One Direction – that’s 1D to you. The first band in US Billboard history to have their first three albums debut at number one. And no, I can’t name you one of their songs either.
I first became aware of Louis Tomlinson -1 of 1D – when he got clobbered in a pre-season charity football match. Undeterred, he is about to do something rather unique: he has signed a non-contract deal with Doncaster Rovers as part of an ongoing association with the club in aid of Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice, and will tonight make his debut for the reserves against Rotherham in front of 4,000 adoring 1D fans. This is very noble of Mr Tomlinson and we should all salute him for using his celebrity status to good effect. But it also struck me as somewhat unique in that everybody gains from his participation: the fans get up close with their idol, the club gets more people attending their matches and who knows they may even come back to watch the first team, Bluebell Wood will be better able to support and care for children less fortunate than ourselves, and Tomlinson fulfils the dream of playing for his beloved Rovers.
So that’s a good example of giving fans what they want. There are plenty of questionable ones. Anyone for a Kiss coffin? Do you really need eight Pearl Jam live lps? Or do you lust after a pair of them oven gloves, immortalised by Half Man Half Biscuit?
Can you think of an altruistic act of giving by an artist? Maybe you can think of an act of pure exploitation that needs to be aired. Any stance should be supported with some form of evidence or justification.
Off you go then.
It’s only a smidge over a fortnight away, but we are already nose deep in a miasma of festive hokey cokey. Never mind the pressures of performing adequately as bestower of presents and hospitality, surely it is the Christmas single that elicits the strongest of reactions. Yes, in the main they are a commercial race to the bottom bereft of the merest scintilla of musical worth, but they do seem to burn themselves into the memory in a way that other music mostly fails. Play Wham’s Last Christmas to the man on the street and it would probably stir a more emotional response than anything off Reflektor could yield.
Which of the X Factor’s burnt offerings will be repeating on us for years to come? Paddy Power have a SiCo chosen alumnus odds-on for Christmas Number One. But peer a little further down the list and you might be surprised to find narrowing odds for The Specials, AC/DC and U2.
So here’s your opportunity to get your esprit de humbug ratcheted up early and have a festive foam at the mouth about Christmas singles you hate. Or maybe, just maybe there’s one you sneakingly regard as worthy of attention. Support your suggestion with the thinnest of lyrical mastery, the tinniest in Casio presets and the cheesiest in video direction.
Off you go then.
The Bow Bar is turning into a veritable honey trap for Spillers of late. Last month’s victim was Tatanka Yotanka who braved the throngs for a couple of swift pints prior to Barb Jungr at the Queen’s Hall, while I bolted for the door just in time to see Coriolanus at The Playhouse. Conversation ran the full spectrum from what ails to Grauniad, to the art of cabinetmaking and the joys of London life. Anyway, here is our round up of some of what we saw in Edinburgh 2013.
The Beijing People’s Art Theatre had a unique take on staging Shakespeare, employing TWO heavy metal bands (Miserable Faith and Suffering, death metal but turned down from 11 on this occasion) in their production of Coriolanus. I had studied the play for the Irish equivalent of the A levels, and it seemed an odd choice for the Chinese Ministry of Culture to get involved in. what the implications of political power being exerted from the bottom up, and there is a telling comment about the difficulty in reasserting power once it has been ceded to the people. An entertaining evening, somewhat tempered by a lack of any menace in a 100 strong chorus.
The Summerhall venue had a terrifically varied programme this year. Song Noir by Pumajaw brought a Lynchian approach to cabaret from Pinkie McClure and John Wills (ex-Loop), the highlight was an inspired take on the Peter Gunn theme with Maclure taking Mancini’s riff while Wells conducts a mash-up of what could be Dazed & Confused era Jimmy Page v The Prodigy. One of sport’s great rivalries forms the backdrop to Jamie Wood’s Beating McEnroe, an entertaining and immersive story of bitter defeat as tasted by his six year-old self. The yin and yang of Wood’s battles with his older brother are projected – sometimes literally – onto the epic Borg/McEnroe clash. A dollop of slapstick and the help of some only too willing members of the audience make for a startlingly bonkers finale with loss avenged in Wood’s inimitable hands-on fashion.
