Monday, 31 October 2011

Hurts Review Düsseldorf Mitsubishi Electric Halle 4th October 2011



It’s lush, rich and gloriously crafted – the now fiftysomething Pet Shop Boys finally have their heirs. There’s that same sense of being simultaneously lightweight and bubbling with pathos, and the sense that there’s no such thing as too many layers of sound.... quality pop is as important as quality rock or indie or hip hop or punk and I really wish there was more of it around.
 The lights go down and the additional players take their positions. Back home HURTS can pack the Ritz – itself a long-recognised signifier that a Manchester band has “made it” to a certain level – but here they’re bond fide mainstream pop stars, as we discovered last year on a trip to Switzerland: our boys from back home were barely off the (German) pop stations piped into cafes and bars. So this isn’t just a gig, it’s a show. The eleven-piece band including string quartet sit motionless as searchlight-style spotlights sweep the red glow and two hooded figures walk to the front and unfurl black flags. The strings and drums crash into life and the immaculately-suited duo stride on to screams, launching into “Silver Lining” – and it’s one of the most ridiculous, ostentatiously brilliant things I’ve seen in the live music canon in ages. The sound is just enormous – all credit to whoever helped with the orchestration arrangement here. So what if it’s all plotted and scripted to the hilt: from Take That’s dance routines to Rammstein’s pyromanic showpieces it always is at this level. “Wonderful Life” is next, with the capes and flags discarded to reveal two balletic and somewhat interpretative dancers: you just don’t get this sort of thing – or indeed the harp which will make an appearance later – in the grubby indie basements where much of our musical life is played out. http://www.informationhurts.com/

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Celtic Connections 2012 Press launch 25th October 2011

The Press Launch for Celtic Connections 2012 was held in Glasgow on Tuesday 25th October 2011.  Chaired by the festival's Artistic Director Donald Shaw, he announced there would be a political thread to the festival in 2012. This will be the 19th year for one of the world's largest winter music festivals. Shaw spoke of the Arab spring and other recent world wide revolutions and how music was often interlinked and can offer hope of a better life.  How some folk music has become too mainstream and lost the power of offering a voice to the people.  He spoke of how popularity can get in the way of what an artist has to say.
There will be 300 events in 20 venues across Glasgow. Celtic covers folk, roots, world, traditional, indie, Americana, bluegrass and jazz music.  He said that folk and trad would continue to be at the heart of the festival, with artists such as Shooglenifty, Session A9, Blazin fiddles, Treacherous Orchestra, Salsa Celtica, and more. Highlights will include a celebration concert for Gerry Rafferty who died last year and also a concert for the Woodie Guthrie Centennial with Sarah Lee Guthrie. The international line up will include Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Bruce Hornsby, Jack Bruce, Justin Currie, Martin and Eliza Carthy, and KT Tunstall. The Festival club will be held this year at the Apollo 23.
A core of the festival is its educational program. There was a BBC Live Radio Scotland show that evening which included Spanish band Sol i Serena.
I sat beside Scottish songwriting legend Rab Noakes who is involved with the Rafferty concert and was a founding member of Stealers Wheel - I expect will be a sell out very soon!  As will the ever popular 'Transatlantic Sessions', which last year toured and includes American dubro player Jerry Douglas and Scottish fiddler Ali Bain. I enjoy Celtic for the unique collaborations it offers. 


Celtic Connections runs from 18th January to 5th February 2012.
Tickets are now on sale - http://www.celticconnections.com/
 

Saturday, 22 October 2011

*Edinburgh International Book Festival 2011



Pauline Black
Romola Garai
Ben Okri
John Byrne

http://www.zenfolio.com/pkimage/edinburghbookfestival 

Leo


I took photos at 'Leo'  -  performed by Tobias Wegner and directed by Daniel Briere, which won the Carol Tambor Best of Edinburgh Award, and will receive a full NYC production at Theatre Row in January.   The award is the Edinburgh Festival Fringe's highest honour, and was presented at the festival's closing ceremonies on August 26.  The production is from the acclaimed German company Circle of Eleven, and considers what happens if the laws of gravity suddenly change. Leo combines stage design and video projections, to create an unexpected environment in which our hero is forced to adapt to this surprising situation.  The award is the Edinburgh Festival Fringe's highest honour, and was presented at the festival's closing ceremonies on August 26.  The production is from the acclaimed German company Circle of Eleven, and considers what happens if the laws of gravity suddenly change. Leo combines stage design and video projections, to create an unexpected environment in which our hero is forced to adapt to this surprising situation.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Songwriters Circle BBC 4

October 7th - Leon Russell, Nick Lowe, Paul Brady.

