Tuesday, 21 July 2020

Happy Mondays live in Margate July 2019

Happy Mondays came to Greece in 2008. And I missed them, I completely forgot! Then, they were due to come in July 2013 at Ejekt Festival supporting the Pet Shop Boys. Now, because a general strike was announced on that particular day in Athens, they did not risk getting on a plane to Greece. So, Peter Hook And The Light were drafted at the last minute. Fast forward to 2016 when I was in Manchester, at Etihad Stadium waiting for The Stone Roses to come on stage (I had been dreaming of that for years!). Suddenly the sounds of "Hallelujah" come out of the speakers. 
These two bands were in the same category back in the day and I remembered that I wanted to see them as well, now that my Stone Roses dream had come true. Now, no sensible promoter would be booking them to appear in Greece after that unfortunate "general strike" incident. It was therefore imperative that I take matters into my own hands. I started following them on Facebook and waited for the perfect opportunity. Which eventually came. They announced that they would play at a seaside amusement park (Dreamland Margate) in the summer of 2019 at the ridiculously cheap price of 20GBP per ticket. I didn't have to think twice. I bought the ticket and thought "well, even if I can't make it it's only 20 quid, isn't it?". I still remember the message my browser displayed when I pressed the "Buy Now" button: "Congratulations! You're going to see The Happy Mondays in Margate!".
So, the morning after the Rod Stewart concert, I departed Brighton towards another part of the British coast. I had to go through London, though. My tickets had been bought in advance so there was no problem there. I even retraced my train journeys from when I was a student in Canterbury in 1989.
When I arrived in Margate, one of the first things I noticed was Dreamland. It was impossible to miss it. 

As I was walking along the beach road towards my room I couldn't help thinking of the Morrissey song "Every Day Is Like Sunday". It was a seaside town but so much different to Brighton.

I decided to go to the park early, clad in my Stone Roses t-shirt from 2016, so I could wander around the amusement park. After all, I had been working in one of them 19 years before in the USA. After checking out all the amusements and all the rides (although I didn't get on any of them) I arrived at the stage.

The opening act was one from the same era: 808 State. As their set unfolded it was beginning to feel more and more like a 90's rave party. And it was surreal that you could look around while the gig was in progress and see that people were still on the rides.

After their set was over I retraced my steps towards the entrance in order to find some beer.

Then it was back to the stage area where I secured a nice spot near the sound console for the Happy Mondays set.

They finally came up on stage with Shaun Ryder on crutches who after a few notes proceeded on throwing them away. They told us that they were mainly playing songs from the "Pills'N'Thrills'N'Bellyaches" album.

But there was no need to worry, because, along with that album all the hits were there: "Step On", "Loose Fit", "Bob's Yer Uncle" (a big hit in the Santorini clubs and beach bars back in 1991-92), "Kinky Afro", the club mix of "Hallelujah" and a wonderful "Wrote For Luck" saved for the end. Bez was there, cheerful as usual along with Rowetta, although she had to eject an over-eager fan from the stage several times.

I had a wonderful time and for the duration of the gig I was transported back to the 90's. The next morning I woke up and went straight to the station to catch a train to London and attend the "Van Gogh In London" exhibition at the Tate Gallery before I headed to the airport to catch my flight to Athens. I would be back to London though before the year was over for my last gig before the lockdown....
01. Kinky Afro
02. God's Cop
03. Donovan
04. Grandbag's Funeral
05. Loose Fit
06. Dennis And Lois
07. Bob's Yer Uncle
08. Step On
09. Holiday
10. Hallelujah
11. 24 Hour Party People
12. Wrote For Luck

