Tuesday, 31 May 2016

This is Radio Nowhere

It's official! Greece finally has its own Bruce Springsteen tribute band. And their name is Radio Nowhere.
They have played several gigs so far, but I could make it to none of them. Finally, a couple of weeks ago they played at a cosy rock club in the city centre and I managed to go. Of course, once again, public transport timetables meant that I could not see their whole set, but at least I saw about half of it, enough to get a clearer picture.

They play songs from all periods of Bruce's career including The Seeger Sessions and "the other band" era. In fact they play some songs that Bruce rarely performs at his concerts. My friend who was with me on that night said "they must have guts to have formed a Bruce tribute band". And I can see what he meant. They didn't just grab a couple of guitars, a bass and a drum kit to form a band. No, they also have a keyboard player, but most importantly a saxophone player. And while they don't have the size in members of The E Street Band, this means that they can play Bruce's songs the way they were meant to be performed. Their singer even danced with a girl from the audience during "Dancing In The Dark".
For me, it was a great introduction to them and I expect to see and hear more of them in the future!

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Eurovision 2006

Last Saturday was the day of the final of Eurovision 2016 from Stockholm. But 10 years ago Eurovision was held in Athens because Greece had won the previous year. After having watched it for many years on TV since my early childhood I thought this was a good opportunity to watch it live. Well, live, in a manner of speaking. Eurovision is not really a "concert". Only the vocals are live. The backing track is in play-back mode of course. There's no orchestra anymore.
Surprisingly enough (or so I thought then) it was so popular that I could not get a ticket fo the final. So I got one for the semi final and a couple for the rehearsals which cost almost nothing. So I went to the semi final rehearsal first and the next day (Thursday) to the proper semi-final. (Back then there was only one semi-final).
Semi Final

Semi Final

Semi Final

Semi Final

Semi Final

Semi Final

Even on that day there was a feeling that Finland would win with the hard rock (sort of) song "Hard Rock Hallelujah" from Lordi. (There had in fact been a hard rock song at the previous year's contest in Kiev which did quite well). Anyway, on the day of that semi final it was the first time that I used my new phone (a SonyEricsson W550) on an event. This could take 1Mpixel photos (!) and even low quality videos (unlike the older one I had used on the Simple Minds gig a month before)
On the day of the rehearsal of the final I decided to hang around outside the arena to see if I could find a ticket for the final proper and luckily enough someone spotted me and offered me one at face value.
Final Rehearsal

Final Rehearsal

So I came back the next day, but this time I brought my first digital camera and my Mini-DV video camera (both new at that time - the digital camera would get damaged six years later by the rain at the legendary Bruce Springsteen concert in Florence) since I had noted that despite the warnings on the tickets nobody was checking for cameras and nobody would stop you from taking pictures of filming. There was a couple in fact on the row in front of me who filmed the whole show. I mean, couldn't they have programmed their video recorder at home and enjoy it live? As for myself, I filmed about an hour of video (one Mini-DV tape) mostly of what was happening outside. Which is why I'm writing a blog post about this. Having not travelled abroad for the last two years while stuck in a low-paying job, and currently stuck in a better paying job that however did not allow for much time off, it was finally nice to meet people from different countries and gathered together on top of that (For some strange reason, the ones I remember most are the Croatians singing their song "Moja Stickla"). 


In some way meeting all these people made me feel kind of sad for my situation. One week after Eurovision however, I found a really good job which allowed me to start travelling abroad for concerts from 2007. I would never have thought about doing that, what prompted it though was the fact that one month after Eurovision we were expecting The Rolling Stones who never came, due to Keith antics with a coconut tree, so I went to see them in Lyon in 2007.

As for the Eurovision show itself, well it was probably one of the best with what was possibly the best (and not the usual Eurovision style) winner : Hard Rock Hallelujah!

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Prince @ Wembley Arena, March 1995

In the past, there have been a couple of instances where I missed a concert to which I had already bought a ticket. The worst case would have been that of The Bangles. I bought a ticket for a 1989 London gig (I think it was at The Town & Country Club in Kentish Town). Then the gig was cancelled. In fact I think the whole tour was cancelled. To add insult to injury a few weeks later The Bangles split up. I got my money back (I think it was only 10 pounds), but there was no chance of seeing them again, right? Fast forward 11 years later in 2000 in LA, and while I was eating my burger in a fast food joint on Sunset Boulevard, I notice a huge billboard on the other side of the road advertising The Bangles Reunion tour. I could not see them in the US (I was due to head back to London a couple of weeks later), but The Bangles were back together and that meant there was hope! I had a chance of finally seeing them! Well, that chance came 1 year later, when the came to London for a gig at The Sheperd's Bush Empire. After only 12 years I saw them live! I thoroughly enjoyed it. Five days later it was September the 11th and several other gigs were cancelled. Oh well...

