Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Going down to The Dream Syndicate and Dustbowl show

Back in the early 80's The Dream Syndicate debut album "Days Of Wine And Roses" was marketed by their record company alongside the debut album by the Violent Femmes. As something "American" and "alternative". The truth is that each of the two bands has a different and quite distinct sound, but this ad, was the reason for me, who was already listening to the Violent Femmes to explore The Dream Syndicate.
I finally saw the Violent Femmes live 3 years ago and now it was time to see The Dream Syndicate. There was an extra reson for doing so. Support was provided by Dustbowl whom I had seen twice before, three years ago on their Johnny Cash Tribute show and two years ago at the Music Highway Festival previewing their latest album "The Great Fandango".
I arrived at the venue just as Dustbowl had started playing, a setlist mostly based on that very same album. I was glad to hear these songs again now that I'm familiar with "The Great Fandango", an album that according to my own personal list was one of the best albums of 2016.

On top of that, Dustbowl's sound is a perfect match foe the southern rock of The Dream Syndicate.
So the headliners came on stage and we started suspecting that we were in for a special treat when Steve Wynn announced that this was the last date of their European Tour.

Their set was over in 90 minutes and just as we were wondering if that was all, it was followed not by one, but by two lengthy encores.

The only thing that disappointed me was the version of "Medicine Show" they decided to play, but I have to stress out that this is my own personal opinion.

They more than made up for it when they managed to sneak in a Tom Petty tribute within "Boston".

They even played music from their latest album (Yes, they do have a new album out) and even that was one of the highlights of the night.

They finally wrapped things up in the most appropriate way: With "John Coltrane Stereo Blues"

They had played in Athens again in 2013 but I had missed that one. So this night was a dream come true for me...

01. Linger On
02. Sweet Flowers And Vine
03. Lay Me Down Easy
05. The Mourner
06. Heavy Chain Ball
07. Bread And Soil
08. Strain Of Care
09. The Great Fandango
10. The Boat
11. Billy

The Dream Syndicate
01. Halloween
02. The Circle
03. 80 West
04. Armed With An Empty Gun
05. Like Mary
07. Filter Me Through You
08. Burn
09. Whatever You Please
11. How Did I Find Myself Here
12. Forest For the Trees
13. That's What You Always Say
14. The Days Of Wine and Roses
15. Glide
16. The Side I'll Never Show
Encore 2:
18. When The Curtain Falls
20. John Coltrane Stereo Blues

Monday, 16 October 2017

George Michael in Athens 10 years ago

Continuing on the series of concerts that I attended 10 years ago, the biggest name to come that summer to Greece was George Michael. It was the first time that he would play in Greece and the rumour that was going around back then was that this tour which was his first major one in 23 years was also going to be his last. He had already announced that after his 2004 album "Patience" he was not going to release any more records and he would distribute any new music he might make through the Internet. So this concert was an opportunity not to be missed. I had already seen Duran Duran, so why not see one half of Wham! as well? We had seen him arrive in Athens on TV the previous day (and my only remark was that "had put on some weight" - but otherwise he looked terrific.). Extended highlights of his visit are to be found on his "Live In London" double DVD.
So, as usual, on the day of the concert we made our way towards the Olympic Stadium.

My seat was not that close to the stage I'm afraid; after my summer trip to France combining holidays and The Rolling Stones, I bought my George Michael ticket at the last minute.

Still George, did not disappoint. He went through some of his old Wham! and solo favourites, including several recent (at that time) songs from "Patience". 

His most impressive performance was "Shoot The Dog". 

He even spoke some Greek AND his father was in the audience. 
I found a setlist on but it seems to be a copy-paste job of his early "25 Live Tour setlists. Howevver, by the time George arrived in Athens , he had changed the setlist considerably, a fact I was able to confirm from the videos I had taken that night. So, I am not going to post it here.
I wish that could have been one more regular feature on the "concerts I've been to 10 years ago". Sadly, George is no longer with us (he was one of the many that left us in 2016), so this was the last time we saw him...

