Monday, July 31, 2006
2004 found me and Owen going twice to Earls Court and once to Wembley Arena to see the RE-INVENTION tour. By far the best of all her tours the stage teemed with life and sound - and the fact that I was three rows back at Wembley was the big glistening cherry on the cake - unforgettable.
*thinks: where are those bloody tickets*
2001. Eight years on... and I was seeing Madonna alone at Earls Court. OI THE TSOURIS.... had a nice seat halfway back on the floor in the block behind the mixing desk, sat there gawping about... 5 minutes before startime a steward showed up asking to check my ticket! 5 minutes later there I was in the front office having my tickets checked with about 5 other people whose seats were double-booked - bloody Ticketmaster!!! I stood there, the last to have a new seat allocated - as I heard the muffled screams of the audience as the gig started. I was freaking out - demanding to be seated *hand arcs above the head and finger snaps* NOW.
FINALLY I had a seat allocated and raced to my new seat - nearly halfway down at the side with a great view across onto the stage so actually all worked out in the end! A wonderous theatrical spectacle which managed to be intimate and barnsorming... I screamed myself stoopid!
1993, last time at the stadium and the last time seeing Madonna with Steve. THE GIRLIE SHOW was a bit of a comedown after the glorious excess of the BLONDE AMBITION tour but it still had it's highpoints although ultimately it all seemed a bit remote. The tour was subsequently released on the LIVE DOWN UNDER dvd.
1990, back to the Stadium for the BLONDE AMBITION tour, this time was Ann Molloy and - ahem - Valerie Singleton. Loved this much more than the WTG? tour... Gautier's conical bras. the BEWITCHED top-knot and fall, the LIKE A VIRGIN harem scene, the FAMILY AFFAIR/KEEP IT TOGETHER medley... The tour was sponsored by Pioneer so the concert could be released on Laserdisc - remember them? I wonder if that's why it's never been released on dvd. Maybe they think there's enough of the concert footage in the documentary IN BED WITH MADONNA?
You might be discerning a trend soon....
This was the brochure for the WHO'S THAT GIRL? tour in 1987, the first time I saw Madonna on stage when she played Wembley Stadium. I went with my mate Steve who sadly died ten years ago. It was her first appearance in the UK as her Virgin tour two years previously had only toured the States. The tour is available now on the CIAO ITALIA! dvd.
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
I am badder than the baddest thing. I have been remiss in digging things out of the bedroom to share with you Constant Reader.
So here's a lovely little item again from Barcelona. I bought this 'desktop centre' in Poble Espanyol at the workshop/gallery of glass designer Luesma Vega. Poble Espanyol is a strange place, built in 1929 for the International Exhibition on the road up the side of Montjuic mountain, it was laid out like a small Spanish village with buildings designed to represent the different regional architecture of Spain. Since it opened it has had a chequered existence - you won't find too many references in it's literature to the fact it was an internment camp during the Civil War - but in 1997 it started to regenerate itself into a large centre for Catalan arts and crafts which is what sustains it today. Not bad for a project originally meant to stand for the exhibition's span of 6 months. We walked around Poble Espanyol late one afternoon, Owen found some small handmade cards of the Gaudi Chimneys of Palau Guell and Casa Mila which he has since had framed and I found a small shop run by a nice old lady who made figures out of straw, Yes I bought some donkeys! After this we found Vega's gallery and were struck by the originality of his designs. My frosted glass dish with the glittery green and yellow inset centre has yet to find it's right place in the house but I'll keep it safe in it's box for now.
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Happy birthday for tomorrow (Weds 26th) to the one and only Danny La Rue who is 79!
Danny La Rue - born Daniel Carroll in Cork - always seemed to be on television when I was growing up, either in variety shows like Sunday Night At The London Palladium or The Good Old Days and chat shows etc. He always seemed to be on in the West End in big expensive pantomimes and was mentioned in newspapers frequently as his club in Hanover Square was an in-spot for celebs. My Ma was a huge fan - well he *was* Irish after all - and even had a few of his albums. One in particular I remember was called LIVE AT DANNY LA RUE'S, a recording of one of the late night floor shows at his club. Now why did I always get the jokes riddled with innuendo? Had I caught on early thanks to the likes of the CARRY ON films or was there a deeper meaning to my enjoyment? I'd like to think so.
