Category Archives: Entertainment

Hello Again!

Standard

It’s been a little while – hope everyone’s been well. I hadn’t had much time or inclination for blogging, as I was dealing with insomnia and anxiety in October and November. I get spells on and off and they last for a couple of months at a time. Maybe sometime I’ll write a longer post on it, but for now, I’ll leave it at the fact that I feel better and I’ve been getting more sleep.

We’re now in Gregorian calendar year 2016 – 2015 whizzed by, eh? Sadly, most of the news seemed to be dominated by terrorism, xenophobia, killing and war. I’m hoping that underneath it all, evolution is happening on this boondocks planet. I always try to remain optimistic, but it’s really, really tough sometimes.

Anyway, before I get off on a massive rant about stupidity – I did have some good times in 2015. My holidays in Lyme Regis and Great Malvern were pretty good (though the cottage in Great Malvern left a lot to be desired). The weather in the first half of the summer was lovely – lots of sunshine and low humidity. I didn’t see that many films – in fact, I don’t think I saw any in the cinema. The newest “Mad Max” film looked pretty good and there were a few others, but largely I wasn’t impressed enough by Hollywood’s output. Not much change there, then. There’s a new “Star Wars” film out now. From what I can gather, the plot’s a retread of the original 1977 film, so I’m not too bothered to catch it in the cinema. Maybe I’ll rent the DVD when it’s available – I left my “Star Wars” nerd-dom behind a long while ago. I did watch “Slackers” on DVD, for the first time in years and I still enjoyed it. It’s dated a bit, but I’ll take the 90s hipsters over the ‘millennial’ version – perhaps I’m just getting old. “Toast Of London” and “Horrible Histories” (all five series) were also a mainstay in our house – we’ve had to stop watching both for a while, ‘cos we’d seen them so many times.

Sadly, I didn’t get to many concerts last year – my gig attendance has been pretty shocking. In my slight defense, there wasn’t much on in Oxford that I really had to see. I did see Gryphon at the Union Chapel in London in May, which was a treat and a great show. They’ve since been named as part of the line-up for the 2016 Cropredy Festival, so I may get to see them again – if we decide to go. I wanted to see Matt Berry & The Maypoles in December, but the closest they got was London and I didn’t have the cash. Hopefully, they’ll do an Oxford show sometime. Some ginkus gave their show a negative review, in The Guardian – apparently, they thought they’d be attending a musical comedy gig. Tsk tsk.

Pixie and I also saw the Patrick Marber adaptation of Ivan Turgenev‘s A Month In The Country, titled Three Days In The Country, at the National Theatre in September. The cast featured John Simm, Mark Gatiss and Amanda Drew. I enjoyed it and Mark Gatiss in particular was excellent – a great comic role for him. We lucked out and had a nice, sunny September day in London. There were loads of people out on the South Bank enjoying the weather and the coach ride back to Oxford was fairly relaxing.

There were a load of new albums I meant to buy, but didn’t get round to – here’s some of them:

Unknown Mortal OrchestraMulti-Love

Flying LotusYou’re Dead

Sunn-O))) & Scott WalkerSoused

Fuck Buttons –  Slow Focus (released in 2014)

EarthPrimitive And Deadly

Six Organs Of AdmittanceHexadic

Field MusicMusic For Drifters

The Chemical BrothersBorn In The Echoes

The OrbMoonbuilding 2703 A.D.

There were a load of reissues, too – the four Yes reissues with bonus tracks and surround-sound disc, the deluxe reissue of Jethro Tull‘s “Minstrel In The Gallery”, the deluxe Procol Harum reissues are just a few I’d like to add to the collection. I also bought quite a few LPs, but I won’t list them all here.

I don’t have too much planned for this year – but I may get the Kaleidophonic Stroboscope podcast up and running again, even if just to post the old shows in a new site. We’re having the house re-decorated and getting a new boiler, which is going to soak up most of the cash, so I’ll have to see what I’ve got time for. Stay tuned, kids – I’ll keep you in on the skinny.

