Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Bruce Springsteen live in Paris in 2008 - You never forget your first time

Continuing the series of "concerts I attended 10 years ago" here is an important one: An artist who I had not seen live until that time but who I would go and see 12 more times in the next 8 years. Bruce Springsteen. And not just Bruce Springsteen. Bruce Springsteen with the E Street Band. The year before I had gone to France to see The Rolling Stones, so I thought "why not Bruce this year in the same country"? I had wanted to see him live ever since I bought his "Live 1975-85" album and learned about his legendary 3 hours+ concerts. But, not being close to the fan circuit I did not expect he would still be doing these things in 2008. I was disappointed when he disbanded the E Street Band and his lack of output in the 90's thinking "now I'll never get to see him live", but hope arose again when in late 2000 when I was a postgraduate student in London and I watched a 90-minute special of his concerts in Madison Square Garden earlier that year. And I remembered a few years later picking up a copy of the "Tour Edition" of "The Rising" at Santorini airport and thinking "yeah, tour!". It took a few years for faith to be rewarded, but it was indeed rewarded.
Earlier that year, in 2008,  I had become aware of the Greek Bruce Springsteen community who were calling themselves "No Surrender". While I was planning my summer trip to Paris to see Bruce I read in a Greek newspaper a review of his winter concert in the same city where the fans had made a sign saying "Play NO SURRENDER for the Greeks" and Bruce did indeed oblige. And I had also picked up one of their flyers advertising one of their parties at a record shop.

So I bought my ticket but for some strange reason I had to pick it up from the stadium on the day of the concert. I had decided to buy the most expensive ticket as I had done with The Rolling Stones the year before while in the meantime noticing some strange facts. The most expensive ticket for the (cancelled) Rolling Stones concert in Athens in 2006 was €300. The most expensive ticket for the Rolling Stones concert in Lyon in 2007 was half that price at €150. And the most expensive ticket for the Bruce Springsteen concert in 2008 was a bit more than half the latter price at €85! Anyway, I arrived at Parc Des Princes early to receive my ticket only to end up waiting for a couple of hours with other fans next to a gendarme that looked a lot like Richard Gere while most of the time only pitch tickets were handed out (mine was in the stands). The two French words I mostly heard during those two hours were "Pelouse" (pitch) and "Attendez" (wait). I finally got my ticket, went back to the hotel and back to the stadium in time for my first Bruce Springsteen concert.

And the first Bruce Springsteen song I heard live was "Adam Raised A Cain". And I realized that he would play the requests he received as signs for the audience (a funny moment was when he picked up one for "Fire", the band mistakenly started playing "I'm On Fire" only to stop and then start the correct song a few seconds later. I also realized that he would play obscure tracks. One of my favourite Bruce songs is "Janey Don't You Lose Heart" which I had discovered back in 1985 when I bought the "I'm Going Down" 7 inch single. "Janey" was on the b-side. I could not believe my luck when he played it that night.

And since he was in France he also played "Rendez-Vous" and he introduced "Girls In Their Summer Clothes" as a "chanson pout les jeunes filles Francaises". On, and he did play "No Surrender".
And finally I realized that he did still play those marathon shows. The Paris concert was only (only?) 2 hours and 35 minutes, still a lot longer than other bands, but Bruce can be forgiven because he had played a longer one at San Siro in Milano a few days earlier. And anyway, at the end of these 2 hours and 35 minutes the concert had become a huge party with a (very) extended version of "American Land" at the end.

The only problem was the sound. At least the sound where I was sitting. Acoustic songs were fine, but on louder songs the sound of the bass and the drums seemed to reverberate at the concrete of the stadium's tiers. When I realized this I prayed for Bruce to play more acoustic songs (and he did indeed play quite a few). Of course by the end I didn't care. It just goes to show that when you buy the most expensive ticket you don't necessarily get the best conditions. From my next Bruce shows, I would move to the arena and later the "pit" once I learned the ropes and how this procedure was carried out.
Upon my return to Greece I contacted the No Surrender community and the rest is, as they say, history, an important part of which is that my next Bruce Springsteen concert was 366 days later, on the next day of my first year anniversary. This one, my first, was on the 27th of June 2008 at Parc Des Princes in Paris, while my second one was on the 28th of June 2009 at Hyde Park in London (the one that was released on DVD). And as an extra twist, my eleventh one was once again in Paris at the other big stadium of the city (Stade De France at Saint Denis) on the 29th of June 2013 two days after my fifth anniversary! (11 concerts in 5 years! Let that sink in for a minute). It seems like the end of June is the ideal time to see Bruce Springsteen live...
01. Adam Raised a Cain
02. Radio Nowhere
03. No Surrender
04. The Promised Land
05. Spirit in the Night
06. Rendezvous (Sign request)
07. Candy's Room
08. Atlantic City
09. Janey Don't You Lose Heart (Sign request)
10. Darlington County
11. Because the Night
12. She's the One
13. Livin' in the Future
14. Mary's Place
15. Fire (Sign request - False start : Max started "I'm on Fire")
16. For You
17. The River
18. The Rising
19. Last to Die
20. Long Walk Home
21. Badlands
22. Out in the Street
23. Girls in Their Summer Clothes
24. Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
25. Born to Run
26. Bobby Jean
27. Dancing in the Dark
28. American Land