I remember me and my Ma went to see his show DANNY AT THE PALACE at - no, honest - the Palace Theatre where it ran an astonishing two years in the early 1970s and have two abiding memories: the sheer glamour of it all with outlandish frocks - all trains and feathers - and that the jokes were even ruder - and I still got 'em. Obviously bred in the bone. Danny La Rue ruled that stage.. holding the audience like a true star and managed to bring the house down with a look. He kinda disappeared off the tv in the late 70s when his shtick of poking fun at Dietrich, Bassey etc. appeared hackneyed but never stopped touring - he even appeared as Dolly in HELLO DOLLY in the west end in the 1980s.
He was working constantly up until a heart attack in March this year. I hope he's ok. His appeal was that he always 'guyed' the image, making a huge entrance in a flowing beaded gown flashing his legs and saying in a deep voice "Wotcha mates" - always the first one to reveal he was a 'cock in a frock'.
A real star and a gay legend.
Monday, July 24, 2006
Martin - who I work with on a Saturday - was shopping in his local open-all-hours mini-market in Walthamstow for a multi-fruit drink. Sure enough he bought something called FRESH 100% FRUIT or some such cheap import, got it back home and in mid-glug he turned the carton around to find he was drinking something quite surprising in it's original language....
I wish I could say I enjoyed the show as much as rest of the audience seemed to - comprising a few groups of gushing O MY GOD I CAN'T BELIEVE WHAT YOU ARE SAYING drama students who no doubt know this score by heart. Brown is one of the new breed of Broadway writers who owe a debt of allegence to Stephen Sondheim - word-heavy and somewhat plodding - they haven't his skill of marrying his own unique style to a noticeable Broadway tradition. Brown offers his own spin of Sondheim's MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG which tells the story of 3 friends in reverse - you first meet them as jaded, cynical, former-friends then follow the story back to when they are about to leave college full of hope and optimism in the future and their friendship. In THE LAST 5 YEARS we follow the marriage of Jamie, a successful author, and Cathy, a struggling actress, from first date to break-up - Jamie's story is told linear fashion, Cathy's in reverse so the only time they actually appear in the same timeframe is when they marry.
I thought when I heard the premise that it sounded tricksy and sadly the form works against it in the end unlike MERRILY where the ending is touchingly poignant. It's difficult to convey a span of 5 years in such a short running time - and in what appeared to be two costumes each! - and ultimately I didn't find the characters had any real depth. As the songs are mostly soliliqueys due to the nature of the piece, I found myself thinking more often than not "I bet this is used a lot at auditions". Lara Pulver and Damian Humbley give it all they've got so there is no need for them to be over-amplified too. Was it the sweatbox atmosphere or the sound that left me with a nagging headache? MENTAL NOTE: DON'T GO TO THE MENIER CHOCOLATE FACTORY THEATRE IN THE SUMMER.
It's been a funny old week what with London going into thermo-nuclear meltdown, WWIII kicking off in the Lebanon and poor O being sans internet - he has been acting quite strangely. Phoning up just to hear me connecting to the internet was going a little far I thought. Oh and on Tuesday I had my diabeatnik clinic where amazingly I was given a gold star and a tick by the doctor. My IMO blood test has been normal for over a year now so all the doc could say to me was "Whatever it is you're doing, keep doing it". I only wish I knew what it was! I don't think I've changed my lifestyle THAT much. Of course for me it means when I go next in January I am going to have to live up to this track record. Just after Christmas too. Eeeek!
On Wednesday we sweated it out at the exquisite heat-trap Bush Hall seeing Owen's own Sandi Thom for the second time this year. Echoing Dawn's thoughts in her blog it is rare to be in a venue where I actually felt able to move about if needed. I'm not sure how many of the acts I like would play there but it would be nice to go to again with the pretty carvings and the chandeliers.
And what of la Thom? I can't say I'm crazy about that kind of singer/songwritery stuff but it was good enough to spend an hour or so listening to. I found some of the songs almost identical and she should probably be thinking about expanding the set-up of her, 2nd guitarist and packing case thumper as it really does restrict her sound. A little more stage presence wouldn't go amiss. Her stage patter when first seen was charmingly jokey but now with a number one album and single under her belt I think her audience will be expecting more than "Isn't it hot? Still.. better than it being cold." The audience however seemed to cheer everything loudly - despite a lot of talking during the ballads as usual.
It will be interesting to see what she is going to do next. I guess it also depends on how much ground she can steal from the omni-present and fellow Scotty K.T. Tunstall (who leaves me totally cold) - I really cannot see much room for two of them in the market. She announced she would be in the foyer "signing and chatting". Cue a stampede by her demographic audience of young girls - and um... me and O. I got her to sign a poster - fighting the temptation to get her to sign it to eBay - and O had brought his copy of her cd with him, just in case! She was as charming as when we met her last time so one hopes she does manage to maintain interest.
