Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Well I didn't believe it would happen but it did... as he said himself "The North will rise again". Morrissey made it through his Royal Albert Hall show with only the occasional wobble.

He actually sounded a lot better than he did the last time I saw him during his curtailed residency at the Roundhouse.

Sadly, owing to the fact that we had truly abominable seats in the upper circle literally looking down onto the middle of the stage, I didn't engage that much with the show as I should have done. I will never sit in such crap seats again... especially for someone I like.

He appeared on stage in a blazer and jeans, announced "Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night" (sadly no Bette Davis impression) and launched into a frantic "This Charming Man" which sounded like it was being sung to Iggy Pop's "Lust For Life". Then he raced through "Black Cloud" and the Hispanic-flavoured "When I Last Spoke To Carol" which sounded a lot better than on YEARS OF REFUSAL.

The classic intro for "How Soon Is Now?" buzzed out across the auditorium and was rapturously received - though it was a bit scary that he chose the end of the song to have a lie-down on the stage. Luckily he bounced up and sang a great version of "Ganglord".

We then had similarly fierce versions of "Cemetry Gates", "I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris", "Teenage Dad On His Estate" - happy that's on the new b-sides album SWORDS - and "Nowhere Fast".
He then gave us a blistering "Irish Blood, English Heart" - one of his greatest songs Ever - and quickly changed the mood with a lilting "Why Don't You Find Out For Yourself".

After a couple of ho-hums with "One Day GoodBye" and "Death At One's Elbow", he reminded us that no Celebrity Chef is a vegetarian which made Moz conclude that indeed "The World Is Full of Crashing Bores". He then bounced into "Is It Really So Strange?" and a cracking rockabilly "The Loop".

He slowed it down with "Because Of My Poor Education" - he retorted to the applause with "That bad, eh?" Yep Moz.. it was a bit drear. He finished off with REFUSAL's "I'm OK By Myself" and he was gone! I guess it was understandable that it would be a short set although he did come back for a rousing "First Of The Gang To Die".

He was mordant as always - he said he understood that we couldn't afford to come to the upcoming Alexandra Palace gig as well as tonight "I can't afford it either". So I expect that will be cancelled!

He also announced that SWORDS had been released on Monday but that was probably another album that no one would buy - but his moan was punctured by a punter yelling out that he had bought it - "Well that spoils it!" Despite the atrocious sound where we were sat - along with the pigeons of Kensington - the band sounded raucous and propulsive.

By the way Owen has been on at me to blog about the Maximo Park gig we saw at the Albert Hall a few weeks ago. What can I say... I liked a couple of the songs as they actually had a melody as opposed to the rest of the setlist which sounded like they were playing the same song over and over again only with different song titles. I liked "Acrobat", "The Coast Is Always Changing" ('cos Owen likes that one), "Going Missing" and "Girls Who Play Guitars" got their over-excitable fanbase almost self-combusting.

Oh and look how close we were to the stage...*kicks coffee-table*

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

It had to happen I guess...

Next month sees the premiere at the La Jolla Playhouse in California of BONNIE AND CLYDE: THE MUSICAL!
Yes. The musical.

True, there is no reason why there shouldn't be a musical of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow.
But then again there is no reason why there should be one. What can be expressed through song that we don't already know about them?

Stark Sands - great name - and Laura Osnes will be playing the thieves who set Depression headlines aflame during a two year campaign of small town robberies.

The score is by Frank Wildhorn whose shows have never made it over here but they include THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL, CARMEN, JEKYLL & HYDE, THE CIVIL WAR and THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO. No... not the most original composer ever. The lyrics are by Don Black so expect something along the lines of "He asked me for a bun / I said no so he showed me his gun".

Oddly enough I watched the 1967 film again on DVD and despite it's grating hip 1960s sensibilities it still holds up well as a landmark film.

By the way Constant Reader, did you know that it was the first X film I ever saw? It was re-released in 1973 and as I was smitten by Gene Hackman after THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE I had to see it come Hell or high water - no pun intended.

