Tuesday, March 25, 2008

So that's that then, Constant Reader.

My job at FLASHBACKS is over, I finished today. Tuesday is a strange day to be your final one in employment.

Owen and I fly off to NY for a week, seeing good shows and nice people then back to hopefully a P45 waiting for me at home.

One event is very much overshadowing the other, maybe that will change when I see the lights of Times Square.

Friday, March 21, 2008

How weird... another blog inspired by three events!

Since downloading Madonna's new single 4 MINUTES on Wednesday night it is currently up to 15 plays on my iPod. Again she has thrown down with the pop tarts who have the temerity to call themselves divas etc. An inspired Timbaland production, parping marching band horns, a crunching beat and more hooks than a Peter Pan convention.

She has generously given the chorus line to Justin Timberlake who shares the vocals. I was well pissed with him for making such a balls of her induction to the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame but he is cool on this. And of course like every great M track... all I am thinking is I can't WAIT to see her do this live!

Last night Owen and I joined the children, harassed parents, girls-on-a-night-out and gayers that constitute the audience of the all-conquering Sugababes at the Royal Albert Hall.
It was great, they sounded fantastic and all had their moments to shine - Keisha poised and controlled, Heidi beaming her smile to the highest reaches of the RAH and Amelle squeezing punters hands' at every moment. And the costumes.... they are bringing mini-crini back! We had ostrich feather ones, glitter-ball ones, red swag-curtain ones which were removed to reveal ones made of bubble-wrap plastic! For a ballad section we were treated to long robes with flowers blossoming from hems, sleeves and necklines... a possibility for cringe but they just about carried it off.
I was surprised there was so little talking to the audience but they had to get 20 songs done! We had them sultry, sexy, playful, rocking, moody and lovelorn. They swept us through 8 years of hits OVERLOAD, FREAK LIKE ME, ROUND ROUND, STRONGER, HOLE IN THE HEAD, TOO LOST IN YOU (magnificent), RED DRESS, UGLY, CHANGE, DENIAL, MY LOVE IS PINK and an excellent cover on En Vogue's underrated DON'T LET GO (LOVE).
The explosive encore was a double-whammy of PUSH THE BUTTON and of course ABOUT YOU NOW - explosive because we had flames shooting up behind the stage, fireworks bursting over the 'babes heads and gold streamers jettisoned over the front of the stage. The babes are girls on a mission... they are planning an album for the end of the year so maybe there will be another tour. I'm there!And finally a word on the passing of the great Paul Scofield.

His idiosyncratic stage career ranged from the greatest classical roles to a Jeffery Archer play. He is known for his dignified and humane Thomas More in Fred Zinnemann's film of A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS which won him an Academy Award but film never appealed to him and his screen appearances were rare events.

I saw him on stage four times, bringing life to the American import I'M NOT RAPPAPORT in 1986 and the afore-mentioned Jeffrey Archer EXCLUSIVE in 1989 which, even co-starring Eileen Atkins, I have managed to erase totally from my mind. Luckily the last two were more worthy of his talents.

In 1992 he dominated the Haymarket stage as Captain Shotover in Shaw's HEARTBREAK HOUSE with Vanessa Redgrave who also co-starred with him in 1996 for his last major stage role as Ibsen's JOHN GABRIEL BORKMAN directed by Richard Eyre which also starred Eileen Atkins. It was a towering performance - and not just because I was sitting a few rows from the stage.
He was majestic in a performance that I will remember for years to come. Living the final moments of Borkman's life he stood close to the edge of the stage for his last speech in which he invokes the spirits of the mountain:

"But I will whisper it to you here in the stillness of the night: I love you, as you lie there spellbound in the deeps and the darkness! I love you, unborn treasures, yearning for the light! I love you, with all your shining train of power and glory! I love you, love you, love you!"

and he did whisper it, out into the rapt stillness of the Lyttleton auditorium, as the audience held it's collective breath. Unforgettable.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Hello Constant Reader. Remember me?
It's been a while I know. But then it's been a Hell of a month.

As a few of you know, after March I will be made redundant from Flashbacks as the boss declares himself bankrupt. I somehow knew this credit crunch would be the one to finish us off. Maybe we could have struggled on but the bank reducing the overdraft facility too was the final straw.

I am by turn, depressed, bewildered, optimistic, doubting, confident. I have been for my first job interview in 20 odd years - didn't get it which was a real pain as I would have walked from one job to the next. I called the HR Manager for - the dreaded word 'feedback' - and she couldn't have been more positive about my interview and said she is keeping my details on file in case a job with maybe more superiority turns up. So that has given me a bit of confidence. Off to New York for a week next Wednesday... coming back will be extra-miserable as it's back to signing on.

There have been good things though - some great bolstering e-mails from my peeps and have had three stand-out musical events.

