Thursday, 21 September 2023

BST Hyde Park 2023 - Billy Joel

As I have already said on my previous post, I had made a mental connection between Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen back in 1978 when Billy Joel's "52nd Street" and Bruce Springsteen's "Darkness On The Edge Of Town" were advertised side by side on the back cover of a Greek music magazine called "Pop & Rock". Last year I bought tickets for both Springsteen shows at Hyde Park wondering who would play on the Friday between them. And sure enough later that year it was announced that it was going to be Billy Joel. So, I bought one for his show as well! 

Now, Billy Joel fans, back in the day were unique. There weren't that many of them but they were dedicated. As far as I'm concerned the first record of his that I bought was was "The Nylon Curtain" because I loved his single "Pressure". But listening to the whole album I was able to appreciate other songs like "Allentown" and "Goodnight Saigon". A decade later I also considered "The River Of Dreams" to be one of his masterpieces. But my favourite Billy Joel track is one I didn't know back then: "You May Be Right". I discovered this in the late '00s because it was regurarly played at the parties organized by a DJ Team called DramaQueens UglyShufflers at that time.

So once again I walked to Hyde Park after stopping at Selfridges to get some music magazines because in the year 2023 it is now more difficult than ever to find print magazines in London. After getting a Billy Joel t-shirt at the mechandize stand I went and secured a place at the front of the General admission area right at the barrier with the Golden Circle. As I have mentioned in my previous post, my view was  sometimes blocked by people at the back of the Golden Circle, but I don't regret my choice because of the people I met at that spot, namely a guy who had benn in Greece way back in 1974 and his daughter. He was teasing me by telling me that he hoped Bruce Springsteen the next day would be half as good as Billy Joel. But the amazing thing was that his 20 year old daughter was also a Billy Joel fan! Not to mention that they held my place for me so that I was able to go for some drinks...

The first act to appear were Bowen Young. My first impression was that they were a country rock duo. I was expecting every support act to be a country rock act although that was not the case. They were quite good though.


Next up, was Natasha Bedingfield. I knew her of course although I had only bought a CD single by her brother "Gotta Get Through This". She even played that, too, along with other covers from Prince ("Purple Rain"), Taylor Swift ("Anti Hero") as well as her own songs of course.



Then it was time for someone who I had forgotten that he was appearing that night: An old acquaintance from the 80's, Daryl Hall. Nostalgia seeped in as he played most of his hits with John Oates from that period such as "Maneater" and "Out Of Touch".




Finally, it was time for Billy Joel. His only European appearance this year! He launched immediately into "My Life". Then he told us that he had some bad news and some good news. The bad news was that he didn't have a new record out. The good news was that because he didn't have a new record out, he wasn't going to play any new songs. So he proceeded to play all the hits and his best ones. Somewhere between songs, he talked about Bruce Springsteen falling from the ladder the previous night. We were hoping for a guest appearance from Bruce since they were both in town that night, but we only got one of The Jonas Brothers on "Uptown Girl". And as if he knew this was my first concert of his, he saved the best for last, my favourite, "You May Be RIght".






As a result, I went back to the hotel walking the length of Oxford Street with a big smile on my face (although that probably had something to do with the fact that I was going to see Bruce again the next night...)

01. Love Like This
02. Pocketful Of Sunshine
03. Single
04. Soulmate
05. The Scientist
06. Weightless / Anti-Hero / Gotta Get Thru This / Just the Way You Are
07. Purple Rain
08. Wild Horses
09. These Words
10. Unwritten

01. Maneater
02. Dreamtime
03. Family Man
04. Out Of Touch
05. Method Of Modern Love
06. I'm In A Philly Mood
07. Everytime You Go Away
08. Sara Smile
09. I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)
10. Rich Girl
11. You Make My Dreams

01. My Life
02. Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)
03. The Entertainer
04. Vienna
05. Zanzibar
06. Start Me Up
07. An Innocent Man
08. The Longest Time
09. Don't Ask Me Why
10. New York State of Mind
11. Allentown
12. She's Always A Woman
13. Sometimes A Fantasy
14. Only The Good Die Young
15. The River Of Dreams
16. Nessun Dorma (Sung by Mike Delguidice)
17. Scenes From An Italian Restaurant
18. Piano Man
19. We Didn't Start The Fire
20. Uptown Girl (with Joe Jonas)
21. It's Still Rock And Roll to Me
22. Big Shot
23. A Hard Day's Night
24. You May Be Right