Monday, 4 September 2017

U2 Live Under A Greek Blue Sky

One year and a couple of weeks after I had seen U2 in Cardiff, they came to Athens in Greece, seven years ago. I wasn't going to miss it of course, and although it was the same tour, the experience proved to be a bit different. This time I was going to be in the pitch, whereas in Cardiff I was in the stands towards the back of the stage so that I could sample this "360 experience" from an unusual point.
A friend who used to live close to the Olympic Stadium told us that she could hear the sound check in the early afternoon.

It was at her place where we gathered at around 6 o clock in the early evening to start the (not so long) walk towards the stadium.

After we went through the first few gates we came head to head with that big unsung hero of the Greek concert organizing industry, the "security guard". At first they were guiding us using loudspeakers ordeing us to hold one of our hands up holding the ticket (seriously!) because they were going to "check the orange" (The orange what?). I've never been treated this way in any of the concerts I have been to in Europe. I understand that it may not be so tiring to do that, but I strongly object to being treated like sheep. Another one informed us smiling malevolently that we should not feel so happy that we finally got in because we had to walk for 30 more minutes (as it turned out it was only 5 minutes). It probably has something to do with the feeling of power this job entails that makes them behave this way. Maybe it acts as an aphrodisiac.
So we finally got into the stadium where people who had already been to other U2 concerts could easily be spotted.
First on stage at 19:15 was Aviv Geffen. Rather boring actually, but the funny thing was that I saw him again a few days later at a Placebo gig. One hour later, at 20:15, it was time for Snow Patrol.

After that, we were left watching the big screen where a clock seemed at first to lag behind, then go forward until we realized that the stroke of midnight would be at 21:45. The time that U2 were due to go onstage.

And that's exactly what happened, at that precise moment, while the stadium lights stayed on, U2 came on stage while David Bowie's Space Oddity was playing from the speakers.

The first proper song was "Beautiful Day" (following the instrumental "Return Of The Stingray Guitar"). This time they only played 4 songs from "No Line On The Horizon" ("Magnificent", "Get On Your Boots" "I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight" and "Moment Of Surrender").

So, since "Unknown Caller" was not played we didn't have the chance to hear the words we had been waiting for ("Athens, you know your name, so punch it in"), however we did hear something new in the form of "Return Of The Stingray Guitar". Personally, I was happy to hear "Hold, Thrill Me...", "Elevation", "Until The End Of The World" this time around which were not played in Cardiff. But, the highlight for me was "In A Little While", a song I had almost forgotten. The crowd enjoyed it and although we were told that not all tickets had been sold the stadium seemed to have been filled by the time U2 came on stage. I can imagine of course that the VIP seats would have been filled by Greek b-list "celelbrities" who thought that they "rocked" when in fact they actually attended the concert in order to be "seen" by the press and media. The same thing happened at Madonna's concert in 2008 and at The Rolling Stones concert in 1998, both at the same stadium. Another nice thing was that Bono didn't preach. Why am I saying that? Well, back in 2010, it was the beginning of Greece's economic crisis and every artist that came for a concert felt obliged to say something like "Don't worry, it will pass" or "Don't worry, you'll get over it" (It is still going on by the way). Instead Bono said something more original : "The Irish and the Greeks have one thing in common: we are both broke" (I'll take that as a compliment.)
01. Return Of The Stingray Guitar
02. Beautiful Day
03. I Will Follow
04. Get On Your Boots
05. Magnificent
06. Mysterious Ways
07. Elevation
08. Until The End Of The World
09. I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For / Movin' On Up (snippet)
10. Pride (In The Name Of Love)
11. In A Little While
12. Miss Sarajevo
13. City Of Blinding Lights
14. Vertigo
15. Funky Town (snippet) / I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight / Discothèque (snippet)
16. Sunday Bloody Sunday
17. MLK
18. Walk On / You'll Never Walk Alone (snippet)
19. One
20. Amazing Grace (snippet) / Where The Streets Have No Name
21. Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me
22. With Or Without You
23. Moment of Surrender
Another thing I realized now that I had seen the concert from the arena, is that you really enjoy it more when experiencing it from the stands since the stage is rather big and Bono and his friends (yes, even Larry) are moving all over the place. On the other hand, if you are in the arena you are compensated by the on-screen effects.
  We were hoping back then that we would see U2 again soon, but it's been 7 years and we are still waiting...

