Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Blossoms live in Milano

Still Corners, Future Islands, Leon Of Athens. These are all artists I have discovered from my girlfriend. One advantage of having a younger girlfriend is that you learn about younger bands and artists. And if you also take into account the bands she is a huge fan of and to whom I was already listening to like Belle And Sebastian and Manic Street Preachers (not forgetting the Pet Shop Boys who brought us together), there are quite a few bands that we both like to listen to and see live.
The latest addition to the first list are Blossoms. They are virtually unknown in Greece and she learned about them from friends on a trip to the UK where they're hugely successful and most of their gigs are sold out. I like them because they're new, they're fresh, they're young, they're successful, they play both guitars and synths and they like The Stone Roses and Oasis.
It would be difficult - and probably too crowded - to see them in the UK where, as I have mentioned before, their tours sell out very quickly. So Milano was a much better - and cheaper - choice. And the gig would probably be intimate as it was taking place in a small club. I did not know if I could make it and I only found out about my work schedule just a week before the concert
On the day of the gig I was working but only until midday. I left work and went straight to the airport to catch my plane to Milano. When I landed I took the bus to the Milano Central Station which conveniently terminates just outside my hotel which is also in turn close to the club itself. So I checked into my room and then went straight to the gig.

Tunnel Club is exactly what it says on the tin. A club in a small tunnel underneath the railway lines. If Blossoms become as popular in Italy as they are in the UK we won't be able to see them in venues like these anymore. We were able to find seats in the very small seating area of the club next to the merchandise stand, run by a very cheerful guide who promised us that Blossoms were thinking of playing in Greece (in my opinion though this is highly unlikely). 

And it was from this stand that I bought a double vinyl deluxe edition of the band's latest album "Cool Like You" (Vinyl number 2 features acoustic versions of every song on the album). 

And when Blossoms came up on stage they launched into the opening track from that album "There's A Reason Why (I Never Returned Your Calls)".
One of the best moments however was "My Favourite Room" at the end of which they played snippets of "Last Christmas" by Wham! and "Half The World Away" by Oasis. 

They do like Oasis, on a live DVD that was featured on a different deluxe version of "Cool Like You" they play "Whatever". I was thinking back then that I would love to see them cover The Stone Roses as well and that wish came true when on this year's Record Store Day they released yet another deluxe version of "Cool Like You", this time with a second vinyl featuring cover versions recorded at the BBC. One of them was "She Bangs The Drums".

They came back for an encore and they finished their set with "Charlemagne", their biggest hit from their first, self-titled album. Some people complained that their set was too short, but that's to be expected since they have only released two albums. And they played almost all the songs from the latest one (10 out of 12 tracks). That's something that we will probably not be able to witness in the future. Oh and I have heard somewhere that The Smiths in the 80's used to play 35 minute sets, so we should be more than satisfied with the 65 minutes Blossoms gave to us.


While we were leaving the club, people were waiting outside for the club's usual Friday night event. It was straight back to the hotel since this was a tiring day which, for me at least, featured work, a flight and a Blossoms gig all within 24 hours. But we had the next day (Saturday) free to explore Milano where we would see many U2 fans on the streets since U2 were in town for a series of concerts. And what I didn't know at that time was that my next gig would be from one of the bands on the girlfriend list: Still Corners.

01. There's A Reason Why (I Never Returned Your Calls)
02. Unfaithful
03. How Long Will This Last?
04. Getaway
05. Giving Up the Ghost
06. I Just Imagined You
07. Stranger Still
08. Between the Eyes
09. Blow
10. Blown Rose
11. Honey Sweet
12. Cool Like You
13. My Favourite Room / Last Christmas / Half The World Away
14. Love Talk
15. At Most A Kiss
16. I Can't Stand It
17. Charlemagne

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Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Release Festival 2018 - Autumn Edition - The Chemical Brothers

