Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Belated Lowdham review - Jasper Fforde

Can I just say: Jasper Fforde - excellent and hilarious writer... and just a little bit hot. And I don't just mean in a 'blimey-it-was-30-degrees-on-Saturday' kinda hot (though it was). The picture doesn't do justice but he a rather ruggedly handsome man (how he is as prolific as he is whilst having a young/growing family is testament as ever to an incredibly understanding wife, and the honed skills of writing he learnt through 10 years of writings and NOT being published).

Fforde was in conversation with crime writer Stephen Booth (SB's a pleasant guy, but projecting your voice in a hot festival tent when trying to direct a conversation IS a difficult task). Fforde however is probably the sort of person who just needs a 'go' and he can engagingly talk anyway.

Nevertheless, there was an entertaining thrust to the discussion - not least as Lowdham inevitably attracts general interest visitors for its final Saturday events as well as 'chums' (Fforde's preference to the more dismissive term 'fans'). Of the audience perhaps a good third acknowledged not having read any of Fforde's work: I'd hope many went on to buy, read and enjoy some afterwards but there was a predictable degree of confused attempts to explain the real/fiction/bookworld narratives of Fforde's work! A dodo called Pickwick who goes 'plock'?! I'm sure it will make sense when they get into the stories... (and that's all before you get into the madness that is the Fforde Fiesta - the annual get together of Fforde chums in Swindon, home town to our literary detective heroine Thursday Next. Still there are fun pictures of Fforde at the Fiestas, including here).

Fforde originally worked in the film industry (incredibly, NOT in front of the camera, but behind it as a focus puller). He described the work as not much good for inspiring writing but good for carpet fitting. Most entertainingly, he explained how he would be responsible for making sure that Sean Connery didn't look like a bath sponge. Fforde can make the potentially most mundane of discussions and anecdotes sound engaging and although I'm sure he must do tons of these events he was utterly charming. It was also nice to hear his resistance to the idea of a film version of his books (instead recommending 'read the book and get your own interpretation of it", rather than in film where inevitably you get someone ELSE'S interpretation of the text). It was interesting to hear about the extra commas that US editions seem to demand. And we even got into a philosophical debate about the naming of names ("the name Jasper might actually be 'David'...")

Overall it was a real treat to hear him talking, and to meet him afterwards to get a book signed. I was put onto The Eyre Affair some years ago and have devoured his output regularly ever since (and re-reading too). What I hadn't picked up was Shades of Grey - to which I treated myself on arrival to get signed. Nice. And I read it within the weekend, being knocked out by its inventiveness and utterly gripping narrative and characters. Definitely looking forward to reading more of that series.

I know there is also a Thursday Next out (in hardback only at the mo, natch) but that will also be on my reading list as soon as it hits paperback. And I may just pick up the DragonSlayer book - first volume 'The Last DragonSlayer' - on the pretext we're getting it for James (nephew) who likes dragon themed books....

All in all a lovely weekend - and Lowdham was made extra special by having the company of Caroline and one of her daughters and her mum (the three generations of 'Anya' as they became known)

Monday, June 20, 2011

In praise of Graham Jones - "Last Shop Standing": A Lowdham Book Festival event @ St Mary's Church, Lowdham Sunday 19 June 2011

Anyone interested in the music industry, in record shops, in independent music, should know by now of Graham Jones' excellent and witty book "Last Shop Standing".

So given our passion for music at Chez Rullsenberg and Roberts, we couldn't pass the chance to go and hear the man himself recount some of the best anecdotes from his book in conversation with the great Jim Cooke, formerly of Selectadisc fame. Presented as part of the ever-wonderful Lowdham Book Festival, Graham was talking at St. Mary's Church --- home to many of my maternal grandparents family as the Chapmans et al scarcely moved from the area until around 1900.

We have just 269 remaining independent records shops standing in the UK in 2011.

