Wednesday, 17 August 2022

Release Athens Festival 2022 - Bauhaus & The Jesus And Mary Chain

I was still nervous about going to a festival and mingling with huge crowds of people. However I had decided that four dates of this year's Release Athens Festival were the ideal ones for me to return to proper concerts. The idea was this: They were open air gigs, the pandemic had somehow slowed down, so all I had to do was not go to the very front and experience them from somewhere at the back. The only thing that I insisted on was that I was not going to buy the tickets until the very last minute. You see, most of these acts had been announced for 2020 (Bauhaus and Pet Shop Boys for instance), then postponed for 2021 and then again rescheduled for 2022. That wasn't the main problem though. What was annoying was that the people who had bought the tickets back in 2019 were not offered a refund. What they got instead was the promise that their tickets would remain valid for the date the gig actually took place. Whereas the money I had paid for a festival at London's Hyde Park was refunded to me up to the very last penny. Plus I couldn't be sure, even if most concerts went ahead that the ones I had selected would actually take place because what we've seen a lot this year was that if one member of a band tested positive the whole date was cancelled.

I had actually contemplated going to see Still Corners earlier in the year, but I backed out of it because it was at an indoor venue. So, I narrowed it down to four Release Athens festival dates: Bauhaus, London Grammar, Pet Shop Boys and Iggy Pop. An additional thing that also helped was that there were some "two-day" ticket offers costing cheaper than buying two single tickets for the same dates instead. So, I bought one two day ticket for Bauhaus and Iggy Pop, and another one for London Grammar and Pet Shop Boys.

When I arrived at Water Square, I realized I could go ahead with my plan: Get in, not wear a mask and stay at the back. It helped, because there weren't as many people there that day as on other dates even though I didn't arrive early because all I wanted to see was just The Jesus And Mary Chain and Bauhaus. When I did get in, it was like not one day had passed since 2019. I met most of my friends that I usually meet at gigs at Water Square, most of whom I hadn't seen since 2019.

The Jesus And Mary Chain finally started their set. I had seen them at the exact same place five years ago, back in 2017. Although I preferred the setlist they played back in the day, all the favourites were still here.

After the JAMC set was over and while waiting for Bauhaus I started chatting to someone whose face looked quite familiar. He was Johnny Highway from the Greek band Mr.Highway Band that I've seen at least three times live!

And then it was time for Bauhaus, the main reason I went to the gig. Their date had also been announced three years ago for 2020 and I had thought of going even then. I remember listening to Bauhaus and The Birthday Party on the radio and reading about them in POP + ROCK magazine during the early eighties. And since I managed to see Nick Cave four years ago (who in the intervening years had become extremely popular in Greece), I also wanted to see Bauhaus.

Now, I knew beforehand that their set wasn't going to be very long. But as everybody knows by now those sound problems came up, irritating Peter Murphy and cutting their set even shorter. He left the stage during Ziggy Stardust leaving his guitarist to finish the song. However, all the songs I wanted to hear were played (Telegram Sam, She's In Parties, Ziggy Stardust and a couple of others). Because of that, unlike others, I'm not going to complain or ask for my money back because I've seen what I wanted to see, I've experienced what I wanted to experience.

I did end up wearing a mask in the end but only while getting out of the venue where there were a lot of people around me. And finally, this was the last gig for my then current camera which after showing some problems with the extraction of the lens, had to be retired, at least from concert use. A new, but similar one, featuring a retractable display screen to facilitate taking selfies would be used from the next gig...



01. Amputation
02. Head On
03. I Love Rock 'N' Roll
04. April Skies
05. Come On
06. Moe Tucker
07. Taste Of Cindy
08. Snakedriver
09. Teenage Lust
10. Cracking Up
11. Halfway To Crazy
12. Far Gone And Out
13. Nine Million Rainy Days
14. Some Candy Talking
15. Darklands
16. Just Like Honey
17. All Things Must Pass
18. Reverence

01. Rosegarden Funeral Of Sores
02. Double Dare
03. In The Flat Field
04. A God In An Alcove
05. In Fear Of Fear
06. Stigmata Martyr
07. She's In Parties
08. Kick In The Eye
09. Bela Lugosi's Dead
10. Telegram Sam
11. Ziggy Stardust


Thursday, 21 July 2022

Hard Rock Calling 2012 - Paul Simon

I returned to Hyde Park the following day after the Bruce Springsteen concert for Paul Simon.

Because the previous day had left me completely knackered I did not go there early and so I arrived when Alison Krauss, who was appearing immediately before Paul Simon, had started playing.
When it was time for Paul Simon, he began his set with old favourites from the Simon & Garfunkel era (Me & Julio Down By The Schoolyard) but also from his solo career (Slip Slidin' Away).
He brought on stage Jimmy Cliff as a guest...
... and later Ladysmith Black Mambazo and his original Graceland band with whom they played the complete Graceland album together, which was what this concert was about, the 25 year anniversary of this classic album.

