Public Service Broadcasting – Southampton 28th November 2013

 

Please listen to the sirens

Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen. Your attention please.
This is a Public Service Announcement
“Pay attention – A bright new era is dawning.
A brilliant, pulsating miracle that brings substance to shadow”

New Dimensions In Entertainment

 There will be drums. Loud, articulate intelligent drums. Nerdy-looking fellow. Unusual haircut. The quiet type. You know the sort…

A smart chap dressed in tweed and wearing a bow tie will then generate some rather splendid noise on a sound-processing device, while simultaneously playing an electric guitar.
They will say something about the spirit of our time, and show you some moving pictures.

***MESSAGE BEGINS HERE***

To J. Wilgoose., Esq.

In front of me, a yard or so to the right, two of the Bright Young Things are watching the band.
She is smoking, and he is wearing a hat.

HE : “Absolutely incredible what a chap can do these days.”

HE : “And they do it without a safety net you know.
It’s all held together with just a few bits of cable and some ideas.”

SHE : “Yes, I can see that. It’s all about the importance of ideas now, isn’t it?”

 

< pause >

 

SHE : “Beastly noise though, don’t you think? And how is a girl to dance to it?”

HE : “Oh, I don’t know. Listen. This one’s got quite a groove going down.”

SHE : “It isn’t exactly music they’re creating though is it?
At least, it’s a curious sort of music.”

HE : “See how the notes weave and bank and glide…”

SHE : “I mean, there’s not even a singer. Absolutely ridiculous.”

< pause >

 

 

HE : “I’m sure it’s all very clever though, darling. Don’t you think?”

SHE : “Golly yes. Whatever will they think of next?”

HE : (raising up on his toes to see) “Dammit Sally! Cove’s got a banjo now. What the devil is he up to?
You won’t hear this kind of thing in the Club, and that’s a fact!.

SHE : “Mrs Twelve wouldn’t allow it.”

 

< pause >

< Silhouettes of hundreds like them flicker across the ceiling>

 

SHE : “Darling. What’s that in the middle there? Some kind of transmitter?”

HE : “Something to do with trains. I think he said.”

SHE : “And that flickering word. What did that say?

HE : “Elfstedentocht …”

SHE : “I beg your pardon? There’s no cause to be silly.”

HE : “It’s Dutch. It means something about ice-skating.
Look, on the television screen…

SHE :  (squeals in delight) “Oh, how utterly Charming!!
It’s so elegant. So intelligent”

 

< pause >

 

SHE : “And how delightful to meet Mr Hannon!”

HE : “Indeed. Everyone is here. Tom Rowlands. With Ed. In spite of everything.”

SHE : “Yes, I saw them. They are remarkably like each other, don’t you think.”

HE : “And look, darling. Colin’s over there. Waving a pink flag.”

 

***MESSAGE ENDS***

 

They’ve got me,  and I’m one of them

.

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Marc And the Mambas : Thursday, 9th August 2012

The Untouchable One
Torment And Toreros : Royal Festival Hall
On each of the last three occasions I have seen Marc Almond live, I have come away feeling that not only was his performance better than ever, and that I have just experienced the’best gig’ I’ve ever been to, but also further convinced that his music is an intrinsic part of my DNA. Almond’s songs reside in the farthest reaches of my life and experience, every time I look in the mirror or talk to particular people. There is a song in his repetoire somewhere that is connected to everything I am.
And it has also been apparent that many of these are present on the Torment And Toreros album, though I confess to finding that very difficult to admit, to accept and respond to. These are bitter songs, emotionally overwraught, yet defiant and challenging – albeit shambolic and not perhaps fully realised.
Until tonight.The album is a torrent of anger and vitriol, tears and heartache. Torment, if you will. Feelings I recognise well and swam amongst as friends when this was first released in 1983. On first listen, this masterwork instantly struck a chord with me as something very special, really deep and personal – a connection was made with a performer who has gone on to soundtrack my life. And thirty years later, I still feel these things. I still connect and It Still Matters.So as the moment for Marc to arrive on the stage at Royal Festival Hall got closer, I was sorting out feelings of love and excitement with trepidation and anxiety. How would I react? Would it be as ‘good’ as I hoped? Would Marc be able to ‘do it well’ knowing that he too has matured and ‘moved on’ ?Introducing the evening’s performance, Meltdown host Antony Hegarty. Nervous, shy, touching and visibly moved by the sense of anticipation, importance and ‘artistic sacrifice’. He read well, hitting more or less all the notes I would have written, and then shuffled off quickly to his seat – in front of me! Antony is Not a Small Person. Either artistically or physically,

but’s its quite something to watch half the show through his hair…!