Whilst the frightening drop-off that coincided with Graham writing 'Last Shop Standing" has at least been halted - albeit sadly too late for Selectadisc to survive - this remains a precarious time for record sellers. This house does its best to buy the majority of its music purchases from record shops --- readers here will be familiar with pilgrimages to Rough Trade off Brick Lane in Spitalfields, and to Sister Ray on Berwick Street (aka the Selectadisc of the South). Our local Classical CD also regularly gets our attention, and though in sad decline I've never neglected visiting Swordfish in Birmingham whenever we're that way. Rock-a-boom in Leicester has also parted us from our cash on many occasions and One-Up in Aberdeen has a similar ability to get the wallets open (wonderfully, one year George got us vouchers from the store: a great incentive to make the long and complicated journey into Scotland to see him!). Moreover, we don't leave our purchasing desires at the UK border: Slow Boat Records in Wellington New Zealand and the mighty MIGHTY Amoeba Records in Haight Ashbury, San Francisco USA have also captured our attention with their eclectic collections of CDs to browse and buy.

And that's what I love about a record store: the juxtapositions, the categorising (doesn't matter how mad or pedantic these divisions may be - it's fun to look!), and the people.

Downloads don't really DO memories: whilst the purchasing of an actual object carries with it notions of place, selection, winnowing the large pile of possibles down to manageable purchases, it's hard to feel the same way about being sat in front of your computer. I can still recall my many visits to Revolver records in Nottingham, buying my obsessive way through Beatles and John Lennon albums. I remember plucking up the courage to ask a record store what was playing, and promptly purchasing the single of "Birdhouse in Your Soul" by They Might be Giants. I still have my signed copy of James' Gold Mother album - and even more fond memories of the photo I took of Tim Booth catching me take the photo as he supped a cup of tea. I remember meeting Billy Bragg at Selectadisc in October 1991 on the afternoon after I had taken one of my Open University exams and having a beaming picture taken of me with Billy. I went home and tore up my revision plan to the sound of "Waiting for the Great Leap Forward" from my copy of Worker's Playtime (now newly signed), and promptly returned to town for the evening's Rock City gig (with the much mentioned version of "Groove is in the Heart"). In more recent years, I gambled many a tenner on CDs where I just liked the description on the sleeve (Selectadisc et al who use this quick review strategy are MUCH loved for having introduced me to so much good music this way - the payoff have far exceeded the disappointments). The Mummers - Tale to Tell is one such boon, only for me to find the ultimate approval for my gamble when George turned up praising the same album a month or so later).

So many memories tied to the purchase of the physical thing: albeit the tiny frame of a CD rather than the lush 12 inches of beauty that is vinyl.

Having said all that though in praise of shops selling the physical object, something that could have saved some stores may have been to move into offering download stations - something akin to a system that Big Finish has sometimes offered on its CDs: buy the CD and you get the download along with it. By now of course, though getting many to pay to download at all is nigh up. Additionally, many artists sell direct to their public - cutting out the middleman, sure, but cutting their own throats somewhat in the process in terms of longer term survival of the medium. It was good to hear someone from Universal Music chip in that record companies have (more or less) agreed that once something is now played on the radio it should be quickly available for at least download purchase --- but this feels like too little too late (and given some of the criticism that Universal comes in for in Graham's book, it was a rather odd semi-corporate voice in the proceedings)*.

Indeed, it was that issue of advance radio play that was the basis of my 'question' at the end of the discussion. Cloud and I have long talked about the infuriating issue of hearing a track on the radio only to find - if its mentioned at all - that said track would be released in 12 weeks time. Frankly by then most people have gone off any playlisted track and/or downloaded it illegally. Dumb: it nailed further lids onto the coffin of record shop sales when it least needed it (remember when you'd find out there was a new Duran Duran single out on Monday? A whole week away? Shocking.)