The day after my return from my summer holiday in Santorini, I went to see The Chemical Brothers in Athens. One could say that this was the first concert of Autumn 2018, although the 8th of September officially belongs to the summer. This was going to be the second electronic gig with graphics of 2018 for me (The first was Kraftwerk back in March) and the second dance gig ever in that particular area since Tiesto's appearance in the summer of 2009 (which was of course outdoors as opposed to The Chemicals indoors one).
Anyway, this was billed as a festival (the "Autumn Edition" of Release Festival which took place back in May and June and of which I had attended Day 1 and Day 2) and it did indeed look like a festival with all the kiosks but few people paid attention to the DJ sets before The Chemical Brothers appearance. 
As I arrived and went inside a James Holroyd DJ set was in progress but I took that time to wander and to look around the venue and also to find the perfect spot from where I would watch the main event. It was not surprising that there were quite a few people in their forties among the crowd since those must have been the ones that were listening to The Chemical Brothers in the 90's.
When I did find that spot, next to the bar, I stood my ground and at promptly 11pm The Chemical Brothers came on stage. It felt like a huge party and that's the way a dance gig should be. On top of that, the graphics added to that experience, usually different images for different tracks. And the tracks themselves where all those that we expected including some new ones. 

The highlights, for me, were New Order's "Temptation" mixed with "Star Guitar", "Hey Boy Hey Girl" and "Galvanize". The only notable absence was "Setting Sun" their breakthrough #1 hit with Noel Gallagher.
They even came back for an encore! The whole thing lasted for about two hours (OK, it could not be compared with Tiesto who stayed until 3am 9 years before), but it was great. A Saturday night out clubbing. Dance music is suited to late summer nights.

01. Go
02. Do It Again / Get Yourself High
03. Free Yourself
04. Mad as Hell
05. Believe
06. EML Ritual
08. Swoon
10. Got to Keep On
12. Saturate
13. Elektrobank
14. Piku Playground / Music:Response
15. Escape Velocity / The Golden Path
16. Electronic Battle Weapon 7 / Eve of Destruction / Under the Influence / The Test / It Doesn't Matter
17. Snow / Surface to Air
19. C-H-E-M-I-C-A-L / Leave Home / Song to the Siren
20. Block Rockin' Beats
21. Got Glint?
22. Hold Tight London
23. Wide Open
24. The Private Psychedelic Reel

Sunday, 31 March 2019

Paul Weller @ The O2 Arena in March 2009

Before I was a Bruce Springsteen fan I was also a Queen fan. And before I was a Queen fan I was also a Jam fan and later I became a Style Council fan. It all started with a record given with Pop + Rock magazine 40 years ago, in 1979. Well, not exactly given, but you could buy it from certain shops at half price using a voucher from the magazine. I decided to find out more about the bands featured on that record. Track 3 on side 1 was "David Watts" by The Jam. So I went out and bought the "Going Underground" 7 inch. That's it! I was hooked!
My first attempt to see Paul Weller live was in 2001 when I was in London during his Days Of Speed tour. Unfortunately, the gig was already sold out. My second attempt was for this gig at the O2 Arena 10 years ago, but this was also showing as sold out on Ticketmaster and other sites. So when I was at the O2 Arena in November of the previous year to see Queen + Paul Rodgers I decided to try my luck at the venue box office. And yes, they had a ticket. And the seat was a very good one, close to the stage. So I bought it and I immediately started planning my next London trip in my mind. However, just a few days before the London concert it was announced that Paul Weller would be playing live in Greece! Shock horror! Would my trip to London turn out to be useless? As we will see later, it wouldn't!
When the time came and went to London, what do you know? I almost missed that gig! Apparently the Underground was not operating all the way to North Greenwich station and I was left stranded with several other people at a bus stop in West Ham waiting for a bus! 

It finally came and I made it on time, but only just. I missed Corral, the support act, but I would make up for that 7 years later when they played support for The Stone Roses in Manchester. I only had time to get a beer from the bar and find my seat before the show started.

What we noticed while waiting for Paul to appear was a 10-piece female string section. They weren't accompanying him on every gig of that tour, so that was a bonus. But they would appear on the live CD/DVD from that tour he later released titled "Just A Dream - 22 Dreams Live". So that DVD will always remind me of the gig at the O2 Arena. 

Anyway, when Paul came on stage, he launched straight into "Peacock Suit". He then proceeded with a setlist that had a bit of everything: Jam songs ("Eton Rifles", "The Butterfly Collector", "Town Called Malice"), Style Council songs ("Shout To The Top"), songs from his solo career, and, though I did not realize it at the time, new songs from his next album, the yet-to-be-released at that time "Wake Up The Nation". There was even an acoustic session with him and two other guitarists sitting on stools. All in all, he seemed like a man enjoying himself and was chatting with the audience. (There was even a football comment, something about Chelsea I think, but I didn't quite catch all of it.)

