Quote Of The Day

"Victory goes to the player who makes the next-to-last mistake - Chessmaster Savielly Grigorievitch Tartakower (1887-1956)"

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Golden Age of Hustlers...


Oh my word this is good. Brings back memories of sneaking in to see Justin Bond with David and Dan back in 2001 in New York.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Speed The Plow...

Last night Stuart and I went to see David Mamet's Speed The Plow at the Playhouse Theatre in London's glitzy West End.

Starring Lindsay Lohan, Richard Schiff and Nigel Lindsay the play tells the story of two film studio executives whose plans for pitching a sure-fire winner of a low-brow prison movie get derailed by a seemingly dim-witted temporary secretary. But are things all they appear to be?

The play is rather old hat in its critique of the movie business to be honest and frankly mercifully short - three acts and two intervals only just scrape us through 90 minutes running time. The two male leads are very good as the fast-talking low-life producers and will no doubt hit their stride as the run progresses. Ms Lohan however is sadly not much cop. To be fair to her the odd moment where she seemed to forget her lines were probably just dramatic pauses. But with acting so wooden a wardrobe could have understudied her - how were we to tell? There was precious little drama in her mumbled lines.

She will no doubt also improve somewhat as she gains confidence in the coming weeks but at just under £90 a ticket we were frankly expecting more - even in previews.

There may indeed be a vehicle out there for LiLo to make her comeback into the acting game - but this wasn't it.

Avoid.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Open House: Victoria Station Roof...

Last Saturday afternoon David and I went up on the roof of Victoria Station as part of the Open House 2014.

The tour was organsied by Network Rail and was fun, interesting but all too brief. Hopefully next year they will open up other mainline stations and maybe some of the basements and underground passageways hitherto hidden to the public.





Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Kate Bush Merchandising...

Seeing Kate Bush's Before The Dawn show the other night I was a little disappointed about one thing. They had run out a particular item of merchandising that I wanted - did I say "wanted", I mean "needed". It's the Rescue Kit Metal Box (yes, I know it'll be ABBA's soap-on-a-rope all over again).

So I called the venue, and then the merchandising brand agent and finally the actual manufacturer. And guess what? They are making me up one specially and going to send it to me directly! And after I pointed out that the venue had run out they are going to make another batch to be sold at the Eventim Apollo too.

And you guys thought my craziness was confined to crawling around on the floor picking up Kate Bush confetti!

Update: I just heard from the Kate Bush merchandise manufacturer and branding agent. "we will have everything available after the shows have finished, and I’ll drop you a line to confirm when it’s live. The store won’t be via the Eventim, it will be through Kate’s online portal." So you'll all be able to buy your stuff from the Kate / Fish People web site after the run of shows has finished.

Update 2: I went down to the venue on Friday night and picked up my Kate Bush Rescue Kit by hand. They were very sweet.


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Anna Nicole...

Last Saturday Stuart and I went to see Anna Nicole at the Royal Opera House in London's glitzy Covent Garden.

We absolutely loved it. Outrageous, funny, tragic, bright, busty, off colour, in bad taste and over-the-top. And that was just the audience!

Like it's subject matter the show was a riot. Starting from her humble beginnings we follow Anna Nicole oft-times surreal life from strip club to plastic surgery, from bumpkin to billionaire, and from court-room to mortuary. The husbands, the children, the partying, the drugs - it was all up on stage.

The orchestra played with gusto. The every-present chorus threw themselves into it. But the night belonged to Eva-Maria Westbroek as Anna. She was an utter, utter star. You just couldn't take your eyes off her. Or those tits.

And we were spared little by way of the libretto. Initially the swear words were spelled out "F.U.C.K." sings Anna followed by "F.U.C.K.I.N.G" But soon she doesn't spare our blushes and starts "fucking this" and "fucking that." Her mother then pushes things even further by dropping in the odd "cunt". And then to top it off things get rather poetic with a rounded "cuntalicious."

If you don't like opera, or if you do or if you just want to marvel, gasp and laugh for 2 hours you could do a hell of a lot worse than shell out £38 for Anna Nicole.

If nothing else for the people watching.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Ballyturk...

Last Friday night Stuart and I went to see Ballyturk at the Lyttelton Theatre on London's glitzy South Bank.