October 14th – Donovan, Buffy St.Marie, Roger Cooke.

October 21st – Neil Finn, Janis Ian, Ryan Adam.

October 25th – KT Tunstall, Ray LaMonatgne, David Gray.

Fridays 9.10.pm. Held at the Bush Hall London. The art and process of songwriting. They perform, collaborate and chat about their songs.

Followed by ‘Singer Songwriters at the BBC.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Edinburgh Festival 2011 (review)

Roland Rivron
I still have hundreds of images to sort...
Edinburgh's theme this year was Eastern colours, dance, and contrasts.  How do we find the joys, the fun in life that gets lost in our everyday realities?  I always pick a theme and my theme this year is fun and what festivals should be for, because after all if life isn't 'fun' what exactly is it for? My main focus is now the 'Edinburgh International Book festival' and I have much less time on the High Street. 

I took photos of the fringe show 'LEO' that is heading to New York and of many authors. Some of my stalking didn't work out. I missed Gordon Brown, David Hasselhoff and Brad Pitt (here Glasgow) - but I did meet Alex Salmond and shook his hand! Cool. 
Stalking!  I missed some stalking opportunities!  I missed my shot of Gordon Brown (ex PM)  who came with his wife Sarah for her talk at the EIBF. It was only a normal Saturday night in Glasgow when Zombies take over the streets!  Tuesday and Brad Pitt media arrived in Glasgow Central station. The pose of photographers were disappointed as he was taken off the back of his train and whisked away.  I later heard that one snapper got the 'shot' for the Sun.  Also a tip that David Hasselhoff would be at the BBC tent at 10pm, and I wasn't able to manage this stalking either!   

FRINGE SHOWS. My first show was 'Rick Hall', as seen on tv show 'Mock the Week'.  Next 'The Dead Philosopher' at the Traverse and the premise was that 'life is a joke' - well if so this show certainly wasn't one!   **LEO.  I took photos at 'Leo' which was a highly creative and wonderful performance and was performed by Tobias Wegner and directed by Daniel Briere. Leo won the Carol Tambor Best of Edinburgh Award and will receive a full NYC production at Theatre Row in January. The award is the Edinburgh Festival Fringe's highest honour, and was presented at the festival's closing ceremonies on August 26. 
I was on the phone outside Biblos restaurant on the corner of Chambers Street when 'Gerry' of Martian fame walked past in the rain wearing a long leather coat with his serious deadpan look. He didn't see me. Perhaps it is all fleeting odd moments that we have here and nothing is real or as it seems..?   Life leads us on strange paths and on these pavements that have seen to many footsteps...
 'Real harmony comes from the heart. Trust, respect and friendship are all essential.' Dala Lama. My Field of Dreams, I search through them as they hover above, Sometimes golden, Sometimes hollow. 

Edinburgh has strong ever changing winds and apparently the rain is connected to the high tides. One photographer has shot Dylan. In our yurt, that one describes as a 'soggy mushroom' the crack at times is fun. I wonder to myself that some young people can't take time to 'smell the roses' - they are so busy constantly plugged in online.
I love the challenge of Photography while sometimes I wonder it is writing I really want to be doing. Sometimes the song is like a gift.   
It has been cloudy quite often and I feel tired and sad it is over for another year. The last day and it feels the posters are tired and sad a little too, as am I. Cultural overload. For the discerning there is much on offer to delight the senses at EIF.  A big Thanks to all at the Edinburgh Book Festival for another top year.  2,500 shows at 250 venues over 3 to 4 weeks, over one million visitors.  

TMSA Young Trad Tour 2011


BBC Radio Scotland Award finalists hit the road! The cream of Scotland’s young traditional musical talent is touring the country in the next few weeks. Coming together as the TMSA Young Trad Tour 2011, the group consists of the six finalists of this year’s BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year Award/
 On tour are the Orcadian fiddler Kristan Harvey (2011 winner); Lorne MacDougall from Carradale, Argyll (pipes/whistles); Tina Rees from Glasgow (piano); Alistair Ogilvy from Strathblane (Scots song); Mairi Chaimbeul from Kyle of Lochalsh, Skye (clarsach/Gaelic song); Andrew Waite from Duns in the Scottish Borders (accordion) and 2010 winner, Dan Thorpe, from Inverurie (fiddle).
http://www.tmsa.org.uk