Advertisements

Two Summer Saturdays

Standard

It’s been quite a nice summer here in this patch of the UK. June was lovely – sunny and warm and very little rain. I suppose that’s not good news for farmers, as their crops have been water-starved, but I enjoyed the weather immensely. I don’t know whether I’ve got a form of S.A.D., but I always feel better in sunshine.

The past two Saturdays have been quite nice as well and I spent both (mainly) outdoors for most of the day.

On the first of August, I went to the Oxford Record Fair – I hadn’t been in quite a while (maybe six years?). A co-worker mentioned that it was coming round and I thought it might be good to check it out again. I’ve been buying most of my music off of eBay, so it’s a treat to do a bit of crate-digging, particularly as all of the record shops in central Oxford have shut down, with the exception of the Truck shop on Cowley Road.

The Fair has moved to the St. Aldate’s Parish Centre building (it used to be held monthly at Oxford Town Hall) and it seems to be on every-other-month now. I managed to get out of bed at 8 a.m. on a Saturday, which seems an achievement – well, to me, anyway. It was about 9:30 a.m, when I found the Parish Centre and texted my co-worker to say I’d arrived. He said he’d probably be another hour. From the street I could see a few of the dealers’ tables, but as the official start time was 10, I waited outside. A car pulled up to the kerb and a bloke walked out to talk with the driver. I gathered, from the conversation, that the driver was one of the dealers who was a bit late. I asked him, after they’d finished talking, if it was O.K. to go in, even though it was early. He said it was fine, so I texted my friend, then headed inside.

The space was a bit smaller than the room at the Town Hall, but there were still about 12 dealers with tables set up. Loads of vinyl to be had – so I started with the tables closest to the door and had a look through the boxes. I found a few LPs that I thought I might buy, but I wanted to have a look at some of the other tables.

I made my way around the room and spotted some other goodies. One dealer had a nice first U.S. press of the “Zabriskie Point” sound-track, as well as a sealed copy of Bong‘s “Stoner Rock“. I was seriously tempted by those, but again, I was only on the third table or so and an hour had gone by. My co-worker showed up, but he was looking for his own finds, so we just said “Hello” in passing. A guy from Leeds was down and he had a table of soul, funk, reggae and dub. A lot of the sleeves were pretty beat-up, lots of ring-wear and sticker removal tears. He had some good stuff, though, with lots of U.S. pressings – I found a reissue of Cymande‘s first album, still-sealed. I remembered the song “Dove“, which The Amorphous Androgynous used on a few of their Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble radio mixes (which seem much better than the official releases, to me). I decided to buy that, along with a sealed reissue of The Rotary Connection‘s final album, first released in 1971, called “Hey Love” (credited to ‘The New Rotary Connection’). I also found a Lonnie Liston Smith LP called “Renaissance“, a U.S. press (on RCA), to boot. I’ve got Lonnie’s “Astral Traveling” on disc and I like his mix of spacey, psychedelic jazz and vibe-y funk, so I decided to take a punt on it. The sleeve’s got some wear, but the LP itself is in really good condition and it’s a promo copy.

I found a copy of The Rolling Stones‘ 1975 double-LP compilation, “Rolled Gold“, for £2 (with a really nice sleeve) – turns out the LPs are in pretty bad shape – lots of skips, particularly on the first record. Luckily, I found a minty set on eBay for cheap, so I’ll have to sacrifice the ones I bought with the sleeve, to the gods of recycling. One table had bootleg LPs of high-priced ones (The Velvet Underground & Nico mono, Floyd‘s mono pressing of “Piper At The Gates Of Dawn“, etc.) priced around £10 to £15, but the sleeves looked cheap – you could tell they were photo-copied scans of the actual sleeves, so I didn’t bite. I did buy a nice original copy of Be-Bop Deluxe‘s “Futurama” (on UK Harvest with the laminated sleeve) and Roxy Music‘s second LP, For Your Pleasure (with the laminated sleeve and the ‘pink rim’ Island Records label). My co-worker had to leave after a couple of hours, but I stuck around as another friend was due to show up. I had another go-round and bought the deluxe 2-CD release of Julian Cope‘s excellent 1991 album, “Peggy Suicide – it’s out-of-print now and I’ve seen copies on eBay for £20 to £25. I got it much cheaper, so that was a nice find! I also bought the first two Byrds albums, “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Turn Turn Turn” on CD (the Columbia reissues, with the bonus tracks). I’ve been meaning to get those for years and finally decided to pick them up.