Looking back on it, it was indeed a unique experience. And it wasn't a waste of time or money. When Paul came to Greece later in the year, he didn't have the string section and he didn't play any of the new songs.

With the sounds of "Town Called Malice" the last song, still echoing in my head, I left the O2 Arena. 

But seeing as there was no tube and I would have to take the night bus, I decided to stay there for a little while. Especially as, from the nearby O2 Bar And Grill I heard some more Weller sounds coming my way. A band called RoShambo was playing there and they included some Paul Weller covers. They saw me filming "Out Of The Sinking" and gave me a free CD! They were suprpised to see the video later on YouTube and commented on it.

Finally, it was time to leave, and I took the night bus to Leicester Square experiencing London by night once again after all these years. 
From Leicester Square, I grabbed a taxi to my hotel in Victoria at the cost of 13 GBP ("a snip!" as Smash Hits would have said back in the 80's)

01. Peacock Suit
02. Out Of The Sinking
03. 22 Dreams
04. The Changingman
05. Wake Up The Nation
06. All I Wanna Do (Is Be With You)
07. From The Floorboards Up
08. Sea Spray
09. Shout To The Top
10. The Eton Rifles
11. Porcelain Gods
12. Invisible
13. One Bright Star
14. Empty Ring
15. You Do Something To Me
16. 7 And 3
17. Have You Made Up Your Mind
18. Push It Along
19. 111
20. All On A Misty Morning
21. Magic Bus
22. The Butterfly Collector
23. Brand New Start
24. Wild Wood
25. Echoes Round The Sun
26. Broken Stones
27. Whirlpool's End
28. Town Called Malice

Sunday, 17 March 2019

Monika, live in Athens, 10 years ago

2009 was a very busy year for me in terms of concerts. I don't know if it was the year in which I have attended the most, but it was certainly the one with the most trips abroad (to attend concerts of course). All these were listed on my second ever blog post (which is in Greek, but will soon receive a re-write in English since a lot of the photos and links have disappeared). It all started in January of that year with Monika.
Monika was one of the first Greek artists to become well-known through the internet. Mostly through MySpace which was the most popular social medium at the time. At a time when most Greek artists who wanted to become well-known had to sing in Greek and most specifically the genre that is known as "laikopop", it was surprising that she managed to break through singing in English and playing alternative rock. When she announced that concert at Gagarin, in January, it sold out quickly and there was almost no place to stand while we were in there. And boy, did we have to stand for hours, as she came on stage quite late, while classical music was being played by the speakers. But it was all worth it.

At that time, she had only released one album, 2008's "Avatar". She played most of it that night, plus a couple of new songs, a few covers (the best of which was "Be My Baby" and the most unexpected was The Wings "Let Me Roll It" plus she sung another one in Greek for good measure) and she even repeated a couple of songs at the end.

Even back then she had already received a lot of bad press from traditional media. These were concerned with some unfortunate comments she had made in her interviews, the fact that she didn't go through what were back then the usual channels to achieve fame, but mostly they had to do with the fact that she was lucky enough to be able to fund her musical career while other struggling artists may not have had it so easy because of lack of money. The important thing though, is this: She obviously had (and still has I believe) talent, so why should it have gone to waste? Even if it was much easier for her... And besides, an artist who managed to make the Greek mainstream audience to listen to international music must have done something right.
Anyway, all of us had a great time that night, she was a bit nervous at first (she stumbled on one of the cables and almost fell), she thanked us for coming and making this, her first big live concert sold out, while many people were left out while unsuccessfully trying to find a ticket until the very last moment. When asked by a member of the audience why she hadn't arranged a second gig on the following day she answered that "It's not that simple"
Monika went on to release two more albums, the second one in 2010 just as successful as the first, the third in 2014 not so much. By then albums were not selling that much and that was the last album she has released so far. But recently she made a comeback with a digital single, this time singing in Greek, without changing her musical style though...