The sound volume was extremely low and if you were not in a good position, you could not hear the music and you could only hear other people's conversations. The weather was a bit better, the sun came out for a while, it didn't rain, but it was quite chilly at the end of the concert.

02.Gone At Last
03.Dazzling Blue
04.50 Ways To Leave Your Lover
05.The Harder They Come (with Jimmy Cliff)
06.Many Rivers To Cross (with Jimmy Cliff)
07.Vietnam (with Jimmy Cliff)
08.Mother And Child Reunion (with Jimmy Cliff)
09.That Was Your Mother
10.Hearts And Bones / Mystery Train / Wheels
11.Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard
12.Slip Slidin' Away
13.The Obvious Child
14.Hello My Baby
15.Nomathemba (with Ladysmith Black Mambazo)
16.Homeless (with Ladysmith Black Mambazo)
17.Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes (with Ladysmith Black Mambazo)
18.I Know What I Know
19.The Boy In the Bubble
20.Mandela (Bring Him Back Home) (with Hugh Masekela)
21.Stimela (with Hugh Masekela)
22.Crazy Love, Vol. II
23.African Sunset (with Thandiswa Mazwai)
24.Under African Skies (with Thandiswa Mazwai)
27.You Can Call Me Al
28.The Sound Of Silence
29.The Boxer (with Jerry Douglas)
30.Late In The Evening
31.Still Crazy After All These Years