Pippa Bailey’s Biding Time (Remix) is a beguiling multi-media exploration of the battle between art and commerce. First performed in 1987, it has been revived and remixed in a collaboration with Louise Quinn (and A Band Called Quinn), film-maker Uisdean Murray and Grid Iron’s Ben Harrison and benefits enormously from advances in technology over the last quarter of a century. Music and sound production are delivered to the audience via silent disco headphones, making the experience unworldly yet hyper-real. Louise Quinn’s songs and performance are strong in their own right and the production benefits from the story’s parallels with her surreal experiences in the music industry. I understand that this production will be touring next year, so it may be coming your way.
Off to the Scottish National Gallery on Princes Street where you can still catch the Peter Doig exhibition until the 3rd of November. Doig has been fairly and squarely reclaimed for Scotland on the basis of being born and resident in Edinburgh until the age of three but in truth he’s been elsewhere for most of his life; Trinidad and Canada before art school in London and then retracing his steps back to Trinidad, painting all the while. The exhibition title ‘No Foreign Lands’ reflects that journey and, coming as it does from fellow Auld Reekian (“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveller only…”) Robert Louis Stevenson, it bolsters the Scottish connection.
The show is of works from the last ten years in Trinidad. Doig works a lot from photographs of scenes that resonate with him so there are quite often various versions of, or excerpts from the same subject and this show is a chance to see a few pairings of these which is a bonus. Doig is a figurative, painterly painter who revels both in the medium and the depth of art history at his disposal, happy to quote at will from a range of other artists. If you have even the most cursory knowledge of painting over the last century and a bit you’ll soon have at least half a dozen names in your head as points of reference and the notes by the paintings are not shy of listing them either. Mine were Gaugin, Rothko, Bacon, Manet, Caulfield, Hopper and Jasper Johns for starters. This isn’t to suggest that the work is simply derivative, a better analogy would be with sampling in music; a painterly riff here, a structural backbeat there, a high class guest on backing vocals.
An enjoyable show and certainly recommended if you can get there in the next eight weeks. Many large scale pieces which range from decoratively atmospheric to deeply engaging. A room of hand painted posters for film shows from which you can trace the graphic tendencies of some of the larger stuff, plenty of his working out in the form of sketches and photographs. It may be his method of working from an already captured image but the most moving of these works have that veiled quality of a moment of dreamtime, the kind of sepia distance in which you feel you are reaching back to engage with something already lost to you.
Barb Jungr at Queens Hall was a night approaching perfection. She’s been touring her ‘Stockport to Memphis’ album set for much of this year and I’ve caught it in various smaller venues. Here we and accompanist Simon Wallace were blessed with a fabulous grand piano, a beautiful acoustic and Barb singing with the freedom and inspiration that comes from being on top of your game. One of those nights where audience and performer conspire to make the silences as important and moving as the songs. Here’s Barb talking about Stockport to Memphis.
Tatanka’s reason for being in Edinburgh this year in particular was to support the young folk from Shatter-point Theatre who were breaking their Fringe duck and presented eight nights of improvised comedy under the name of A League of Ordinary Gentlemen – What Happens Next? A well tested format of building an hour long show from audience suggestions was given added momentum by youthful vigour, irreverence and liberal silliness. Highlights included the pirates from Jersey chancing on the land of the Beyoncés, captured here in glorious Dimmovision by TYTV.
That concludes the report from the Edinburgh jury. Join us next year for some art, larks and of course beer.
It doesn’t seem that long since Mark Everett last toured here, but hell, I wasn’t going to turn down the opportunity to see this band play again. They are here for the No Mean City Festival, but reading between the lines, these guys just love playing together and have a short UK tour to tie in with their festival commitments.
