Friday, September 28, 2007

Only 10 days to go before the release of the DVD of the year! Clicky on the cover to see an ad for it

The other fierce Dusty-ish news is that the excellent Shelby Lynne is recording an album of Dusty covers to be released next year. All very appropriate as her breakout album I AM SHELBY LYNNE had reviewers comparing her voice to Dusty.
Yaaay Madonna is among the 9 nominees for next year's inductees into the US Rock n Roll Hall of Fame.

Of the 9 nominees, 5 will be selected to be inducted. This is Madonna's first possible year of inclusion as the rules state an artist can only be nominated 25 years after the release of their first single.

The other acts on the shortlist are:
Afrika Bambaataa
Beastie Boys
Dave Clark 5
Leonard Cohen
John Cougar Mellencamp
Donna Summer
The Ventures

I hope Chic get the nod too.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

So that's it then...

After serving me quality-ish nosh for the past 20 odd years - I discovered it when Nicola Blackman was in MUTINY! at the Piccadilly Theatre - the New Piccadilly cafe in Denman Street closed it's doors for good on Saturday.

Owen and I paid a farewell visit to it last week and it was all very sad... another genuine London fixture lost to the re-developers.

Where to go now for that pre-theatre "sausage, chips and beans, 2 slices of bread & butter and a large Diet Coke" now?

I hope Equity have alerted their members that from here on in the audiences will make their presences known by rumbling stomachs.

Friday, September 21, 2007


Constant Reader, it has been a Hell of a week.

A very good friend whose fortunes in love and life have gone south has been needing some close attention and a shoulder to cry on (literally). This listening dodge is tough - listening for clues in every word he says while mentally formulating a plan to get back to the same statement 3 questions down the line so he can see it in a new light without seeming to do so. You follow?

On Wednesday matters took a turn for the worse with an action which could be read as "A Cry For Help" or "Playing To The Peanut Gallery" all depending on your empathy levels.
However in remembering how some friends gave me so much support after The B**** Affair I guess I am now putting it back out into the world and doing what I can for this lost lamb.

So how to up one's exhaustion levels? By FINALLY getting to see the life-enhancing joy that is SLAVA'S SNOW SHOW showing this week at Wimbledon Theatre.

Slava Polunin premiered this show in London 13 years ago and it has returned again and again at the Peacock Theatre, the Old Vic, the Piccadilly Theatre, Hackney Empire etc. and countless regional theatres. In between he has taken the show across the world to huge acclaim and earning audiences love wherever he appears. After seeing several scenes from "Snow Show" in the Cirque de Soleil's ALEGRIA earlier this year I was curious to see it's creator after remembering that quite a few people had been blown away by it on previous visits so when I saw Slava was touring again I leapt at the chance to see him.

I am so glad we did, was I in need of two hours of pure alloyed joy - and I usually can't stand clowns - but then Slava is no ordinary clown.

From the opening moments you are hooked by him - with his oversized yellow jumpsuit, fluffy red shoes and scarf - and his odd sidekicks in long green overcoats, over-sized shoes and odd hats. The packed audience were laughing within minutes with the kids roaring at the slapstick moments. There were so many incidental pleasures as well as the big moments that's it's hard to remember them all but I remember in particular the moments when Slava was alone on stage interacting with the audience, his smallest gesture speaking volumes. Under a lot of the show was a wistful feeling of melancholy which makes for some surprisingly heart-catching moments - Slava's tall sidekick walks off upset so Slava does a bit of cleaning up then turns and looks hopefully towards the wings but his friend doesn't come back. Blackout. Sob. It was unsurprising to see Beckett's name among Slava's early inspirations - the strange otherness of the world he creates on stage would be right up Sam's street.

But above all there's just pure joy. The first act ended with the whole of the stalls being covered by a stringy gossamer spider web and the famous closing coup de theatre (although seen already at ALEGRIA) was fantastic.. bright lights shone into the audience as a blast of cold air blows tons of paper snow out into the whole auditorium as Slava swirls around on the stage - utterly magical and the perfect release of energy. The fun then continues when the sidekicks appear on stage with huge balloons that are passed over into the audience to be bounced all over the auditorium, not since the National Theatre's GUYS AND DOLLS have I seen an audience so tingling with joy - and during all this there was Slava, sitting on the steps by the stage watching the audience with a big grin. It was a honour to shake his hand. Come back soon Mr. Slava!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

So last night I again found myself sticking to the floor at the Shepherds Bush Empire... do they EVER clean them?