Thursday, 16 July 2020

Depeche Mode live in Barcelona November 2009

I had really wanted to see Depeche Mode live in 2009. But why? Well, as I've said many times, back in 2006 at Terra Vibe I didn't really see them. I've only listened to them. I couldn't see anything. And that was mainly because I had arrived late and it was one of the most crowded concerts that had taken place at Terra Vibe. From then on I had been very cautious with that venue, usually buying premium (VIP) tickets, to ensure that I could find some higher ground from where I could see the band. And that's exactly what I did in May 2009 when they were due to appear at Terra Vibe. I had bought a VIP ticket and that particular section corresponded to the VIP section I had observed back in 2006. And I went there fairly early. And then came the disappointment of the cancellation due to Dave's illness. Unfortunately (or should I say "as usual"?) the promoter did not attempt to reschedule the date at a later time during that particular tour. And I'm saying "as usual" because it was the same promoter who had not attempted to reschedule the 2006 Rolling Stones Athens concert which was cancelled due to Keith's falling from a coconut tree or something like that. But, as the saying goes, everything happens for a reason. In 2007 I went to see The Rolling Stones in France and that was the start of my habit of going abroad for concerts, while in 2009, I went to see Depeche Mode in Barcelona and that was the concert that was being filmed for the "Tour Of The Universe" DVD.

The Barcelona dates were not announced with the other dates at the beginning of the tour. They were announced much later and I thought it was a good chance to make up for the cancelled gig so I took it. Plus, I would also get to see Barcelona, a city I had never been to before.
The first problem I had was with the flights. The concert was on a Saturday night and Aegean Airlines had a direct flight to Barcelona every day of the week except - yes, you've guessed it! - on a Saturday! So, I chose another - not easier, but cheaper - way. I took my regular Friday night 23:30 EasyJet flight to London Gatwick and from there I would take another EasyJet flight to Barcelona.
Another strange coincidence was that Pet Shop Boys were playing in Athens on Friday night. And to add insult to injury, the venue was near the airport! But even if Pet Shop Boys were to finish before 23:30, I still wouldn't have time to go through check-in. So I decided that I would see them (again) some other time. Nice decision, since that "other time" would be in the summer of 2013 in Athens on a gig that I have filed under the category of "Concerts that changed my life". (Once again, everything happens for a reason).
I arrived in Barcelona at sometime before noon and I didn't have as much time as I would have wanted to do much sightseeing because I also had to catch up on some sleep.

I went to the Sagrada Familia, I checked a couple of other buildings by Gaudi (from the outside only) and I visited the Olympic Stadium which was on the way to the venue (Palau Sant Jordi, another venue that had been used during the 1992 Olympics).

I wanted to check out the venue before the concert because a friend of mine from Scotland would be waiting there since early in the morning in order to be able to get to the front. We did meet (and it was he who informed me that the concert was being filmed for a DVD), we arranged where we would meet after the concert and I went back to the city to get something to eat before the concert. I wanted to try tapas of course. I had taken a year of Spanish lessons a long long time ago, but these didn't help me much since the guy at the Tapas Bar was only speaking Catalan and I was only speaking (a kind of) Spanish. However, with my Spanish and his Catalan we somehow managed to communicate and I got the tapas I wanted. I returned to the venue, in time for the concert, and decided as usual to have a pint of beer from the bar. It was the first time that I had seen a bar serving a 2-pint glass of beer! 

And yes, I went for it! And once inside, right on time, the concert started and I was enjoying the fact that I could actually really see the band (for the first time since 1985 and the "Rock In Athens" festival) while drinking my two pints of lager (and realizing, to my surprise that there were two Greeks sitting behind me).

I wasn't much keen on the "Sounds Of The Universe" album, but I was anxious to hear "Wrong" which was an excellent single (probably the last good Depeche Mode single in my opinion, while the last good Depeche Mode album was "Playing The Angel"). But there were lots of other favourites from the past although they didn't play the song I always expect to hear on a DM gig, "Just Can't Get Enough".

They had however, planned something special for the finale and the DVD and that was "Waiting For The Night" as a vocal duet between Dave and Martin which went horribly wrong when one of them forgot the lyrics! It still went on the DVD though.
When it was all over, I went to the place where I had arranged to meet my Scottish friend (and his Bulgarian friend who had also attended the concert, so I had quite a multinational company on that night), found them, and went back to the centre of the city on foot, going down the hill.
Halfway down, I realized that this was possibly the place where Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballe had presented their Barcelona project back in 1987 or 1988. So that was another bit of sightseeing accidentally dealt with.

From the city centre I took the metro back to my hotel where I met several Catalan devotees who were asking me to photograph them while shouting not "Depeche" but "deep-etch-ay".