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

10 years ago, I went to Manchester to see Yazoo live

Earlier this year (2018) I saw Erasure live. 30 years ago (1988) I also saw Erasure live. But 10 years ago (2008) I saw another Vince Clarke group live. It was, of course, Yazoo. And I saw them at another Apollo venue, Manchester Apollo whereas I saw Erasure at the Hammersmith Apollo, both times (although back in 1988 it was called Hammersmith Odeon).
It all started through an internet fan forum when this question was posed by another user: "What is your synth-pop top 5?" My answer was this:
However, I added an extra comment to my answer: "The only ones I haven't seen live are Yazoo (Pretty much impossible now, I guess... Although reunions are always possible...)". A few days later their reunion was indeed announced
in the form of their Reconnected tour and tickets went on sale. I bought one for Manchester on the 7th of June.
The night before, I flew to London and early the next morning I took the train to Manchester. I settled in at my hotel, found where Manchester Apollo was and once there I met my Swedish friend from the same internet forum for the first time in person and had a couple of pints at the local.

Then I went back to my hotel and had a chance to walk around Manchester for a bit. I was to return there again in 2011 for Roger Waters and in 2016 for the city's very own Stone Roses.
Unfortunately, back then I believed what was stated on concert tickets, ie that cameras were not allowed, so the only photos that I took inside the venue and during the gig are those that I took with my mobile, a SonyEricsson W880.

I even filmed one video with it, at a very low resolution, but I also manaaged to find one more on YouTube from another user.

What is true, is that compact cameras are allowed, it's professional (SLR) cameras and video cameras that are not usually allowed.
The gig started with "Nobody's Diary" a song that was never performed live before the 2008 tour (as indeed were all the songs from their second album "You And Me Both"). And because Yazoo had only released two albums, we heard a lot of our favourite tunes from back then.

After the end of the gig, I remember my Swedish friend stating that "this woman was born to sing!"
After the gig, we sat and waited outside the Apollo for a while; there was a rumour going on that either Alison or Vince may show up.

Finally, I took the bus back to my hotel.
The next day,at Manchester Piccadilly station from where I would take the train back to London, I spotted a billboard advertising a Bruce Springsteen And The E Street Band concert at Old Trafford, that had already taken place. I was about to attend my very first Bruce Springstten gig at the end of that same month in Paris, but that is of course a subject for another blog post...

01. Nobody's Diary
02. Bad Connection
03. Mr. Blue
04. Good Times
05. Tuesday
06. Ode to Boy
07. Goodbye 70's
08. Too Pieces
09. In My Room
10. Walk Away From Love
      I Before E Except After C
11. Anyone
12. State Farm
13. Sweet Thing
14. Winter Kills
15. Midnight
16. Unmarked
17. Bring Your Love Down (Didn't I)
18. Situation
19. Don't Go
20. Only You

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Chameleons Vox live in Athens

The first 3 gigs of 2018 were all electro gigs, as I mentioned on my previous post, the last of them being Kid Moxie at Death Disco. The 4th one, even though it was not an electro one, was also at Death Disco. And it was pulled straight out of the 80's Manchester scene. Chameleons Vox aren't the original Chameleons of course. It's just their lead singer, Mark Burgess, with "whoever wants to play with him". But how did I get into the Chameleons? Back in the day (somewhere around 1984) a schoolfriend lent me their "Script Of The Bridge" album (along with "The Crackdown" by Cabaret Voltaire and the 12 inch of "Paris Latino" by Bandolero - yeah, I know, whatever) and forgot to ask me to give it back. I remember listening to the record and enjoying it because "there was so much music in there". What I was referring to was that its duration was around 55 minutes. So, if you liked that kind of music there was lots of it on the album for you to enjoy. The problem was of course, that vinyl records didn't really sound that good if they were over 45 minutes. I remembered that when the weekend before the gig I dug the record out, to listen to it again. I realized then that i probably needed to buy the remastered CD in order to enjoy their music in full.