So I dressed up in my brother's jacket and my platform shoes - don't ask - and went to the ABC Hammersmith (long-since pulled-down) and sinking my natural soprano down to basso profundo asked for a ticket. Of course the dear old ABC staff would probably have let a babe in arms in as long as it paid cold hard cash so I was in! It was one of the most exciting experiences of my life - waiting to be tapped on the shoulder at any moment!

The interesting thing about the BONNIE AND CLYDE dvd is that it also includes a US TV documentary about the couple which tells the real story of their less-than-dazzling career - and also shows how the screenwriters didn't let a little thing like facts get in their way!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Here is the new artwork for the upcoming show SONDHEIM ON SONDHEIM which opens at Studio 54 next March with the incomparable Barbara Cook.
It took me a while but I got it eventually.

I am sure it's been a few years since Steve crossed his legs that way!
OI... BRITAIN... Sort your bloody ears out!
The glorious pop-drenched THE SPELL by the masters of naughties Power Pop Alphabeat entered the charts at #20 - bloody 20!!! Meanwhile the bogus charms of Cheryl Tweedy Cole of course went straight into number one.

For fuck's sake people... is there to be no progress from this musical quagmire of tv-related crap?

Today I screamed - out loud - when I saw a tv ad for this....Yes... a former X Factor-wannabe has joined the army and recorded an album with two of his oppos.

The utter cynic emotional blackmail behind this venture is astonishing, cashing in on the dubious patriotism of "our lads" allied with the knowledge that the profits are going to charidee.

Like... just send the damn money to the charity.

Well if some record company is happy to milk this so will I...

I presume it will be a covers album so let's have OutKast's "Bombs Over Baghdad" or any songs by The Afghan Whigs.

Probably not "Army Dreamers"....

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Still Ill?

Well one thing you can expect being a Morrissey fan is the unexpected.

I was gearing myself up for this Tuesday when I was seeing Moz at the Royal Albert Hall for his rescheduled gig from earlier in the year when he cancelled due to ill-health.

And now he's gone and collapsed in bloody Swindon of all places. He is carrying his love of Diana Dors just a little too far if you ask me.

So I am presuming the Albert Hall gig will be rescheduled again. I am beginning to think that we Stephen Patrick fans are becoming the reincarnation of those Judy Garland fans at the end of her career who would take their seats wondering whether she would even manage to get on the stage or not.

Constant Reader I have decided that my near-Poverty Row status might
drag me back to selling my tat.... my valued ephemera on eBay again.

I was having a poke about for suitable candidates for selling when I came across a hidden cache of old cuttings from Back In The Day. Yep I think I can now share my old clippings of Blondie with someone who probably would actually look at them from time to time. So Dawn, Paul and Kevin should get caught up in a bidding war hopefully!

Actually it was instant nostalgia looking through them all.

I even found the very first picture of Debbie I ever saw from Sounds in 1977.... and here is is! It actually still makes my heart skip a beat.

That effortless New York cool...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Is your mind-turning to the end of the year?

Have you started to think now about what to get one's mother or aging gayer mate?

Think no more.... 2nd November will see the release of the complete CROSSROADS 1965-1979.

A delightful box set....of 41 discs!!!!

41 discs!!! It's probably the size of a small Midlands motel.Thank God I'm not tempted.

*quietly tempted*

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Yes Constant Reader it's true... I am back on the rock 'n' roll. Borehamwood is once again no more. Here's a word to the wise... never go back.

Now on to the important news. Today is my 2nd birthday on!

You can keep your Eekbook, MySpazz and Twatter... gimme where you can see who is listening to what music.

Now there's nothing I love better than a list so here you go... an adapted questionaire on my favorite 50 artists according to - I hasten to add it's done in a random order:

1) How did you get into Peggy Lee?

The seed was sown after hearing “He’s A Tramp” when I saw LADY AND THE TRAMP as a wee ‘un.

2) What was the first song you ever heard by The Smiths?

“This Charming Man”

3) What’s your favourite lyric by Diana Ross?