My other co-workers turned up and after another pass around the tables, I spent the last of my cash on two Edgar Broughton Band singles, “Apache Drop Out” and their classic cover of The Fugs’ “Out Demons Out” – both in very good shape and with the Harvest sleeves. We then were going to go for a drink and food at The Kite pub (it was about 2 p.m.), but it turns out they don’t do lunch on Saturdays. We went to The One Restaurant (I had scrambled eggs with fried tomatoes and egg-fried rice) and then to G & D’s (on Little Clarendon Street) for some excellent ice cream. All told, a great day out – bought a nice stash of music and had a lovely lunch with pals.

The following week, Pixie and I headed into town for a bit of shopping and then to Wadham College to see the Oxford Shakespeare Company‘s production of Twelfth Night. We’ve been to see their shows for the past few years and it’s always been a groovy time. The college grounds make a splendid backdrop for the plays and sometimes the scenes are held in different parts of the grounds, so there’s movement around them.

This production had a sort-of rock/goth theme in the costumes and hair styles. The cast performed the tale of mistaken and hidden identities well – in fact, it was nearly as good as the National Theatre production I saw about five years ago, directed by Peter Hall (featuring his daughter, Rebecca – who, as ‘Viola’/’Cesario’, didn’t seem to really inhabit the role). Martin Csokas was also lacklustre as ‘Count Orsino’. Simon Callow did O.K. as ‘Sir Toby Belch’. The real stand-outs were Charles Edwards as ‘Sir Andrew Augecheek’, Simon Paisley-Day as ‘Malvolio’ and Amanda Drew as ‘Olivia’.

I not quite sure what happened, whether there was an irritant in the air, or something affected my eyes the night before – but suddenly my eyes became very watery and irritated. It progressed through most of the morning and by the time we were seated for the show, I could barely keep them open. We were sat near the front, as well and I was hoping I wouldn’t distract the actors with my squinty looks, as I was really struggling to watch. Luckily, by the third act, my right eye felt much better and I was able to at least keep that one open, while covering the left one some of the time. It probably looked quite silly, but as I had no eye-drops – it was the best I could manage.

As I mentioned, though, the cast were very good and I always enjoy the musical interludes – the O.S.C. actors also seem to be fairly accomplished musicians and singers. The performances were very good – the actor who played ‘Sir Toby’, played him as a sort of drunken Irish uncle, while the actor who played ‘Malvolio’ chose a very camp style (as opposed to Paisley-Day, who played it in a sinister, arch way). The entire cast sung and played the closing song, then they moved away from the ‘stage’ area and played some more, busking for charity. We stuck around for another song and then dropped by the chemist, so I could get drops for my eyes.

We had dinner at Zizzi’s in town and then boarded the bus for home. I was exhausted from two busy Satudays, but it’s nice to get out of the house once in a while.

Stewart Lee – “A Room With A Stew” – Oxford Playhouse – March 31st, 2015

Standard

Stewart Lee appeared in Oxford again, with his new “work-in-progress” shows, titled (by the awesome Alan Moore, apparently) “A Room With A Stew“. The last time I saw him was at the New Theatre on the “Carpet Remnant World” tour, a few years ago. I wish I could remember a lot of it, but all I can recall are the YouTube comments bit, the budget Scooby-Doo episode (after the Tories ransacked the show’s budget) and his reference to Dr Strangely Strange‘s “Heavy Petting” LP. I do recall enjoying the gig a lot and was excited when the missus found out he was going to be at The Playhouse.

The missus had to pass on the show, due to a really bad chest cough, so I went with her brother, his wife and an old work-mate. We had decent seats, in the stalls, about seven rows from the stage. John Coltrane‘s version of “My Favorite Things” was piped through the in-house speakers as the crowd settled into its seats. Eventually, the lights dimmed a bit, a stage announcement was made and the man walked out to applause.