The other instance of me missing a gig was in 1990. And this time, as you've guessed it, it was Prince. Back then there was no internet, so if you wanted to buy a ticket you either went to a box office (I was always going to one at Westminster opposite The Houses Of Parliament which was unfortunately closed when works for the Jubilee Line extension started), or you mailed your check and hoped for the best, receiving your ticket in the mail. I don't know why, but in this case I used the latter method. Demand for tickets was bound to be heavy, so I probably felt safer having had my check mailed. If it was sold out I thought I would get a refund. Now Prince had announced 3 gigs initially (if I remember correctly), around the 20th of June. I asked for one of them, knowing that if I didn't get one for the date I had chosen I would get one on one of the other two dates. The timing was right, just after the exams. Well what happened was this: All gigs were sold out, so Prince kept adding gigs which were also sold out. Seven gigs were eventually announced in London, all 7 were sold out, then he went to Birmingham for 3 gigs at the NEC and after Birmingham he added 2 more to London. I was eventually allocated a ticket to one of these two, I think it was for the 4th of July. I received the ticket in the mail. The problem was that I had no way of staying in the UK until that date. The college would be closed, I would not have anywhere to stay and I could not support myself for all these days leading to the 4th of July. So I went home, and never went to that concert.
4 and a half years later, in January 1995, when I returned to London from my Christmas holiday, upon entering Tower Records for one of my regular visits there, I saw Prince tickets being sold at its Box Office. Needless to say, I immediately grabbed one. It was either for the 21st or the 22nd of March.

Prince's situation was much different by then. As the day of the concert was approaching, Time Out magazine featured a Prince interview. A Prince interview? Now that was something extremely rare. Back in the 80's at the height of his popularity Prince would not give any interviews. I bought the magazine and from that interview I learned that he had declared war on his record company which would not let him release his latest album "The Gold Experience" and that's why he had written the word "Slave" on his cheek.

To get back at them he said, he would not play any of his biggest hits on that tour so that the record company would not profit from sales of these records. Now this would seem like a big disappointment probably, but Prince was Prince and he was funky, so I knew I was going to have a good time anyway. In fact, the company tried to cash in by releasing a limited edition "Purple Medley" single which I did buy, though he would not play any of these songs on the day.
I was lucky enough after all these years to find the complete interview on the internet and you can read it here: http://princetext.tripod.com/i_timeout95.html
It's funny how many little things I remember while I'm writing this. Upon entering the arena I saw that I had to go through a security check in case I was carrying any illegal items. There were several people doing these checks men and women, so naturally (!) I went to one of the women. Very kindly she instructed me to go to one of the guys. Apparently the men were checking the men and the women were checking the women. Well, it was worth a try (:LOL:).
I remember my security guy finding my Stephen King (or Dean Koontz) paperback and telling me "It can't be that boring, can it?". I explained that I had a long tube journey back home. You see, while both Wembley and my place were in North London, I would have to travel through Central London to change to the Piccadilly Line and get back to Wood Green.
Anyway, I was finally in and I realized that in fact "Purple Medley" could be heard at the gig but only through the speakers while we waited for the concert to start and while the single was being advertised at the video projectors. Finally Prince came on stage and launched into a very funky set which looked like this:

01. Endorphinmachine
02. The Jam
03. Shhh
04. Days Of Wild
05. Now
06. Funky Stuff
07. Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine
08. The Most Beautiful Girl in the World
09. P Control
10. Letitgo
11. Pink Cashmere
12. Loose!
13. I Love U In Me
14. Peach
15. 7
16. Get Wild
17. Billy Jack Bitch
18. Eye Hate U
20. 319
21. Gold

So, who cared that he did not play the earlier hits, when in fact there were other hits like "The Most Beautiful Girl In The World (#1 in the UK), "Peach" and "LetItGo", but most importantly, my favourite Prince song ever: "7"

Yes, my favourite Prince song is not from the 80's but from the 90's:

"All 7 and we'll watch them fall
They stand in the way of love but we will smoke them all
With an intellect, and a savoir-faire
No-one in the whole universe will ever compare
I am yours now and you are mine
And together we'll love through all space and time
So don't cry..."

There were also great b-sides like "Pink Cashmere", a cover of James Brown's "Sex Machine" and even a song from the album The New Power Generation (his backing band) released without him: "Get Wild". Oh and there was also "P. Control" the complete title of which was "Pussy Control". Prince introduced it as "a song about our favourite part of your anatomy ladies, which drives us crazy". He then proceeded to guiding all the women in the audience to sing along with him "Aaaaah, pussy control!". Priceless!
After the concert, on my way back to Wembley Park station, I found a guy selling posters on the street. I bought a Prince poster (of course) plus a laminated "Pulp Fiction" poster which was hanging for several years in my bedroom. Funny the things one remembers after 21 years... You will be missed Mr.Nelson...