Written by Enda Walsh and starring Cillian Murphy, Stephen Rea and Mikel Murphy the play is a bit of a weird one. It was like Harold Pinter's The Dumb Waiter or Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot where Godot actually turns up. In this scenario while they wait two unnamed men dance, prance and chaotically run about to 1980s pop songs and act out bizarre comedic routines.

In the second half of the piece things take a more philosophical (and frankly more boring) turn. The characters muse about life but not much else.

Overall it was a brave and interesting piece - funny in parts but ultimately frustrating to watch and told us little. You can see why actors might like to be in it (they get to play all the emotions from A to Z). You can also see why critics might like it too as it plays with the form of theatre itself and gives them good copy.
But ultimately as a member of the audience we were all left a bit baffled.

Disco Pigs was way better.

Friday, September 19, 2014

"Yes" Vote...

I was quite looking forward to a "Yes" vote in the Scotland Independence Referendum. In the rest of the UK the average rainfall would have gone down by 20cm,, average life expectancy up by 2 years, average income up by £3000 and average sunshine longer by 13 mins. So we would have been drier, live longer, richer and brighter.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Joan Baez...

Last night Stuart treated me to a night out to see American folk singer Joan Baez at the Royal Festival Hall on London's glitzy South Bank.

Moany Joanny (as I like to call her) was in fine fettle - telling jokes... singing other people's songs. OK, I'm doing her a slight disservice as she did sing her own songs too. But it was only in her interpretation of other people's songs like Imagine, The House Of The Rising Sun and Swing Low Sweet Chariot that made the gig really came to life for me.

I was in the minority though - the venue was sold out and the adoring, if aging, fans applauded and sang along to each and every song. Stu too was clapping his hands and beaming throughout. Bless him.

Her finale was a rousing rendition of Diamonds and Rust which is a corker of a song.

Baez has definitely been there and done that. A protest singer who has been imprisoned for her beliefs she continues to be a prominent songwriter, musician, and human rights activist.

Little known fact: Joan Baez dated Apple Computer co-founder Steve Jobs during the early 1980s.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Kate Bush - Before The Dawn (Take 2)...

Stuart, Darren, David and I went to see Kate Bush's Before The Dawn at the Eventim Apollo last night in London's unglitzy Hammersmith

On second viewing I enjoyed some bits more and some bits less.

*** MILD SPOILERS ***

Stuff that was better:-
We were seated way closer. 3rd row right in the middle. Kate was right in front of us.
Because I knew what to expect I could relax more
The songs aren't performed exactly the same each time (a bit rawer first time, a bit more melodic this)
More of the stage special effects worked this time round
The show flowed better because there were no interruptions
I got more confetti (!)

Stuff that wasn't better:-
The surprise element wasn't there
It was hotter in the auditorium - too hot to be honest
Bertie gets on my nerves even more

It didn't stop me bursting into tears all over again during Hounds of Love, Running Up That Hill and King of the Mountain though.

They were also filming the gig last night. Unfortunately there was a slip-up though. A props malfunction spoiled one of the special entrances of Kate's apperrance from behind a door (the ad libbing was funny though). I guess they can use the footage from tonight's filming instead. (We were down the front so maybe you'll see us jumping to our feet after HoL, RutH, KotM etc.)

I was a little disappointed last night about one thing. They have run out a particular item of merchandising at the Kate Bush gig that I wanted. It's the Rescue Kit Metal Box (yes, I know it'll be ABBA's soap-on-a-rope all over again). So I called the venue, then the merchandising brand agent and finally the actual manufacturer. And guess what? They are making me up one specially and going to send it to me directly! And after I pointed out that the venue had run out they are going to make another batch to be sold at the Eventim Apollo too - hopefully to get their for Friday's show

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

"Not Russia"/"Russia"...

I have a Ukrainian cleaner, Irina. Lovely woman. Always laughing. Often bleaching. Sometimes polishing. I was at home last Friday so we had a chat over a Jacob's Lemon Puff.

She told me her boyfriend's friend was killed last week near the border of "Not Russia"/"Russia". She says, "it is a war in my country. Why does no one help us fight our war with Putin?"

I didn't really know what to say so I mumbled something about her having a good go at the kitchen cupboards next week.

Monday, September 15, 2014

A Streetcar Named Desire...

Last Saturday night Stuart and I went to see Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Names Desire starring Gillian Anderson as Blanche DuBois at the Young Vic in London's increasingly glitzy Waterloo.

