Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Release Festival 2018 - Day 2 - Thievery Corporation & UB40 Featuring Ali, Astro And Mickey

For the second consecutive day I headed to Water Square for Release Festival. I went straight after work with the intention of catching UB40 which was the main reason that I was attending Day 2. My goal was to reach the venue by 9pm, when UB40 were set to appear. And I made it! I got in just as UB40 were launching into "Here I Am (Come And Take Me)". 

Now before I talk any further about the gig I have to explain what I mean by "UB40". There are actually 2 bands going by the name of UB40 at the moment. One of them is called just "UB40" and features Robin Campbell, one of the original members. However, original lead singer Ali Campbell (Robin's brother) has been replaced by Duncan Campbell (his other brother). Confused? You will be! The other band goes by the name of "UB40 Featuring Ali, Astro & Mickey" and it's this one that features original singer Ali Campbell (hence the name). As you can understand there has been a falling-out between the two brothers in the original band. 

All in all I can say that I'm glad that it was this, the latter version of UB40 I got to see live, because it features the original voices I have associated with UB40 all these years, Ali & Astro.

I planned this to be a more relaxing day compared to the first one, so I sat further back from, but in full view of the stage.

And the hits not only kept on coming, but we were also treated to songs from this band's new album "A Real Labour Of Love" which proved to be quite successful!

Next up, were the headliners of Day 2, Thievery Corporation. They are popular among the Greek concert going crowd since they have already played live in Greece a few times.

They are known for mixing together different styles of music and that's exactly what they did singing in different languages and using several singers. In fact, while listening to their latest album I discovered that they have sampled "Enola Gay" by OMD on one of its tracks ("Voyage Libre").

By this time however, the tiredness of the last couple of days was beginning to creep in (which I suspect was augmented a bit by the thoughts of the gigs coming up within the next couple of months) so I had to sit down for a few songs, but at least I was always in view of the screen.

As I was leaving the festival, I was thinking that I would be coming back to this general area, but at a different venue for my next gig, which was going to be a free one...

01. Here I Am (Come And take Me)
02. Wear You To The Ball
03. Homely Girl
04. Version Girl
05. One In Ten
06. Cherry Oh Baby
07. Just Another Girl
08. Rat In Mi Kitchen
09. She Loves Me Now
10. Silhouette
11. Kingston Town
12. Many Rivers to Cross
13. Food For Thought
14. How Could I Leave
15. (I Can't Help) Falling In Love
16. Red Red Wine

01. Marching The Hate Machines (Into the Sun)
02. True Sons Of Zion
03. Voyage Libre
04. Letter To The Editor
05. Culture Of Fear
06. Illumination
07. Until The Morning
08. Take My Soul
09. Ghetto Matrix
10. Le Monde
11. Amerimacka
12. History
13. The Heart's A Lonely Hunter
14. Fight To Survive
15. Warning Shots
16. Road Block
17. Sweet Tides
18. Lebanese Blonde
19. Waiting Too Long
20. The Richest Man In Babylon

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Release Festival 2018 - Day 1 - Richard Ashcroft & Kid Moxie

My summer officially started on the last day of May with the first notes of "Lacuna" by Kid Moxie.

I had finally seen Kid Moxie live for the first time at a small club two and a half months before this and I had mentioned in my blog post about that gig that she would be playing Release Festival and based on my first live experience of her band I would love to see them again. It wasn't that simple though. I was probably going to be working that evening and she would probably appear early. On the other hand there was another band I wanted to see at this year's Release Festival, UB40 Featuring Ali, Astro & Mickey. But they were due to appear on the following day. How many concert tickets could I buy considering that Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds, Arctic Monkeys plus the gigs abroad were coming up? Thankfully, solutions were going to present themselves solving all the above problems. First of all, the headliner of the first day cancelled their appearance and were replaced by Richard Ashcroft making Day 1 of the festival even more appealing. Then, the organizers, deciding that this particular last minute change would not please many people announced a special offer: Those who had purchased or were going to purchase a ticket for Day 2 or Day 3 of the festival could attend Day 1 for free. On top of that a last minute change in my work schedule meant that I wouldn't have to work on the evening of Day 1 and although I had to work on the evening of Day 2 I would finish early enough to be able to arrive on time to see UB40. So, I bought a ticket for Day 2 and went to the festival early on Day 1, arriving just as Kid Moxie was beginning her set. And found out that there were almost no people in front of the stage. So, I managed to secure the "best seat in the house": first row, right in the middle of the stage. I couldn't believe my luck: I could watch Richard Ashcroft from that very same position. Needless to say, I didn't move an inch for the rest of the evening.

But first things first: I really enjoyed seeing Kid Moxie live again, this time in an open space and under the sun. And although her songs sound better at night, as she herself admitted, I enjoyed them more this time because the sound was so much better. And there was one member in the audience (a big Richard Ashcroft fan who had been waiting for years to see him live as he confessed) who seemed to particularly enjoy her set. "You and Richard Ashcroft are the best musicians" he shouted to her (or something like that). But more about him, later...

