Sunday, 31 December 2017

2017 was brought to you by...

Well I'm not going to say by Sony, but there's been a change of camera as of late last year because  as you can see from the photo above which had to be taken with the old camera (the new one cannot take selfies of itself!) dust had crept inside the lens and nothing could be done about it.
So, I finally said goodbye to the old one which had been with me to all the concerts since 2009.
I had of course a new mobile since late 2015 (which was joined by a similar tablet earlier this year), and the pictures they can take are clearer and sharper than the old camera, but they are not of much use in a concert unless you are close to the stage because of the lack of a significant zoom.
Nevertheless they were both used on the first gig of the year which was in a small venue. Now, I don't normally bring my tablet to gigs, but I went to that one straught after work, so I was carrying it with me and I had the opportunity to test it.
Finally, hoping for more gigs in 2018, I leave you with memories from the two main ones of 2017; this...

...and this!

Saturday, 30 December 2017

Fly Beeyond Festival 2007

In the last of my "10 years ago" series for 2007, I want to take a look back at what was promised as Greece's first pop music festival on July 17, 18 and 19 but didn't turn out as good as it looked on paper.
First of all, I wanted to attend day 2 (like everybody else), not only because the newly reformed James were headlining but also because of Tori Amos whose fan I had been since 1992 and I had wanted to see her live ever since. And I knew I would probably enjoy seeing Air whose "Kelly Watch The Stars" was a song I really liked when I discovered it a few years earlier on a British TV feature on "Charlie's Angels" (Did you know that it was actually written for Kelly from that series?). Then I looked at the line up of day 3 and although I didn't care much for Pink who was headlining I thought that I would love to see Sugababes. I wasn't a fan, but I had noticed that I actually loved most of their singles. So it was going to be day 2 and 3 I thought. But because a 2 day ticket was cheaper that two one day ones and a 3 day ticket was cheaper than 3 one day ones, I thought "why not see the whole thing?". I wouldn't mind seeing Avril Lavigne who was headlining the first day.
When I arrived on the first day, Mikro were on stage who had replaced The Rasmus at the last moment. I was really happy about that, since I had already seen Marsheaux a few weeks earlier. They put on a great show and one unforgettable moment was when the teen (and probably pre-teen as well) girl fans were chanting "Avril, Avril..." the lead singer responded by saying "Later! Now it's MIKRO!!!"

Avril Lavigne did indeed appear later and did not disppoint. What I mostly enjoyed about her set was her cover of "All The Small Things" by Blink 182 at the end.
On day 2 I was there early to catch Tori Amos. I love her set, but most people ignored her. 
Then I decided to get a drink before Air came up and got stuck in a long queue for about 90 minutes. I watched the beginning of Air's set from the bar queue, but I was back in my place (with alcohol included) in time for "Kelly Watch The Stars".
Finally James came on, the highlight of the festival. We were all singing along and dancing with "Sit Down", "Tomorrow", "Laid" and "Getting Away With It (All Messed Up)". They also played one of their new songs plus a special extended version of "Gold Mother". "This is not a reunion, it's a rebirth" as Tim Booth said...
On day 3 I knew something was wrong from the beginning when Onirama's set lasted for 90 minutes. They even said goodbye and then came back. They were playing one of their own songs and then a cover. Then one of their songs and then a cover. And so on...
Sugababes were late and when they appeared only 2 of them came up on stage. And then they left after 20 minutes! Considering that the ticket for day 3 was refunded it was still an enjoyable 20 minutes, plenty of time for them to realize that the (very few) people attending knew the lyrics to their songs.
After they left it was announced that Pink would not appear because she was stuck back at the hotel with "stomach problems". Oh well... As I said the price of the day 3 ticket was refunded, I got my 20 minutes of Sugababes so I can't really complain. Rumours were going arould that Pink (and probably the 3rd Sugababe) did not appear because of the fact that only a few people bothered to attend. (There weren't many people on the first day either, but Avril, a true professional, went out and performed anyway).

What we learned from the whole experience was something that we suspected: That Greeks do not go to pop concerts. They would sell out the Olympic Stadium the following year for Madonna, but that is of course another story...