“Little girl, please don’t wait for me / Wait patiently for love, someday it will surely come”

4) What is your favourite album by Suzanne Vega?

Tried and True”

5) How many albums by Aretha Franklin do you own?

Ten (including a 4 cd boxset)

6) What is your favourite song by Cher?


7) Is there a song by Macy Gray that makes you sad?

“I Try”

8) What is your favourite album by Lulu?

“Something To Shout About”

9) What is your favourite song by Marianne Faithfull?

“Running For Our Lives”

10) Is there a song by Beverley Knight that makes you happy?

“Greatest Day”

11) What is your favourite album by Culture Club?

“Greatest Moments”

12) What is your favourite song by Diana Ross and The Supremes?

“Come See About Me”

13) What is a good memory you have involving Ne-Yo?

None in particular!

14) What is your favourite song by The Four Tops?

“I Get A Feeling”

15) Is there a song by Tom Tom Club that makes you happy?

“Genius of Love”

16) How many times have you seen Chris Clark live?

Eek - seeing her for the first time next month

17) What is the first song you ever heard by Carole King?

“It Might As Well Rain Until September”

18) What is your favourite album by Sugababes?


19) Who is a favourite member of The Kinks?

Ray Davies

20) Have you ever seen Madonna live?

14 times (including in a play!)

21) What is a good memory involving The Mamas and The Papas?

The first time I heard “I Saw Her Again”

22) What is your favourite song by Prince?

“I Would Die 4 U”

23) What is the first song you ever heard by Kanye West?

“Jesus Walks”

24) What is your favourite album by Alphabeat?

Their only one “This Is Alphabeat”!!

25) What is your favourite song by B-52s?

“Love Shack”

26) What is the first song you ever heard by Little Jackie?

“The World Should Revolve Around Me”

27) What is your favourite album by Kirsty MacColl?

“From Croydon To Cuba

28) What is your favourite song by Pet Shop Boys?

“Being Boring”

29) What was the first song you ever heard by Amanda Palmer?

As a solo artist – “Creep”!

30) What is your favourite song by Mary J.Blige?

“Just Fine”

31) How many times have you seen Boy George live?


32) Is there a song by Kim Weston that makes you happy?

“A Little More Love”

33) What is your favourite album by Martha Reeves & The Vandellas?


34) What is the worst song by The Temptations?

“Positively Absolutely Right”

35) What was the first song you ever heard by Tammi Terrell?

“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” with Marvin Gaye

36) What is your favourite album by Sinead O’Connor?

“Throw Down Your Arms”

37) How many times have you seen Brenda Holloway live?

Seeing her for the first time next month

38) What is your favourite song by Marvin Gaye?

“What’s Going On”

39) What was the first song you ever heard by Mary Wells?

“My Guy”

40) What is your favourite album by Gladys Knight & The Pips?


41) Is there a song by John Legend that makes you happy?

“Number One”

42) What is your favourite album by Shelby Lynne?

“I Am Shelby Lynne”

43) What is your favourite song by Barbara Cook?

“Errol Flynn”

44) What is a good memory you have involving Nancy LaMott?

Meeting her at the Donmar when she was appearing in IT’S A BETTER WITH A BAND

45) What is your favourite song by Linda Lewis?

“The Moon and I”

46) Is there a song by Grace Jones that makes you happy?

“Williams’ Blood”

47) What is your favourite album by Dusty Springfield?

“Simply Dusty” (4 cd box set)

48) What is your favourite song by Laura Nyro?

“Wedding Bell Blues”

49) What is the first song you ever heard by Estelle?


50) How many albums do you own by Morrissey?


Monday, October 12, 2009

Eeek! I have yet to blog about last Thursday's visit to Wembley Arena to see the one and only Miss Gladys Knight.

Gladys is currently on her farewell tour - a course of action which needs to be stopped preferably by an act of Parliament! Every one of her 57 years on stage has made her a consummate live performer - effortlessly commanding the stage, always in control and performing monologues and bits of business as if she just thought of it that moment... and vocally either tearing it up or holding you in the palm of her hand.

