Monday, 28 January 2019

10 years later - In defence of Working On A Dream

The last 4 Bruce Springsteen albums have followed a similar pattern: One great (Magic, Wrecking Ball), followed by one not so great (Working On A Dream, High Hopes). That was the case with Working On A Dream. And this was proved from the beginning of the subsequent tour of the same name when most songs from the album were dropped from the setlist leaving only two: Outlaw Pete and the title track. I was lucky enough to experience a live performance of a third though, when "Surprise Surprise" was requested in Rome and Bruce dutifully obliged.
OK, so, it's not a great album. Why did it seem so important back then? Well, for one thing, it was a happy album, much happier than Magic. Barack Obama had just been sworn in as president of the USA and hope was everywhere.

And what about the songs themselves? It had leaked on the internet a few days before its release and I remember when other fans from various countries were looking for it and the response was "The Greeks have it". I don't know how the Greek fans got it first, the thing is that all of us went out and bought a legal copy once it was officially released. But it was this situation that enabled me to listen to it before it was released, on my MP3 player one morning on my way to work. I had not, by the way received it all at once. I got it mostly track by track, as some songs were gradually becoming available on Amazon, such as the title track, "My Lucky Day" and the extended version of "The Wrestler". I managed to listen to all of it except for "The Last Carnival" which came on when I arrived at work so I listened to it on my trip home. From my work computer, I logged in to the Greek Springsteen Community forum and wrote my review. And I liked most of the songs, many more than just "Outlaw Pete" and "Working On A Dream". My favourite was "Tomorrow Never Knows" (it still is, and, in fact, I know somebody who became a fan when she heard that particular song). Another favourite at the time was, embarassingly enough "Queen Of The Supermarket" only because I fancied a checkout girl when I was a student in London, but I soon grew out of it.
OK, so I still haven't answered my original question: Why did it feel so special back then? The answer is simple: We knew there was a tour coming, so soon after the Magic tour. And as far as I was concerned, although I had seen Bruce Springsteen live the year before, this was the first time I was going to see him from up close, from "the pit" as they say. And I would not be alone this time either. After the Magic Tour I had met other Greek fans on No Surrender, the forum of the Greek Springsteen community {which by the way doesn't exist anymore as, along with everything else, has now moved to Facebook). This time I would be in the company of other people. There would, in fact, be several of us at each concert. Most of us can be seen on the Hyde Park DVD and there were also more than 50 of us at the Rome concert on the 19th of July. And let's not forget that we did not experience any of the usual "ticket stress" for that one, since we deposited the money to an account of a good friend and she brought us the tickets in person all the way from Italy.
I Listened to the alnum again, this time on vinyl on the 10th anniversary of its release, And I dug out the original tour programme. The tour programmes of both the Magic and the Working On A Dream tours were basically the CD booklets (wih song lyrics and other information) enlarged. So the Working On A Dream tour program would qualify as a vinyl booklet. (The lyrics are printed on the vinyl inner sleeves anyway). The verdict: I still believe that it is a good album. You don't believe? Well, at least for the title track watch the Hyde Park DVD once again. Look at all those people waving their arms. Now tell me again that Working On A Dream is not a good song. I dare you.
10 years... "Where the time goes, tomorrow never knows..." 

Monday, 7 January 2019

Queen + Paul Rodgers in London 2008

You have probably noticed by now that a large percentage of my concert posts are about Bruce Springsteen. Yes, Bruce Springsteen is my favourite solo artist. However, my favourite band, and this was long before I discovered Bruce Springsteen, was Queen. Unfortunately, by the time I moved to the UK in 1988 they were no longer touring. And three years after that, we lost Freddie. Not only that, but on that day, the Greeks suddenly discovered Queen. Yes, the same people who were teasing me and bullying me for listening to "that faggot" were now talking about "a sad day for music" and "a great loss". Go figure. So, I never got the chance to see them live although I got lots of video tapes and DVD's. And as a hardcore fan, Queen were not just about Freddie Mercury to me and I kept following the solo careers of Brian May and Roger Taylor over the years. So when I learned that they had teamed up with Paul Rodgers (of Bad Company and Free) as a lead singer for a new album and a tour and was also offered a pre-sale link for their November 2008 London concert I jumped at the chance. OK, so I could not see Freddie live, but why not see Brian and Roger live? The truth is, I had seen both of them in person in 2001 at the traffic lights at the corner of Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street opposite the Dominion Theatre where the "We Will Rock You" musical was playing. But this was a chance to see them perform. And not just perform, but perform Queen songs. And what's more Paul Rodgers was a respectable stand-in for Freddie, since he was not just a singer, but a rock singer, from a similar era.
And so, 10 years ago, in November 2008, I flew to London for this great gig. It was also the first time I was visiting the O2 Arena, which I had known as The Millennium Dome 8 years before that.
And yes, I saw what I wanted to see: Queen songs, but also Free and Bad Company songs since Paul was the lead singer. And I even saw a bit of Freddie. He appeared on the video screens not only on "Bohemian Rhapsody" (you can't have "Bohemian Rhapsody" without Freddie) but also on "Bijou". Because the band performed songs that Queen had never performed live, songs from "The Miracle" and "Innuendo" albums, like "I Want It All" and "The Show Must Go On". And there were also songs from the "The Cosmos Rocks" album which they had released with Paul Rodgers at the time. Apart from Paul singing his Free and Bad Company songs, Roger got his moment taking centre stage for a drum solo and "I'm In Love With My Car" (on which he sang the lead vocals on the "A Night At The Opera" album anyway) and Brian also had his own place in the spotlight with a guitar solo and his solo hit "Last Horizon". Somewhere at that point, Brian told the audience that in whichever city they were playing, they would play a local song. So what could they play at the O2 Arena then? A cover of "Maybe It's Because I'm A Londoner" to which the audience sang along.

And like the original Queen gigs it all ended with "We Will Rock You", "We Are The Champions" and "God Save The Queen".
All in all it was great entertainment for a Friday night, but before going home early on Sunday morning I also had the chance to see the Monty Python musical "Spamalot" on Saturday night. An amazing London weekend!

01. Hammer To Fall
02. Tie Your Mother Down
03. Fat Bottomed Girls
04. Another One Bites The Dust
05. I Want It All
06. I Want To Break Free
07. C-lebrity
08. Surf's Up... School's Out!
09. Seagull
10. Maybe It's Because I'm a Londoner
11. Love Of My Life
12. '39
13. Drum Solo
14. I'm In Love With My Car
15. A Kind Of Magic
16. Say It's Not True
17. Voodoo
18. Bad Company
19. We Believe
20. Guitar Solo
21. Bijou
22. Last Horizon
23. Radio Ga Ga
24. Crazy Little Thing Called Love
25. The Show Must Go On
26. Bohemian Rhapsody
27. Cosmos Rockin'
28. All Right Now
29. We Will Rock You
30. We Are The Champions
God Save The Queen