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Lana Del Rey - Video Games



She has a haunting and beautiful voice.  Lana has been a big internet hit with her video on YouTube 'Video Games' now at over 2m hits.
There has been controversy on the web over her reincarnation from Lizzie Grant, and comments over her new image being put together by the Label guys... What's the big deal here? - Dylan was Mr Zimmerman and never rode boxcars. Many artists reinvent themselves, that's the whole point!
There appears to be a community online of those who wish 'put down' those in the creative industries. It is easy to criticize, harder to actually put yourself out there. http://lanadelrey.com/
(Woody Guthrie rode those box cars though...)

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

*GERRY RAFFERTY

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He has a hardness in his eyes while his songs are sensitive and true. I first heard his Baker Street album during my folk festival days, with its' soaring sax and hard-hitting lyrics. Then he had a huge hit on both sides of the Atlantic with "Stuck in the Middle With You."

He always refused to play the big Label game and refers to this in this hit song with the lyrics  - 'Clowns to the Left of me, Jokers to the right...' . He never toured in the US, even while this song had No 1 Radio airplay. In a sense Rafferty was full of those Scottish contradictions with his strengths and weaknesses. He was from Paisley and sadly died early this year from alcohol related illness. His funeral was held at St Mirin's Cathedral in Paisley and attended by the first minister Alex Salmon.  http://www.gerryrafferty.com/

ArtWorks Scotland - Gerry Rafferty: Right Down the Line - BBC 2 Scotland Documentary aired August 2011



Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Great Singer Songwriters



Where are the great singer songwriters of today?  They are still here (I hope), they are simply hard to find these days and seem to be buried in a sea of 'commercialism' with over-hype, instant sound-bites, over-production and glossy videos. A telling moment on a recent BBC show was simply Simon and guitar on the Parkinson show. The creative genius behind great music, bands and orchestras is simply this and to find the heart of great art requires it is 'stripped back' to basics.  


What are the best songs of the past 2 decades that compare to the great songs of the 60s?  I was making myself a playlist of favourite songs and I was struggling to think of songs from the 90s and noughties that will last the tests of time...?  Names that came into my mind were Radiohead, Arcade Fire and Coldplay - all bands.  Many great singer songwriters started off in bands - Richard Thompson ( Fairport Convention),  Rafferty (Humbelbums), McCartney (the Beatles), Simon (Simon and Garfunkle)...more. Perhaps it is easier to find your artistic voice through collaborating. I know it can take years for classics to emerge.  

Culture has changed, the internet has given us access to instant media-music. In the 60s music was more of an investment of our time and money and involved a trip to the Record Shop!  I feel certain there are advantages to online streaming but drawbacks too.  It was a big deal for 50s artists when they were able to hear the blues legends on the radio. So the advancement of the new technologies means that all the arts can now develop at a much faster pace than ever before.  Yet the young people seem to crave nostalgia...

Does the proliferation of Talent Shows these days (both local and on tv) have a lot to answer for when they are mainly about producing musical performers and are not about the craft of the songwriter.  I guess there is still the folk scene for singer songwriters. Many say that their music is rooted in traditional folk music - for example Dylan drew on Woody Guthrie, and Elton on Leon Russell.

I worry though that the arts are loosing the 'heart' of what makes art or music truly great and unforgettable in their rush to pursue the business side of it all.  Reflecting on music and songs of recent times I began to wonder is there not much 'substance' or heart behind much of it, that tells me something new emotionally I've not heard a million times before? To quote Rab Noakes - ' a future with no past has no idea'. 

Singer-songwriting is about finding your own unique voice.  
Last week the BBC4 ran a show BBC Singer Songwriters.  On my list were many on this show  -  Joni, Rab Noakes, Rafferty, Paul Simon, Cohen.. all there. Those were simpler times back then. Great acoustic music is still here, it is just hard to find it these days : )


Last week the BBC4 ran a show BBC Singer Songwriters.  On my list were many on this show  -  Joni, Rab Noakes, Rafferty, Paul Simon, John Martyn, Cohen.. all there.  Those were simpler times back then. Great acoustic music is still here, it is just hard to find it these days : )


PS - Are older singer-songwriters doing enough to encourage and offer platforms for the younger artists?
I include a clip of Joni Mitchell on the BBC. Joni is probably my biggest inspiration for singer songwriters.