Thursday, 17 December 2020

Katerine Duska & Leon Of Athens live in Athens September 2020

Incredibly enough, there were concerts in 2020! For a moment we even thought there was going to be one from an international artist when it was announced that Jethro Tull would perform at Technopolis (one of the concert areas in Athens which followed all the health protocols outlined by the government). I might have already seen them twice, and the last time was also at Technopolis (the first one was at Terra Vibe) but I would have gladly gone a third time if it had actually taken place. However, by the time the concert date was approaching, the recorded cases had risen and consequently it was cancelled. Leon of Athens with Catherine Duska had also performed at Technopolis this summer and I intended to attend that as well but somehow I missed it. But I got a second chance at Gazarte Roof Stage. During the summer the stage is completely open so it fulfilled the health protocols for concerts (No indoor gigs were allowed). And one of the reasons that I chose to see Leon Of Athens was that I had actually seen him by himself three times already in the past and two of them were at Gazarte (The first one was at the main stage and the second one was at the roof stage but it was closed as it took place during the winter). So, I now wanted to see him perform with Katerine Duska. Katerine Duska was of course Greece's participant in the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest performing a song written by Leon Of Athens.

I arrived at Gazarte early, before the doors had even opened. I had to wear a mask up upon entering (because I was actually indoors now), but I could take it off when I reached the roof (where I would actually be outdoors with an amazing view of Athens). 

I was therefore able to find the ideal place to sit, a stool facing the stage with a bench in front of it where I could place my drink. The gig was advertised as "show only" meaning there were no complimentary drinks but you could buy something from the bar. The waitress however, was wearing her mask below the nose so I didn't order anything.

Caterine and Leon appeared on stage, starting with the song that they have released together "Anemos" which is sung in Greek. I was wondering whether that was signifying a career change for Leon Of Athens as he was usually singing in English in the past. That didn't seem to be the case as they did a few Greek cover versions (Leon Of Athens used to do a couple of these in the past by himself, like the Stereo Nova tune for example), but all of Leon's hits from the past were there, Katerine sung "Better Love" (her Eurovision entry) and they both did some cover versions on English as well (the highlight of which was Katerine's rendition of "Killing Me Softly"). The show ended as it had started, with "Anemos".

The only gig of 2020 turned out to be a great and enjoyable night for me, but it must have also been a success for the artists, as it was due to be repeated at the same place the following month. 

Unfortunately, by that time cases had once again risen (a situation which led to the current lockdown) and all subsequent planned gigs were cancelled. Let's hope that the situation will finally improve in 2021...

Monday, 14 December 2020

Little Boots live in London November 2019

The story of how I ended up in London in 2019 watching Little Boots is quite a long one. Back in 2007 I saw Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark live at Lycabettus Theatre in Athens. Back then I thought that no-one was listening to synth-pop anymore. But at the same gig I discovered that support band Marsheaux not only listened to, but played synth-pop as well. Trying to find a way to buy their albums I joined their MySpace page. Through that page I was informed when they decided to start a forum page. At that forum we didn't just talk about Marsheaux but about other synth pop artists. One of the artists that I discovered through the Marsheaux Forum was Little Boots. Another one was La Roux. Anyway back then I thought of Little Boots as "the Lady GaGa of synth-pop". So having seen the real Lady GaGa in 2014, I thought "Why haven't I seen Little Boots yet?".  One of the reasons was probably that she preferred doing DJ sets instead of gigs. My chance finally came up with the 10th anniversary of her first album "Hands". She released a special deluxe edition of it and I was part of the crowdfunding process. She also announced an anniversary mini-tour where most of the dates were in the USA and one, just one in the UK: London on the 23rd of November 2019. I bought a ticket even though I didn't know if I was going to be able to go and it was lucky that I did because it was soon sold out.
On the night of Friday the 22nd I went straight to the airport from work. And since I wasn't working on Monday I was going to make this a long weekend. I was able to find a hotel room in my favourite area of London, Bayswater (where I had also lived for a year!) and the venue was on Holloway Road near University Of North London (it has a different name now), where I got my first degree from. So this was like a trip down memory lane! 

I was there on time, before the doors opened and so I joined the queue that had formed. Once we got in, I didn't go to check the merchandise stand, I just went to secure my place as close to the front as possible. As this was a sold out gig, I knew that it would fill up quickly.

Opening act Girli was a pleasant surprise. At that time I was worried because I couldn't find her music anywhere, however she has now released an album and I'm planning on ordering that soon. 