Under Benedict Andrews' direction this was a first class revival with a revolving set and an outstanding performance by all the cast. We loved it.

Set in modern times we were somewhat concerned that the play might perhaps lose some of it's old world charm. Blanche DuBois is after all a woman from an earlier age. However we needn't have worried. Once the action got into its stride, particularly in the second half, Blanche's descent into madness played out just as strongly as we had hoped.

Ben Foster was intriguing yet perhaps not quite brutish enough as Stanley while Vanessa Kirby was suitably coquettish as much put upon Stella. The play however belonged to Gillian Anderson.

Anderson use of the spinning claustrophobic stage - ironically all open and exposed to the audience - first wound and then unwound much as her fantasies did. It was a downward spiral in many senses. Her masterful performance gradually racketed up the tension to an explosive finale of raw emotion.

A five star performance in a five star play.

Friday, September 12, 2014

My Dad...

My Dad's just an an eye operation at Moorfields Eye Hospital. So naturally me being the person I am I put a cardboard bowl on his head and took a picture. And him being the person he is let me.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Nigel Farage...

UKIP's Nigel Farage is sitting opposite me on Eurostar. 1st class, reading The Daily Star, using phone endlessly and laughing/coughing like it's his last breath. Hope he doesn't ask me for the kiss of life as a refusal often offends.

I seem to remember him saying a while back that homosexuality makes most people over 70 uncomfortable. I'm guessing they're just not using enough lube then Nige.

The woman next to him asked to borrow my charger plug (I'd just finished with it.) I said, "of course you can" Then added, "and thanks to European legislation these plugs are standard now." Ha! HA! Take that!

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Fire Garden...

On Friday night Bobby, Lucy, Stuart and I went to see some spectacular fire structures at Battersea Power Station.. Amazing. All part of the free Thames Festival.








Monday, September 08, 2014

Pride...

Yesterday Stuart and I (along with Mark, Chris, Andrew, Andy, Tom, Dilwyn, Fabio, Johan et al) went to the Hackney Picturehouse in London's up-and-coming-but-not-quite-yet glitzy Hackney to see the film Pride.

It was a preview screening held in aid of Lesbian and Gay Switchboard. Telling the story of the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners group it brought back lots of wonderful (and not so wonderful) memories of the mid-1980s. Marches, shaking buckets and the miners' strike.

Think along the lines of Brassed Off, The Full Monty, Made in Dagenham, Billy Elliot and Calendar Girls and you know what you'll be in for. It is a very funny and heart-warming comedy featuring a standout British cast. Well worth seeing.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Kate Bush - Before The Dawn - Review...

Kate Bush - Before The Dawn - Review (***SPOILERS***)

My spoiler-free review: It was brilliant.

My SPOILER-ladened (largely uncritical) gushing review is below: read on if you don't mind ***SPOILERS*** aplenty.

It all started with a question back in Spring 2013. "Shall we do some live shows, Bertie?" Thank goodness Kate Bush's son answered with a resounding "Yes!"

And 18 months later here we are at the Hammersmith Odeon (now Eventim Apollo) watching that most intriguing and enigmatic of creatures Mother Bush perform for us. Yes, she is really here. Wow!

"What's this? None of her big hits? Nothing from her first four albums!" some of the headlines have screamed. Oh do shut up. This isn't some greatest hits show. Kate Bush is an artist. And a great one at that. And artists like Kate aren't like normal craftsman. A craftsman might happily make the same piece of pottery again and again to sell. A true artist paints a picture just once. (OK, Leonardo Da Vinci needed the money, OK?) But you get my point. Kate Bush wasn't put on this earth to churn out hits. She's not a bloody jukebox you know. This is her creative vision. Her show. It floats her boat. Or not, as we were to discover. You see Before The Dawn had been teasing us with an image of Ms Bush floating in the sea in a lifejacket. And we were soon to find out why.


The show started with Kate parading barefoot onto the stage with her musicians and backing vocalists following on behind. Wild applause and standing ovation. Which continued all night and after almost every song.

Kate was dressed in what looked like a black knitted shawl with black dangly material hanging from each arm and swept back hair. She looked great for a 56 years old. A real pagan mother. All eyes were on her. All night.

Then the six-song gig portion of the night started. She just opened her mouth and sang. And she sounded great. That's a relief. Kate was in fine voice.