The afternoon was a delight: the anecdotes of worst shops, most hysterically wrongly identified song titles - I rather liked "The song about the trans-sexual who nearly misses the train" (predictably, but still amusingly, Last Train to Tran-Central by KLF) - and the injustice of the VAT/Jersey scam that continues to plague online purchases from big companies like Amazon and --- personally, I'd recommend Norman Records, but that's me. the conversation was never less than amusing, and always heartfelt: Graham clearly LOVES music despite his first hand experience of the corruption of chart sales. And he's a top nice bloke too - complimenting me on my choice of Selectadisc t-shirt to wear for the occasion ("the lady with the coolest t-shirt in the room" --- well, bless, he wasn't to know I'm no lady...)

With a copy of the book signed, we headed home, happy and ready to listen to some new purchases courtesy of the Music Exchange stall that had also been at the event. Ah bliss. Independent music...

* Actually, as a promoter for independent labels, and for sales direct from music sellers via Amazon Marketplace, he clearly wasn't bad, but the irony was still there.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Reviews of Betrayal - Comedy Theatre, London til 20 August 2011

Reviews are in for Betrayal at the Comedy theatre London and a few comments are on the bottom of my review/Squee-fest from 4 June 2011.

Can I just reiterate though: Quentin Letts is a miserable so-and-so...

Thursday, June 16, 2011

"Well, it isn't about Scotland, is it?" - Dunsinane Preview night @ Swan Theatre, Stratford on Avon Wednesday 15 June 2011

Cloud's remark when we came out of this play possibly suggests a harsher review than will follow. Certainly, although the narrative is ostensibly one based on a follow-up to Macbeth (albeit rooted more in actual medieval Scottish history), you'd have to be pretty dim not to spot the analogies to present-day wars and occupations.
"Tell the men we'll be in Scotland a little longer than we expected"
Nevertheless, this is not a one-dimensional sledgehammer of a play about the problems of Iraq/Afghanistan, particularly given its lively, sharp and incredibly funny dialogue and the excellent performances. This new revival of David Greig's 2010 RSC Hampstead theatre new play is ending a short tour from the National Theatre of Scotland in Stratford, having been on in Edinburgh and Glasgow earlier in spring/summer 2011.

Since this year is proving to be a rather expensive year for theatre-deficits induced by hot actors treading the boards in abundance, I also felt I should treat Cloud to some pleasure for himself. Having carried a torch for Siobhan Redmond since her days in Bulman and then Between the Lines, I couldn't deny Cloud the chance to have his own Scottish heaven (no, I don't know what it is about our house and its love of Scottish actors!)

Redmond is glorious as the Queen, Gruach, particularly when she plays opposite Jonny Phillips as the English Siward. The latter's eventual collapse into violent vengeance for his own succumbing to Gruach's clever use of power, and his own weak inability to ultimately overcome her, is sparkling to watch. Brian Ferguson's Malcolm - uncannily resembling Slinger's Macbeth actually, but a far more weasily King - is hysterical. A very sharp humour indeed. It always feels harsh to pick out specific members of the cast, but these three especially turn in spectacularly good performances.

The structure of the play, working around a 'letter to mother' from one of the young English soldiers, eventually permits an overall questioning of what we have seen through his eyes. The bawdy humour, the casual violence, the swearing, are as one may imagine a young boy soldier's view on life stuck occupying a seemingly desolate land far from home. The use of music is also astute, mixing a near pop sensibility of dischordant cello, with lively guitar and drums, with unaccompanied Gaelic singing by Gruach's maids.

Overall, a very engaging production - both as a follow-on to Macbeth and in its own right as a contemporary play commenting on the nature of power and occupation. It may not be (entirely) about Scotland, but it is no less worthy for all that.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

"To secure for the workers": Theatre Review "The Pitmen Painters" @ Nottingham Theatre Royal, Tuesday 14 June 2011

Sentimental? Oh most certainly. But in the best possible way.

The Pitmen Painters has been capturing audiences since it was first performed at the Live Theatre in Newcastle back in 2007. As a co-production with the National Theatre in London it then transferred there, before later moving to Broadway, and now The Pitmen Painters is back out on tour around the UK. I would definitely urge anyone who hasn't already seen it to go.