He explained that the two sets of the show would be broken into segments, as he was working on material for the newest series of his Comedy Vehicle programme, which was picked up for more episodes. The first bit consisted of Lee poking fun at the right-wing media pundits, who ask why no left-wing comedians ridicule ‘the Muslims’. He dove-tailed that with a shot at popular comics who use tired “observational comedy” (he did a funny bit where he pretended to run around the stage – in a Lee Mack or Michael McIntyre way) as the main part of their humour. In the end, Lee just said “How ’bout those Muslims you see these days?” There was a (possibly fictional – sometimes you can’t tell with Stew) story about a Muslim woman, who sat on a copy of the Jehovah’s Witness magazine, “The Watchtower”, on a bus. He diverted into other topics during the telling of the story, like Twitter-spying and Nigel Fart-age, before finishing the entire bit with a really funny and lengthy punchline (which I can’t recall completely at the moment).

The ‘second half’ of the first set started with a story about himself being urinated on by a group of bullies at his school. This led him, he suggested (in a Freudian way), to want to entertain people. He reasoned that on some level, as the bullies were laughing at him, he was ‘entertaining’ them. More off-shoots of the central premise followed, including a urine-based aphorism that his family used and a story about his grandfather, a World War II veteran, attempting to wee on flies in a Maltese gents room – pretending they were German aircraft. He said, with a lot of gravitas, “For some of those guys, the war never ended”. When the crowd failed to laugh at that line – Lee went into a (jokey) tirade about how comedians are under-appreciated and shouting “it’s crowds like you that tied the noose around Robin Williams‘s neck!” The hilarious faux-crowd-berating continued for another few minutes and then Lee bounded off-stage for the intermission.

The second half of the show involved surplus England flags, various bodily fluids and hanging England flags outside his home to dry and the impression it made on his neighbours. I won’t spell it out graphically – but I think you can piece the bit together from that. The funniest bits were him calling his cat “Paul Nuttall From UKIP” and referring to lustful feelings as “Nigel Farage is on the campaign trail”. There was also a part where he told how one of his friends looked very “Venezualan” (earlier in the show, he asked for a name of a country that would seem benign to the crowd) – a funny riff on how xenophobes view ‘foreigners’. He described how his friend would wear strange clothes (he came up with some fantastical outfits), listen to weird Venezualan music on Radio Three (he launched into an improvised record-scratching, high-pitched vocal and animal noise sound for about 5 minutes) and how, in the end, everyone but Lee’s friend knew he was ‘Venezualan’.

Lee finished with a short section that he referred to as an ‘encore’, but he did say at the beginning of the show that he wouldn’t leave the stage and walk back on. It was a short fragment of a bit about clients of sex workers leaving used condoms around the street and sometimes in Lee’s garden. I can’t recall the final punch-line, but it had to do with Lee’s wife and feminism, but in a praising way, not an obnoxious one.

I found the second half wasn’t quite as tight as the first – but to be fair, even these later shows on the tour are still opportunities for Lee to hone the material. In any case, I had a great time and it’s always good to see Stew – even when he’s mock-berating me for showing up to watch him.

Capes In The News!

Standard

This story is a couple of weeks old now, but hey, it’s possibly the biggest cape-related item for quite some time. I really ought to start checking for other capes in the news.

It seems Madonna suffered a mishap at the Brit Awards, when the cape she was wearing, as part of a matador-themed outfit, failed to come untied from her neck and as one the male dancers (dressed as bulls, or maybe minotaurs?) pulled the cape and she tumbled off of the stage steps and landed square on her arse.

She was promoting her new record with the single “Living For Love” at the award show. The video of her fall went ‘viral’ and she quickly tweeted “thanks” to those concerned for her. Tell you what, the name sake of this blog wouldn’t have had that happen – the most he would’ve done is got indigestion from a dodgy curry.