I say 'relief' because let's face it it's a challenge to manage expectations after 35 years waiting to hear Kate sing live. Had her voice survived the years? Might it be cracked, gravely and broken? Well no, it wasn't. Just richer. With more depth. A chocolate smile of a voice that floated and danced as it ever did. Thank feck for that!

The first song Lily was a thunderous start to the show but when the first notes of the second song Hounds of Love started the roar that greeted Kate seemed to surprise even her. By the end I was weeping uncontrollably. I was here! Listening to Kate Bush! Singing Hounds of Love! Live! And it was magical!

The next two songs were Joanni and Top of the City both which showed off why Kate has lost none of her skill as a writer and as a performer. Both album tracks but good enough to be singles in their own right.

The final two songs from this first section were Running Up That Hill (the place went bat-crazy at the first drum beat) and King of the Mountain (genuinely hypnotically performed note perfect to the recorded version.) Little did we know that the lyrics at the end of this song were to lead into the next portion of the show. "The wind it blows. The wind it blows the door closed."

Here the gig ended and the theatrics began.

The rest of the first half of the show was dedicated to The Ninth Wave. And the second half of the show dedicated to A Sky of Honey. These are both narrative theatre pieces taken from the second sides of the albums Hounds of Love (1985) and Aerial (2005) respectively.

Kate Bush has always loved progressive rock and it's alliance to all things English, mythic, dreamlike and pastoral. And The Ninth Wave delivers on these themes in a dark and claustrophobic way.

First yellow tissue paper confetti was blasted into the auditorium with words from Tennyson's poem The Coming of Arthur written on each piece in his handwriting style.

"Wave after wave, each mightier than the last,
Till last, a ninth one, gathering half the deep
And full of voices, slowly rose and plunged
Roaring, and all the wave was in a flame:
And down the wave and in the flame was borne."

Then a video started of The Astronomer reporting a distress call to the coastguard. The Celtic Deep had sunk. Send help. Please. The script to this was written by David Mitchell.

Then... everything stopped. There was a technical hitch. The video mixing was screwed. "Please stay in your seats." "OK, you can leave your seats but be back in 10 minutes." "OK, go and get a drink." 30 minutes later and we were back up and running. Drama!

For much of this section of the show Kate's filmed image was projected on a big screen at the back of the stage. She was floating in the sea - the film representing reality. Whereas real-time Kate was on the real stage - performing the dream sequences. If that makes sense. So filmed-Kate sang the real-life bits, and real-life Kate sang the dream-like bits.

The film was obviously pre-recorded but with a live vocal which Kate recorded while floating for 6 hours in the Pinewood water stage. 20ft deep in cold water brought on mild hypothermia and much swearing apparently.

The Ninth Wave was originally written to be a film but it was never made at the time. It actually works better as a dual film/stage piece though as that makes it easier to identify clearly what is real and what's a dream.

Anyway back to the show... frankly what we saw for the next 45 minutes was completely bonkers; variously coloured silk sheet waves, stage illusions, chainsaws, front-rooms, fish skeleton masks and costumes, lifejackets, buoys, and helicopters. No really.

At one point Kate was carried aloft, down the aisles, through the audience and out through the door. We went mental.

The tracks were:
And Dream of Sheep
Under Ice
Waking the Witch
Watching You Without Me
Jig of Life
Hello Earth
The Morning Fog

The music, acting and the singing was simply sublime and by the time we got to the end we are all weeping. We really needed that 25 minute break.

The second half continued the theme of separating reality from the imagination with a painter (played by Bertie) controlling the action stage right and the band and Kate performing stage left. What the painter painted came to pass. He controlled the sky and was responsible for the events that happened on stage.

A Sky of Honey was a journey of light and birdsong on a Summer's Day.

Snow started to fall and an artist's wooden dummy appeared through two huge Moorish doors. Controlled by a single puppeteer the character looked small and vulnerable dwarfed by the doors.

This second half started out as a more sedate affair at first. But a more beautiful one. Birds in flight were projected at the back, church bells rang out, the sun set and the moon rose. The painter was controlling everything we saw.

As the second half progressed though things soon gathered pace.

The songs were:
Prelude
Prologue
An Architect's Dream
The Painter's Link
Sunset
Aerial Tal
Somewhere in Between
Tawny Moon (new song sung by Bertie)
Nocturn
Aerial

By the time we got to Aerial we were in right old wig-out territory. It was almost a stadium rock monster. We were all for climbing up on the roof ourselves as the music pounded and we were caught up in the rush of emotion . To top it all two silver birch tree trunks came crashing in from above - including one that impaled the piano.

