Monday, 25 October 2010

Neil Finn at the Jazz Cafe - Setlist (24 October 2010)

I intend to write a full review of tonight's Neil Finn concert at the Jazz Cafe and post it to my About Last Night website, but for now, I thought I would post here the email to other Finn fans that I composed on my phone on the way home. I'll clarify and/or correct anything in the morning!

Well, as I missed my train by two minutes as I was foolishly yet understandably too weak to leave the Jazz Cafe while Neil Finn was singing Don't Dream It's Over, I might as well post the set list as I sit in this darkened station until midnight when I might execute a Plan B (or Z) for getting home. Add to that general worry the painful knowledge that I might as well have stayed in the Camden club rather than rush out and possibly miss another song. If he sang more, please tell me in a really convincing way that it was awful. [I understand now I missed nothing else.]

Off the top of my head:-

-Highlights: Neil joined on stage first by son & birthday boy (21!) Elroy, then Johnny Marr. And of course Neil's singing and rapport with the audience. And he was thankfully 'tache-less.

--Low points: standing for over three hours before Neil even appeared, as the same 10 photos of Q award nominees flashed on the screens in front of us over and over and over to insipid music, which makes me never want to see Q magazine again. Though we must perhaps appreciate them as Neil did say that he was in London was not just to celebrate Elroy's birthday and to play this (Q-organised) gig, but to attend the Q awards tomorrow, where apparently he's up for an award, or a catalogue of his and/or his brother's work is, though Tim wasn't with him.....we shall see.

The songs Neil played:-

1. Only Talking Sense (Neil on electric guitar for the next few songs)

2. I Got You (fantastic, but then everything was)

3. Driving Me Mad

4. Private Universe, (which then morphed into:-)

5. Black & White Boy (with some high-pitched Revolution-style screaming at one point)

6. Faster Than Light (on grand piano now)

7. Tired Eyes (That's a total guess at the title; Neil said it was one of the first songs he wrote, aged 15, after getting high & seriously drunk for the first time and listening to Vaughan Williams on a theme of Thomas Tallis; I could hear the influence of the former, not the latter. It was lovely, contemplative). This followed a chat about how he'd always thought brother Tim was awesome and had encouraged young Neil, though Tim recently revealed in an interview it had been a psychological scheme to dominate him

8. Message to My Girl (to constant sound of loud glass clinking etc from the bar, which prompted Neil, when he finished, to ask the staff if they needed a hand with the glasses as they were making a meal of it, so they quietened a bit at last)

9. Into the Sunset (marvellous)

10. Wherever You Are

11.Last Day of June (requested by audience members then and earlier. How many stunning ballads have Finns brought into this world?!) During this song, a girl up front fainted and I thought many others would follow, but she got up shortly afterwards and I hope was okay. Neil was singing with his eyes closed at the far edge of the stage on the piano so wasn't aware.

12. Rocket Man (kinda. One possibly confused man shouted for it repeatedly, even after Neil pointed out later that he'd obliged with half the song, despite needing us to feed him the lyrics. Neil later said he played Elton John when he [Neil] was younger as he [Elton] did write some good tunes, and said Elton had sent loads of Dom Perignon to Crowded House's first LA gig after Don't Dream It's Over became a big hit). Later requests came for Bowie's Heroes, which Neil said might be an idea for a future gig, and Stairway To Heaven (which caught Neil out as he said 'Which one?' scrutinising his set list for that tune).

13. Try Whistling This (he was going to do something else I didn't catch--sounded like 'Call to My God!"--'til this was requested)

14. Gentle Hum (audience knew their part and hummed the chorus beautifully)

15. Silent House (son Elroy on acoustic guitar and harmonies, Neil back on electric guitar--after we sang happy birthday to Elroy, and Neil said he had hours of home movies of Elroy as a babe that he could show us. Neil also said he and wife Sharon used to turn his baby monitor on & off quickly to make a tune from Elroy's screaming, which he might release one day...I'll skip the talk of 'seeding Lady Gaga').

16.Anytime (still with Elroy)

17. Sinner (after which Elroy left to be replaced by Johnny Marr!)

18. Distant Sun (Neil on small acoustic guitar, Johnny on electric with the---chorus?--accidentally switched on the guitar so he later joked they should do it again. The audience was shouting along with this as though it was the biggest hit ever)

19. There Is A Light That Never Goes Out (only Neil singing--apart from audience. Grand!)

20. She Will Have Her Way

Johnny Marr left after both launched some extreme (deserved) praise about each other's genius.