Monday, July 17, 2006
Thursday, July 13, 2006
Monday, July 10, 2006
This film is directed with the less delicate hand of Brett Ratner who slams the action scenes home with crunching impact but his handling of the dramatic scenes is a bit flat, not really doing enough to bring life to the many different characters elbowing onto the screen for the surprisingly standard running time of 104 minutes which is already groaning under the weight of several plotlines including the main one: a serum is invented which can change the Mutants to 'normal' human beings, do the Mutants accept this or should they revolt against it?
Luckily the old hands grab all opportunities going: McKellen lording it effortlessly over the film, Hugh Jackman shading the character of Wolverine (no thanks to the script which saddles him with irritating Bond-ish one-liners), Anna Paquin making the most of few scenes, Halle Berry is given more to do this time out and the always watchable Famke Janssen as the reborn Jean Grey with the unleashed psyche of the erotically-charged Phoenix. They are joined surprisingly by Kelsey Grammer - not the most obvious action-film actor - as the political face of the Mutants and by Vinnie Jones as Juggernaut who smashes things. Stunning casting stroke I know...
All in all, I enjoyed it. Just a shame Singer wasn't on board who would have been better I suspect dealing with the choice of the outsider being medically altered to the norm or the frightening untapped power of a strong woman. Mind you... we saw a trailer for his upcoming SUPERMAN movie which looks a bit uninspiring.
Thursday, July 06, 2006
I have deceided to tidy my bedroom. I think Osama Bin Laden might be hiding out in some of it's more unapproachable regions.
However as I am - to misquote Cole Porter - The Laziest Boy In Town I shall be doing it bit by bit so I shall be sharing with you what I come across each week!
First to hand... a nice heavy-duty smallish carrier bag from Gaudi's Palau Guell in Barcelona! Sadly back in 2004 we didn't get to see too much of the interior as they had started the renovation which has since closed the whole building till January 2007 but we did get to see the roof with the famously weird and wonderful chimneys. This is one of the four Gaudi UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Barcelona. I love me a nice carrier bag... now what to use it for?
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
Sunday, July 02, 2006
Saturday night was Gladys Knight! O and I saw her at the Royal Albert Hall and she was great.
Not the best soul room in the land I was a bit trepeditious about the evening. I was expecting it to be a supperclub performance plus orchestra with maybe a toe-curling "I wanna take you back with a medley of my hits" segment with a mid-tempo skip through her deep soul classics from her Motown and Buddah years. It didn't bode well from the start when her support act was a comedian. We sat it out in the bar which soon filled with bemused punters who had expected a soul singer. This of course meant that the bar staff of two had no time to fill the interval drinks orders so when the interval soon arrived, the bar was bedlam. I know this as I was trying to be served at the time.
We had checked out our seats when we arrived and were gobsmacked to find we were 3 rows from the stage! Owen had told me we were towards the back so I hadn't bothered checking. Needless to say thanks to the RAH's low stage we had a great view of Gladys and her on-stage band: conductor, 3 backing singers, 7 travelling band members and a London string section. She walked out to a standing ovary (me included) and launched into a frantic "Friendship Train" - a lesser-known Motown hit - followed quickly by the 1988 hit "Love Overboard". It was great, lights were flashing, the band was tight and Gladys' white flowing diamante-flecked outfit was loose! She was in glorious voice all evening, effortless in range and power. She mined the depths of soul for "If I Were Your Woman" and "Neither One Of Us (Wants To Be The First To Say Goodbye)", maintained the tense vocal for "Licence To Kill" with ease (a surprising appearance in the set), earned a standing ovation for a lovely "The Way We Were" - owning the song now as much as Streisand - and jazzing it up with 5 selections from her new Verve cd BEFORE ME of classics from earlier singers who inspired her.
The show ended when she was joined onstage by older brother Bubba who was also one of the Pips! They dueted on a funky cover of Al Green's "Love And Happiness" then managed to bring the house down and the audience to it's feet with "Midnight Train To Georgia". They encored with a downhome rendition of their version of "I Heard It Through The Grapevine", a hit for them before Marvin Gaye.
A fan of 30-odd years, I have always thought Gladys as one of the great soul singers, after seeing her live I now think she is possibly the greatest. Even a hellish journey afterwards back to O's after which lasted well over two hours has been forgotten in the glow of Gladness.