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Going down to The Dream Syndicate and Dustbowl show

Back in the early 80's The Dream Syndicate debut album "Days Of Wine And Roses" was marketed by their record company alongside the debut album by the Violent Femmes. As something "American" and "alternative". The truth is that each of the two bands has a different and quite distinct sound, but this ad, was the reason for me, who was already listening to the Violent Femmes to explore The Dream Syndicate.
I finally saw the Violent Femmes live 3 years ago and now it was time to see The Dream Syndicate. There was an extra reson for doing so. Support was provided by Dustbowl whom I had seen twice before, three years ago on their Johnny Cash Tribute show and two years ago at the Music Highway Festival previewing their latest album "The Great Fandango".
I arrived at the venue just as Dustbowl had started playing, a setlist mostly based on that very same album. I was glad to hear these songs again now that I'm familiar with "The Great Fandango", an album that according to my own personal list was one of the best albums of 2016.

On top of that, Dustbowl's sound is a perfect match foe the southern rock of The Dream Syndicate.
So the headliners came on stage and we started suspecting that we were in for a special treat when Steve Wynn announced that this was the last date of their European Tour.

Their set was over in 90 minutes and just as we were wondering if that was all, it was followed not by one, but by two lengthy encores.

The only thing that disappointed me was the version of "Medicine Show" they decided to play, but I have to stress out that this is my own personal opinion.

They more than made up for it when they managed to sneak in a Tom Petty tribute within "Boston".

They even played music from their latest album (Yes, they do have a new album out) and even that was one of the highlights of the night.

They finally wrapped things up in the most appropriate way: With "John Coltrane Stereo Blues"

They had played in Athens again in 2013 but I had missed that one. So this night was a dream come true for me...

01. Linger On
02. Sweet Flowers And Vine
03. Lay Me Down Easy
05. The Mourner
06. Heavy Chain Ball
07. Bread And Soil
08. Strain Of Care
09. The Great Fandango
10. The Boat
11. Billy

The Dream Syndicate
01. Halloween
02. The Circle
03. 80 West
04. Armed With An Empty Gun
05. Like Mary
07. Filter Me Through You
08. Burn
09. Whatever You Please
11. How Did I Find Myself Here
12. Forest For the Trees
13. That's What You Always Say
14. The Days Of Wine and Roses
15. Glide
16. The Side I'll Never Show
Encore 2:
18. When The Curtain Falls
20. John Coltrane Stereo Blues

Monday, 16 October 2017

George Michael in Athens 10 years ago

Continuing on the series of concerts that I attended 10 years ago, the biggest name to come that summer to Greece was George Michael. It was the first time that he would play in Greece and the rumour that was going around back then was that this tour which was his first major one in 23 years was also going to be his last. He had already announced that after his 2004 album "Patience" he was not going to release any more records and he would distribute any new music he might make through the Internet. So this concert was an opportunity not to be missed. I had already seen Duran Duran, so why not see one half of Wham! as well? We had seen him arrive in Athens on TV the previous day (and my only remark was that "had put on some weight" - but otherwise he looked terrific.). Extended highlights of his visit are to be found on his "Live In London" double DVD.
So, as usual, on the day of the concert we made our way towards the Olympic Stadium.

My seat was not that close to the stage I'm afraid; after my summer trip to France combining holidays and The Rolling Stones, I bought my George Michael ticket at the last minute.

Still George, did not disappoint. He went through some of his old Wham! and solo favourites, including several recent (at that time) songs from "Patience". 

His most impressive performance was "Shoot The Dog". 

He even spoke some Greek AND his father was in the audience. 
I found a setlist on but it seems to be a copy-paste job of his early "25 Live Tour setlists. Howevver, by the time George arrived in Athens , he had changed the setlist considerably, a fact I was able to confirm from the videos I had taken that night. So, I am not going to post it here.
I wish that could have been one more regular feature on the "concerts I've been to 10 years ago". Sadly, George is no longer with us (he was one of the many that left us in 2016), so this was the last time we saw him...