Neil then pointed out the tricky logistics in leaving before an encore at the Jazz Cafe (stairs, platforms, long walks still visible to the audience...) so just stayed. He said he'd considered lying down instead.

21.Something So Strong (with a slightly different arrangement and slow, sweet, thoughtful tempo and delivery to the chorus [like part of Last Day in June], which he said was this song's original form, though he indulged the audience at the end with the chorus they love to shout along to)

22. Fall at Your Feet

23. One Step Ahead (bliss!)

24.Don't Dream It's Over ('that Susan Boyle song' someone kidded when requesting it')

....& then sadly some of us fled as it was past 11pm on a Sunday night, and public transport is usually off to bed about then. I'll elaborate on the above and correct things once I decipher my scribbled notes on my list, and will put the review and some more awful photos on my website shortly. But that's the set at least, and everything was outstanding (it just would have been boring if I wrote that after every song) and the audience was great (and patient!)

Many thanks to Patrick for the ticket; they were hard to get.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Travelling Town Crier

Sometimes, when Spring comes around, I feel a bit self-conscious and exposed once I’ve shed my winter coat. It seems to take a bit of adjustment in travelling to and from work, including the long walk to the station, the train journey into town, and then the walk to the office, in whatever outfit I’m wearing without the comfort of the cover of my coat.

And I don’t wear particularly remarkable outfits. They’re probably quite business-like and dull. It’s just a feeling I get.

But what if your daily work outfit was rather extraordinary, the type of thing that turns heads, and there was nowhere for you to change, so you just had to travel in that get-up? What if, for instance, you were the Town Crier? Perfectly respectable, certainly delightful in the right situation, but you might seem like a bit of a surprise in, say, a rail station.

That was the sight that startled me the other day at London Bridge Station as I tried to take the steps from the Charing Cross train platform to the Cannon Street platform in a single bound. At the top of one flight of stairs, I was dazzled by the unexpected site of a man standing there in an awful lot of bright red and gold, white stockings, pilgrim shoes and a big white feathery hat. The only thing he was missing was his bell, and he wasn’t calling out ‘Oyez, oyez!’ He was standing there silently, scrutinising the screens, waiting for information on his train to wherever needed a Town Crier that day.

I raced to catch my connection, it pulled away as I got there, and I just couldn’t resist going back up the stairs and getting out my camera (albeit the poor quality one that lives in my handbag). I didn’t want to be intrusive, plus I had to listen out for the next train, so I took a quick poor quality long-distance shot of him. But what I love is how, because we’re Londoners, no one else is batting an eyelid as he stands there amongst the other passengers. I love London for that bland acceptance of just about anything, and for the unexpected sights one meets every day. O yes, O yes.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

I Saw the Pope (But I Didn't Touch Him)

During the Pope’s recent brief visit to London, I managed to see him. I didn’t touch him or anything, and it certainly wasn’t an audience with him or an encounter where he greeted me with glee. I just watched as his fantastic popemobile passed by. Was it a moving experience? Not really. Not at all. It was kinda neat though.

I am not Catholic, and whilst I respect the comfort that their faith gives my Catholic friends, I have strong problems with many of the Pope’s preachings about, for instance, homosexuals, women, the use of condoms to prevent disease, the treatment of innocent girls who have been raped and don’t want their rapist’s child…and of course I am disillusioned by the past cover-ups of the abuse of children by priests who were then just moved to a new place of trust where they could abuse again. That sort of thing. So this wasn’t going to be a spiritual quest for me.

Nor any sort of quest. Basically, I stumbled upon his path. I had been in town for the Open House weekend, and at about 5.30pm was wearily headed for my train home from Charing Cross station, but decided to walk via Trafalgar Square in case anything interesting was going on. Indeed there was, in the shape of a sort of robotic-armed squid, or a metal Venus Flytrap that occasionally sprang to life, an installation called OUTRACE, designed by Clemens Weisshaar and Reed Kram for the London Design Festival from 16 to 24 September (this was 18 September). Apparently, OUTRACE ‘empowers the general public to take control of eight industrial robots on loan from Audi's production line’. Visitors and people on the web could book a slot to interact with the installation via the website, and somehow the vacuum-attachment-looking light-heads attached to the synchronised mechanical tentacles allowed users to create a light trace in the air of messages they wrote. A bit baffling, a lot slick.