On the night, which was sold out, they played songs from "Script Of The Bridge" but also from some of their later albums.

I enjoyed it thoroughly, probably because I was at the front of the stage. But there was a catch to that. I was also in front of one of the speakers.

I did not realize it then, but my hearing did suffer as I got out of the venue. On the train home I couldn't hear all the sounds clearly, and I was also hearing some sounds (sort of "beep, beep, beep") that weren't actually there. It took 48 hours for my hearing to come back to normal. It was probably worth it, but I'm not going to do this again. So, don't try this at home kids, you have been warned...

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Kid Moxie - finally - live!

As it turned out, my first 3 gigs of 2018 were all electro gigs. The first one was Erasure, the second one Kraftwerk, and the third one turned out to be Kid Moxie.
It's funny how one gets to discover new acts in the internet age. I discovered Kid Moxie via Marsheaux. How did that happen? Well, many years ago she released her "Selector" album on UNDO Records, the same record company that Marsheaux release their music. When I saw that CD on the UNDO Records online store I decided to investigate. The fact that the CD contained a "Marsheaux Remix" of one of the songs was a plus. So, I bought it immediately without listening to a single note of it first (We used to do that often before the internet, you know). I wasn't disappointed. Her next album, 1888, was even better and, since I'm a "physical format" kind of guy I was happy when she finally released her latest, "Perfect Shadow" on CD. But, the question was, would I ever see her live? I had seen Marsheaux a few times, so why not Kid Moxie? From what I could tell, she hadn't played any gigs. But finally, earlier this year, an announcement came on her Facebook page: "Stay tuned for live gigs in Greece later this year". The first one, was, predictably on a Monday, when I could not go because I was working. But this, the one at Death Disco was taking place on a Thursday and I could go after work.
So, there I was on the 29th of March, trying to catch as much of the support act as possible who were starting earlier. And that's funny, because, Someone Who Isn't Me (the support band) was another discovery for me. I may have discovered Kid Moxie through Marsheaux, but I can now say that I discovered Someone Who Isn't Me through Kid Moxie.

Their latest single, "Gomenaki", is probably the best thing I have heard this year so far.
And one of their members was a familiar face. If I am not mistaken she used to be in The Berlin Brides.
Kid Moxie's set was next. She and her band, started with Lacuna, my favourite song from "1888" accompanied by projections on a big screen behind the stage.
There were a couple of sound problems (sometimes her voice was louder than the instruments, and at other times the instruments were louder than her voice, at least from where I was standing), but these were soon smoothed out.

And she had a big surprise for us towards the end: a cover version of "Big In Japan".

All in all, it was a wonderful night and she will appear live again, at the Release Festival in a few days. I don't know if I can make it yet, but it's certainly worth it.

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Kraftwerk live and in 3D

I have been listening to a lot of synth-pop music, especially during the 80's when it was most popular. In fact, my last gig was a synth-pop gig. But there would have been no synth-pop (and also other forms of electronic music), no Erasure, no OMD, no Marsheaux, no Depeche Mode (even if they are not so electronic now) without Kraftwerk. I had wanted to see Kraftwerk live for many years and it was extremely hard to get tickets for their UK shows. Then I noticed that this year they were playing their 3-D show in places that were awfully close to Greece (Sofia and Skopje for example), so why didn't any promoter make an effort to bring them here? Finally someone did. And at long last, on the 3rd of March, exactly one week after my seeing Erasure in London, Kraftwerk played in Athens.
When the gig was announced, before I bought my ticket, I had to make some enquiries. Where should I be in the venue? In the arena or in the seats in order to enjoy the full 3D experience? Both people I asked gave me the same verdict: It doesn't matter where you are, as long as you are facing the middle of the stage in order to better experience the 3-D  effects. I decided to buy a seated ticket, so my view would not be obstructed by a tall person in front of me. And since the seated tickets were not numbered, I had to get there early in order to find a seat that would be facing the middle of the stage. And that's just what I did. I got a seat at the topmost row directly facing the stage.

When the show finally started it was confirmed that this was a perfect seat to experience the 3D effects from, although, as you will be able to see from the videos, the show can be enjoyed even in 2D. 

I could go on for hours telling you how magnificent the 3D graphics were, but what was even more exciting was how many Kraftwerk tunes I was familiar with from all those years.

