for, and fought for, what he believed in and what he was passionate about, which was freedom, socialist values and doing the right thing. I have seen Edgar many times over the years, and his spirit remains undiminished. The format has changed, the old Edgar Broughton Band is no more after a sad falling out with his brother Steve, which he sings about in a song that has the lines “We Were Warriors Together”; and how true that was! Now he sings solo with a batch of new songs; his passionate, emotional voice supported only by his acoustic guitar. “Out Demons out” is no more, the only Edgar Broughton Band songs being “Green Lights” and “Hotel Room”, if my memory serves me right. Sadly, several of the crowd talk over him while he sings, the unfamiliar songs raising polite clapping. But to me, who now recognises all the songs, this was a great performance by a great man.

800px-Roger_Chapman_-_Werner_Rennen_2018_03Top of the bill was, of course, Roger Chapman and his band playing songs by Family; all well known by the crowd.We were treated to old Family favourites such as “Top of the Hill”, “Drowned in Wine” and the hit song “Burlesque”, closing with the wonderful “The Weavers Answer“. The encore started with my personal favourite “My Friend the Sun“; I am back in the field at the rainy Buxton Festival when Chapman and his Streetwalkers sang that song and the sun came out. A treasured moment; we all cheered the sun and all was well in the world for a few wonderful moments when the time stood still for me. The closer was “In My Own Time”. Chapman remains in good voice, as emotional as ever and his power undiminished. Everyone went home content. Happy days for ageing rockers. It don’t get much better than this.

Setlist: Prisoner; Who Pulled the Night Down; Hey Mr Policeman; Drowned in Wine; Habits of a Lifetime; Kiss My Soul; Top of the Hill; Run for Cover; Processions; Hung Up Down; Burlesque; The Weaver’s Answer. Encore: My Friend the Sun; Shadow on the Wall / Shortlist / Toenail Dragging; In My Own Time

Many thanks to Frank Schwichtenberg for allowing his picture of Roger Chapman in 2018 to be used courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Morrissey Newcastle Arena 23 February 2018

morrissey tixSo Morrissey returned to Newcastle, after quite a long hiatus since he last played in the city. Now Laura is a big Smiths and Morrissey fan; and I always liked the Smiths “back in the day” so we try and catch the great man each time he visits the region. In fact we have seen Morrisey quite a few times over the years including previous concerts in Newcastle, a couple of visits to Manchester (one for his 50th birthday concert which was simply tremendous), and concerts in Middlesbrough, Leeds and Sunderland. So this was a special night for us. And we were not alone; a packed arena was clamouring to see the return of the enigma that is Morrissey.

morrissey 2For me, the preshow videos which Morrissey projects onto the stage screen before the concert, are always very interesting and they give an insight into Morrissey’s beliefs, interests and values. This night we were treated to some great film clips including “Loudmouth” by the Ramones; a wonderful nostalgia trip (at least for me) of “Something Here in My Heart” by the Paper Dolls; a somewhat bizarre version of “How Soon Is Now” by t.a.T.u on Top of the Pops; “I’m Black and I’m Proud” by James Brown; the great rock ‘n’ roll singer Robert Gordon; Dionne Warwick; a blast of “God Save the Queen” by Sex Pistols; black evangelist James Baldwin from 1969 in London; a short extract of a talk by Germaine Greer; the excellent Four Tops on top form (pun intended) singing “It’s the Same Old Song”; “Jet Boy” by Morrissey’s favourites the New York Dolls and finally a drag queen called Lipsynka. Wow. A 30 minute blast of Morrissey’s thoughts, feelings and influences. Just sets the scene, and puts the audience in the right mindset, for for the spectacle which follows.

And a spectacle indeed it is. Morrissey is surrounded and supported by a great band and stands straight in front of a big screen which flashes black-and-white images to illustrate the themes and concepts behind his songs. Tonight we are treated to a mix of songs from the new album, a few Smiths’ classics, a (somewhat random?) cover of The Pretenders “Back on the Chain Gang” and a selection of songs from throughout Morrissey’s career. Early on in the set we are treated to “Suedehead”, from Morrissey’s first solo album. Morrissey is, of course, a great storyteller;  “Munich air disaster of 1958” is a tribute to the tragic plane crash: “On the plane was the Manchester United football team, nicknamed the “Busby Babes”, along with supporters and journalists. Twenty of the 44 on the aircraft died at the scene.” (Wikipedia) “The Bullfighter Dies” is sung in front of a somewhat horrific film of a bullfight, emphasising vegan Morrissey’s strong views on animal cruelty (see below for quote from the local paper). “Jack the Ripper” is another story, followed by a wonderful version of the Smith’s “How Soon Is Now”. The encore is “Irish Blood, English Heart” which is, itself, becoming a classic and a favourite of both mine and Laura’s. morrissey 1

““We released our latest CD, long player, cassette in Spain and it didn’t do very well. So this is what we tell them,” he announces – before performing a rabble-rousing version of The Bullfighter Dies, replete with horrific images from real-life bullfights on the big screen. Then there’s four minutes of footage of police brutality during ‘Who Will Protect Us From the Police?’”(Chronicle live)

An excellent performance, and a great return to Newcastle.

Setlist: I Wish You Lonely; Suedehead; I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish (The Smiths); Jacky’s Only Happy When She’s Up on the Stage; Home Is a Question Mark; Munich Air Disaster 1958; My Love, I’d Do Anything for You; When You Open Your Legs; Who Will Protect Us From the Police?; World Peace Is None of Your Business; If You Don’t Like Me, Don’t Look at Me; Back on the Chain Gang; I Bury the Living; The Bullfighter Dies; Jack the Ripper; How Soon Is Now? (The Smiths);  Spent the Day in Bed; Hold On to Your Friends; Everyday Is Like Sunday; I’m Not Sorry. Encore: Irish Blood, English Heart

Thanks to my carer Lisa for the photographs.