I went with Owen to see a Celebration of Marc Bolan which was celebrating his 60th birthday or his death 30 years ago, you decide.

It was actually a glorified gig for the tribute band T.Rextasy who in themselves were not bad and the lead singer - from where we were anyway - was a dead spit for the Bopping Elf himself - bit still and all... a tribute band.

One of the guests was Clem Burke who graciously thumped merry Hamlet out of a 2nd drum kit and the thought did cross my mind... this is a new wave legend playing with a tribute band.
I wonder would he do the same with Atomic Blondie?

I must admit at one point I said to Owen - even before the interval - that I was probably going to go home. I think the IndigO2 the night before had spoiled me. Yes it's slick, poncey and a bit up-itself... but it's a custom-designed venue with excellent sightlines and not a converted Edwardian Theatre. As I said the place was jammed - it wouldn't surprise me if it was over-sold - so all the people who came in after the pit filled up jockeyed for position behind those standing at the bar or wandered up and down trying to find a better viewpoint or stayed by the bar and got pissed and loud. Owen and I were in agreement - the Children of the Revolution are revolting. Mind you the beery loud-mouthed sods were the same at the other vile experience I had there namely Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel - so maybe it's just the gigs by ex-glam rockers I should avoid?

The last straw was when trying to buy a round of drinks Owen kept getting blanked by the mong staff because the actual bar was blocked by fat ugly munters watching the stage - not ordering... just watching the stage. Now surely even if it's a prime vantage point to see the stage the staff should tell punters to step away from the bar if they are not buying drinks??
As it was now obvious that the staff AND the punters were conspiring to make it a shit night for me my Aries spirit kicked in and was determined to prove them wrong. I spied two places on the first step of the tiered area at the back and nabbed them. I had people yakking all around us but at least I could see the stage.

So you will suspect I had a night to forget but no... I actually managed to enjoy some of it! As Owen has said on his blog the evening actually fell into place when - believe me this is as hard for me to type as it is for you to read - Shakin' Stevens walked on! Up til then the only breaks from T.Rextasy had been Andy Ellison (whose act was summed up by someone's jeer "There's only one Iggy Pop") and Ray Dorset who lost serious Brownie points for reading the lyrics to Debora from a sheet - dear God man they're not That difficult! Oh and Eric Hall still as skull-beatingly annoying as ever. So he yapped on interminably to cries of YIDDO and GET OFF YOU CAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANT. Bearing in mind the sound was so crap you couldn't hear anything said on stage they had a point with the second observation. So on walked Shakey who launched into a Bolan song called Chrome Sitar - cue Owen grinning like a loon - and Laser Love - punchy, on the money, not mimicking Bolan, thank you, goodnight.

After a couple of songs by Dr. Robert - now a Bob Mills lookalikey - it was time for Linda Lewis who appeared with shocking pink feather boa to shriek "YEEEEEEAAAAAHHHHHH" which made Everyone shut up for a fantastic Children Of The Revolution and a great Metal Guru, so what if she got the lyrics upsy-dutch? I must get round to seeing her in her own concert one day. Now Marc Almond had done 3 songs in the first half but as they were all acoustic they were lost on me as I was in the middle of the talkers but on he shimmied in the 2nd half to do Dandy In The Underworld and Teenage Dream - the perfect marriage of song and performer! More glitter than Bolan ever imagined!

Marc then re-appeared in a change of schmutter to introduce onstage Miss Gloria Jones.

Now I must admit I only went to see Gloria, a ledge in my opinion for writing Gladys Knight & The Pips' NO ONE COULD LOVE YOU MORE as well as quite a few overlooked Motown classic songs with song-writing partner Pam Sawyer. I had inadvertently squeezed behind her earlier while she was being mobbed by excitable fans but she was very gracious on stage and told us sadly Ronan would not be there as he couldn't find his passport. Having met him before I'm not at all surprised! However she joined Marc singing the choruses of TAINTED LOVE which was a highlight of the show. Needless to say some stupid bitch loudly whinged "But she killed him!" C*nt. Gloria is now living in Sierra Leone working for children's charities - click on the right picture for her website.