First there was a pungent whaft of musical nostalgia when we saw Linton Kwesi Johnson at the Barbican Hall supported by the mighty Dennis Bovell Dub Band and performers Winston Francis, Jean 'Binta' Breeze and Zena Edwards. Indeed Linton said that for a lot of the audience it would be an exercise in nostalgia but also explained each song before singing it, putting it into the context of the time he wrote it.
I was a big LKJ fan back in the late 1970s and many an ornament wobbled on the sideboards of Enfield as the heavy bass reverb-erb-erbed out of my speakers so it was a genuine thrill to see him perform his back catalogue including ALL WI DOIN IS DEFENDIN, DREAD BEAT AN BLOOD, WANT FI GOH RAVE, SONNY'S LETTAH, FORCES OF VIKTRY, REGGAE FI PEACH and recent tracks like MORE TIME and the mighty LIESENSE TO KILL. Righteous and passionate lyrics actually addressing inner-city situations. It sounded strange for a while because you simply don't hear that now.

Just as exciting was the Dennis Bovell Dub Band who impressed me so much I bought their ALL AROUND THE WORLD cd afterwards and am loving it.

After that was Siouxsie at the Shepherds Bush Empire and she was amazing... much better than when I saw her last year at the Astoria. Mind you, then I was drifting around trying to find a good vantage point but here we were a few rows back in the centre of the dress circle. She taunted, she purred, she kicked, she pirouetted, she rocked!

Tall Paul was also in the circle and suddenly appeared beside me to point out someone who had just walked past him to take his place in the VIP section. A certain Stephen Patrick Morrissey. It goes to show how good la Sioux was that I wasn't staring at Moz for the whole gig. Well the half of the gig he actually stayed for. They had a famous falling out after duetting on INTERLUDE so we can only hope there has been a raprochment.

And last night I had a fantastic time at the Barbican Theatre - and I know I have never said that before - when we saw the transfer of the Stratford East production of THE HARDER THEY COME, based on the Perry Henzell film.

Amazingly I have never seen the film - God knows I've sold enough posters of it over the years - but I knew the outline of the story of Ivan the innocent country bwoi who comes to Kingston, Jamaica to seek his fame as a singer but gradually turns into an iconic fugitive due to the corrupt police and music world - and of course I knew the songs.... the title song, YOU CAN GET IT IF YOU REALLY WANT, MANY RIVERS TO CROSS, PRESSURE DROP, SWEET & DANDY, SITTING IN LIMBO, 007 (SHANTY TOWN)... like wow!

The production burst off the stage with vibrant energy and powerhouse singing and by the curtain call - with the inevitable mega-mix medley - we were up joining the cast in song and skanking. All I can say is the musicals I am seeing on the upcoming NY trip are going to have to be extra-special to top this show.

My only criticism is that the pressure does indeed drop towards the end oddly just when the action should be ratcheted up. With the police hard on Ivan's heels and pressing his friends and girlfriend to turn him in, the production seems to lapse into slow-motion. It's almost as if directors Kerry Michael & Dawn Reid and writer Henzell are trying to delay the fate of their hero.
This aside, the evening is a triumph for the cast with so many stand-out performances. Rolan Bell makes a charismatic Ivan, bursting with energy and with a fine voice, and Joanna Francis is also fine as Elsa, a nice-girl role which could become cloying in lesser hands.

The supporting cast is headed by three perennial stars from the 1980s black performer renaissance: Victor Romero Evans as Ivan's rasta friend Pedro, Chris Tummings as the corrupt police chief Ray Pierre and Marcus Powell as Hilton, slippery godfather of the Kingston music scene. There are eye-catching performances too from Joy Mack as Ivan's hard-hearted mother and Susan Lawson-Reynolds as Pinkie the queen of the dance halls.

A huge contribution is also made by the onstage musicians who lend the score some real heft- one was Alan Weekes who I saw last year at the Jazz Cafe playing for the Queens of Lovers' Rock Janet Kay and Carroll Thompson.

I felt so good after coming out of the show that I thought "I want to blog again", again proof positive of the effect good theatre has on my soul.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

All hail the conquering hero...-ish. Why do I get the feeling this all has a vague whiff of propaganda?

The war in Afghanistan has been seen to be spiralling out of control so how better to shore up backing than to have a Royal out there?

Prince Harry has made the headlines for indulging in the usual round of yahoo South Kensington rich kids getting pissed and falling out of clubs so how better to give him a new media profile as the ever-smiling grunt on the frontline?

For all
this the media agreed to a reporting ban to purportedly protect him and his fellow soldiers - and here's the good bit... so they could then have full access to him for photo shoots and footage of him playing soldiers.

There's a bit of a furore over the willingness over our free press to happily play along with this but more annoyingly is this now gives a Royal seal of approval to this rather dodgy tour of duty... 88 soldiers have been killed there since 2001.

I suspect this media love-in however won't last too long as Action Ginger said in a BBC interview "I generally don't like England that much and, you know, it's nice to be away from all the Press and the papers and all the general shite that they write"

Or don't write about...