Why should you go? Because it's such an entertaining but also moving portrayal of working-class life from the early 20th century. It is incredibly funny, and - from the perspective of an art historian - it is also remarkably sharp about the class and economic relationships that underpin art practice, art theorising, art history, art education, galleries and patronage. William Feaver's book on The Pitmen Painters was the inspiration for Lee Hall's vibrant play, and I do remember reading this book when I was studying art history --- although I am astonished that given the play's success it is necessary to ask why this book is not more readily available...

The small group of actors in this play are a delight to watch (and listen to); the miners portrayed are fearsomely articulate, even where they struggle to express and comprehend the educated elites around them. They speak from passion and experience, even where they lack formal training, learning or even practice; there was an audible gasp from the (all-too-small) audience when we first saw one of their works produced for their art class discussions - because there is something stunning and beautiful and truthful about what their artworks communicated. An honesty.

By Hall's own admission, the play uses some artistic licence to articulate its narrative - limiting the number of players, amalgamating characters, eliding timelines and source texts (even the most dedicated of socialists was unlikely to be quoting Marx's writing from texts scarcely available, let alone in English). But this does not diminish the play's potency. And whilst some have complained at the heavy-handedness of the ending, for me it was deeply moving.

As the cast sing - and boy does choral singing like this move me - the backdrop displays the captions outlining what happened next: the University of Ashington that never happened, the closure of the pit and the hut, and ultimately, the loss in 1995 of the poetry and struggle that was the Labour Party's Clause 4:
To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service.
Yes, reader: I let a tear fall for what was lost in that change of language. For what it symbolised as part of not just the Pitmen Painters' narrative but also of the bigger struggle for working class people. It made for a moving end to the evening, and I only wish that there had been more people there to appreciate the committed performances of this production.

The tour of Pitmen Painters continues on around the UK until 1 October.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Blogging by phone

Well let's just see how it goes eh?

Sunday, June 05, 2011

SQUEE! SQUEE! SQUEE! (Part 3) Saturday 4 June 2011: Doctor Who mid-season finale

Come on: you didn't ACTUALLY think Helen and I could wait until we got home Sunday afternoon to watch the Mid-Season Finale for Doctor Who?!

Inevitably, everyone, SPOILER-TASTIC













Still here? Good.

Needless to say: we loved it. Helen felt vindicated after she had worked out what was going on with River Song during the week (and I had refused to let her even speculate to me - amazingly I had managed to stay pretty spoiler-free under the circs and I wanted no part of random storyline development speculation).

Come about 11.30pm last night we set up the hotel iMac and got the BBC iPlayer going and sat down to indulge.

What I loved
* Sorry, but as much as I know it annoys some people - both old skool DW fans and some of those acquired during the Tennant years - I really love the twisty timey wimey too-clever-for-it-own-good storylines that Moffat provides. Yes, quite often my brain hurts from the stretching to keep up and make some sense of it all, but I LIKE that. If I can cope with Inception, I can sure cope with 'ganger' figures. Didn't see the 'ganger' trick with Melody coming at all ...

* the Doctor/Matt Smith: he's pretty damn good isn't he? Totally different from Tennant in the best possible ways, but just so Doctor-ish. Loved the Captain Runaway speech.

* Rory: ah, Go Rory! What a wonderful trajectory this character is continuing on. I punched the air with glee as he delivered his message from the Doctor to the Cybermen with the explosion behind him. I wanted to hug him when I realised - with hindsight - the significance of his meeting with River where she refuses to go to Demon's Run yet. And just generally he was, brilliant. He's the real Xander of this narrative isn't he?

* Amy: she is DEVOTED to her husband; the relationship to the Doctor is something else entirely. But bless her poor bereaved soul for losing her child again (and yet....)

* Song of Pond, River of Melody: awh, I just LOVED the way this was revealed. I don't care what limited sense it makes, I don't care if it makes the relationships weird. I just care that in that moment Helen squeed and danced a dance of victory for being right in her speculations and the loveliness of the prayer mat literally lit up the screen.