So I'm glad I went for the pictured artists and to hear Marc's catalogue, I even heard a few I didn't know. But for now I am starting a campaign to tear the damn Shepherds Bush Empire down.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Another trip to Greenwich? This is becoming a habit!
Tonight Owen and I went to see the Sugababes in the showcase gig I won tickets for earlier in the week.

As usual the doors opening at 7:30pm and show starting at 8:30 turned out to be utter urban myths so hours seemed to be spent gawping about ourselves at the IndigO2 - to give it it's proper name! It looks like a lot of money has been spent on it, the space itself is quite large with a big semicircle area one step down in front of the stage with a rail surrounding this and again a largish area stretching back to a very big back wall bar.

The stage is quite high so we had a good view despite the usual lofty feckers who insisted on standing in front of us! The lighting display is fairly nifty too. But apart from that Mrs. Lincoln what did you think of the play?

When I heard they were 'showcasing' the new single I was expecting maybe a set of about 6 songs but was I in for a treat... we got 13! Nine huge stonking hit singles - OVERLOAD, FREAK LIKE ME, ROUND ROUND, HOLE IN THE HEAD, TOO LOST IN YOU, IN THE MIDDLE, UGLY, RED DRESS and PUSH THE BUTTON were backed up with a cover of Primal Scream's ROCKS - wooo! - plus three songs from the new album including the title track CHANGE (very good) and the new single ABOUT YOU NOW which is going to be massive for them.

I have liked the Sugababes since their first single OVERLOAD but have never really thought about seeing them live before assuming that they were probably just a studio act but they were excellent tonight and would definately be up for seeing them again.... you go girls!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Tonight I had a voyage into the dark centre of the soul via Waterloo.

Owen and I went to see Eugene O'Neill's THE EMPEROR JONES at the Olivier Theatre. Thea Sharrock's production runs a mere 70 minutes but it packs in more to mull over than most full-length plays.

The play opens in the burnished gold throne room of Brutus Jones' palace on an unnamed West Indian island. Smithers, a cockney trader who is allowed access to the Emperor catches a servant escaping in the early hours and learns that the islanders who Jones has taxed and terrorized for two years are now planning to overthrow him in a coup led by Lem, a man who tried to have Jones killed soon after he came to power.

Jones appears in his full assumed military uniform and we learn that he is in fact an ex-Pullman train attendant who killed a colleague in a crap game and was sent to jail. Once inside he killed a white guard who had whipped him while on a chain gang and duly escaped to this small island where with a leg-up from the white Smithers soon managed to get himself proclaimed Emperor. Since then he has ruled the islanders tyrannically through fear, going so far as to tell them that he can be killed only with silver bullets.

But now he realises it's time to cut and run. His plan is to escape into the surrounding forests to get to the dock, sail away and claim the fortune safely stowed away in a foreign bank account. He is confident of success having previously hidden provisions there for such an occurrence and leaves the Palace armed with a revolver with 5 bullets... and one silver one.

Of course once in the forest he loses his bearings as he runs from the incessant tom-toms of the rebels and slowly becomes unhinged, confronted by ghosts of his past. But these become more intense, as his proud and boastful persona disintegrates he becomes haunted by recurring visions of Africans - from a slave auction where he is on sale, to the nightmarish journey by sea until finally confronted by a fiercesome African Witchdoctor appearing in a jet of flame who chases him to his destiny.

It is a play that's percolating in the mind long after leaving the theatre - it's themes of the loss of identity and in particular the guilt that a man who denies his heritage is prey to when this happens. Jones has become the man he is by adopting the callous tyranny of the white men he has observed and has beat them at their game by becoming the master of the island. But at what cost to his soul?

Sharrock's production - which started life in the 68-seater Gate Theatre - at times does threaten to be swamped by the sheer size of the Olivier stage but it certainly is the best setting to show off Paterson Joseph's remarkable performance as Jones. Apart from a short intro scene he is onstage the whole time and seamlessly shows the arc from a cocky Emperor happy to showboat to his minion (John Marquez makes a good weasely Smithers) to the broken, frightened man at the end of the play.