Almond strode on to rapturous applause immediately the Venomettes (including Anne Stephenson, Gini Ball and Martin McGarrick) had assembled and just moments after the drums began to pound the rhythmic introducton to Mamba – one of the ‘associated tracks’ I was certainly not expecting to hear tonight.

But if you are going to wallow, wallow deep…

No-one commands a stage like Marc Almond in top form. Prowling, cruising, weaving. Utterly at home and in control. Conducting his band, and crashing cymbals – we are immediately transfixed. Miaow – oh Wow!!
The Bulls is presented in white light, back lit with hi-impact images of toreadors, Spanish dancers and gruesome bullfights, Almond is playing the matador now, teasing and enticing Martin Watkins on piano, posturing and living the drama, parading around the stage in a bulls head as if in some kind of satanic ritual.
One of my personal stand-outs is the next track Catch A Fallen Star which I have seen him perform before, but never with quite so much flambouyant and poisoned flouncing and posing. Neal Whitmore‘ s guitar too is ever present. Threatening, venomous and penetrating.

Official Picture Gallery at marcalmond.co.ukAlmond is a master of stage craft, and he brings everything inwards and downwards in the blink of an eye and a flick of the hand for the second movement. Tears start to run rings around my heart and the memories flood on in. Remember way back when you were so young and naive…?
It’s in his ballads and torch songs that Almond is at his critically most accomplished. And wherein I am at my most vulnerable. If there was to be any catharcism this evening, this is where I began to feel it. He looks so small too, with his back to the audience facing the string section and moving across to the choir. A cabaret clown.
And I’m so wrecked that my eyes bleed.

Part two (Side Three) opens with a crazed Anne Stephenson dancing with a tambourine, whirling dervishly in front of Neal and co-Mamba Lee Jenkinson having a wonderful guitar face-off during Blood Wedding, building everything up to the boil for the album’s best known signature track, the Mamba’s single Black Heart.


It’s fascinating to experience this new fashion for ‘whole album’ shows, to which Marc Almond has hitherto not succumbed. I’ve been to three or four now, and its definitely enhanced by knowing what is to come next. Even when you don’t want to hear it. Holding the mirror up to My Former Self in readiness, I just closed my eyes and let Narcissus / Gloomy Sunday and Vision do their worst, rising to my feet as the wonderful solo sax pierced my soul at the end. All over the Hall people were standing in isolation, weeping, waving and generally overcome.

And of course we all knew where this torment was going. Up, out and over the top! Enter Jim (Foetus) Thirlwell, and cue the stampede into the aisles and down to the front. A Mega Multi Million Mania Mix segues into the self-indulgent flesh volcano of sordidness that is Slut!
I can’t write any more notes – everything is going so, so well and ‘stuff’ is pouring out of me and off the stage. All around are beaming, wide-eyed faces, transfixed and enraptured, sharing their own moments of exorcism. And sharing the joy of Antony on stage, mild and humble, doing his very best to feel worthy of his place in the Little Book of Sorrows.

Exhausted and beaming, Almond picks up the cymbals again and closes the show that no-one wanted to end. He speaks for the First Time, having wisely chosen earlier not to interrupt the flow of the album. Thanking everyone involved, he himself is overcome with the emotion of the evening and his gratitude and genuine love for host Antony is honestly touching.
After some persuasion (in what seemed to be a genuine surprise) Hegarty is invited to join Marc on stage again for Caroline Says – the Lou Reed classic at which their relationship began. By his own admission he ‘warbles something (beautiful) in the background’, and shuffles away into the crying light.

