Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Leonard Cohen Review Dublin 20 July 09

So, my 3rd Leonard show, my 1st on this tour, and the 2nd of 4 nights he is playing in the o2, of which I'm also going to Wednesday's show.
All of which irrelevance adds up to another sublime 3 hours in the company of a still charismatic but ever so slighty slightly frailer Leonard , and added (I think) four songs to my tally that I didn't see him do last year; The Partisan, Waiting for a Miracle, Sisters of Mercy and Famous Blue Raincoat.
And damm good they were too. Everything was good actually. As is well known, Leonard doesn't change his setlists too much, so the best approach is just to absorb the best presentation of lyrics/poetry set to song you're ever likely to hear.
It was so good to hear The Partisan and Famous Blue Raincoat. I was struck listening to the French verses in The Partisan how much of a European sensibility there is to Leonard's music, especially with this extraordinary band, who are even tighter and more empathetic than last year to my ears. The girls (who seemed to be battling colds) were excellent, with the cartwheels particularly appreciated!
Rumour has it Leonard is also battling a cold, and his voice did sound somewhat hoarse, and maybe he was protecting it a bit by not overdoing the big notes, but no complaints - he was as expressive as ever, despite this.
The venue is great, this was my first ever seated show in the new Point, and boy have they got the sound perfect. Just perfect.
Overall then, just as good as last year, perhaps the atmosphere at that final wet night outdoors in Kilmainham (Dublin) last year just topped it, but a night to be savoured just the same.
Wednesday can't come soon enough..

Monday, July 20, 2009

Bob Dylan Performs 'Things Have Changed' At The 2009 AFI Life Achievement Award: A Tribute To Michael Douglas

Monday, July 13, 2009

Review of 2nd night Bruce, RDS Dublin 2009

A completely different show tonight. Not just the weather, which was mainly dry unlike the previous night, but a different feel, not to mention a very different setlist (of tonight's 29 songs 14 were not played the night before!). There was a bit less chat from Bruce tonight, although he was no less animated, in a set chock full of classics from the 1st 4 albums, plus a generous smattering from the new album, 2 covers and (I think) 3 Bruce penned songs that were never on studio albums (Trapped, Seeds and American Skin).

The sound was not 100% (vocals a little low), but it improved as the night wore on. Probably a slightly less Greatest Hits oriented set, the crowd still loved it, as band and artist played near definitive versions of some of the man's very best songs, and some of my favourites; No Surrender, Promised Land, Spirit in the Night, Prove it All Night, Jungleland, Trapped, Rosalita; all bloody amazing. Of the lighter songs - Sherry Darling (a request) was very enjoyable, and croud pleasers like Proud Mary and Glory Days were also well received.

Springsteen may not be my favourite artist, but I don't think anyone comes close to him, live, really. An E-Street band show is one of the best communal experiences going - people like it for all sorts of reasons, ok it's very crowd pleasing and a bit hammy at times, but musically this big sounding band has arguably never sounded better, and twice this weekend in Dublin, we could all forget about our troubles for 3 hours, which can't be a bad thing.
Finally, a quick nod to the camerawork, which was very well done, and added a lot to the show.
Lets hope we see Bruce back here again in the not too distant future.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Review of 1st night Bruce RDS Dublin 2009