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

U2 Live Under A Cardiff Sky

Now that I have seen U2 live in Rome not just once, but twice, I thought it was time to revisit the previous two times I had seen them, first in Cardiff 8 years ago and then in Athens 7 years ago, both times almost to this day. But first a little bit of history.
I first saw the name "U2" back in 1982 in a Greek (short-lived) magazine called "Phenomenon". I thought it was a strange name for a band but I didn't investigate any further. A year and a half later I read in another Greek magazine, POP+ROCK (the best selling music magazine in Greece at that time) this: "Jim Kerr, lead singer of The Simple Minds got on stage at a U2 concert to sing "Gloria" with their lead singer Bono". Simple Minds were one of my favourite bands at that time so I went and bought the U2 live album that had just been released "U2 Live Under A Blood Red Sky" the opening track of which was "Gloria". The rest is, as they say, history...
I managed to see Simple Minds live for the first time in 2006 when they came to Athens. During that gig I was thinking "now I've seen Simple Minds but I haven't seen U2 yet". I finally managed to do that, 3 years later in Cardiff.

On the day of the concert, from early in the morning the city was dancing to the beat of U2.

It took place at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium which was celebrating its 10th anniversary.

They played all those songs I expected to hear, some that I didn't expect ("Mysterious Ways", "Stay" - I thought they wouldn't play anything from Zooropa anymore - Plus their best live track ever "Bad").

There were several songs from their latest - at that time - album "No Line On The Horizon" which I enjoyed since it was the first time I had liked a new U2 album so much since "Achtung Baby".

"Magnificent", "Unknown Caller" and especially the title track "No Line On The Horizon" were my favourites. I didn't think much of "I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight", which was the next single, and seemed to have been added to the album at the last minute (I made this assumption based on the fact that it was not featured in the Anton Corbijn film featured on the DVD that is included with some editions of the album). A better choice for a single, in my opinion, would have been "No Line On The Horizon" or "Moment Of Surrender".
The highlights of the night were the Desmond Tutu intro to "One" and the volunteers who walked in front of the stage during "Walk On".

The encore started with "Ultraviolet", and just as we were thinking, during "With Or Without You", that everything was over because they said goodbye and the time was 10:30pm (the curfew), they also played "Moment Of Surrender", one of their best songs of the album.

As can be seen from the photo, the 360 degree stage was not placed exactly at the centre of the stadium.

And although all 4 band members were moving all over its length and width (including the "bridges¨), most of the action was taking place at the front part.

And that's how, with the Cardiff concert, the 2009 European leg of the U2 360 Tour ended.

On another note, Cardiff was a wonderful city, and very easy to move around in, since in a radius of only a few metres the railway station, my hotel and the Millennium Stadium were located.

I was in a very central place, where later at night I could witness all the people coming out of the clubs and pubs. They were mostly eating takeaways and throwing their rubbish on the street. At some point they would go gome and then... that's when the seagulls would appear landing on the high street, walking around it as if they owned it and enjoying all the leftovers that were thrown away. They would only leave in the late morning when the municipal garbage trucks appeared.

So that's what I saw in Cardiff, a year later I would see U2 again in Greece...

01. Breathe
02. No Line On The Horizon
03. Get On Your Boots
04. Magnificent
05. Beautiful Day
06. Mysterious Ways
07. I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
08. Stay
09. Unknown Caller
10. Unforgettable Fire
11. City Of Blinding Lights
12. Vertigo
13. I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight (Remix)
14. Sunday Bloody Sunday
15. Pride (In The Name of Love)
16. MLK
17. Walk On
18. Where The Streets Have No Name
19. One
20. Bad
21. Ultraviolet
22. With Or Without You
23. Moment Of Surrender