In advance of the show, Almond expressed concern on his websites about the complexity of these songs, the arrangements, the history – and remembering the words. He does struggle with the lyrics to familiar songs since his accident, so that part in particular must have been Of Some Concern. I noticed only one slip, and that’s live and forgiveable.
Recalling that accident now, it’s little short of miraculous what Marc Almond has achieved in the past eight years. A fitting tribute to Antony, without whom perhaps this evening’s show may have indeed never have happened.

With that thought at the front of my mind, I cheer and wave and weep and clap and take my exhausted heart back to Waterloo. Uplifted, re-invented and having come to terms with the things
I Have Lived.

Life is affirmed, and I was there.

So the seasons roll on
And my love stays strong…

.

Laurie Anderson – Salisbury City Hall, UK May 23rd 2008

“The thing about stories, especially true stories – and let’s face it, there’s really no such thing… as fiction – is that every time you tell a particular story, you tell it differently. You remember different parts, and you relate them in a slightly different order. And you forget other parts. And every time an audience hears a story, they hear it differently. And every person in that audience hears it differently… at the same… time.”
So she’s telling this story, and there’s this music playing, and I’m listening to this story and watching the bed of sound it’s lying in moving around like water in the wind, and everyone around me is listening to the same story. Except it isn’t the same story. It’s a different story to each person, and none of them has ever heard it before. Even those that have.
And that’s a lot of stories. Kinda like stars. Stories are like stars – you never quite know if they’re real or not. Or how old they are. Or where they came from and how many there are. But you know it would be really, really dark if they weren’t there.
And you’d get lost more easily.
You know how it is. You get up one day, for no particular reason, and you start to travel. Backwards, towards the future. And you look over your shoulder, or out of the window, and you’re looking around for signs, for memory triggers, for something to tell you which way you need to go. To remind you that you’ve been here before. But today you can feel there’s something wrong. Something is missing, and all the things around you, the pictures and the words you see every day are suddenly unfamiliar. It’s too, too dark, and it’s too quiet.
There’s an emptiness you can feel. Are you moving through time – or space? Anyway, you look around, out of the car window, or the spacecraft, or the kitchen table you’re sitting around with your friends and old relatives you haven’t seen for years, and no-one is saying… anything. No-one has any idea where they are, or who you are, or why they are there. They are all lost, and broken, and silent. Like old photographs.
And then you realise what’s missing. There are no stars. The stars just…aren’t.. there. And it’s quiet, and it’s because there are no stories.
A discordant violin thunders past, like the only truck that’s passed you on the highway for like, the last seven hours. The air around you stumbles for a moment and then recovers itself, swaying again, notes moving within it like a kelp forest.

And then a voice says “Hi”, like as if you’ve just woken up after a post-operative, impenetrable sleep. Like as if you’ve just arrived somewhere.
“It’s really good to see you. Y’know, I was kind of expecting you. But it’s been a long, long time…”

And this is the time.
And this is my record of that time

On gulls

Down to the river
To count a few gulls
Overhead to roost
Resting in hulls
– broken by time and washed out by the tide

They come through in groups
Hundreds and ten
Some smaller, you see?
Helps identify them
– second year birds will show grey 

A female in moult
Her offspring in tow
Calling to siblings
As seaward they go
– passing daily at sunset for years

John Foxx And The Maths : Concorde 2, Brighton – 7th June, 2013

Here lie forgotten things…

Me? At a John Foxx gig? A rare thing these days for a complex number of interplaying reasons. Among these – and here is the part where you can all shout at me – is that I have not managed to coincide my infrequent appearances with a really good show and tend to experience frustration and an element of disappointment when I walk away.
I think that is just ‘the way it is’ and live on stage there are other acts who, at least for me, hit the spot with more consistent accuracy.