The production design of Robin Don is particularly striking - the gold palace giving way to a distressed corregated iron awning with shattered holes and chinks through half open doors which, when illumunated from above by Neil Austin's clever lighting, fills the set floor with broken moonlight as seen through the forest trees. A special mention must be made to the vibrant and hypnotic score for percussionists which nearly shakes the walls of the theatre during the climactic confrontation with the Witchdoctor. The score is provided surprisingly by Sister Bliss of the dance act Faithless.

This controversial and daring play was written in 1920 - and it was great fun to hear the confused liberals in the audience unsure of how to respond to the constant references to the island 'niggers' by Paterson Joseph, could they really not see this was showing Jones' total crossing over to the language of the tyrant as well as the trappings?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Now - outside of the occasional Pop Quiz - I famously never win anything.

Imagine my surprise to find an e-mail awaiting me this morn informing me I had won a pair of 72 pairs of tickets for an exclusive showcase performance by the three and only Sugababes at the IndigO2.

Eeeeek! I have never seen the scrappin' 'babes before so feel a bit excited.

I'll lay you plenty of 8 to 5 I'm the oldest one there!

Monday, September 10, 2007

It's not often you get to share a stage singing backing vocals for an inductee of the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame but it's lucky for you Constant Reader that I can tell you it feels wonderful!

On Saturday Owen and I went to the Jazz Cafe to see the one and only Martha Reeves & The Vandellas. I must admit I was a bit worried, was her voice going to still be OK? Would the two glorified session singers drafted into Vandelladom be up to the full-bodied vocals that characterised their best songs? And would the band be worth their salt?

Well at 66 Martha's voice is a bit thin in the upper registers but she still has great belt and undeniable charisma. It was good too to see a fairly original Vandella - sister Lois was recruited in 1967 when Betty Kelly was sacked due to in-fighting with Martha and lateness (very "Dreamgirls"!) Their sister Delphine has been singing with them since 1980 so as Owen suggested, has actually been a Vandella longer than any of the originals! They looked great lined up together (see above).

Owen had booked a table for dinner before the show on the first floor which overlooked the centre of the stage so we had a great view of them ripping it up! The 9-strong band were excellent too - a great 4 piece horn section complementing a bassist, drummer, organ player, guitarist and piano player so the Jazz Cafe filled with fantastic sound.

And what a sound! We got (gasp): Come And Get These Memories, (Love Is Like A) Heat Wave, Dancing In The Street, Nowhere To Run, Love (Makes Me Do Foolish Things), I'm Ready for Love, Third Finger Left Hand, Jimmy Mack, One Way Out, Forget Me Not - and then from Martha's solo years: Wild Night, Watch Your Back, Home To You and Gold Bless The Child and the evening rounded off with a 60s soul medley.

It was wonderful to hear so many of my favourite Martha songs - singing along with Lois and Delphine's vocal lines of course! - and seeing that Maxine Powell's etiquette drilling at Motown back in the 1960s is bred in the bone with Martha, Lois and Delphine always executing ladylike curtsies at the end of each song! It was also great for Martha to name check so many artists who had covered their material and of course the biggest cheer was for Dusty Springfield who did so much to champion the Motown sound and Martha & The Vandellas in particular in the Ready Steady Go Motown Special where she expressly asked to duet with Martha.

Afterwards a table was set up on the stage and the boxes of cds and photographs were being opened up quickly for an autograph session with the Diva. It was all a bit of a scrum with everyone swarming around the stage clutching albums, cds, cameras and tickets. I guess this is an important part of music veterans stage tours with a chance to make some cold hard cash, CDs £10, laser print photos £5.

A couple of people hopped up on stage so I nervously asked her assistant would it be ok if I had a picture taken expecting a hefty tag to be put on it but no, I was told to come on up! So Owen took our photograph and while signing my cds the DJ Andy Smith put on one of Martha's favourite recordings "My Baby Loves Me" - so she started singing it softly and I joined in the Vandella's "Oh yeahs" - I was in Motown Heaven!!