The wait for Little Boots was over when the opening notes of "New In Town" were heard. Because yes, she was going to play the complete "Hands" album from start to finish! One of the highlights was a special extended version of "Stuck On Repeat", while "Remedy" was, at least for me, the best part of that night... so far (Because the best part of the night for me would come at the after show party... read on!). 

On "Perfect Symmetry" Phil Oakey's part was sung by Tom Aspaul. Unfortunately her beloved Tenori-On gave up halfway through the gig.

After the main part of "Hands", she sat at the keyboard and treated us to an acoustic medley of "No Brakes" (the last track from "Hands"), "Echoes" (an outtake now finally released in the deluxe edition) and two cover versions: New Order's "Bizarre Love Triangle" and Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill". 

And she told us about how her boyfriend had proposed to her (and that she had said yes!). It wasn't over though, because then she treated us to songs from her later albums, ending with my favourite from "Nocturnes" (her second one) called "Shake" where Girli, Tom Aspaul,her mum and several members of the audience joined her on stage. 

That was the end of the gig but there was an after show party coming up upstairs. I still hadn't decided whether I would go to that one, so I hang out at the merchandise stand which was manned by her brother, so I got to meet him as well. I bought a 12 inch EP I didn't have and a long-sleeved t-shirt. 

Then we were told that the venue would have to close and would we please move on upstairs for the after-show party. So, right there and then, 12 inch in hand, I decided to go. I wanted to experience one of her DJ-sets anyway. And the fact that the London Underground is now running through the night on weekends meant that I wouldn't have any trouble getting back to my hotel. Technically, the upstairs area of The Garage is a different club called The Grace. So I found myself on a Saturday night in London going nightclubbing! Not bad!
She didn't spend much time behind the decks though. She was mostly among the crowd. I was too shy to talk to her though. But then someone from the crowd noticed me standing there with my 12 inch and thought that I wanted her to sign it for me (well, I did!) and he talked to her mum (I got to meet her as well!) who in turned talk to Victoria who signed my record and took a picture with me. Thank you Wayne for taking that picture! Meanwhile, I told her all about how I had come all the way from Greece for that gig. All the while I was enjoying the music, this was a very good DJ set featuring amazing soings from the 70's ("Use It Up And Wear It Out"), 80's ("Funkytown"), 90's and even 00's favourites ("I Follow Rivers"). And even Little Boots' own songs ("Get Things Done"). I even got a drink from the bar and I was surprised at how reasonably it was priced. Totally unlike the clubs in Greece. 

And so, at the end of the night, with my now signed 12 inch still in hand I made it to the London Underground and back to Bayswater and my hotel.

I spent the next day strolling through London, I went to the Clash's "London Calling" Exhibition at the Museum Of London and shopping for clothes at Primark among other things but these will probably be the subject of another blog post.
On Monday morning I went to the airport to go back to Greece. What I didn't know then was that this would be my last trip and gig abroad because of the subsequent lockdowns. It was a special one, though!

01. New In Town
02. Earthquake
03. Stuck On Repeat
04. Click
05. Remedy
06. Meddle
07. Ghost
08. Mathematics
09. Symmetry
10. Tune Into My Heart
11. Hearts Collide
12. No Brakes / Echoes / Bizarre Love Triangle/ Running Up That Hill
Encore 2:
13. Working Girl
14. Get Things Done
15. Shadows
16. Motorway
17. Every Night I Say A Prayer
18. Shake

Wednesday, 2 December 2020

Bryan Adams live in Athens November 2019

When Bryan Adams's most successful album "Reckless" was released in late 1984 and became a huge hit in 1985, we thought of him as "The Canadian Bruce". The parallels with Bruce Springsteen were many. Bruce Springsteen's most successful album "Born In The USA" was released in 1984 and became a huge hit in 1985. I had seen Bruce 11 times until 2013 but I had yet to see Bryan. So, when back in 2014, Bryan Adams was touring to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Reckless, and I simultaneously received an invitation from a fellow Bruce bloodbrother (hello, peter4run) to visit him in Stratford-Upon-Avon in order to go and see him in nearby Birmingham, I jumped at the chance. However, I never thought that he would come to Greece. But he did finally come 5 years later (last year in 2019). And I went to see him. Little did I know that this would be the last concert in Greece by a major international artist. I bought my ticket once I had made sure that I wasn't going to be working on that day. It was an electronic ticket which means that you download and print it (or you store it on your mobile) and its barcode is scanned upon entering the venue. The strange thing that happened though is that one day before the concert I received an email with a replacement e-ticket having a different barcode. Nobody knows why this happened.