But on the back of the recent highly-praised tour with OMD (and Brighton is only 80-minutes drive from my house) I ventured forth with high expectations, a good friend alongside and a deep blue sky above – to the wonderful Concorde 2 at the foot of the cliffs in Kemp Town.
The building, with its cast iron arches and delicate wooden latticework is known as The Madeira Shelter and was built to provide shelter and protection from the weather for Victorian bathers waiting to use the hydraulic cliff-lift housed inside.
The lift is still there and still in use – it was quite surreal watching people with pushchairs, dogs and brightly coloured plastic toys exercising their right to cross the hall floor while a few metres to their right John Foxx and the road crew went through the soundchecks…

They went through four tracks in full, using The Shadow Of His Former Self (which Hannah also sang through solo) to balance and sort the vocals. Foxx insisted that his vocoder was pitched up as high as possible, checked by the sound-desk when the dials went up to eleven and those little red lights came on. It was short, sweet and effective – Foxx has a natural way of putting people at ease and encouraging everyone that it will all be OK.

And so it was. More than OK, by a long way. I stood near the back throughout, the smile in my heart getting persistently brighter with each track played and it became progressivley more obvious that this was the best John Foxx And the Maths gig In the World, like, Ever.

They burst into flower with Evidence, pushing the bass through the floor and out the open door. A slightly slowed, oiled and oozing interpretation that bled down the walls and wrenched your gut. Outside through the fire escape I could see concrete and railings as they played He’s A Liquid, and the sky turned white in the falling sun while Benge hit the Simmons drum set like gun shot.
One of John’s personal favourites to play live is the bouncy poptronic single Evergreen, merging seamlessly into No-One Driving and sitting comfortably alongside it’s 30-year old grown up cousin. Two more upbeat catchy and persisent songs followed from the Interplay album – Summerland and The Running Man. Purposeful. Intentive. Is that a word? Full of intent…?
Foxx is still running, and he’s still a fair few years ahead of the rest of us. He seems completely at home up there, like the front man in a good band again. His relationship with and respect for and Hannah Peel is a clear as the smile on his face. She comes in and kills the track with some annihilating violin work. They laugh and smile together when he misses a bit of timing and she picks him up. A nod and wink from a frenetic, focussed Benge and they crash in to the ‘classic’ Burning Car and the swaggering arrogance of Catwalk.

I went outside during this song. It was just too tempting. There can’t be many venues whose main entrance looks straight out onto a beach and opens directly onto the dance floor? A quiet word with a security guard and I slipped into the evening for five minutes – the music inside more than loud enough to reach and soundtrack the shifting sea.

All of which triggered the geometry of the most remarkable coincidence, because the next track in the set is unmistakably Underpass. The lights were on the pier, and a car passed between me and the venue before I slipped back inside. Barnbrook’s visuals for this track are now as much a part of it as the music, and the typography is as iconic as the track. He told me the name of the condensed, retro serif typeface too and I’ve darn forgotten it…

From elevators come to the sea view. Foxx could have written that line for Plaza about tonight’s venue, and he delivers it bathed in a cool blue light. All the faces shimmered and even the walls were turning round.
After a menacing version of Talk, vocoded to the hilt, The Maths moved into Shatterproof and it was only at this point that I felt a little deflated and less than convinced. It seems this track has been smoothed out, slowed down and shined up. Certainly it was lacking some of the venom with which it spat out of the blocks on other gigs. It strangely felt as if the song is actually one of the few shatterpoof tracks in the catalogue – over-familiar and ‘safe’?

Not so The Shadow Of His Former Self, which has more than grown into the space afforded to it over the past couple of years. No sentimental trash here – it’s one of the set’s highlights and it could have happily been twenty minutes longer. But that wouldn’t have given time for a sauntering Walk around My Town off The Shape Of Things.

Foxx is relaxed. Refreshed and strong, he has really taken ownership of this arrangement. It clearly suits him and lifts the confidence. He really does present himself as another New Kind Of Man these days – invigorated and inspired.
Confident enough to close the set with a live debut for Tides – as described above, affirming and ‘lovely’. The whole encore was a beautiful, endearing thing. The Good Shadow is curiously quaint, both un-nerving and re-assuring in equal measure.
I felt it was an excellent set, perfectly representative of the Maths live sound. Well lit, well performed and expertly managed from the sound desk. Loud of course (some of them prefer it that way) but to good effect without being over-powering. Deep breath and happy thoughts. Turn and wave. He’s done it. At last, I get it.