 

Busy Week: Mark Thomas – The North Wall, Summertown – 15th Oct./The Orb – O2 Academy, Oxford – 16th October, 2014

Standard

Pixie and I actually had somewhat of an active social life this past week, as we caught leftie comedian Mark Thomas in action at The North Wall theatre, a tiny venue in Summertown on Wednesday night (15th October). The next night, we were at the O2 Academy in Oxford, to see The Orb on the current leg of the group’s 25th Anniversary Tour.

Thomas started his show by praising the hall. “I love this fucking space”, he exclaimed a few times – “I feel like there should be a priest hole somewhere”, he added. After that, he went into a few random riffs on what he’s been up to, while promising that “the second half is fucking great”. He had a competition to find a definition of “Farage” (which he insisted be pronounced “fair-idge”, not “far-odge”, like the media do). He chose the best one – which was the residue you find at the bottom of a food waste bin. He also hawked stickers saying “Daily Mail Free Zone” to place on trains and coaches. The first set was quite short, only about a half-hour or so.

The second set centred around Thomas’s work and protests with the C.A.A.T. (or Campaign Against The Arms Trade). The main subject is a fellow activist called “Martin” – Thomas never says his surname and we were never quite if his first name is even Martin. Martin was a convert to the anti-arms trade cause, after working in the trade for a long while. Thomas talked of how dedicated Martin was and the amount of time he spent organising and helping with protests. He cleverly used videos of fellow activists and ‘talked’ with them about Martin. All was well, until a rumour started circulating that Martin wasn’t quite what he seemed. An audit of C.A.A.T.’s computers turned up evidence that Martin was spying for B.A.E. Systems, the UK’s largest arms manufacturer.

Thomas and a few staunch supporters of Martin refused to believe the allegations and Thomas even went so far as to shout denials to the organisation’s leaders. Somehow, though, to Thomas, something wasn’t quite right about Martin and he was eventually convinced to read the file on the audit. The evidence looked incontravertible and Thomas was forced to change his opinion of Martin. In the end, Thomas, despite many efforts, couldn’t get Martin to admit to what he had done. He closed the show with more videos of fellow activists who had also been spied on by either corporations or goverment agencies. It widened the show’s scope from personal betrayal to the enormous implication of spying going on in society at the moment.

The Orb have been on their 25th Anniversary tour since mid-2013 and the show stopped in Oxford on 16th October. The group, at the moment, is a duo of original member (and the only constant one) Alex Paterson – sorta the Robert Fripp of The Orb, with Thomas Fehlmann, who joined up around the time of “U.F.Orb”, released in 1992. To my surprise, the show was on the upper floor of the O2 Academy. It’s a smaller space and makes for a more intimate setting. We missed the support act – I think it was someone called Nick Hooper. He had the usual laptop/sampler set-up and was winding down his set as we walked in.

After a short-ish interval – Paterson and Fehlmann took centre stage where their gear was set up. I suspect most of the first half were tunes from the latest album (released in 2012), Orbserver In The Star House – a collaboration with dub reggae legend, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry. I don’t have “Orbserver…” yet, so I didn’t recognise anything until Pat Metheny‘s sampled guitar notes floated into the mix, signalling their classic “Little Fluffy Clouds“. A nice “Towers Of Dub” followed and a surprise “Toxygene” made it into the set. “Blue Room” was dusted off with a harder-edge beat than the studio version and “Assassin” made an appearance as well.

I also remember a re-working of Pink Floyd‘s “One Of These Days“, mainly using the bass riff and layered sounds. “A Huge Evergrowing Pulsating Brain…” was announced by way of the Minnie Riperton sample, but it wasn’t its usual epic length. The nearly two-hour set wound down with what I think was “Ball Of Fire” off of “Orbserver…” (based on the spoken-word sample in it). Paterson and Fehlmann left the stage and the crowd stamped and shouted for an encore, but the house lights switched on and we all shuffled out into the street. A decent show – fairly stripped back compared to the shows of twenty or even fifteen years ago. The duo kept things moving along nicely and there weren’t any dull moments. The mix wasn’t the best, but then the acoustics in that space have never been, in my experience, ideal. A lot of the spoken-word samples were difficult to hear, so some of the depth of the Orb sound was lost. Aside from that, it was good to see the boys out on the road, bringing a bit of psychedelic ambient dance music to the faithful.

