Monday, 18 November 2013

A Week With The Rifles

What a way to spend the dark late autumn evenings. Having never seen the full Rifles electric live show I booked up to 3 concerts on the current tour with the original line up. In fact 3 gigs in 4 days, which would be a test of stamina for a golden oldie such as your truly!

The week started in Oxford on Tuesday November 12 at the Oxford Academy. Being a school night and with the venue being a bus ride away from the railway station I decided to drive from Reading. I was pleasantly surprised to find space in the tiny car park close to the venue. A young homeless girl was doing great business instructing numpties like me on how to put money into the machine as it was one of those silly machines that required your car registration number. I think she was handing out instructions regardless whether you neeeded them or not in the hope of getting some loose change. Arriving at the venue at 8:00 I was a little surprised to see The Rifles were not due on stage until 10:00pm, but at least it gave me the opporunity to listen to the support bands, Dexters and Life In Film. I have to say I was particulary impressed with Dexters. My bad back held firm and 10:00 came and on stage arrived The Rifles. What a joy to see them in their full glory. It was a great set with the band playing for about an hour and playing stuff from their 3 albums plus new tracks from the forthcoming album. I think the late start meant they ran out of time depriving the audience of "Romeo & Julie" at the end with a strict 11:00 curfew in place. I drove back to Reading a happy man. The video below from Oxford is "Local Boy" and no matter how hard I try I keep getting spelling errors in the title so I apologise for "Oxfod" in the title, but I never intended to have a career in video production!

With the Wednesday off to recharge my batteries we moved on to Reading on Thursday November 14th at SUB 89. Always nice to see your favourite bands on the doorstep and I was able to get a bus to and from the town centre. My original plan was to have a bite to eat at the Oakwood Social Club, but this was thwarted by some problem in the kitchens requiring water to be pumped out! So plan b was to go to O'Neills for a Magners and a burger. Adequate if not particulary memorable... With still an hour to kill I decided to go to the Hop Tap close to the venue for another drink. The Hop Tap is a Wetherspoons pub and as soon as I sat down with my drink I thought to myself no! Sure the pub sold cheap beer but I really hope I don't end up like some of the folks in there in another 15 years or so. To be fair I always have a dating head on and it is definitely not a pulling pub! Note to one self spend a few extra pennies next time and go to a decent pub. My timing was good though as I arrived at SUB 89 just after 9:00 and only had to wait a few minutes before the arrival of The Rifles. It was in truth a very similar set to the Oxford one, but I felt there was a warmer atmosphere in the venue and and a better cross section of people in there. It was a brilliant set and had the added bonus of the band closing with "Romeo & Julie". The video below from Reading is of "Robin Hood".

With just a short bus ride home and having had a few drinks I decided to hang around afterwards and picked a copy of the 7" limited editon "Heebie Jeebies". All the band came to the merchandise desk so along with many others I got my copy signed so went home a merry chappy.

With no respite the following night, Friday November 15th, it was off up to The Forum in Kentish Town for the final show in my trillogy. The journey got off to a poor start with no seats on the train from Reading to Paddington. I suspect the England international at Wembley had something to do with this. Things did not get much better on the tube with delays on the Victoria line so I had to change my route a little to get there. On leaving the tube station 2 police cars went screeching past and I immediately thought "Welcome to London". The plan was to have a bite to eat and I had been suggested to try the Kentish Canteen. However it was full and I have to admit looked a bit too posh for a pre gig meal. I do however know where to take a lady out for a bite to eat if I ever date anyone in Kentish Town! Instead I went to the Gulshaan Indian restaurant and enjoyed a lovely lamb byriani washed down by 2 pints of Kingsisher. On entering the venue I was immediated taken back by the size of the crowd. The place was packed and it was just on such a bigger scale than the 2 previous shows. Once again it was a great cross section of people and the atmosphere had a really good vibe to it. I was not overly impressed with the yellow jacketed security numpties who seemed rather over zealous and the way they shone their power torches during the set was a little too gestapo like! One poor soul close to me was taken out for smoking so missed most of the set. Surely a tap on the wrists would have been sufficient? Anyway I digress as the set by The Rifles was stunning. They had certainly saved the best for last and it seemed the audience were bouncing off the band and visa versa. The set was a good 30 minutes longer than the other 2 shows and the band seemed to be in their element. One of the finest gigs I have been to in a very long time. A rather tedious and long journey home was fine as the show made everything worth while. The song I filmed in London was "Peace & Quiet". I didn't film "Romeo & Julie" at any of the shows as it is a song to get involved with and enjoy rather than stand and hold a camera and film...