One final thing I noticed about Barcelona (even though it was a Saturday night) was how many people were out on the streets at night. Not inside bars or restaurants, but out on the streets. I have only seen that in two other cities: Athens and Istanbul.
The next morning I had to wake up early to get to the airport, there was no time for any further sightseeing. And I had to take that same route again: Barcelona to London and then London to Athens. When I arrived at the gate I realized that I would travel as far as London with my Scottish friend. It was good to have some company because that flight turned out to be the worst I have ever been on. We felt so relieved when it touched down on Gatwick. There was one more flight for me, from London to Athens but that went rather smoothly.
I would see Depeche Mode again in 2013 at Terra Vibe and there I had the chance to recreate what was supposed to happen at the cancelled concert. I got the same VIP ticket, in the same area, on higher ground with a proper view of the band. But that's another story. Meanwhile, I could boast that in 2009 I attended not one, but two concerts which were filmed for a DVD release. The other one, was, of course, Bruce Springsteen at Hyde Park.

01. In Chains
02. Wrong
03. Hole To Feed
04. Walking In My Shoes
05. It's No Good
06. A Question Of Time
07. Precious
08. Fly On The Windscreen
09. Sister Of Night
10. Home
11. Come Back
12. Policy Of Truth
13. In Your Room
14. I Feel You
15. Enjoy The Silence
16. Never Let Me Down Again
17. Dressed In Black
18. Stripped
19. Behind The Wheel
20. Personal Jesus
21. Waiting For The Night

Thursday, 9 July 2020

ZZ Top live in Athens September 2009

After coming back from Udine, the last stop of my tour of Italy with Bruce Springsteen in 2009 there was only one summer concert left: U2 at Cardiff in Wales. After that, it was back to concerts in Greece with the first one being ZZ Top in Athens in September 2009. And as it was autumn by now, we were back to indoor venues.
My first encounter with ZZ Top was back at the beginning of the 80's. My brother wanted to buy a record that would have been representative of country music. He had decided on Johnny Cash. But when he announced it to his friends he got this reply: "Not Johnny Cash you w***er, ZZ Top". (You see, the Greek "rockers" did not consider Johnny Cash to be "rock enough" back then. So he bought "The Best Of ZZ Top" and that's how I got familiar with songs like "Tush", "Blue Jean Blues" and "La Grange". Unfortunately my brother did not like ZZ Top so he sold the record and bought something by Johnny Cash instead, as was his original intention. I finally managed to find "The Best Of ZZ Top" on CD when I went to the States in 2000. I can therefore claim that I've known them before "Eliminator" which was when the rest of the world became aware of them.
So, on the night of the concert, after I had picked up a couple of friends from Katerini (a town in northern Greece) at the nearby Karaiskaki Stadium, we made our way to the Tae Kwon Do Arena using the tram. Once inside, support was provided by Skelters and quite enjoyable they were, too. They even played a cover of the Beatles' "Come Together".

I would have expected Down & Out to be the support that night (a Greek band, one of this blog's favourites along with their later transformation as The Big Nose Attack, who had supported ZZ Top on the Sofia, Skopje and Istanbul dates of that particular tour), but it wasn't to be.
Anyway by now, it was time for ZZ Top to come on. With plenty of songs from their old(er) albums saving the trio of "Eliminator" favourites for the end of their normal set. They even spoke in Greek with a woman (presumably one of the organizers) before they launched into "Future Blues".

But that wasn't enough for the crowd who started chanting "Z-Z-TOP" repeatedly while we were running away from the main arena and onto the upper level in order to get a different (though not necessarily better) point of view. And they did indeed came out again, not just for one but for two encores.

That was the end of the concert, but not the end of the night for us. We left the south of Athens and moved to the center of the city where in what was our favourite bar at that time, a friend of ours was throwing her birthday party, which soon turned into a Bruce Springsteen party as was usual in those days...

01. Got Me Under Pressure
02. Waitin' For The Bus
03. Jesus Just Left Chicago
04. Pincushion
05. I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide
06. Future Blues
07. Cheap Sunglasses
08. Goin' Down To Mexico
09. My Head's In Mississippi
10. I Need You Tonight
11. I Love The Woman
12. Party On The Patio
13. Foxy Lady
14. Just Got Paid
15. Gimme All Your Lovin'
16. Sharp Dressed Man
17. Legs
18. La Grange
19. Tush
20. Tube Snake Boogie