Monday, 4 September 2017

U2 Live Under A Greek Blue Sky

One year and a couple of weeks after I had seen U2 in Cardiff, they came to Athens in Greece, seven years ago. I wasn't going to miss it of course, and although it was the same tour, the experience proved to be a bit different. This time I was going to be in the pitch, whereas in Cardiff I was in the stands towards the back of the stage so that I could sample this "360 experience" from an unusual point.
A friend who used to live close to the Olympic Stadium told us that she could hear the sound check in the early afternoon.

It was at her place where we gathered at around 6 o clock in the early evening to start the (not so long) walk towards the stadium.

After we went through the first few gates we came head to head with that big unsung hero of the Greek concert organizing industry, the "security guard". At first they were guiding us using loudspeakers ordeing us to hold one of our hands up holding the ticket (seriously!) because they were going to "check the orange" (The orange what?). I've never been treated this way in any of the concerts I have been to in Europe. I understand that it may not be so tiring to do that, but I strongly object to being treated like sheep. Another one informed us smiling malevolently that we should not feel so happy that we finally got in because we had to walk for 30 more minutes (as it turned out it was only 5 minutes). It probably has something to do with the feeling of power this job entails that makes them behave this way. Maybe it acts as an aphrodisiac.
So we finally got into the stadium where people who had already been to other U2 concerts could easily be spotted.
First on stage at 19:15 was Aviv Geffen. Rather boring actually, but the funny thing was that I saw him again a few days later at a Placebo gig. One hour later, at 20:15, it was time for Snow Patrol.

After that, we were left watching the big screen where a clock seemed at first to lag behind, then go forward until we realized that the stroke of midnight would be at 21:45. The time that U2 were due to go onstage.

And that's exactly what happened, at that precise moment, while the stadium lights stayed on, U2 came on stage while David Bowie's Space Oddity was playing from the speakers.

The first proper song was "Beautiful Day" (following the instrumental "Return Of The Stingray Guitar"). This time they only played 4 songs from "No Line On The Horizon" ("Magnificent", "Get On Your Boots" "I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight" and "Moment Of Surrender").

So, since "Unknown Caller" was not played we didn't have the chance to hear the words we had been waiting for ("Athens, you know your name, so punch it in"), however we did hear something new in the form of "Return Of The Stingray Guitar". Personally, I was happy to hear "Hold, Thrill Me...", "Elevation", "Until The End Of The World" this time around which were not played in Cardiff. But, the highlight for me was "In A Little While", a song I had almost forgotten. The crowd enjoyed it and although we were told that not all tickets had been sold the stadium seemed to have been filled by the time U2 came on stage. I can imagine of course that the VIP seats would have been filled by Greek b-list "celelbrities" who thought that they "rocked" when in fact they actually attended the concert in order to be "seen" by the press and media. The same thing happened at Madonna's concert in 2008 and at The Rolling Stones concert in 1998, both at the same stadium. Another nice thing was that Bono didn't preach. Why am I saying that? Well, back in 2010, it was the beginning of Greece's economic crisis and every artist that came for a concert felt obliged to say something like "Don't worry, it will pass" or "Don't worry, you'll get over it" (It is still going on by the way). Instead Bono said something more original : "The Irish and the Greeks have one thing in common: we are both broke" (I'll take that as a compliment.)
01. Return Of The Stingray Guitar
02. Beautiful Day
03. I Will Follow
04. Get On Your Boots
05. Magnificent
06. Mysterious Ways
07. Elevation
08. Until The End Of The World
09. I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For / Movin' On Up (snippet)
10. Pride (In The Name Of Love)
11. In A Little While
12. Miss Sarajevo
13. City Of Blinding Lights
14. Vertigo
15. Funky Town (snippet) / I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight / Discothèque (snippet)
16. Sunday Bloody Sunday
17. MLK
18. Walk On / You'll Never Walk Alone (snippet)
19. One
20. Amazing Grace (snippet) / Where The Streets Have No Name
21. Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me
22. With Or Without You
23. Moment of Surrender
Another thing I realized now that I had seen the concert from the arena, is that you really enjoy it more when experiencing it from the stands since the stage is rather big and Bono and his friends (yes, even Larry) are moving all over the place. On the other hand, if you are in the arena you are compensated by the on-screen effects.
  We were hoping back then that we would see U2 again soon, but it's been 7 years and we are still waiting...