So what next after such a great week? Well I have booked up to go to one of The Rifles acoustic Christmas shows at the Boogaloo in London in December, which will be a great end to the gigging year for me. I have seen the band acoustically a couple of times before so I know I am in for a treat!

Sunday, 7 July 2013

The Rolling Stones at Hyde Park

The perfect summers day at London's Hyde Park. At 8:30pm as the sun began to set The Rolling Stones took to the stage for a 2 hour set that was pure class. The place was absolutely packed and I have never seen so many queues for food, drinks and merchandise, but everyone appeared to be there for a good time from what I saw. I must admit that I am not exactly a huge Stones fan, but when the concerts at Hyde Park were announced I thought it would be pretty cool to get to see this band, especially as there might not be another opportunity. A little bit of detective work got me a code for the pre-sale, so I safely had my ticket before the mad scramble for tickets started.

Fortunately the numerous HD screens and speaker gantries meant that the sound was pretty good all over the site, and this was also helped by there being no wind. By the time I arrived I had no chance of getting anywhere close to the front. The big question for me was could the band still do it, and with the rather steep ticket prices I had high expectations. Absolutely no worries on that score, from the opening chords to Start Me Up to the finale of Satisfaction they just rocked the house down!  This is a band whose influence and importance to the history of the British music scene cannot be underestimated.For me it was the older songs that really were the highlights, especially "Gimme Shelter" and the absolutely stunning version of "Can't Always Get".

Monday, 3 June 2013

Green Day

Some bands can make you feel quite old! No I don't mean that in a bad way, but as a late 20s bloke I loved "Dookie" when it broke through in the UK in 1994, and I bought the next two albums on the back of that album. I can remember seeing "Basket Case" on Top of the Pops and thinking that this band would be a great band to see live. However it was not until 2009 that I finally go top see the band play live.

The "American Idiot" album is one of my favourite all time albums. Big sound, big anthems, basically big everything. There is no doubt that Green Day were on of few bands that came out of Live 8 with an enhanced reputation on the back of a blistering performance in Berlin.

As much as Green Day are the masters of a 3 minute thrash melodic frenzy they also have the ability to take things down a notch or two and "Time Of Your Life" is a brilliant song and had been the band's closing signature tune until recently.

I always think that the best gigs are not necessarily those where the band plays note perfect replicating the record as that kind of takes away something of what live music is all about. I have now seen Green Day twice. In 2009 I saw them at the London O2 Arena and then in 2013 I saw them at The Emirates Stadium in London. Both gigs were stunning, and I give the most recent gig the nod partly due to the fact I was down on the pitch rather than up in the gods as I was at the O2. The band give a live show their all and the 2 and a half hours at The Emirates was brilliant. Yes it was a warm sunny Saturday in June with cold alcoholic refreshment in good supply, but that aside it was a brilliant gig.

It appears that the band's recent trilogy has come in for criticism and that the band's popularity is on the wane? I can't really answer that except to say I think its a great set of albums and the tracks stand up with the older material. I am sure that the disappointing sales figures might give some credence to that argument, but there is no doubt that as a live entity there are few bands around who can do it as well as Green Day and I suggest that those who are writing this band off might yet have to eat their words...