Thursday, 4 October 2018

Your disco needs you - Kylie Minogue live in Athens in 2008

As I was writing my latest blog spot in the series of "gigs I attended 10 years ago" (the Madonna concert), I realized that there was another pop queen I saw live in that particular year (2008) and I forgot to write a post about it! It was of course Kylie Minogue, who came to prominence in 1988, a bit later than Madonna.
Her concert did not take place at a big stadium but at Terra Vibe Park instead. Now, this was the second time I went to Terra Vibe. The first was for Depeche Mode back in 2006 which was a traumatic experience. The park was filled to capacity (maybe over capacity) and we arrived quite late. The result was that there were so many people and I was at the back and I could not see absolutely anything. You see, Terra Vibe is a park not a proper concert venue so there's no gradual elevation. All I could see were the heads of the people in front of me.
This time, however there weren't so many people and after we walked about 1.5km from the car park for what seemed like ages, we managed to find an elevated area, so if everything went wrong we would still be able to see the stage.

Kylie sang several songs from her current album of that time "X" but did not forget the old hits. My personal favourites were "Shocked", which was one of her last singles with Stock/Aitken/Waterman, presented in my favourite version, the DNA mix as featured in the 12inch single I had bought at the time and "Your Disco Needs You" an amazing song which as far as I can remember was criminally not released as a single in the UK, but I discovered it as a B-side on one of her CD singles.
The ending of course couldn't be anything else than "I Should Be So Lucky".
After that, we had to face the usual Terra Vibe torture: trying to get out of the car park (It is said that this is a procedure that can last longer than the actual concert!)

So 2008, was the year that I saw two pop queens live: Kylie, and, 4 months later, Madonna!

01. Speakerphone
02. Can't Get You Out of My Head
03. Ruffle My Feathers
04. In Your Eyes
05. Heart Beat Rock
06. Wow
07. Shocked (DNA Mix)
08. Loveboat
09. Copacabana (At the Copa)
10. Spinning Around
11. Like a Drug
12. Slow
13. 2 Hearts
14. Flower
15. I Believe in You (Ballad)
16. On a Night Like This
17. Your Disco Needs You
18. Kids
19. Step Back in Time
20. In My Arms
21. No More Rain
22. Love at First Sight
23. I Should Be So Lucky

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Madonna, Sticky & Sweet, live in Athens in 2008

The first time we heard rumours of a Madonna concert in Athens was in 1998, after the one by The Rolling Stones. This would have been perfect because her current album at that time was "Ray Of Light", her best one in my opinion. It wasn't to be. However, three albums (and ten years) later she did come to Greece. Which was also ten years ago, hence the occasion for this blog post.
When the concert was announced I was in Paris to see Bruce Springsteen for the first time. A friend of mine called me and asked me if I could get her tickets for the Madonna concert in Paris, because the ones in Athens were selling like crazy and there were none left. I almost panicked, but realizing that there was nothing I could do while I was in France, I decided to worry about it when I returned to Greece. 
So when I did come back to Athens, I realized that what had happened was this: All the TV celebrities, along with their fans and the people who worshipped them had rushed to buy tickets even though they only listen to Greek music for the rest of the year. They just wanted to go to a Madonna concert to see who else was there and also to be seen (usually on TV, or the gossip columns). The result was that the server went down. However, there were some tickets left and since I wasn't interested in seeing this particular concert from up close, I bought a ticket for a seat on the opposite side of the stadium. As you will see, this turned out to be a good decision.
On the day of the concert, I had the flu accompanied by a fever. So I did what I always did when I had to work, or had exams in such a case: Just before I left home, I swallowed a couple of Panadol tablets hoping that they would last me through the length of the concert. And they almost did. The weather wasn't helping, as there was a light drizzle on that night, nor did the fact that my seat was on the upper tier of the stadium. However, when the stadium was revamped for the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, a specially designed roof was placed on top designed by architect Santiago Calatrava and this gave me shelter from the rain.
Artists like Madonna (and Kylie Minogue and Lady GaGa among others but even Roger Waters) don't so much do "a concert" but "a show". The problem with this is that the setlist cannot easily be changed. So when somebody told me a few days before the concert that the setlist had been "leaked", I pointed out that the setlist is usually the same throughout the tour. And that means that if you buy the official DVD of the tour it is possible to almost "re-live" that moment. (And that was one of the reasons I bought the Sticky & Sweet Tour DVD later). Anyway, I found the "leaked" setlist, but I only just peeked at it. Honest. So, when a Greek pop singer complained to a TV reporter who interviewed him as he was exiting the stadium after the concert that Madonna didn't play "Frozen", it's not because she didn't want to play it that night but because she hadn't included it in the tour setlist.
Another issue with this type of concert shows is that there are bound to be some pre-recorded parts. Madonna used some pre-recorded music and videos between sections of the show but that doesn't mean that all instruments were pre-recorded like they do at the Eurovision Song Contest. As a friend of mine who was close to the stage, there were musicians on stage, they just weren't in the spotlight. And a pre-recorded bit I did spot was on a particular song (I have forgotten which one it was now, it's been after all ten years) where Madonna sings (live) and a pre-recorded sample of her voice answers her phrase. There are actually pre-recorded parts in almost all concerts, even rock ones, it's just that we don't know much about them.
Anyway, as I entered the stadium and found the way to my seat, Robyn, the support singer was already on stage, singing her hit "Show Me Love". I thought she looked a bit different and I thought "Show Me Love" sounded a bit different, until I realized that I was confusing her with Robyn S, a singer who also had a hit called "Show Me Love" in the 90's.