* The humour: oh what Moffat gets away with. To put in such a gratuitous 'joke' about the Silurian (1) and her female companion was hysterical (Neil took great pains to point out whether this was really appropriate for a children's programme, but heck they coped with all the Captain Jack stuff!). "Why do I stay with you?" (cue tongue flicking across the room to disable an errant prisoner). All that AND the lactating Sontaran, dedicated to his nurse role with the same passion they usually reserved for war. Hilarious (clearly I'm about 9 years old, though an incredibly socially advanced 9 year old).

* Body Horror: I exchanged comments with Frank Collins last week as we delighted in the return of body horror to DW in a fashion not really seen for some time now. Headless Monks - shudder.

What worked less well (but which I could cope with):
* the returning 'foes' on the Doctor's side. I sort of got it, but it did ring of the 'throw everything into the pot' approach. Could have worked just as well without some of these. I mean, did Moffat REALLY have to go to the trouble of paying RTD for 2 seconds of Judoon?

* Cybermen. I'm still waiting dude for when this pays off... I know it will, but at present it was really mostly an excuse for showing off the costumes again. Did still REALLY like Rory's speech to them though!

Overall verdict
I still love Doctor Who. Like The Fall, it's always different but always the same. And I like that. I love watching this, and rewatching this. And I can't say fairer than that for something that has been around for so long in so many different guises. The experience of watching it never makes me less than thrilled - heck I even liked the Pirates episode (which was pretty uniformly hated). And Saturday's episode just made me hit the ceiling with delight. The perfect end to the perfect day....

When's Hitler getting killed then? Four months time it seems....

(1) yes, I know: we can argue another time about Silurians / Eocenes / Sea Devils etc on another occasion

SQUEE! SQUEE! SQUEE! (Part 2) Saturday 4 June 2011: Betrayal @ Comedy Theatre, London

From the ridiculous to the sublime.... from Much Ado with its alternating frothy comedy and dark heart, to an altogether darker tale but one with painfully acute humour riven through its narrative. Betrayal at the Comedy theatre - until 20 August 2011.

Harold Pinter's 'Betrayal' is a searing portrayal of an affair. I came to the play not having read it or seen it previously but somewhat aware of the basis for the play (the love triangle of Joan Bakewell, Harold Pinter, and Pinter's then wife Vivien Merchant). Effectively a three-hander (with a minor comedic side-part), the narrative moves largely backwards - a device that still lends great poignancy to the encounters where variously the audience and the participants know more than each other.

The decision to not familiarise myself with the play in advance is something I try to do where I can: it isn't always easy, but if possible I like to try and come to the play as would a first-timer. It makes for an honest encounter I find - and seemed especially appropriate for this play where the learning is so much part of the narrative.

The production is deftly staged and the performances are wonderful. Kristin Scott Thomas (as Emma) is as luscious on the eye and the theatre audience attention as one may imagine she would be - the woman oozes great acting from every pore and frankly looks more gorgeous than it should be possible. Elegance and poise scarcely begin to describe the small nuances of performance she captures. She hangs on the brink of tears without letting them fall and the audience feels her emotions deeply (though the trust we may have in them is never less than problematic). Ben Miles, stuck with the largely nasty role of Robert (Emma's husband), nevertheless plays the role deftly. Prone to violence, dismissive (including of his wife) and venting his compromised testosterone into squash playing, Robert is not likable in the slightest - for all that he may appear to be a wounded party. But Miles is excellent, clearly relishing the part (even letting himself sport a suitable if relatively unflattering bouffant-esque haircut) and showing how his character's knowledge and awareness has developed through the course of the - forward-in-time - narrative.