Either by timing or design we missed Tito Jackson's opening turn but from the noise in the auditorium the biggest crowd-pleaser was the introductions of Jackie and Marlon Jackson in the audience. It's an odd life to be one of the Jackson family eh? Doomed to wander the earth looking for reflected glory.

Wembley Arena was about half-full which is a bit sad but then it's an odd venue to have booked her into. The empty parts of the Arena were draped in black curtains - handy as the show was being filmed, hopefully for a dvd. But then most gigs these days appear to be filmed and they rarely appear for sale!At 9pm Gladys appeared from behind a screen and we were off to musical heaven! From the start Gladys was on the money - she kicked off with a nice surprise I WILL FIGHT from her 1980s Columbia years and sounded fierce. She then took us on a whistlestop journey through her musical life with humour and of course, fantastic musicality. We were treated to great versions of I HEARD IT THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE, I'VE GOT TO USE MY IMAGINATION, BABY DON'T CHANGE YOUR MIND, BEST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED TO ME, THE WAY WE WERE, THE WIND BENEATH MY WINGS (handy for a pee break), IF I WERE YOUR WOMAN, a thrilling LICENCE TO KILL and SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME.

There were surprises along the way - two early classics LETTER FULL OF TEARS and EVERY BEAT OF MY HEART and a personal favorite from the 80s SAVE THE OVERTIME (FOR ME). For an artist with so many hits to her name Gladys certainly did a few covers: NEVER TOO MUCH, THE END OF THE ROAD and IF YOU DON'T KNOW ME BY NOW - all of which got the audience singing along!

We had a 'surprise' visit from Bubba Pip who won the audience over with his comedy schtick and energetic James Brown impression and towards the end was the cherry on the cake - Gladys joined on stage by Dionne Warwick. Dionne might be even more wobbly than usual in her upper register these days but with Gladys on hand for harmony we were treated to unforgettable versions of I'LL NEVER LOVE THIS WAY AGAIN and THAT'S WHAT FRIENDS ARE FOR.
After two hours on stage it was time for the last song which of course was MIDNIGHT TRAIN TO GEORGIA - was there ever a more perfect soul song? She had another surprise up her glittery poncho sleeve with her encore - a full-on discotastic I WILL SURVIVE!

Yes Gladys you have - and you are as magnificent as ever.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

On Friday it was time to again venture INTO THE WOODS!
Angela, Owen and I ventured into a land far far away called Clapham to visit the Landor Theatre (cunningly concealed above the Landor pub!) to see Stephen Sondheim's musical which takes some classic fairy tale characters and explores the themes of love and loss, cause and effect and if you can ever be Happily Ever After.

After showing that Sondheim's spectacular FOLLIES could be scaled down to the small 60-seater space, director Robert Mcwhir here tackles the usually effects-heavy show and showed what a little imagination and a large amount of brio can accomplish. While not as successful as FOLLIES overall it was still an effective staging especially as the cast numbered18! There were times you couldn't get a pin between them - or us.INTO THE WOODS has a special place in my heart - 21 years ago it was the first musical I ever saw on Broadway and have relived the production a few times thanks to the dvd of the original cast which was filmed for television. Sadly Bernadette Peters and Joanna Gleason had left the production by the time I got round to seeing it but their delicious performances as The Witch andThe Baker's Wife are both immortalised on the DVD.

Since then I have seen the original 1990 London production at the Phoenix which was a bit of a mess despite fine performances from Julia McKenzie, Imelda Staunton and Ian Bartholomew as well as the 1998 Donmar revival with memorable performances by Sophie Thompson as The Baker's Wife and a young Sheridan Smith as Red Riding Hood.

The show has proved popular with am-dram companies but I have noticed an upswing in professional productions recently with a couple of regional productions currently playing in America and it has just been announced that it will be part of the Regents Park season next year - bit of a no-brainer there! As I watched the production on Friday it occurred to me that a reason for the sudden interest in the show is possibly because it resonates so well with a post-911 world.