And the one I had completely forgotten about was "Neon Lights" which I came to know through its OMD cover of 1991!
Then again, the song I was most waiting for was "The Model" which had no 3D effects at all.

All in all, it was a wonderful night and a unique experience . Towards the end, they treated us to "The Robots" as a separate performance (and with different outfits). 

In the end they left the stage one by one while the music was still playing...
01. Numbers
02. Computer World
03. It's More Fun to Compute
04. Home Computer
05. Computer Love
06. The Man-Machine
07. Spacelab
08. The Model
09. Neon Lights
10. Autobahn
11. Airwaves
12. Geiger Counter / Radioactivity
13. Electric Café
14. Tour De France / Prologue / Etape 1 / Chrono / Etape 2
15. Trans Europe Express / Metal on Metal / Abzug
16. The Robots
Encore 2:
17. Aéro Dynamik
18. Planet of Visions
19. Boing Boom Tschak
20. Techno Pop
21. Music Non Stop

Friday, 23 March 2018

30 years later, I went to London to see Erasure Live again

5 years ago, while I was listening to my 21st Anniversary Edition of The Innocents CD (and watching the live DVD from the same tour in which I saw them in 1988), I thought that it would be a good idea to go and see them live again in 2018, on the 30th anniversary of my first Erasure gig at the Hammersmith Odeon. (Two years before that, in 2011, I had been reminded of what a great experience that had been when Marsheaux went to see them.) So, when they released a new album last year, "World Be Gone", I thought, "Great, there will be a tour next year, so my wish will come true.". When the tour was announced however, I discovered that all the European dates were in the winter when it would be hard for me to find some free time to go and see them. Would they play any festivals in the summer? The answer came soon enough: "No, they would not. They would go to America (North and South). By then, most of the European dates were sold out. Among those few that were not sold out, were the London dates. And then I noticed something spooky! The London dates were at the exact same venue where I had first seen them 30 years ago: Hammersmith Odeon (now known as the Eventim Apollo"). Surely, that was a sign, wasn't it? It must have been because I bought my ticket there and then! (And that's what I was hinting at on my first blog post of the year which featured a picture from the artwork of "World Be Gone", Erasure's latest album). 30 years was the longest gap for me between two gigs of the same band. I had seen Depeche Mode in 2006 21 years after the first time I had seen them in 1985 and the Pet Shop Boys in 2013, 22 years after my first time in 1991. The only thing that worried me was that these last few available tickets, labeled "Rear Circle Standing", were also marked as "Restricted View". Would I be able to see anything? I had no time to wonder about this since, as I have already said, this was definitely a sign. So even though, as I had already suspected, I didn't have much free time that weekend, and I had left everything for the last minute, and as a result flight and hotel prices were starting to rise, I completed my bookings and was ready for take-off. So what if I had to fly back at 6am the next morning? I booked a room practically next to Heathrow to compensate. (I actually walked from Heathrow to my hotel and back).
My flight was with Austrian Airlines via Vienna, so I got to see the snowy Vienna International Airport as I changed flights there.

In fact, the flight from Vienna to London was a bit delayed because the plane had to be de-iced as the snow was getting heavier. Plus, in the back of my mind was the fact that a severe cold front was approaching northern Europe (in fact all Europe apart from Greece and would arrive on Sunday, the day I was supposed to be flying back to Athens. London was cold, but there was no snow as I arrived on Friday night. I took the (free) Heathrow Express from Terminal 2 to Terminal 5 and from there, after struggling a bit with the instructions from Google Maps I managed to walk to my hotel.
The following day, the day of the gig, I woke up refreshed, walked to Terminal 5 and got the Tube to London. My first stop was Hammersmith, to have a look at the venue. Indeed, seeing it, with the letters at the Marquee spelling "ERASURE" made me realize that "This is it! It's almost time". So, after a couple of other stops around London, one of which was at my beloved Pride Of Paddington pub in Paddington (where I also tried to locate the Royal Norfolk Hotel where I had stayed 30 years ago when I went to my first Erasure gig - unfortunately it has now closed), I went back to Heathrow to change into my Yazoo t-shirt (from the Reconnected Tour of 2008 - 10 years ago, another anniversary!) and then back to Hammersmith for the gig.

Other things have changed in London since 1988. Virgin Megastore, at the corner of Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street which was the place where I headed to straight from Heathrow on that visit 30 years ago has now been turned into a Primark store! (It had closed ages ago anyway).