I'm off to work on those curtsies.....

Friday, September 07, 2007

Tonight I was rather excited to make my first visit to the Union Chapel in Islington to see Michelle Shocked with Owen.

What a lovely venue - it was nice to sit and gawp about myself during the support act at the 130 year old church. Not that the support act was all *that* bad but Emily Barker did the remarkable trick of making me grit my teeth, roll my eyes back and clench my fists when she announced that her first song would be '"Orlando' based on a part of Virginia Woolf's book..." Oh very dear. Add to that a winsome manner and a floral print dress and you almost have a folkie straight out of Central Casting. However with her accompanying cellist and accordian/flute player I was engaged several times by the interesting sounds they come up with.

I saw Michelle Shocked a few years ago with Owen at the Islington Academy where she appeared with a small band but tonight she was flying solo, just her and her guitar. During her first song she broke a string - I'm surprised it doesn't happen more often with her fractured, splintering guitar playing. Owen is the big fan - I know a few of her songs from a compilation cd he did for me a few years back so am familiar with the audience favourites.

It wasn't so much a gig per se - more a happening. Songs are started and invariably provide a springboard for her musings on love and life. I think it must be frustrating if she does this during a favourite song but then you wouldn't be there I guess if you were not happy to go wherever Shocked chooses to steer the evening.

She's a remarkably guileless performer, I suspect if she had been allowed to she would still be on stage racking her brains for another anecdote or song the audience could sing along to. It's not every performer who could share with her audience that her manager quit on her the day before - the day her new album was released! - and rather than cancel the show she felt it would be better if she showed up - even with no real set-list. As I said, the audience were happy to act as her choir - I joined in too. Well, it seemed to make her so happy. She even managed to get three people up on stage to do backing vocals on a song they had never heard before!

While watching her I was put in mind of Sinead O'Connor another uncompromising 1980s singer whose independent spirit has defined and possibly hindered their career and is now drawing on sprituality as inspiration.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

So it's all over then.
Big Brother 8 has amiably left the building with Brian showing again that Britain's educational losses are definitely Endemol and Channel Four's gain.

So in the weeks that have droned by I have been given to thinking: could I cobble together a Top 10 Favourite BB housemates from series 3-8? Well yes I can and here they are....

In tenth place Saskia (2005). Yes I know she was damned for pairing up with Maxwell but before that I really liked her 'reading' the other female housemates including the frightful hag Makosi. End of. Speaking of which her and Maxwell are history too. Ninth, another housemate who didn't make it to the last week, Victor (2004). A bit of a villain but he gave good nomination and anyone who took on the vile Marco and Emma earns snaps from me.

Eighth is another early evictee Alison (2002), a fine big lump of a girl who famously moaned in her thick Brummy accent "I'm guutted" when asked how she felt about being evicted.
Seventh is Nadia (2004). She's here for her emotional response to winning as opposed to any of her annoying shenanigans in the house.

Sixth is Liam (2007), he kept popping up on my list while compiling this. He was a bit of a shit to the two women that came within his orbit but on the whole he was a witty and entertaining housemate who, had he not been voted by the fellow housemates to receive the shock £100,000 prize early on, I suspect might have made it past the winning post. Fifth is the magnificent Charley (2007), a total nightmare to live with but damn she was the one who made it watchable. When she was voted out the show never recovered.

Fourth is Jonny (2002), the entertaining Geordie fireman survived a few evictions to be a deserving runner-up to....

Third is Kate (2002), BB3 was the first one I watched all the way through and Kate although she has now morphed into that scary thing, a celeb dj, was the worthy winner of the show. I think I even blubbed!

Second is Richard (2006), the housemate the housemates tried their damnedest to evict - never seeming to understand after the first few that it was pointless as the public were not going to vote him out. The King of nominations.... "She's like genital warts, she just doesn't seem to go away!"

The winner? It's got to be Aisleyne (2006), despite everything that Endemol put her through and threw at her, the blonde Ghetto Princess took it all on board and evolved from a stereotypical blinged-up 'model' into a genuinely involving personality and rightly finished as the most popular female housemate that year.

Don't get me started on my most hated...