Wednesday, 13 September 2023

BST Hyde Park 2023 - Bruce Springsteen

After 3 concerts this year, (all of them open air festivals), it was time for my first trip and concert abroad after almost 4 years. And it was also an open air festival. One year ago Bruce Springsteen announced his two dates at Hyde Park. One on a Thursday and one on the following Thursday. I bought tickets for both wondering who would play on the Friday between those two. And sure enough later that year it was announced that it was going to be Billy Joel. That was it! The icing on the cake! I had made a mental connection between those two artists back in 1978 when Billy Joel's "52nd Street" and Bruce Springsteen's "Darkness On The Edge Of Town" were advertised side by side on the back cover of a Greek music magazine called "Pop & Rock". I had seen Bruce Springsteen both times he had played Hyde Park before but these were both part of the Hard Rock Calling Festival. This time it was BST Hyde Park. The major difference was that this time, there was a Golden Circle area, for which I did not manage to get tickets even though I had a presale code. So as a small consolation I got the early entrance to the General Admission area in order to avoid overcrowding when the doors would open. Another major difference was that there were not going to be paper tickets available. There weren't any at the Hard Rock Calling festival as well, but you could print them off the internet. This time there were only going to be available on a specific mobile app. What I realized then was that although I had a smartphone, its operating system version did not support the app. I would need to buy a new phone by the following summer as well. I had contacted the organizers and had made sure that I would be able to go in without the app, by going to the box office on the day of the concert and showing my receipts, but one week before the concert a new Sony Xperia model was released and I bought that!

I had chosen a hotel near New Oxford Street, which meant that I could walk to and from the park every day thus saving a lot of money on public transport which is quite expensive now in London. So on Thursday, my first BST Hyde Park day I was at the park at the designated time of 1 o'clock and promptly got in. There was a small queue that I had to join, but that started moving quickly as soon as the gates were opened. My first stop was the merchandise stand. I just wanted to buy a Bruce Springsteen official t-shirt (and a Billy Joel one the following day). And then I had enough time to find a good spot before the gates opened for the regular ticket holders at 2 o'clock. Well, I figured that a good spot would be at the barrier between our area and the golden circle, but it took me until the 3rd day to get it right. I didn't stand at the barrier but very close to it thinking I had a good view which I did at first but this was partially blocked by the time Bruce got on stage, not by the people in front of me, but by the people at the back of the golden circle instead. I even had enough space to lie down and conserve my energy seeing as it was quite a hot day for London.

The first artist to come up on stage was Frank Turner. I knew about him from some of my Bruce friends on Facebook who were raving about him, and when he started playing I soon realized why. Not your typical "Americana" artist that Uncut magazine gets excited about. He was really energetic with more up-tempo songs.

The next act were The Chicks. This mostly all-female band were exactly what I was expecting, typical country rock, but that didn't stop me from enjoying myself. And then I realized that they were in fact The Dixie Chicks who had changed their name to just Chicks!

Finally, after only two opening acts (and we all know why there were only two) and seven years of waiting it was time for my 14th Bruce Springsteen concert. Now, the first 30 minutes was a warm up period. You see, I didn't quite know what to expect or if I would enjoy myself (yeah, right... as if!). It all had to do with the gossip on social media about how this tour was different, he was no longer taking requests from the crowd, he wasn't changing the setlists anymore and so on... (Well, as far as the last one was concerned I would find out on Saturday). On top of that, I hadn't followed the setlists and the videos from the tour on social media during the tour as I used to do on previous ones. I thought I would concentrate on work during the year and then, when the time for my first concert came, I would party. And the thing is, we have to accept the fact that Bruce is older now (he's in his seventies) and cannot do all the things he used to do. But the fact is that on every tour Bruce's setlists always had a certain format with songs that would always be played (for example "Lonesome Day" and the really rocky version of "Johnny 99" in 2009 and "Spirit In The Night" in 2012) and then he would fit in the requests and the changes somewhere among these. This time it was "Ghosts" from "Letter To You" early on (but not the first song) with "Kitty's Back" and "Mary's Place" towards the middle of the main set. Only "Nightshift" from his soul covers album, (a song with a particular meaning for me, though). Then, an almost solo interlude with storytelling about his early band and "Last Man Standing" progressing into "Backstreets". And finally "Badlands" towards the end, not at the beginning of the set as it was expected on other tours. I particularly liked this last bit. "Badlands" is one of Bruce's anthems and one should have to wait to hear it, like "Born To Run" for example. (Although I understand that by playing it at the beginning helps to get the crowd going). And it would all end with a second encore featuring a solo performance of "I'll See You In My Dreams". Well, my "warm up" period ended around the time when the first notes of "Out In The Street" (the sixth song of the set) started playing. That was when I thought "Yeah, he's back... I'm back) and started enjoying myself (and haven't stopped since!). During the first encore Bruce remembered what had happened at his last gig in Hyde Park back in 2012 and asked Stevie if they were going to pull the plug again. Stevie responded not by saying "stuff them!" as the BBC had reported but "f**k them!" instead. And then he proceeded to play "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out", the song he was prevented from playing eleven years ago.