Now, as I said I was worried about whether I would be able to see anything. "That "Restricted View" on my ticket was worrying me. So my plan, was to be there as soon as the doors opened so I could get a good standing position. They were due to open at 7pm with the support band appearing at 8pm and Erasure taking the stage at around 8:50.

Well, I didn't quite manage to follow that plan, but I got there at around 7:30, so I went straight in (I even forgot to check the merchandise stand) and got upstairs to the circle. I asked one of the staff "Where exactly do I stand with this ticket?" and he told me that I didn't have to go all the way to the back, but I could stand at the side, by the wall. And the view from there was magnificent!
Support band Bright Light Bright Light came on at 8 o' clock. It was nice to hear another synth-pop band as a warm up to Erasure. They were really good and I enjoyed their set even though it was the first time that I listened to them.

They are now offering their support sets as downloads from their BandCamp site and I'm sure going to grab the one from that night. (Useless fact: I remember that the support band in 1988 was called "Zip". I wonder what happened to them...)

After the support set was over, there was one major highlight of that brief period between the two sets: That was when "Tainted Love" by Soft Cell was playing from the speaker and everybody started singing along!
So, finally after a few minutes (and 30 years, let's not forget that) Erasure were finally on stage with "Oh L' Amour". Now, I knew I wasn't going to see the same Andy that I remembered from 1988, jumping around and running all over the stage, but he was still enjoying himself and was more than able to entertain us.

He thanked us for coming on such a cold night. Those were his words and that's when I realized how cold it really was on that weekend in London. I was expecting the big European cold front that I had read about on the weather forecasts (which did indeed come after I left the UK) so just plain old cold temperatures didn't bother me.

I didn't know what to expect from the setlist (I had not checked any previous ones on the internet, I wanted to be surprised.) Any song from "The Innocents" they would play would be an added bonus for me since this was their "new album" when I saw them in 1988 and they had played quite a few of them that night.

And sure enough, I was rewarded, they played all 3 singles from it (even "Chains Of Love") plus "Phantom Bride" one of my favourites.

So what else? "Stop!", "Drama", "Blue Savannah", "Victim Of Love", "Who Needs Love Like That" and my favourite from their 21st century hits "Breathe".

But also "Here I Go Impossible Again" from the same album.

But the biggest surprise for me was another one. A couple of years ago on an Erasure group this question was posted: "What's your favourite Erasure song?" Well, I named two: The first one was of course "A Little Respect" which was special for me because the first time I heard it live was there at The Hammersmith Odeon, before it was even released as a single. The second one was "I Love Saturday".

This one, I never expected to hear it live in 2018. But I did!

There were other surprises as well such as "In My Arms" and even "Sacred" from "The Violet Flame". And as for the latest album, my favourite track from it which I absolutely adore "Just A Little Love" (think about it baby!) and "Love You To The Sky". And even though I was never very keen on the title track "World Be Gone", it's now stuck in my head after hearing it live.

Finally, we all know that Andy Bell is a Debbie Harry fan (maybe as big as me). He has covered Blondie songs before and I believe (at least I want to believe) that he has written "Sunday Girl" for her.

Well, that night he covered "Atomic". Bliss!

And then, with "Sometimes" and "A Little Respect" it was all over.

I got out of the venue and caught the other fans singing "A Little Respect" out in the street (it must have become customary by now).

But then I went back inside because I wanted to get to the merchandise stand, where I got my t-shirt and even the tour programme (after all it was a special gig for me).

Then I got back on the Tube towards Heathrow in order to catch what could only be a short night's sleep since my flight was leaving at 6am. At least I was staying near the airport. On the way back to Athens, Vienna was once again snowy, but I did manage to get home before the cold front which reached all the way west to the UK and covered London in snow. And a few days letter I read in my Erasure newsletter that the gig had been recorded and would be released as a live album! What more could I ask for?
So, not only did I manage to see Erasure live again on the year of the 30th anniversary of the first gig but I was them at the exact same venue I did back then. I love it when a plan comes together!

01. Oh L'Amour
02. Ship of Fools
03. Breathe
04. Mad As We Are
05. Just a Little Love
06. In My Arms
07. Chains of Love
08. Sacred
09. Sweet Summer Loving
10. I Love Saturday
11. Victim of Love
12. Phantom Bride
13. World Be Gone
14. Who Needs Love Like That
15. Take Me Out of Myself
16. Blue Savannah
17. Atomic (Blondie cover)
18. Drama!
19. Stop!
20. Love You to the Sky
21. Always
22. Here I Go Impossible Again
23. Sometimes
24. A Little Respect