Thanks to everyone involved and here’s to you, John Foxx – it seems I am indeed compelled to play these games again…

Read more here  (Review from The Brighton Source)

Online

I have connected with a thousand links
And seen the kind of shit that bothers me
And hurts my soul
And burns my eyes
And lifts me higher than the sun

And makes me feel incredible and small
And helpless and enriched
And bathed and tested
Encouraged and enraged and woken
Splendored, torn, inspired, broken
I have walked though spirals
Down alleyways and into jungles
Underneath the sea
Andout of here into the next

Beyond and round and over
Best before I ever went there
Not the same until I’ve gone
Better without me
And probably improved ‘cos I was there

AjantaMusic : The Secret Door

Treading the sand, touching the sun

I returned to my office this morning, overlooking a city I now call home, to find the secret door was still there. Stepping inside, two brothers dressed in white silk took my hands and led me across the warm sand towards a temple of golden trees. A dreamscape of eastern-infused hallucinatory music filled the mystical. balmy air…

This is the world of Ajantamusic, composed, presented and almost-literally dreamed together by Paul and Rob Simon – musicians with a hidden history of influential associations and peripheral infiltration. They were there at the Speakeasy in 1976, and have drifted through the years via Radio, Magazine, Ultravox, Cowboys International and Visage to come ashore together in their own right in Balearic clubland. Paul and Rob’s first release as Ajantamusic was the instrumental album ‘And Now We Dream’ in 2006 followed three years later with ‘Beyond The Cloudline’ and gathering on the way influences, ideas and support from Matthew Seligman (bass), Dave Formula (keyboards) and The Camera Club’s Bruce Woolley on Theremin. ‘Cloudline’ also introduced the evocative and charming vocals of classically trained soprano Gina Watson bringing rich new strata and depth of expression to the band’s emerging characteristic sound.

The Secret Door is Ajantamusic’s third album, performed by the core trio of songwriters Paul and Rob with Watson on vocals. Matthew Seligman again plays bass, and the addition of extra guitar layering from Jürgen Graf (of German power metal band UDO) and Tony Lowe (who has worked live with David Cross of King Crimson and Mark Brzezicki of Big Country) opens up a whole kaleidoscope of new horizons. Other guest musicians this time out include engineer Tony Bywaters, whose virtual instrumentation and optimised effects make The Secret Door a significant progression from ‘Cloudline’.

The ten-strong album opens with the band’s ‘Snow On The Beach’ anthem to Ibiza, a rich infusion of intricate eastern sampled melodies, rocking guitar and trance-like dance rhythms leading into a wonderfully upbeat and powerful mix of ‘Her Colour Is Golden’. A complex track that captures every element of the band’s coming-of-age and progressive intent.

The quiet man of post-punk and pseudo- electrician John Foxx (with Rob Simon in Ultravox) has long championed Rob’s guitar work, describing it more than once as ‘spine tingling’ and suggesting he can ‘stretch’ a sound like no-one else. The Secret Door showcases the genius of the ‘Prince of Plectra’ in every way, and his ability to take a song in five directions at once is nowhere more apparent than on the velveteen pop art that is the outstanding ‘TV Sky’ and the delicious psychocandy of ‘Curtain Call’.

These tracks lead into the Persian-tinted ‘Mirage’ and weave intricately through the confident instrumental they call ‘Arabella’, the technicoloured psychedelia of ‘Dream (Within A Dream)’ and the wonderful twangy wigout ‘Scirocco’.

Time is indeed Backwards in this exotic world, and it moves in a multitude of fascinating simultaneous directions.

Bewildered, I nervously confessed my inadequacy and underestimated what to expect behind ‘The Secret Door’. It beckoned me, and I stepped through – but whither am I bound?

The brothers at each hand smiled graciously, poured me a deep intoxicating liquor and everything began to sway. The sand before me was bathed in light and my eyes swam in the shimmering haze of their achievement.

Translated from birdsong by Martin Smith – June 2013.