Inevitably though, for me the highlight was seeing Douglas Henshall on stage again: material worthy of his talents can show how he shines, and on stage is often best. He inhabits the role of Jerry (Emma's lover) beautifully and just hearing him - oh that voice - was simply breathtaking. Seated close enough to see each flicker of eye movement, every twitch of the mouth, was especially wonderful in a Pinter play where those (infamous) pauses are not pauses at all really, but rather moments where the acting is all in the face, the hands, unspoken gestures and expressed thoughts churning inside the characters minds and projected to the audience. A true joy.

Having done one Stage Door run, I couldn't pass up the chance to do a second and knew that at least this time around it was likely to be a little less chaotic. There was an interesting split gender-wise with a horde of blokes there (a combination of Primeval geek boys and Kristin fans, plus some clearly professional autograph gatherers) and when a handful of women arrived - myself included - a slight physical relocation took place without thinking, placing boys pretty much one side of the door and the women on the other.

Ben Miles came out first - utterly charming man, far more handsome than the role allows him to be on stage.

Kristin Scott Thomas came out last (and my camera battery and my ineptitude blew my efforts to get a photograph - natch!) and was duly swooned at by everyone there - amongst them a collection of guys were especially thrilled to get her signature for their squadron, and some French women delighted exchanged a brief conversation with her in French.

And.... oh, should I mention that Dougie was there too...?

Hard to know what was nicer, getting a picture or him saying hi.....

When I went back to see Helen (duly waiting professionally at the corner well away from the Stage Door), I did a little dance of squee. Quite right too...

Additional remarks:
Please PLEASE people: I know iPhones are great and all that but PLEASE DO NOT TAKE PHOTOS IN THE AUDITORIUM! Especially NOT during the performance from the FRONT ROW OF THE STALLS! The ignorant dude in front of H and I seemed to not even be interested in keeping to the rules. H duly told him off at the end for trying to get a curtain call pic, but when a bloke sat near to me tried to tell him off once the cast had exited the stage for what the man had done DURING the performance, said iPhone user actually swung for him. I really hope the guy gets barred from future events.... play by the rules mate!

UPDATE:"So what of the production? It is well put together by Rickson, with some strong performances. Kristen Scott Thomas (who looks incredible at the age of 51) has excellent stage presence, and somehow manages to look younger as the play goes on (backwards in time!). Ben Miles also produces some great stuff, particularly during the restaurant scene, which was a highlight for me as the energy picked up and properly gripped the audience for a few minutes. The best performance of the night comes from Douglas Henshall however, and what differentiates him from the rest is the attention-to-detail in his performance. Pinter’s characters are not loud and epic in the way that Rooster is in Jerusalem. They rely on finely tuned and extremely intricate acting; subtle changes of expression, powerful interactions between the characters, and clever use of the eyes. In this respect Henshall’s performance is really very impressive, and perhaps the only performance that delivers what is needed for Pinter’s challenging penning. " - Everything Theatre Blog

We'll ignore that Quentin Lett's is a miserable misogynist and instead focus on the reviews from The Guardian and Teh Independent who loved the show...

SQUEE! SQUEE! SQUEE! (Part 1) Saturday 4 June 2011: Much Ado About Nothing @ Wyndhams Theatre, London

Much Ado - visit number 2: doubt it will even prove to be the penultimate visit (if I can possible manage it...)

After the chaos of getting the collective hormonal hordes to the Much Ado matinee performance on Saturday 21 May, it was now 'take 2': me and HLW down for the weekend and meeting up with grandmother of the lovely girl we got to the stage door all the way back in October 2008.

Additionally, Poly had also suggested meeting up for lunch so it ended up with the four of us giddily lunching together, sharing the squee of Poly's visits this week (that's VISITS: plural, PLURAL... - honestly, Poly is a one-woman tour de force keeping the British theatre industry functional!). By the time Poly left us as our party of three headed into the theatre, we were all fit to squee ourselves to death. However, we were also plotting logistics since I had decided I was DEFINITELY going to try the stage door scrum this time around. Our visiting friend from Stratford understandably wanted to join us, but this was a hot day where the sun was beating down furiously, where there were multiple Transport for London closures and workings, where most of London's roads seemed to be in a permanent snarl up of traffic, and she would only have approximately an hour and a half after the show to make it to her train back. Yikes.