Mark Thomas: Cuckooed – North Wall, Summertown

First set: “What I’ve Been Up To” – including “Farage” & playing gigs in strange venues

Second set: “Cuckooed” (a tale of betrayal)

The Orb – 25th Anniversary Tour –  O2 Academy, Oxford:

Africa

Soulman

(not sure)

(not sure)

Little Fluffy Clouds

Assassin

Towers Of Dub

Toxygene

Blue Room

One Of These Days (Pink Floyd remix)

A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain…

(not sure)

Ball Of Fire

–no encore–

Kate Bush – ‘Before The Dawn’ – Hammersmith Apollo – September 12, 2014

Standard

Thousands of words have already been posted and typed and printed about Kate Bush‘s ‘comeback’ shows in London, her first full concerts since the “Tour Of Life” in 1979. Here’s a few more. When she announced the shows in February of this year – it seemed like a hoax. After all, you never can really trust some stories on the internet. I received an e-mail a little while later, with a ‘pre-sale’ code for tickets. I’ve been a big fan of her music since the early 1990s and I didn’t want to pass up the chance to see her live, especially given her reluctance to perform in concert.

KateBushTicket

A guy I worked with has multiple laptops and said he’d scored tickets to very in-demand shows in the past, so I asked him if he could try to get Kate tickets for me. He agreed and to my amazement, got two tickets for the 12th September show!! It cost me a good bottle of wine, but to me, more than worth it. The months ticked by, rumours about special guests were floated around, as well as set list guesses. I wanted everything to be a surprise, so I conscientiously avoided blogs, newspaper articles and teevee coverage – even after the opening show, on 26th August.

Finally, the day arrived – I grabbed the tickets and met my friend in Oxford, for the trip to London. The shows are at the Hammersmith Apollo (or the “Eventim Apollo”, as it’s called now), the very same hall where “The Tour Of Life” show debuted. Kate said she was initially put off playing there, as it had become quite run-down over the years, but changed her mind when she found it was to be completely refurbished early in 2014. We arrived in Notting Hill Gate late in the afternoon and grabbed a quick lunch. We hopped on a bus down to where the venue is, but ended up walking some of the way, as traffic was pretty bad around there.

My friend is partially-sighted and had his guide dog with him. He had phoned the venue to check if they would look after her, while we were watching the show. The staff were quite nice and agreed to do so. We were able to avoid the queue outside and head in to drop off ‘Molly’ (the guide dog). While we were inside, I cheekily asked if we could check the merch table. They said it was fine and so I bought a T-shirt and programme. After that, it was time for a couple of pints in a local pub – then back to the Apollo for the concert!

HammersmithOutside

Our seats were in the upper circle, nearly at the back. The Apollo’s a small-ish venue, so there’s not really any bad seats, per se. Kate had requested that people not take photos or film during the show and it was good to see everyone around us leaving the kit shut off. The stage itself, for the opening, was fairly sparse – two drum kits, a couple of keyboards and guitar and bass set-ups. Above the stage at the back, diamond shapes were arranged in a triangular pattern. The lights dimmed, the band walked onstage and started playing. Not long after, followed by a line of backing singers, Kate sashayed onstage to the rhythm of the tune, which turned out to be “Lily” (first released on “The Red Shoes“, in 1993 – then re-recorded for the “Director’s Cut” compilation, released in 2011). Her voice is still in fine form, even if she can’t quite hit the real high notes anymore. The reception was rapturous and then she ripped into “Hounds Of Love“, the title track from her 1985 (and most well known) album – the place just exploded. She seemed to relish singing it again and the backing band were top-notch. After “Hounds”, she took things down a notch with a nice “Joanni“, from the “Aerial” album, released in 2005. “Top Of The City“, another “Red Shoes” track re-worked for the “Director’s Cut”, followed – the diamond shapes were used cleverly in that one. They were lit up to resemble skyscrapers at night. Somewhat expected, “Running Up That Hill” (also from “Hounds Of Love”) was next and yet again, the crowd were delighted and the tune cooked. I wasn’t sure what she would sing next – I was still thinking maybe “Army Dreamers” or “Breathing” (from her “Never For Ever” album, released in 1980). Instead, she chose “King Of The Mountain“, the only single from “Aerial”, released in 2005. The end section became a rave-up and the band kicked into high gear. At the very end, one of the drummers got a bull-roarer out and after creating its eerie drone sound, the stage went dark.