Standing so near Admiralty Arch, it occurred to me that the Mall, just on the other side, might be decorated for the Pope’s visit, as I believed he’d travelled down it earlier. I popped through to have a look and found the Mall bedecked with alternating flags--union jacks and the yellow and white ones of the Vatican City, all with miniature jewelled crowns on the tops of the flagpoles. The enormous number of people lining the Mall down to Buckingham Palace behind policed barriers made me realise that the Pope had not yet passed by, and my smartphone revealed that he was due at 6pm on his way to his Hyde Park Vigil. I took a few photos and found myself on a bit of grass on a small slope by the National Police Memorial by Horse Guards Road and realised that, without any jostling or struggling with the crowd (I have leanings towards enochlophobia) lining the barriers, I had a relatively good look-out position, and surely even impatient I could wait for 15 minutes.

The atmosphere was initially peaceful and somehow warm (in the ‘and fuzzy’ sense). There was a young family across the road cheerfully waving Vatican City flags even though there was no sign of the Pope. There were loads of foreign tourists from all sorts of backgrounds who seemed, like me, to have just wandered onto a potential spectacle. Others were middle-aged intellectual types or cyclists who seemed to have stopped to soak in the view. It was a glorious sunny day (I wouldn’t have braved it in the pouring rain) and everyone seemed happy, patient and a bit excited. A murmur of cheerful conversation filled the air, even from those who were on their own as they were chatting on their phones, telling people they were waiting to see the pope. Everything was delightfully pleasant and comfortable until the couple who’d been lying sprawled over each other on the grass behind me decided to force on everyone around them their hideous booming ‘music’ that seemed to be of the Hip Hop Bangra ilk, which I gather wasn’t to anyone else’s taste given the many hateful looks they were given, which I think added to their own pleasure. I sound like an old fogey, but with so many great headphones these days, and given that no one could easily walk away as they were waiting for something specific in limited space, I have little patience for forcing one’s noise on unwilling others. It turned the previously soft yellow-filter type atmosphere rather crusty and unpleasantly surreal.

We suffered that for quite a while. I kept my eyes on a vertigo-inducing high platform nearby that held a television camera and crew, noting that the cameraman, who would surely get a cue when the Pope was on his way, was relaxing in a chair some feet away from the camera.

The Pope was due at 6pm, and 6pm came and went. As did 6.10pm, 6.20pm…..I thought as I had just been passing, I wouldn’t wait much longer, but it became like waiting for a bus, where you fear that as soon as soon as you walk away, it was bound to come. So I continued to wait, struggling with the dreadful ‘music’, watching time tick past slowly on the clock tower housing Big Ben that I could see in the distance. I eventually said some things in my head that I’m not proud of like ‘Damn you, Pope, get on with it!’ for which I shall probably be struck by lightning.
Eventually, the police helicopters that had plagued London with their constant Pope-protecting din all day appeared overhead, which was a sign. I checked the towering telly platform, and the cameraman was leaning over his camera. Four police outriders drove past (the Pope’s no David Cameron, wisely) followed by—not the Pope—but a racing Jag then Range Rover. After that burst of excitement, we all had our cameras ready, and….nothing. More shameful grumbling in my head. Still nothing.

It seemed that another hour passed, but I suppose I was just frustrated that my initial plan to devote a casual 10 minutes to glance over this Papal parade had become an hour of my time, standing doing nothing, clutching heavy bags. Worse, people were now encroaching on my space. I got that frustrated feeling I get when I’ve queued for aeons at Marks & Spencer’s only for them to open a new till at last, enabling people who just walked up to be served before I could get there. Silly, but real. I felt the need to protect even an inch of my vastly diminishing potential view. I’d visited Princi’s on Wardour Street on my way there and loaded up with cannolis, cannoncinis and some pumpkin and feta salad, which had cost a rather startling amount, but I decided to risk sacrificing that fine food by placing my bag by my feet to prevent someone standing directly in front of me and blocking the view I’d been protecting for a while now. Happily, no one kicked my pastries away, and I later enjoyed pigging out on my goodies.

Finally, finally, finally, I could see down the road past the Horseguards Parade that a motorcade was heading our way. I’d imagined it would race past us and just be a papal blur, but it had clearly been acknowledged that it meant a lot to people just to see the Pope, so it crawled along, making sure that many could. Another Range Rover type of vehicle moved in front of the papamobile, and on its roof was what looked like two giant eye-like round webcams facing opposite directions, presumably enabling security to spot any potential assassins in the crowd. Several men in identical navy suits and ties, who looked more like church ushers than security, walked alongside the Pope’s vehicle.