Monday, 11 July 2022

Hard Rock Calling 2012 - Bruce Springsteen

Having already seen Bruce Springsteen at Hard Rock Calling Festival in 2009 and having been featured on the DVD for posterity, we thought it would be a good idea to see him again, at the same festival three years later. However, before we even left for London, we dreaded the prospect of rain. Having already experienced THAT RAIN in Florence a month before, we kept hearing news reports that it was raining every day on London, that Hyde Park had been turned into a swamp, etc. The organizersr had spread sawdust on the ground (presumably so that we would not sink in the mud)...
...and so we wore our boots (well, some of us, anyway).
Of course, after the concert was over the sawdust and mud mix had turned into this...
...which on top of that gave off a smell that was bound to get you high!
Since there was no pit procedure nor roll calls (there wasn't even a pit) we joined the queue 90 minutes before the gates were due to open. In moderately good weather.
And then it started raining. Anyway. At some point, the doors were opened and after we were searched we got in. There was no way we could run to get to the front, running was impossible on top of the sawdust and mud mixture. We did get to the front, though. And more people came. So we had to stand, in that position, for the next 10 hours (sitting on the sawdust, although possible, was definitely NOT recommended).
Out of these 10 hours, we would spend 7 of them waiting for Bruce Springsteen.
They went by very quickly however, partly because of the good company and partly because of the quick succession of the artists appearing. Let's see now:
The festival was opened by Hey, Monea!, winners of the Hard Rock Rising competition, the winner of which had the chance to open for Bruce Springsteen. Quite good.
The bill continued with Tom Morello - The Nightwatchman. The Rage Against The Machine frontman, alone with his guitar, was teaching the British to sing protest songs. He even brought some Essex firemen who were on strike with him on stage for the last song.
Then it was time for Lady Antebellum. This was the point where we expected to get bored. We didn't, because Lady Antebellum (who played something that could be labeled "new country") are good musicians (although they insisted on starting some of the songs with pre-recorded beats) and they also had a good light show.
After Lady Antebellum, Bruce Springsteen came on stage! Not to perform though, but to introduce a living legend instead: John Fogerty from Creedence Clearwater Revival.
Later, Bruce came back on stage, to join Fogerty on Rocking All Over The World.
Finally, after Fogerty's set, it was time for Bruce Springsteen. We almost didn't notice him when he came up on stage alone. We were wondering what he was going to play. In 2009 he had started, joined by the full band with London Calling by The Clash. This time, he said he would start with the first song he played on British soil, back in 1975: Thunder Road. Alone, with his harmonica and Roy Bittan on piano.
The weather was good when Bruce's set started. "Well, give it fifteen minutes" Bruce said. And indeed, it later rained, stopped, rained again, stopped again, then the sun came out, and while we were searching for our sunglasses... it started raining again and on top of that it got cold...
It was clear from the beginning that this concert was going to be a little bit different. Bruce himself looked not tired as some people thought, but "emotionally charged" would be a more accurate description. He did a full roll-call, asking for each member of the band, eg "Is Professor Roy Bittan in the house?", but, contrary to Florence and Trieste, he then asked "Are we missing anybody?" (meaning Clarence Clemons and Danny Federici, the two E Street Band members that were no longer with us) concluding that "Well, if we're here and you're here, then they're here". All this procedure was taking place during the first leg of the tour in The United States, but not at the recent concerts in Europe. Indeed, at some point, while he was lying down on the stage floor with Jake Clemons (Clarence's nephew) he was talking to him about "all those stories I could tell you with your uncle".
Suddenly, just when he had finished another song, he remembered a request sign he had seen a fan hold earlier. So he went down again among the audience and found it. A Spanish fan had asked for "Take Em As They Come". He picked up the request sign and brought it on stage with him. The fan had noted all the concerts he had attended that year on which, of course, the song had not been played. Bruce started reading it, while commenting at the same time:
"This guy wants to hear an obscure song, paid his money in Seville, didn't hear it there... Pays more money in Barcelona, that wasn't f**king there. Then he went to Donostia... no, it didn't get played! Made it all the way to Madrid... That's a big investment now my friend... No, no song. Paris? No f**king good! Got to see the Eiffel Tower, though. Ah, but London! ha, ha! Tonight my friend... you're gonna hear this damn thing!"
And of course he played it!
At some point Fogerty came up on stage again, paying back his favour to Bruce and they played The Promised Land together.
Someone else who also came up on stage, not once, but several times, was Tom Morello making us think that maybe he should be given a place on The E Street Band now.
The best of these times was when they performed together The Ghost Of Tom Joad, a song that Morello has made it "his own" with his unique guitar solo.
Bruce however, had saved the best for last. "I've waited 50 years for this. A special guest is coming up..." The special guest was none other than Sir Paul McCartney!
The funny thing was that Paul McCartney had also come up on stage at the previous Hard Rock Calling I had attended, back in 2009, at the Neil Young concert when they performed "A Day In The Life" together. This time, with Bruce they performed "I Saw Her Standing There" and "Twist & Shout".
And that was when, towards the end of Twist & Shout that the incident which everybody has connected with that concert took place: We suddenly thought that one of the speakers was not operating. What in fact had happened was that most speakers were off because the organizers had cut the power off and what we were hearing was the natural, unamplified sound of the band since we were so close to the stage. We had heard a lot about curfews at British concerts, and because the curfew for this one had already been broken I realized what had happened. And when Bruce approached the microphone to announce that "London! You've just seen...the heart-stopping, pants-dropping, house-rocking, earth- quaking, booty-shaking, Viagra-taking, love-making -: Le-gen-dary E - Street - Band!", we could hear nothing. He went to the nearby mike and the same thing happened. Believing that it was a technical problem, he made a signal meaning "Do you want us to play one more?" when he was approached by an employee of the organizers who whispered something in his ear. So Bruce made a characteristic gesture meaning "There's nothing else I can do". Nevertheless, he grabbed his guitar, approached the - useless by now - microphone and quickly played a snippet of "Goodnight Irene", truly unplugged. Thankfully, we were close enough to the stage to be able to hear it. I won't say anything else about this incident, most of its aspects are already well-known. What most people don't know is that they had locked the artists in their dressing rooms and did not let them leave until all the festival goers had departed from Hyde Park. They were probably afraid that they would go back on stage and start playing unplugged! The concert was on Saturday night. And for those that might say that there were some people that had to go to work on Sunday morning, let me remind you that the nearest residences were at Park Lane. And for those that don't know what Park Lane is, I'll just say that it is the most expensive street in Monopoly. That's all you need to know. Because apart from the curfew and everything else, the sound was quite low for a rock concert. The previous winter, a nearby resident had complained that "with all these concerts and their noise we can't even open a window during the summer and enjoy the tennis at Wimbledo on the telly".
Finally, we should also mention that maybe festivals are not suitable for the hardcore fans of an artist. As somebody mentioned in this blog post "So while Springsteen was sharing poignant memories of the late Clarence Clemons with his saxman nephew, I was hearing about Sebastian's sales figures[...]While The Boss was introducing Empty Sky, I was hearing about Sharon's sex life as she bared all to a stranger she'd met, and would probably bare all again later[...]As Bruce explained how Thunder Road was the first song he'd ever played on UK soil, I was listening to four burly, boozed-up middle-age muppets talking about a mate's stag do."
All in all, despite all these problems, it was a great concert. And although we couldn't expect it to also be released on DVD, several songs from the night were featured on the "Springsteen & I" DVD.

01.Thunder Road
03.We Take Care Of Our Own
04.Wrecking Ball
05.Death To My Hometown (with Tom Morello)
06.My City Of Ruins
07.Spirit In The Night
08.The Promised Land (with John Forgerty)
09.Take 'Em As They Come (request)
10.Jack Of All Trades (with Tom Morello)
11.Empty Sky (solo acoustic)
12.Because The Night
13.Johnny 99
14.Darlington County
15.Workin' On The Highway
16.Shackled & Drawn
17.Waitin' On A Sunny Day
18.Raise Your Hand
19.The River
20.The Ghost Of Tom Joad (with Tom Morello)
21.The Rising
22.Land Of Hope & Dreams
23.We Are Alive
24.Born In The USA
25.Born To Run
26.Glory Days
27.Dancing In The Dark
28.I Saw Her Standing There (with Paul McCartney)
29.Twist & Shout (with Paul McCartney)
30.Goodnight Irene (unplugged)