I arrived at the Olympic Arena quite early and so I was able to get very close to the front of the stage, whereas in 2014 I was sitting in the stands. There was no support and there was a long-running video with animation and effects of Bryan on the big screen while we were waiting for the concert to begin.

He began with "Last Night On Earth", but it was with the second song that we realized that the real concert had actually started: "Somebody". Yes, we were in "Reckless" territory. This wasn't the Reckless Anniversary Tour of course, but there were still quite a few songs from that album played. There were three from his latest album "Shine A Light" which is quite good by the way, especially the title track. The third song however was "Can't Stop This Thing We Started" and we were thankful that it was played so early, as we were hoping that the guy who was holding up a sign requesting that song would finally put it down, thus enabling us to have a better view of the stage.

The obligatory "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You" was naturally there, but the special surprise was something else. Bryan and his guitarist treated us to an acoustic rendition of "Zorba's Dance" which served as the intro to "Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman".

And then there was the request section. People from the audience asked for a specific song and Bryan played a short version of it. (He had to keep explaining to people that they needn't worry and he would actually play "Summer Of '69" towards the end of his set). Anyway, I was granted the two songs that I wanted : "There Will Never Be Another Tonight" and "Hearts On Fire". I was especially lucky with the latter since he rarely plays songs from "Into The Fire" which is considered a "difficult" album.

Finally, he did of course play "Summer Of 69" at the end of his normal set, but there was still another surprise in store, at least for me: "I Fought The Law". We went crazy on that one. OK, if I had watched his Wembley 1996 DVD before the concert, I would have known that he does that often.

The encore and the concert ended with "Straight From The Heart" and "All For Love". We all went home happy. To this day this has been the last arena concert in Greece by a major artist...

01. The Last Night On Earth
02. Somebody
03. Can't Stop This Thing We Started
04. Run To You
05. Shine A Light
06. Heaven
07. Go Down Rockin'
08. It's Only Love
09. Cloud Number Nine
10. You Belong To Me
11. Zorba Dance / Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman
12. Here I Am
13. When You're Gone
14. (Everything I Do) I Do It For You
15. Back To You
16. The Only Thing That Looks Good On Me Is You
17. Cuts Like A Knife
18. 18 Til I Die
19. Hearts On Fire
20. There Will Never Be Another Tonight
21. Kids Wanna Rock
22. Please Forgive Me
23. Summer Of '69
24. I Could Get Used To This
25. I Fought The Law
26. Straight From The Heart
27. All For Love

Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Queensryche live in Athens November 2019

To tell you the truth, I first got interested in Queensryche back in the day, because their name started with "Queen". I was intrigued however by the fact that one of their first songs was called "Queen Of The Reich", paraphrasing the band's name. And then I got to actually listen to them in 1990 when a fellow student who was a heavy metal fan gave me their "Empire" CD for free, simply because he had bought it and... hated it. On first listen, I found it rather boring, (it was probably too prog for me at the time) but I really liked the ballad featured in that album titled "Silent Lucidity". In later years I decided to investigate further and finally managed to track down their "Queen Of The Reich" CD. And now, in 2019 they were coming to Athens, so I wasn't going to miss them.
It was on a Saturday, two days before the Bryan Adams concert, which turned out to be the last big concert in Greece before the lockdown and it was at Fuzz Club, the same venue where my concert year had started with Uriah Heep. There weren't so many people compared to the aforementioned gig, so I found a nice little corner at the back to enjoy it while preserving some energy, since I had two more gigs coming up the following week and one of them was in London.

They played songs from the whole span of their career, including from fan favourite "Operation Mindcrime" but also from my favourites "Queen Of The Reich" and "Empire". In fact they actually played "Queen Of The Reich" and "Silent Lucidity" back to back!

All in all an incredible and highly enjoyable Saturday night with what would turn out to be one of my last gigs before the lockdown...

02. I Am I
03. NM 156
04. Man The Machine
05. Walk In The Shadows
07. Condition Hüman
10. Jet City Woman
11. Propaganda Fashion
12. The Mission
13. Screaming In Digital
14. Take Hold Of The Flame
15. Light-Years
16. Empire
17. Eyes Of A Stranger