The Popemobile was remarkable. It was a modified white M-class Mercedes sport utility vehicle, licence plate SCV1 (standing for both the Italian and Latin names for the Vatican City State, eg Status Civitatis Vaticanae), which might have been like an American pick-up truck with a camper shell, but instead there was a tall, clear rectangular bubble rising over its rear area. Sensible, as Pope John Paul II was shot four times in 1981 by a sniper when he was paraded around St Peter’s Square, exposed in an open-top car. Amazingly, he survived (guess he was blessed!), but people learned a lesson. Now the Pope was safely encased in a bullet-proof bubble, his throne a plain, plastic-looking white chair (which apparently rises into the glass ‘room’ by hydraulic lift after the Pope climbs aboard). It struck me as something like a Barbie’s Dreamboat vehicle, with a Barbie doll propped up inside on display.

Two ‘papal aide’ men were seated in the bubble, facing the Pope (I couldn’t have that job or I would be vomiting all over the pontiff, riding backwards like that, and I expect one would be shot for that or at least banished to hell), and he gave the impression of being a sweet little old man, waving cheerfully to both sides of the road, almost glowing in his white gear.

Naturally, as he came near, all the men up front who were over six feet tall suddenly lifted their children on their heads, becoming 10-foot tall obstacles, and everyone naturally held up their phones and cameras directly where I supposed the pope would be, and others wandered behind the row of people trying to get photographs, all of them blocking my way and my plan to get pictures myself. Ah, so standing on the slight hill rather than trying to fight my way towards the barriers was not as good an idea as it had initially seemed, but I did get to see the Pope as he slowly passed by. I just didn’t get a good photo, as you can see. The close-up ones are crops of distant photos and thus are low-definition blurs. But it’s enough to remember him by, in case I forget.

As the papal motorcade travelled down the Mall towards the Palace, it no doubt touched the lives of the many more people who were cramped against the barriers on that route, and my elevated cameraman carried on working as the rest of us started to disperse. Nearly everyone got on their phones again, saying in several different languages: ‘I’ve just seen the Pope!’
I warned before that this was never going to be spiritual for me. I did not feel touched or moved. But it indeed was kinda neat. This was the first visit to London by a Pope in 18 years, and I was there. I only needed a few minutes of it to make me smile. And despite my typical lack of patience, even the overlong wait standing amidst people full of the same anticipation on a lovely end-of-summer’s evening in London was in itself rather agreeable, apart from the cacophonous music that seemed a symbol of the rudeness and lack of respect of the yoof of today (but I know I am making too much of it). And hey, I stumbled upon two Barry Flannigan hares in front of the British Council building, which I never realised were there (I go to the Palace rarely these days!).

Later that night, I saw a few minutes of the televised mass being held in Hyde Park, which I wouldn’t have bothered to look at if I hadn’t seen the man in person a few hours before. In fact, I’d said to colleagues about how I would never ever have stood for the treatment of those people who had attended the mass in person and who, amongst other rules, were required to be in place several hours before the Pope was due to arrive—though at least they were allowed to sit, unlike the schoolchildren who were not allowed to do so as they’d waited hours for his visit that morning. (The Hyde Park vigil information said that Pilgrims must be prepared for a very long and onerous journey to the celebration and home again; well, we all must make sacrifices. And hey, an ‘outstanding range of official merchandise’ was on sale as consolation.) My main thought, watching him administer communion to the pilgrims, was wouldn’t you feel cheated if you went to take communion and ended up on the left side when the Pope was only doing the right side, so you had just some ordinary priest (or monsignor, but still). I guess that’s not very Christian of me. But I bet I wouldn’t be the only one thinking like that.

I was interested, the following day when I was passing through Hyde Park from Horseman’s Sunday at St John’s en route to Berkeley Square, to see how massive the papal mass area had been, which I had to manoeuvre around. What made me smile was the huge toilets sign, as even that had a little prayer of sorts beneath it. (Although I later learned that the ‘prayer’ was the theme of the Pope’s visit, the motto that Cardinal John Henry Newman, whom the Pope beatified during his visit, chose for his coat of arms). The giant sign in Hyde Park read: ‘TOILETS. Heart speaks unto heart.’