But of course, once in and enjoying the play (sadly we hadn't been able to get that odd seat to be together with H and I) it was hard to resist the lure of the door. Handily I had a seat at the end of a row so legged it promptly (and was STILL 3 rows back at the door: grr!) but I had no idea how our friend would get on as she had hesitated about whether to chance it.

It was pretty chaotic out there I have to say, and though I get that some had maybe waited a long while, when people arrived out of the actual performance to join the throng some of those in front of me could have been a little more gracious in their defense of their space (not for me I hasten to add, but for a young slender boy hesitantly stuck behind me whom I did attempt to sneak at least a little closer, only to be snapped down harshly with a "no he can't actually" ---)

Anyway: minor grumbles aside - and I think/hope the boy did manage (just) to lean over and get his programme signed - there were delighted squeals when David and Catherine emerged. Responding to every call of "you're gorgeous David" "we love you Catherine" with grinning cries from them of "thank you!" and "and so are you!" it was generally a jolly affair, though there was a bit of pushing near the end.

Oh did I not say? I got my programme signed with a nice wink from both David and Catherine (especially) as they did so, thank as well Tom Bateman and Sarah MacRae (Claudio and Hero), though I just missed catching the fantastic Adam James (Don Pedro). Another time I hope...

Considering I had NO IDEA where I was pointing my camera I thought I did quite well (even with the blurry shot of Catherine's fantastic figure: she's just stunning!)

And just when I thought things could not be more brilliant, I get to pick up a phone message from our friend: she was heading back to get the train home to Stratford... and had chanced the stage door and got both David and Catherine's autographs! *happy* *happy* *happy*

Truly, there is almost nothing so exquisite as helping bring about other people's pleasure! I hope it was worth the exhaustion and the physical exertion, but man it was a helluva day.

And for me and Helen, it wasn't even over...

Friday, June 03, 2011

"Under the Moon of Love": Belle and Sebastian @ De Montfort Hall, Leicester Thursday 2 June 2011

At last, at last. Postponed from 14 December 2010 due to Stuart Murdoch having a cold, the Leicester crowd had literally waited nearly 6 months for this gig to happen. We really really wanted it to happen. Nottingham's The Soundcarriers struck a fine note of Stereolab-inspired 1969 California Psych-Pop...

but bless 'em, on a hot Friday evening nearly EVERYONE was outside enjoying the sun and waiting for Belle and Sebastian to arrive.

Thank goodness it was last night, as I have had "I want the World to Stop" stuck in my head on a loop for an age!

It was a deja vu moment in some ways for Neil and I, as Belle and Sebastian were a key reason why we found our beloved Summer Sundae festival: B&S headlined in 2006 and utterly charmed us.

The setlist was a beautiful mix of old - very old - and new, with something from near every period of their work. Ending on "Judy and the dream of horses", old skool fans were especially chuffed and there were enough foot-stomping favourites like "The Boy with the Arab Strap" to keep more casual fans happy. Stuart was in fine camp form with his dancing, his hat and his appearance singing on the balconied area (though he didn't do a Monotonix!)

Stuart is such a consummate performer, even doing his usual bit to get some people on stage dancing...

...complete with 'awards' for their on-stage contributions ('Bungle' got an especially big cheer)

Seeing B&S is always such a joyous experience, even though - obviously - if you listen to the lyrics they are frequently sharp, disturbing and tart. Brilliant.

And it was especially lovely to see Stevie - and his glasses - getting a good amount of attention ("The Wrong Girl", "Step into my office, baby" --- and by no means least his rendition of Showaddywaddy's "Under the Moon of Love" as Stuart jested that the band usually like to play a cover song of a local band's tune).

Overall a delightful experience with strings and more to support their lush collection of songs. Perfect for a summer evening!