After it was over and when I finally managed to get out of the park (not an easy thing to do with all the restrictions that were in place) I started walking towards the hotel. The first thing I noticed, just outside the park was an unofficial t-shirt listing only the Hyde Park dates and the support bands. I made a mental note to find one of these on Saturday. Then I turned right on Oxford Street, occasionally stopping for refreshments or food to eat back in my room. Central London was vibrant as usual even on  a Thursday night. It helps of course that concerts in Britain end while public transport is still working...


01. I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous
02. The Next Storm
03. Photosynthesis
04. Recovery
05. I Am Disappeared
06. Haven't Been Doing So Well
07. Get Better
08. Be More Kind
09. The Way I Tend To Be
10. If Ever I Stray
11. I Still Believe
12. Four Simple Words

01. Sin Wagon
02. Gaslighter
03. Julianna Calm Down
04. Landslide
05. Sleep At Night
06. Ready To Run
07. Wide Open Spaces
08. Cowboy Take Me Away
09. Travelin' Soldier
10. White Trash Wedding
11. Daddy Lessons / Long Time Gone
12. March March
13. Not Ready To Make Nice
14. Goodbye Earl

01. No Surrender
02. Ghosts
03. Prove It All Night
04. Letter To You
05. The Promised Land
06. Out In The Street
07. Darlington County
08. Working On The Highway
09. Kitty's Back
10. Nightshift
11. Mary's Place
12. My Hometown
13. The River
14. Last Man Standing
15. Backstreets
16. Because The Night
17. She's The One
18. Wrecking Ball
19. The Rising
20. Badlands
21. Thunder Road
22. Born In The U.S.A.
23. Born To Run
24. Bobby Jean
25. Glory Days
26. Dancing In The Dark
27. Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
Encore 2:
28. I'll See You In My Dreams

Tuesday, 29 August 2023

Rockwave Festival 2023 - Robbie Williams, Mika & Leon Of Athens

I try to avoid Rockwave Festival if I can help it. The reason is of course Terra Vibe. The worst location for concerts in Greece. To the artists appearing it may seem beautiful, but for us who have to find a way to get there and most of all, a way to get out of there, it's horrible. But this year's proposition was really interesting. Now, Robbie Williams alone wouldn't have tempted me. It was the inclusion of Mika that made me take the plunge. And the appearance of Leon Of Athens just put the icing on the cake. We very rarely get to experience such a combination of pop acts live in this country.

It was with Leon Of Athens on my mind, that I took the first bus out to Terra Vibe to see him, the festival opening act. On paper, it looked as if it would work. However, the bus was late in departing and there was plenty of traffic on the way there. However, it left us close to the entrance for a change and I was able to get in quickly, run and catch at least what I believe was 50% of his set. I've seen him in so many different places in the past, so a festival appearance would be a different experience. And it was different, as far as the songs were concerned, although that was probably due to my being late. Plenty of new songs, so although there was no "Baby Asteroid" this time (at least not for me, I think he played it before I got there), I got to hear these new songs and my impression was that most of them were more upbeat and more danceable.


Next up was Jonathan Jeremiah. However, before that, I started wandering around Terra Vibe Park in order to get to the other stage, where no artists were appearing that night, however there was an exhibition there dedicated to the Rock In Athens 85 festival. were also shown on the main stage between artists appearances.

Having seen the exhibition I then went back to the VIP area (I usually get a VIP ticket when I go to Terra Vibe even if it means paying double the price, because as I had found out back in 2006, if you get stuck in the wrong area you may end up not being able to see anything at all), got one of the portable seats that were for the first time available for VIP ticket holders and then sat down to watch Jonathan Jeremiah. Hadn't heard of him before, but he seemed nice and most importantly, his set wasn't boring, something which can usually happen with artists one doesn't know and who are at the bottom of the bill of a festival date.