The second half pulls the carpet from under the audience & character's feet with the arrival of a threat from beyond which wreaks death and destruction. The widow of the Giant killed by Jack appears and is demanding revenge and justice - and she doesn't care who she kills to get it. The characters are thrown into confusion and fear - do they surrender Jack to make the terror stop or do they attempt a stand? Or just find someone to blame? It is easy to see how there has always been speculation as to how much Sondheim was responding to the emergence of the AIDS epidemic.
Nina Morley's witty Landor set features oversize children's books which are used as to clamber in, around and out of by the energetic cast and her costumes certainly tick all the fairy-tale boxes. The cast are mostly fine with one or two dodgy turns but I enjoyed Leo Andrew as The Baker, Sarah Head as The Baker's Wife, Sue Appleby as a rather mature Cinderella, Michael Eio as a suitably gauche Jack, Luke Fredericks was great fun as Rapunzel's Prince, Rebecca Wicking was a lethal Red Riding Hood and Judith Paris made a memorable wicked Stepmother.

Lori Haley Fox has been imported from MAMMA MIA on Broadway to play The
Witch but she was no where to be seen on Friday so we had Orla Mullan instead. She certainly looked great when transformed from a hag to a glamorous-but-powerless sorceress but sadly she sang all the songs in a note-for-note copy of Bernadette Peters on the original cast recording. If she had brought her own interpretation to the role she might have been better.

Despite all the quibbles, this was a great opportunity to see a favorite musical "in the flesh" again and recommend it - if you can get a ticket!

Monday, October 05, 2009

My October star is the tortured genius Marvin Gaye.

One of my first musical memories of Marvin was hearing I HEARD IT THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE on the radio and finding it vaguely scary. It's interesting that when I started listening seriously to Motown that Marvin had already started to change his persona from handsome singer of ballads and sunny Soul to the more serious Socially-committed singer-songwriter who emerged in the classic WHAT'S GOING' ON album.

But Marvin at any time in his life appeared to be a contradiction in terms - the singer who was also happier playing the drums, the spiritual man who embraced the darker side of his life with abandon, the soaring Soul singer who preferred to sing Broadway standards, the man who married into the family of Motown boss Berry Gordy which disintegrated into acrimony and most ominously of all, seemingly a man in charge of his own destiny who remained locked in a battle of wills with his abusive father.

The tragic outcome of that private battle robbed us of one of the greatest voices in soul music and of a man who always seemed to be the first to explore new musical vistas.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Well that was close... it appears I just got to see the new Pedro Almodovar on the big screen in it's last week of release! Yes Constant Reader... last night we went to see LOS ABRAZOS ROTOS (BROKEN EMBRACES) at the chi-chi Curzon Soho.

I had been dragging my feet about wanting to see it as all the publicity had led one to believe that it was 127 minutes of
adulation at the altar of Saint Penelope but while it certainly showcases her even more than their previous collaboration VOLVER, the film is also so much more than that - especially if you are a Pedro fan!

