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 

Friday, 23 February 2018

30 years ago, I went to London to buy records and saw Erasure Live

It was not exactly 30 years ago, it was the 7th of May 1988. I did indeed go to London to buy records. All those rare 7'' and 12'' singles (and the new - at the time - CD singles) that I could not find in Greece. From Heathrow, I went straight to my hotel in Paddington and from then straight on to Virgin Megastore on the corner of Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street. From then I moved further west down Oxford Street to HMV. And it was there that I noticed a box office stand. I looked to see if there were any gigs that night. I noticed that Erasure were playing Hammersmith Odeon. "Have you got any tickets for Erasure tonight?" I asked. "No, I don't have any here, you have to go to the venue" the guy answered. "Where's that?" I asked. "Er... Hammersmith" (stupid question). Thankfully, it was just outside Hammersmith Tube station, I went there, got my ticket, went back to the West End to buy more records and later that night I went to see Erasure. It was the time of the "Innocents" tour (their 3rd album). Andy was amazing on stage but what has stayed with me ever since was the way he introduced "A Little Respect" (that was the first time I heard that song)
"When I was a little... girl,
I asked my mother what will I be...
Will I be homosexual?
Will I be heterosexual?
Or will I be bisexual?
And mu mother said
The next day was Sunday, the shops were closed (it was, after all 1988), my flight was later in the afternoon and so I went for a little sightseeing to Big Ben and Tower Bridge.
In 2009 Erasure released a 21st aniversary edition of "The Innocents" which featured a DVD of a gig from that tour (It was Birningham NEC later that year). But the bonus CD also featured a few tracks from Hammersmith Odeon. What had happened was this: The gig I went to was on Saturday the 7th of May. They had also played there on Friday the 6th and Sunday the 8th. The Sunday gig was broadcast by the BBC, so that's where these tracks came from.

20 years later, in 2008,  I saw a Vince Clarke band again! It was Yazoo this time at the Manchester Apollo on their Reconnected tour. It seems that on almost every tear ending in 8 I see Vince Clarke. Because, now, in 2018, 30 years after my first Erasure gig, I'm going to see them again, at exactly the same place, Hammersmith Odeon (which is now called Eventim Apollo).
See you there!

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Mary you are a Goddess!

Ten years ago, we were living in the "MySpace" era. For example, when I first discovered Marsheaux, I went to their MySpace page to find out more information about them. Later that summer, a friend of mine recommended that I check another band from MySpace: "Mary And The Boy". They described their music as "piano punk" and that's probably exactly what it was. And on top of that I was immediately mesmerized by the haunting sound of Mary's voice.
So, when they announced a gig at An Club in Athens, I immediately called my friend up insisting that we go to that one. And there I was once again mesmerized by Mary's stage presence. Mary And The Boy were exactly what their name described: Mary on vocals and The Boy on synths and various keyboards. On stage they were joined by a female dancer and another guy which ten years later, I can't exactly remember what it was that he was doing.
The gig took place exactly ten years ago. I decided to revisit it as I usually do with gigs on their tenth anniversary. To my surprise, while searching through my hard disks I realized that I did not have much material from that night. A few dark photos and only a couple of short clips. It's no wonder since it was dark in there that night, very dark. An appropriate environment for the band's music. And they played for many hours well into the night. And what I most remember about it was the girl who was constantly shouting to Mary "You are a goddess!".

Mary And The Boy disbanded a year later, having released two albums. In the meantime Mary secured a major role in the Academy Award nominated Greek film "Dogtooth". The Boy continued as a solo artist.
Unfortunately, this 10th anniversary is not a pleasant one. Mary left this world last year at the age of 30.
Goodnight Mary. To paraphrase somebody else "this world was never meant for one as beautiful as you". You will be a Goddess forever...

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Monday, 1 January 2018

Gazing ahead into 2018...

I am wondering what gigs the new year will (probably) bring. Hopefully there will be more details in future posts along with memories on the anniversaries of old gigs. Finally I hope to have more time for the travel posts that I have promised. Happy new year everyone!

Sunday, 31 December 2017

2017 was brought to you by...

Well I'm not going to say by Sony, but there's been a change of camera as of late last year because  as you can see from the photo above which had to be taken with the old camera (the new one cannot take selfies of itself!) dust had crept inside the lens and nothing could be done about it.
So, I finally said goodbye to the old one which had been with me to all the concerts since 2009.
I had of course a new mobile since late 2015 (which was joined by a similar tablet earlier this year), and the pictures they can take are clearer and sharper than the old camera, but they are not of much use in a concert unless you are close to the stage because of the lack of a significant zoom.
Nevertheless they were both used on the first gig of the year which was in a small venue. Now, I don't normally bring my tablet to gigs, but I went to that one straught after work, so I was carrying it with me and I had the opportunity to test it.
Finally, hoping for more gigs in 2018, I leave you with memories from the two main ones of 2017; this...

...and this!