Then, finally it was time for Mika. He was third on the bill, not second, something which made me worry that his set would be cut short, but I needn't have worried. For most people Mika is "the guy who sang Relax, Take It Easy" (some of them also know "Grace Kelly"). I admit that I used to be just like them, until my ex showed me that there was more to him than that. (My favourite song of his is "Talk About You" from his 2015 album "No Place In Heaven", unfortunately not played at Terra Vibe). It's true that most of the songs he plays live are from his first album, but then again these are his biggest hits. And to his credit, his latest "My Name Is Michael Holbrook" is actually quite good. In short, even though his set, was shorter than it could have been and even though he was third on the bill, he managed to win the audience over and for the first time that day at Terra Vibe we felt as if we were at a big party!

Second on the bill, before Robbie Williams was James Bay. Well, not only is he more rock than pop, but the funniest thing was that I was going to see him again a few days later, not in Athens but in London, not supporting Robbie Williams but Bruce Springsteen at the BST Hyde Park festival! He wasn't bad and I'm certainly not the kind of person who detests it when there's a variety of music genres at festivals, but the marketing of music has lately become so homogenized and by that I mean that there are people who listen only to rock, others that listen only to pop maybe because that's what the industry and promoters think is what should happen.

And finally, it was time for Robbie. Everybody said that he fulfilled his promise to us at his last concert at the exact same place. However, dear organizers his exact words were: "Let's meet again in 18 months, shall we?" He said 18 months, not 8 years! What I what to point out by saying this is that Greek promoters will rarely invite artists on subsequent tours (unless they're called Scorpions or Depeche Mode). They think that if people have already seen them, they won't want to see them again. When Robbie Williams was speaking about "18 months" in 2015 he was referring to his  next tour. But as far as Greek promoters are concerned this was probably considered to be "too short a period"...

Anyway, Robbie was here and it's true that this was a different Robbie from the one we had seen 8 years ago. He had probably suffered from the effects of COVID, he was older (but then again, aren't we all?) and of course his set was different. Not shorter, but different. There were in fact fewer songs, but not because the set was cut short, but because he talked a lot between songs. And when I say a lot, I mean A LOT! About how he became famous with Take That, how he left Take That, how he became once again famous and successful again on his own this time, how he rejoined Take That, but most importantly how difficult a time he had had through the pandemic and how he is finally happy having found love with his wife and having a family. I didn't mind. It was like having a conversation with a friend whom you haven't seen in... well... eight years, even if the conversation was one-sided. And, if you ask me which of the two concerts of his I have attended was better, I would definitely say the first one, eight years ago. Better songs, more songs, but most importantly, because as we all know it's "never as good as the first time" because that first time, no matter what we are talking about, a concert or a kiss, is the one by which all subsequent ones will be compared to (and found wanting as Stephen King has said). I've said all this because I've heard another opinion about his appearance which came from my ex and that was that he was a total and absolute mess. Although I don't agree with it, I can understand that some people might not have enjoyed someone who certainly looked that he had aged and probably suffered during the last 8 years and instead of singing preferred to engage in conversation with his audience. However, what I don't understand is another, a third opinion that was going around on social media and other Greek websites that he had insulted Greek people with one of his jokes. My answer to this is that if, after all these years, you still don't "get" British humour, you had better attend only concerts from Greek artists from now on.

OK, so what about the music? Well, once again, the highlight for me was the same as the one from 8 years ago: "Come Undone". It probably has to do with the lyric "Because I'm scum, and I'm your son, I come undone". Also, this time we didn't have Queen covers like in 2015, but oh boy, what a cover we did get : "Don't Look Back In Anger" by Oasis! He finished with "Angels" and then went on to perform an acapella medley of his best songs including one which he didn't perform that night: "Me And My Monkey" which apparently is only popular in Greece!

When it was finally over and "(I've Had) The Time Of My Life" was playing from the speakers, I was thinking that I had enjoyed every minute of it and I went home thinking that this was the best concert I had attended in Greece this year. With hindsight, I'd say it was one of the two best on Greek soil in 2023 (and that's because abroad, there was Bruce...)

01. Best Fake Smile
02. Just For Tonight
03. If You Ever Want To Be in Love
04. Wanderlust
05. Us
06. Let It Go
07. Goodbye Never Felt So Bad
08. All My Broken Pieces
09. When We Were On Fire
10. Get Out While You Can
11. Pink Lemonade
12. Craving
13. Hold Back The River

01. Hey Wow Yeah Yeah
02. Let Me Entertain You
03. Land Of 1000 Dances
04. Monsoon
05. Strong
06. Come Undone
07. Could It Be Magic
08. Don't Look Back In Anger
09. The Flood
10. Love My Life
11. Eternity
12. Candy
13. Feel
14. Kids
15. Rock DJ
16. No Regrets
17. She's The One
18. Angels
19. Acapella Medley : Feel/Let Me Entertain You/Come Undone/Angels/Me And My Monkey