As in LAW OF DESIRE and BAD EDUCATION, the main plot tells of a filmaker finding love and death linked together. Mateo (Lluis Homar) has been blind since the early 1990s and has been living ever since under the pseudonym of 'Harry Caine' carefully watched over by his agent Judit (Blanca Portillo) and her son Diego (Tamar Novas). News that a disgraced businessman Ernesto Martel (Jose Luis Gomez) has died is followed by a visit from the man's son (Rubin Ochandiano) in disguise asking the filmaker to write a script that will ruin his father's name further. Mateo refuses but the visit makes him finally relive and confront the period in his life when Martel produced a film for him and Martel's mistress Lena (Penelope Cruz) was first his leading lady and then his lover.Almodovar has shown in the past his particular strength at multi-strand story-telling and here he manages to tell a story which on paper would take an age to explain with a dazzling fluidity and confidence. The film lasts over 2 hours and after about 15 minutes of thinking "Right... so who is *this* character?" I just gave myself over to it and wandered happily through the labyrinthine plot as I was in the grip of a master filmmaker.
Again Almodovar shows his love and respect for cinema with a film that at times seems to be a tribute to several genres - usually at the same time! Just as VOLVER seemed to be a tribute to de Sica's working-class heroines for Sophia Loren, here Penelope Cruz seems to channel the great European screen goddesses of the 1960s with echoes of Loren (again), Claudia Cardinale, Jeanne Moreau and Romy Schneider. However it is a mark of the understanding between director and star that while suggesting these actresses - and visually referencing Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe to boot! - that Penelope Cruz also gives an excellent performance which if there is any justice should win her another Academy Award nomination.Joyful, sad, tempestuous, seductive, comic, tragic - Lena is one of Almodovar's great screen women and Cruz captures all these moods and more, making her totally believable and you can understand the vacuum in Mateo's life without her. As Mateo, Lluis Homar also gives an excellent performance, always watchable and always with an intelligence and humour to make his character fascinating.There is also a marvellous performance by Blanca Portillo as Judit, Mateo's ever-watchful agent. In a role that becomes more and more central as the film progresses, Portillo also becomes more and more powerful until towards the end of the film Judit has a scene where she reveals the truth of her involvement in Mateo's fate that is beautifully performed. After her fine supporting performance in VOLVER, it is great to see her in another Almodovar film.

The film also boasts a great performance by Jose Luis Gomez as the jealous and controlling Ernesto Martel. He turns in a silkily hiss-able nemesis to Mateo that is worthy of a Hitchcock villain but at the same time suggests the torment of a man trapped in an obsession and on the brink of losing his desired object. He uses his son (Ochandiano striking the film's one false performance note) to film Mateo and Lena on the set in the guise of making a documentary on the making of the film but uses the footage instead to spy on the lovers by screening it sitting next to a professional lip-reader - an exquisitely funny cameo by VOLVER's Lola Duenas).Almodovar manages one of his signature audacious filmic strokes in one of these scenes - as they sit and watch footage where Lena tells Mateo on the film-set of how she loves him and not Martel, Lena walks in behind them unobserved and takes over the commentary, telling him she no longer loves him as he watches her say it on the screen.

As well as Cruz, Homar, Portillo and Duenas making return visits there are also cameos from such Almodovar veterans as Chus Lampreave and Rossy de Palma in the film-within-the-film and Kiti Manver as the head of a call-girl service who Lena works for while working as Martel's secretary. There is also a small but moving performance from Angela Molina as Lena's mother, distressed at the neglect of her dying husband. Quite a different performance to her vengeful mistress in Pedro's LIVE FLESH.At the film's conclusion, Mateo is seen re-editing the film he made with Lena, a comedy called GIRLS AND SUITCASES. Pedro slyly slips in characters and the scenario of his own WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN - can it really be 21 years ago???? - and it also allows a returning Almodovar supporting actress Carmen Machi to steal the scene as Lena's on-screen friend Chon.Tamar Novas is fine as Diego but as I said above, Ruben Ochandiano pulls the focus too much in the flashback scenes as the gay son of Ernesto Martel. It's not his fault that he has to play the role in a horrid Worzel Gummage Strawberry blonde wig but he did little but suggest David Walliams as the flamingly gay Sebastian in LITTLE BRITAIN!

It goes without saying that the film's look is utterly stunning - every shot a mouthwatering fusion of Rodrigo Prieto's cinematography and Antxon Gomez' production design and again Alberto Iglesias has composed a score that always seems to be moving the film along on a musical conveyer-belt.

If I have one complaint about the film it's that I felt no particular warmth to any of the characters - a similar feeling I had to BAD EDUCATION. To the actors yes, but to the characters no. The emotional connection I immediately had to LAW OF DESIRE, WOMEN ON THE VERGE..., ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER and VOLVER is absent here.

However be that as it may, it is still a film that kept me gripped and a great addition to the work of this extraordinary director and his unique cinematic vision - viva Pedro!