Monday, 4 March 2019

Rockwave Festival 2018 - Day 3 - Iron Maiden

Day 3 of Rockwave Festival 2018 came on the next day after Day 2 (and 14 days after Day 1 by the way). The problem was that it was also two days after my return from Rome where I had seen Little Steven And The Disciples Of Soul and Roger Waters. Would I be able to get through another festival, once again at Terra Vibe? It seemed that I could. 

This time I wasn't planning on seeing any of the other bands so I left for Terra Vibe at a reasonable hour (not too late though since a lot more people were expected to see Iron Maiden than Judas Priest. (Indeed by the end of the night it was filled to capacity.) I arrived there on time and I went to my usual spot (the same one as the day before, which I know that it has good visibility since it has been used as a VIP area on other concerts) and lied down to relax with a beer.

When I was in my teen years, Iron Maiden, were, for me the third part of the Heavy Metal Trinity (the other two were AC/DC and Motorhead). I guess it's a matter of personal taste. I remember that back in 1983 I had bought "Flick Of The Switch", "Another Perfect Day" and "Piece Of Mind" on the same day. I had seen AC/DC twice, in 1988 in Lausanne and in 2009 in Athens. Iron Maiden I had also seen in Athens, again in 1988 in what is now considered a legendary concert. It was only Motorhead that I hadn't managed to see until 2014 in Milano, a bit more than a year before Lemmy left us. But I really wanted to see Maiden again, almost 30 years after my first time. In fact it was going to be 29 years, 10 months and 1 week, my biggest gap between seeing two concerts from the same band).
Back to the present and Terra Vibe, while comfortably relaxing at my spot, I also managed to see two other bands. Tremonti were first.

Then it was time for Volbeat, who I must admit that I liked quite a lot in fact. By that time I had already met again some of my friends that were with me on the previous day and quite a few more.

Then, a couple of hours (and almost 30 years later), Iron Maiden were on stage! Much more material to draw from plus a great stage show, with Eddie making several appearances.

I have to state that although Iron Maiden have a long history, their ideal singer, in my opinion is (and always was) Bruce Dickinson. Respect to Paul Di' Anno, they produced quite a few great tracks in his time but the best ones were from the Dickinson era. Not much to remember from Blaze Bailey. As far as a connection with the previous concert goes, it was great to hear "The Evil That Men Do" once again. Back then it was one of the new songs, now it was one of the golden oldies from one of their greatest albums "Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son". And from the songs that were not yet written in 1988, the best one has to be "Fear Of The Dark" a track that always sounds better live. In fact, I remember buying the live version on CD single back in the 90's.

The night came to an end with Bruce Dickinson singing, acapella, a verse from "Alexander The Great", a song the crowd wanted to hear, but the band had not planned it in their setlist. And so, with Monty Python's "Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life" playing over the speakers the last of my summer concerts came to an end. 

Thankfully, it looks like that was the end of Terra Vibe. The company that organizes Rockwave Festival has decided "to rest" and the new company that was formed by several of its former members has announced its first concert in the center of Athens. If this is indeed true, this is great news for Athens concert goers, since there has never been a more inconvenient place for concerts than Terra Vibe which is also a huge safety hazard. We will hopefully now spend our summers enjoying concerts instead of wasting time going to and coming back from Terra Vibe.
I now had 10 more days in July and the whole of August to rest. My next gig would be in September!


01. Another Heart
02. You Waste Your Time
03. My Last Mistake
05. Catching Fire
06. Flying Monkeys
07. Radical Change
08. The Things I've Seen
09. Throw Them To The Lions
10. A Dying Machine
11. Cauterize
12. Wish You Well

01. The Devil's Bleeding Crown
02. Heaven Nor Hell / A Warrior's Call / I Only Want To Be With You
03. Lola Montez
04. The Lonesome Rider
05. Sad Man's Tongue
06. Slaytan
08. For Evigt
09. 16 Dollars
10. Seal The Deal
11. Let It Burn
12. Black Rose
13. Fallen
14. Doc Holliday
15. Still Counting

Iron Maiden
01. Aces High
02. Where Eagles Dare
03. 2 Minutes To Midnight
04. The Clansman
06. Revelations
07. For The Greater Good Of God
09. Sign Of The Cross
12. The Number Of The Beast
13. Iron Maiden
15. Hallowed Be Thy Name
16. Run To The Hills