Madonna did follow that "leaked" setlist as usual (which I am sure had been carefully pre-planned and considered before the tour) and gave us two hours of fun. And she tried to get some audience participation when she urged us to sing along with her "ooh-ooh"'s but with out much success. As one gossip mag commented after the concert "Dear Maddy, we are not sheep so that we can be commanded to go ooh-ooh whenever you want us to". Unfortunately what the columnist did not realize was that Madonna did not see us as sheep, nor did she want us to be her bitches, she was merely trying to get us to sing along with the hook of "Let's All Chant", a big 70's disco hit by The Michael Zager Band. But of course you can't expect a gossip journalist who only listens to the current Greek "hits" and the day of the concert was the only day that they listened to pop music, to know this particular song.

As the concert was drawing to a close my fever returned. But of course, by then I didn't mind. All I had to do was get on public transport (and a taxi) and go straight to bed, having finally achieved my goal: I had seen Madonna live!

01. Candy Shop
02. Beat Goes On
03. Human Nature
04. Vogue
05. Into The Groove
06. Heartbeat
07. Borderline
08. She's Not Me
09. Music
10. Devil Wouldn't Recognize You
11. Spanish Lesson
12. Miles Away
13. La Isla Bonita
14. You Must Love Me
15. 4 Minutes
16. Like A Prayer
17. Ray Of Light
18. Express Yourself
19. Hung Up
20. Give It 2 Me

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Stereo Nova @ Summer Nostos Festival

In the 90's we had Greek hip-hop (not only Imiskoubria, who I eventually saw two years ago, but also Going Through, Terror-X-Crew and Active Member among others) and we also had Greek techno, which came in the form of Stereo Nova who, like their hip-hop counterparts mentioned above, were using Greek lyrics. That didn't stop them from getting featured on MTV Europe. Unfortunately they disbanded before the millennium. They reunited ten years ago for just one gig but I somehow managed to miss that. This year though they had a proper reunion with a new album as well. And this time I was not going to miss it.
It was still winter when it was announced that they were going to appear at the Summer Nostos Festival. This festival is absolutely free and is held at the newly built Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center which houses the Greek National Opera, the National Library Of Greece as well as a large park. And it is at this park that the festival was held.
We arrived quite early and realized that not many people had arrived before us. That meant that we could secure our places right at the front of the stage. And that's exactly what we did. 
Meanwhile, more people were coming while the music played by the DJ made this feel like a true 90's party.
The two presenters announced Stereo Nova early on (at least one hour before they came on stage) as "the event that we have been waiting for for the last 20 years" (It was actually 10 as I have already mentioned above). 
The very same presenters appeared again when it was finally time for the group to appear.
It was indeed what we had been waiting for. Not only did they play the familiar songs from the 90's but also several from the new album which is one of the best I've heard this year.
I heard several people saying that they felt like they had gone back in time. Indeed, like the DJ set that preceded it, the gig felt like a 90's party as well!

Apart from that the venue is simply great, perfect for the Athenian summer, the festival is, as I have already mentioned, free and on top of that it lasts for a week so there's bound to be something for everyone especially if you take into account the fact that it doesn't only feature concerts but also sports events and other activities. Let's wait and see what it will feature next year!

01. Telson
02. Nea Zoi
03. 3000 meres
04. Atlas
05. Isorropia
06. Enas Megalos Kosmos
07. Mathima
08. Ena klemmeno podilato
09. Video Club
10. Den allazo ta icheia mou
11. To Taxidi Tis Falainas
12. Assymetri Diataxi
13. Ta Dentra
14. Motokouzi
15. Proastia
16. Ti Vi O
17. Ouranos
18. Nea Moda
19. Mikro Agori
20. To Puzzle Ston Aera

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