The evening’s entertainment gets off to a predictably unexpected start: bouncers insist that we retreat from the stage to make room for what appears to be a bunch of Virgin cabin crew complete with wheelie cases, but turns out to be a burlesque troupe. I must confess that this didn’t entirely throw me as I had seen them a few years back in Lisbon where the first support act was a ventriloquist. The whole thing passes off in entertaining enough fashion, with the su[pport baton passed to Misty Miller, fully clothed and sporting a Telecaster. Her main inspirations would appear to be PJ Harvey and her former drummer who provides ample subject material for her love songs. I liked her guitar playing which was a mixture of delicacy and dirty open chord distortion.
Eels take the stage in regulation Adidas track suits, beards and sunglasses, with E sporting a somewhat ill-advised headband. Regular followers will be aware of Mark Everett’s whimsical attitude to pleasing audiences. Who can forget the post Blinking Lights tour, a noise-fest that would try the patience of the most ardent fan (and happened to be the ladyllama’s introduction to the band, which had her questioning my sanity). Tonight however we are in safe hands, with a set largely hewn for Wonderful Glorious with a smattering of oldies from Hombre Lobo (Fresh Blood & Tremendous Dynamite), Shootenanny! (Saturday Morning & Dirty Girl) and Electro-Shock Blues ( Climbing Up To The Moon), interspersed with good humoured joshing and band hugs for all concerned. It is rare to see a band enjoy themselves as thoroughly as these guys and the playing is bone-crunchingly tight; a total of three guitarists including The Chet ably driven along by Big Al (the lady llama prefers Kool G Murder, who she claims was “looking at” her in Lisbon!) and the excellent Knuckles. They would certainly be my nomination for best covers act and tonight they excel with a blistering take on Fleetwood Mac’s Oh Well and a fabulous and faithful take on the Stones’ Beast of Burden – Amy would surely approve,
After the usual encores the band return after lights up with a kick ass Dog Faced Boy, accompanied by the burlesque troupe, this time fully clothed. A good time was had by all.
It happened over a month ago. Abahachi was in Edinburgh to simultaneously prevent the decline of modern civilization and uphold standards in the field of understanding ancient ones. You guessed it, he was putting staff and lay about students through the mincer as external examiner. Who needs Michael Gove – although the Prof did lead me to believe that Persia may not be his chosen subject.
Now this is all very thirsty work, so the Prof, having previously been thwarted in attempts to find the beer, saw fit to engage the services of a specialist. Nobody in their right mind ever walks past the Bow Bar on Victoria Street and IMHO it is just as much a cradle of civilization as the Persian plateau: no TV, no piped music, no hen/stag parties – just beer and whisky.
Strong beer merged seamlessly with strong opinions on everything from a shared affinity for Deutschland to Nile Rodgers, and the art of hot & cold smoking. The cultural summit was sealed with a communique confirming Giorgio Moroder as our favourite track on Random Access Memories and the exchange of gifts – Karl Bartos CD for the Prof, nice bottle of home brewed beer for the Llama.
Reg, poor fella, is poorly and has had to cancel a number of gigs this week. I’ve never heard of somebody of his vintage suffering from appendicitis, but it sure sounds like a better reason than some have given for not turning up.
The Bangles once stood me up. I was due to meet them in the Hammersmith Odeon but success (for them) stepped out of the shadow and whisked them away (Eternal Flame went to No.1 in the US so they never bothered coming over).
Keith Richards was a no show at Wembley because he’d cut his hand and it got infected, so no Steel Wheels for me – suppose I should be grateful.
Stevie Ray Vaughan died in a helicopter crash a month before I was due to see him, once again at Hammersmith – what is it about that place, or was it just me?
Anyway, between the lot of us there must be QUITE A FEW gigs that never were. I want to hear about yours so we can all read ’em and weep.