A film of a man calling the coast guard about a ship in distress started up and then I realised she was going to perform the entire “Ninth Wave” section off of ‘Hounds Of Love’. The song cycle takes up side 2 (of the LP), or the second half of the CD, if that’s what you’ve got. A screen at the back of the stage showed Kate floating in water and the image would ‘mime’ with Kate’s actual vocal, which was quite clever. During “Under Ice“, a frozen sofa, lamp and TV appeared on-stage. The back-up singers wore fish-skeleton costumes and at one point, ‘workmen’ walked out and pretended to cut a hold in the stage. “Waking The Witch” featured a priest and the fish-people. I couldn’t tell if the vocal was live, as I suspect getting that ‘stutter’ effect would be difficult in a concert setting. Before “Watching You Without Me“, a surreal living room set glided onto the stage. It looked almost like the cutaway of a ship’s cabin, and it would bob slowly back and forth, as if it were on the sea. A domestic scene was played between a father and son (with Kate’s son Bertie playing the youth). Kate suddenly appeared in the room and then the song commenced. “Jig Of Life” was a rave-up, with the crowd clapping along with the Irish rhythm. Kate’s brother John‘s face appeared on the frozen TV screen to recite the poem that features at the coda. A life-size buoy prop became the centre-piece for “Hello Earth” and for the extended coda, she was carried from the stage, down a ramp, by the fish skeleton people. “The Morning Fog” was simply stunning, the whole band lined up across the stage and when Kate sang “D’you know what…I love you better now“, the crowd roared. The interval was announced and I was still processing what I had just seen. It was incredible – one of my favourite pieces of music performed in concert – worth the ticket price alone.

The second set was also an extended suite – this time “A Sky Of Honey“, the second disc (or LP, if you’re lucky enough to have a copy without paying £200 for it) of “Aerial”. The props for this set included a massive wooden door, lowered to the stage, a wooden puppet manipulated to act like a small boy and a screen made to look like a large painting. While it’s not quite as dynamic as “The Ninth Wave”, the tempo does pick up during the “Sunset” section, which builds into a flamenco-flavoured jam and Kate even let out an “Arrrriba!”. Bertie, who played the part of “The Painter” (originally voiced by Rolf Harris on the album – but as he’s had his….troubles lately…), narrated an extra bit about the moonrise. “Somewhere In Between” picked up the pace again and then the final two sections brought back the ambient feel. The final part, the title track, was another build-up. The band donned bird masks and moved around the stage with Kate. She was chased away, then the stage went dark with the band still chugging away. Suddenly, the panels of the door opened and there was Kate, floating, with huge black wings on her back. It lasted a few seconds and the stage went dark again.

The lights came on, Kate and the band shuffled off-stage. She walked out on her own and to prove she can still do the “girl-and-her-piano” act, played a lovely “Among Angels“, the only song from the “50 Words For Snow” album in the set list. The band returned for the final tune of the night, a rousing version of “Cloudbusting“, first released on “Hounds..” The house lights came on after the ovations and applause died down and we all made our way out of the venue.

The verdict? Well, I enjoyed the show immensely. I’ve seen films of the “Tour Of Life” show in ’79 and while Kate is far less ‘active’ on-stage these days, she still has loads of presence and mostly lets her voice carry the music. She’s retained her sense of the theatrical, as amply demonstrated in the “Ninth Wave” section. For those who showed up to hear the very early stuff – you’ll be in for disappointment – there’s nothing in the set from the first four albums…that’s right, no “Wuthering Heights” or “Wow” or “Babooshka“. I suppose I can’t blame her – her voice can’t really hit the higher registers needed for those tunes and she’s probably sick to death of W.H.

I’m just glad she took the plunge and decided to play live again – mostly by encouragement from Bertie, so hats off to him! it seems to have gone well, so hopefully it won’t be another long stretch of years to see her again.