Kate then turned into a blackbird and was projected into the audience.

Wow. Just wow! Wild applause and everyone was on their feet. Bravo! Bravo!

Back on stage sharpish for an encore (due to the overrunning) we had Kate performing solo on the piano with the rather wonderful Among Angels. Not even a pin dropped while she sang it.

And then the last song of the night - sing-a-long classic Cloudbusting. The crowd were on their feet. Crowdbusting. What a show! We loved it, loved it, loved it!

Would I have changed a thing? No, it was Kate's show and we were just there to marvel at both her and it. Would it have been nice to have had Man With The Child In His Eyes, Moments of Pleasure or This Woman's Work instead of Among Angels? Maybe. But that took nothing away from the night.

Kate was a genius. The band was tight. The lighting brilliant. The make-up just right. The director Adrian Noble spot on. We couldn't have asked for more.

Here's to the next time.

(Oh and can you tour The Dreaming and Sensual World next please?)

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Kate Bush Breakdown...

I saw the Kate Bush show last night at the Eventim Apollo. The show broke down about the first 6 songs in and just before the first bit of theatrics kicked in. We remained in our seats for a while, but were then instructed to take a 10 min break. 30 mins after the original break down we were up and running again. Kate Bush did the full show but it meant we finished about 11:20pm. Some people had to leave before the final encore (to get last trains home?) Stuff happens though and it in now way spoiled the show. If anything it added to the drama!

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Beck...

Last night Mark and I went to see American musician, singer-songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Beck perform at the Roundhouse in London's slightly down at heel and anything-but glitzy Chalk Farm.

Performing as part of the iTunes Festival and decked in his trademark hat and jacket Beck treated us to a quite a few sing-a-longs including Loser, Black Tambourine and Devil’s Haircut. It was a great show.

The first half of the set was a high energy performance with Beck throwing himself around the stage like a loon playing many of his hits. The highlight of this section for me though was the triumphant cover of Donna Summer's I Feel Love.

The a second half started off a tad more sedate as the slim one began to promote his recent folk-tinged album Morning Phase. As the finale drew close though the tempo picked up again and we were all dancing around with our arms in the air like we just didn't care to Sexx Laws and Where It's At.

The full set-list was:-
Devil's Haircut
Black Tambourine
Loser
Novacane
One Foot in the Grave
Hell Yes
The New Pollution
Think I'm in Love / I Feel Love (Donna Summer cover)
Blue Moon
Lost Cause
Heart Is a Drum
Wave
Girl
E-Pro
Sexx Laws
Debra
Where It's At (with band introduction and snippets of:- The Beatles - Strawberry Fields, The Rolling Stones - Miss You, Rod Stewart - Do Ya Think I'm Sexy? etc.)

As a support act we were also treated to Jenny Lewis, former frontwoman of cult indie-rock band Rilo Kiley. Lewis released her third solo album The Voyager in July this year, although we had a few Rilo Kiley tracks thrown in for good measure. It was typical West Coast rock - everyone wore white and there was more shouting than singing. Meh.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Danny Welbeck...

Striker Danny Welbeck had a medical at Arsenal last night and then completed the move from Manchester United FC to Arsenal FC for £16m.

Danny Welbeck is the U2 of football; neither as good as the fanatics believe nor as bad as the haters suggest.

Still, it gives a strong English core at Arsenal - Chambers, Gibbs, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Wilshere, Walcott ... and now Welbeck.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Rime Of The Ancient Mariner - The Tiger Lillies...

On Friday night Stuart and I went to see The Tiger Lillies perform the Rime Of The Ancient Mariner at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on London's glitzy South Bank.

Calling on Coleridge's poetry this haunting piece brings forth firstly songs as graceful as the ether followed then by sea shanties as salty as the Dead Sea.

The Tiger Lillies always were a genre-defying brand of other-worldly vocals and unnerving performance style - this show has both in buckets.

Beautiful, dreamlike cartoon visuals evoking a theatrical staging are projected both in front of and behind the performers. They tell the wondrous story of the Mariner and his fall (via the odd albatross necklace.)

We loved the show and it further cements for us The Tiger Lillies unique niche in the cabaret circuit.

Rime Of The Ancient Mariner - The Tiger Lillies (live)...