After standing in the rain for 3 hours, feeling, if not bedraggled, well certainly far from draggled, and with not much more to think about than what the opening song might be, it was all worth it when he opened with the oh so appropriate, Who'll Stop the Rain!
Who, indeed..
Anyway, the constant rain didn't deter band or audience from having a great show. Another huge performance as we've come to expect from the ageing Boss these days here in the RDS.
After the surprise opener, they launched into Badlands with some gusto. At first I thought the sound was not great, but I realised wearing a hood was affecting it, so I took it down. Better a wet head than a muffled E-Street!
Having only been keeping a vague eye on matters Bruce in the last year, it was nice to note the few changes in the show, such as the addition of two of the Seeger band backing vocalists, the gimmicky but nice song request sign collecting thing, and we also got some family related guest appearances later on, vis a vis Christopher Clemons on sax, and a youthful looking Bruce child, Evan Springsteen, on guitar.
But, the big change, of course, are the new songs from Working on a Dream. And actually, he played nothing at all I think, from the previous album, Magic.
Of the new ones, I was so pleased he played my favourite one, Kingdom of Days, and the title track is a very catchy Boss single which went down well with the Dublin crowd. I don't seem to like Outlaw Pete as much as some, but I must concede, it works very well live. My Lucky Day was also well performed.
The show seems to have a 'recession theme' both in some of Bruces's chat, and also in selections such as The Ghost of Tom Joad, Seeds, Johnny 99, Hard Times, The River etc..
I don't have any complaints about the show really, maybe one or two of the rock'n'roll numbers here and there flagged a tiny bit, but a really good show overall.
Other personal stand outs for me were the requested For You, given a great Bruce vocal on top of a fine band arrangement, and the gorgeous Hard Times, a song that's been done by almost everyone, it seems, since it was written in the 19th Century. But few have done it as well as this.
Roll on Sunday, which can only be as good, or better. And probably drier..

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

couple of recent issues/events.. Jackson, Glastonbury, new play..

Ok, I haven't had much to write about lately, so here's a few thoughts on some recent things cultural..

1. Michael Jackson. It's supposed to be inappropriate to speak ill of the dead, but what the hell, he must be dead a week by now, so here goes.. I just can't understand the international outpouring of extreme grief. I'm sorry for his fans and family of course, but what are we really grieving for? An insanse, bewildered and no doubt, miserable, former artist. I say former, because when his last piece of work? And after you've answered that question, when was his last decent piece of work?
And is his body of work not very small anyway? 3 or 4 decent albums, and a bunch of fine pop singles with the Jacksons. Admittedly, he was very talented, an original singer, a very good dancer (although in 200 years, I reckon Fred Astaire will be the 20th century dancer people still talk about), and he made a strong contribution to the cross over appeal of black artists.
BUT what on earth are all these lunatics talking about who say he was the FIRST to do this?
I mean, are you telling me the following amazing and groundbreaking black artists had NO white fans? Louis Armstrong, Muddy Waters, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis?!!
Finally, a lot of his work had a lot of strong involvement from 3rd parties, be they songwriters or producers such as Quincy Jones.
I am not putting him down completely, he was very talented and he meant a lot to people, but can we have some perspective?
.. and I didn't even get in to his crazy, irresponsible and out of control private life..

2. Glastonbury. Jeez, I should have gone to this one. A line up to dream about - Bruce, Neil, Madness, Quo, Blur, Specials.. All of whom seemed great in the, as ever, top drawer BBC coverage. I'm a little sorry I skipped Neil's Dublin show, although the one to see it turns out now, was his London show, with that very special duet on Day in the Life with McCartney.
These big shows / festivals are very enjoyable these days, as they seem better organised than in the past (notable exception : Slane), so I may go to Glastonbury again someday (was there in 1998), and Electric Picnic, which despite it being a little too dance-orientated for my tastes, I enjoyed last year, plus someday I'd LOVE to go to Bonarroo. Of course, there are many very good smaller and cheaper festivals running in cities all over the world - one example being the Dun Laoghaire Festival of World Cultures in Dun Laoghaire Dublin, which launches it's 2009 (29-31 Aug) programme tommorow, here http://www.festivalofworldcultures.com/

3. The Last Days of a Reluctant Tyrant.
A new play by Tom Murphy in the Abbey Theatre. Based on an old Russian novel (and don't let that put you off), I found this a fascinating play, all about family, property, power, being poor, being rich, being poor again.. I suggest you go see it not knowing too much about it, but suffice to say the acting is very good, ESPECIALLY in a jaw dropping performance from Marie Mullen. Get a seat in the front section, and watch a powerhouse performance from this little old (apols - middle aged!) woman. My God, she must be exhausted after this every night..
Highly recommended.

Next up;
2 x Bruce
2 x Leonard
2 x Wilco.
.. plus the Noel Coward play in the Gate.

Now, all we need is a decent film to come out sometime..