Set list – 13th September, 2014:

“ACT I”

Lily
Hounds Of Love
Joanni
Running Up That Hill
Top Of The City
King Of The Mountain

~”The Ninth Wave“:
And Dream Of Sheep
Under Ice
Waking The Witch
“Domestic Interlude”
Watching You Without Me
Jig Of Life
Hello Earth
The Morning Fog

“ACT II”

~”A Sky Of Honey“:
Prelude
Prologue
The Architect’s Dream
The Painter’s Link
Sunset
Aerial Tal
Somewhere In Between
“Moonrise Introduction” (Bertie McIntosh solo)
Nocturn
Aerial

Encore:
Among Angels (Kate solo on piano)
Cloudbusting

Theatre Round-Up #111 – Hitchcock-O-Rama

Standard

A little while back I mentioned that I had been to see “The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time” at the Apollo Theatre (before the now-infamous ceiling collapse). While we were there, Pixie noticed that there was a stage adaptation of Strangers On A Train“, on at the Gielgud Theatre. First published as a novel, written by Patricia Highsmith – then released on-screen as a Hitchcock-directed thriller, we decided to take the plunge and get tickets.

I hadn’t seen a show at the Gielgud and it’s quite a nice space. The stage set had a revolving design that would spin for scene changes, which I thought was quite clever. A read a few reviews in which the person found the set distracting, but I didn’t have that problem. The cast were good, though Laurence Fox played “Guy Haines” a bit too nerdy at times. Jack Huston was excellent as “Charles Bruno” and Miranda Raison was good as Guy’s long-suffering wife, “Anne”. Imogen Stubbs vamped it up as Charles’s mother, affecting a sort of high-pitched gravelly voice.

The first half seemed almost scene-for-scene a run-through of the film, while the second got darker and seemed to take it’s cues from the book, particularly Charles’s quasi-incestuous relationship with his mother and his homo-erotic longing for Guy. He tries to split up Guy’s marriage and destroys Anne’s pregnancy by giving her chlymidiosis (he visits a farm with infected sheep and wears tainted boots into their home). The ending was unexpected and varied a lot from Hitch’s film. Charles and Guy huddle together as Guy’s barn/workshop burn around them. Nice fire effects for that scene as well!

The missus also checked the Oxford Playhouse listings around the same time and noticed a touring production of “Dial M For Murder” was going to be on in February and March. We were curious about how well it would adapt to the stage and duly bought tickets.

Put on by theatre group Fiery Angel and directed by Lucy Bailey – the play is virtually a scene-for-scene re-make of Hitch’s film. The cast were quite good, though Pixie didn’t like the transformation of “Max Halliday” into a dour Scotsman (played by Philip Cairns). Kelly Hotten provided glamourous cool as “Sheila Wendice” (with a proper English accent – as much as I like Grace Kelly, her accent was a bit off in the film). Robert Perkins was quite good as the conniving and domineering “Tony Wendice” – which is a tough role to claim, after Ray Milland‘s in the film. Christopher Timothy (yep, the “All Creatures Great And Small” actor) played “Inspector Hubbard” in a more gruff, ‘East Larndon’ way, unlike John Williams‘s posh, cut-glass manner in the film.

As in “Strangers…”, the stage set was clever and also featured a revolving piece – this time only the sofa. Early in the play, Tony is speaking to an old school acquaintence, “Captain Lesgate” (played by Daniel Betts, who, with his character’s ‘tache and booming voice, reminded me (unintentionally) of Matt Berry as “Stephen Toast“). I was paying attention to the dialogue and only noticed in a break in the talking that the sofa had spun around. The backdrop was see-through, which allowed the audience to watch as characters appeared in the ‘hallway’ outside of the flat.

Two enjoyable plays, but I’ve got my fill of murder-n-plots drama for the moment. Next on the list, I think, will be “The Events“, which will re-open in London in July.

“Strangers On A Train” finished it’s run at The Gielgud in February 2014.
“Dial M For Murder” is a touring production which is on in Newcastle this week.