Next up was Rag 'N' Bone Man. I was familiar with only one song of his, the one we all know, "Human". But his set proved that he is a talented soul singer, plus he was very charming and friendly with the audience. 

The particular member of the audience agreed as well and shouted to him that he was a "best musician" as well. At first the artist didn't realize what the guy was saying and thought that he didn't like his music, but when he realized that he was being praised he got one of his beers from the stage and gave it to him!

He admitted that most of his songs were miserable, but I still didn't mind and as far as I'm concerned he was my "new discovery" of this festival. My friend who was with me didn't seem to agree saying that he was probably "the kid at school that nobody wanted to play with".

And now it was finally time for Richard Ashcroft. The particular member of the audience I have already talked about was now in ecstasy and he had stripped to the waist to show it. And as Richard Ashcroft came on stage starting off with "Sonnet" I was in ecstasy as well.

I could hear that guy's screams and shouts of "best musician" again, but I soon forgot about them as Richard continued not only with Verve songs but also songs from his solo career the best of which is, in my opinion, "A Song For The Lovers". 

Of course I knew that the one I was waiting for, would come towards the end. No, it's not "Bittersweet Symphony" it's a song that features on my top ten list of best songs ever written, "The Drugs Don't Work".

But as I was waiting for it I realized that I couldn't hear THAT particular member of the audience anymore. I looked around and I couldn't see him anywhere! Where was he? Well, that didn't matter as Richard's set was coming to an end with a very emotional "The Drugs Don't Work" and of course "Bittersweet Symphony" which was the last song of the night.

With that we started leaving the venue with smiles on our faces and with my friend, managed to make an arrangement for both of us to return home (there was a strike on public transport on that day) although we live in different parts of the city. And I knew that I would be making my way to the same venue the following evening for Day 2 of the festival.

But what had happened to THAT particular member of the audience, the big Richard Ashcroft fan? That mystery was finally solved about 20 days later when I was on the same venue for a different festival, Ejekt Festival featuring Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds. I spotted one of the security guards who had talked to that guy and asked him what had happened to him. "We had to kick him out" he said, "because after the second song he took off both his pants and underpants". Poor guy! Such a big Richard Ashcroft fan waiting all those years to see him and only managed to listen to three songs. I guess that there's a lesson here. It's nice to get excited about music, but try to keep your clothes on while listening to it. At least in public.

01. Wolves
02. Ego
03. Your Way Or The Rope
04. The Fire
05. No Mother
06. Lay My Body Down
07. Hard Came The Rain
08. Odetta
09. Grace
10. Skin
11. As You Are
12. Love Is All You Need
13. Human
14. Bitter End
15. Hell Yeah

01. Sonnet
02. This Is How It Feels
03. Break The Night With Colour
04. A Song For The Lovers
05. Music Is Power
06. Velvet Morning
07. Science Of Silence
08. Space And Time
09. Lucky Man
10. The Drugs Don't Work
11. Hold On
12. Bitter Sweet Symphony

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Cranberries, live in Athens in 2010

Most people who read my blog are probably familiar with the reviews of gigs I went to 10 years ago. In fact my last post was one that falls into that category. However, this is a review of a gig I went to 8 years ago. The reason I chose to revisit it now was Dolores's (the lead singer of Cranberries) untimely departure earlier this year.
So, 8 years ago (on July 14 2010), the Cranberries were in Athens and I decided to go and see them.

I arrived at the theatre at the last minute and managed to buy one of the 3 remaining tickets. The theatre was filled to capacity, in fact I suspect that it was filled beyond its capacity, but there were quite a few places reserved for "VIP" guests. Most of these seats were probably allocated free to executives of a mobile telephony company which was one of the sponsors of this event. As these people probably didn't know who the Cranberries were, the seats were regrettably left empty.

As far as the gig was concerned, it was pretty much a "Greatest Hits" affair plus a few tracks from Dolores's solo album. And this is why it was, in my opinion, successful. It was one of a handful of times when I came back from a gig where the band had played all the songs I wanted to hear. (In my case these were "Linger", "Zombie", "Dreams" and "Ode To My Family". Everything else was a bonus for me.)

Of course I heard some complaints from other people in the audience like "they didn't play No Need To Argue" which I heard somebody say as we were leaving the theatre. Of course, if we start talking about album tracks I could also mention that I would like Bruce Springsteen to play "Man's Job" during one of his concerts that I regularly attend, but I don't think that this is very likely to happen. Everybody was expecting "Zombie" (they played this as the last song before the encore), while I was expecting "Dreams" (they played this as the last song of the considerably lengthy encore.)

01. Analyse
02. Animal Instinct
03. How
04. Dreaming My Dreams
05. Linger
06. Wanted
07. Just My Imagination
08. When You're Gone
09. Switch Off the Moment (Dolores O’Riordan song)
10. Desperate Andy
11. Time Is Ticking Out
12. I Can't Be With You
13. Ode to My Family
14. Free to Decide
15. Salvation
16. Ridiculous Thoughts
17. Zombie
18. Shattered
19. Still Can't...
20. Promises
21. Dreams

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