Out and about

Been a reasonably busy couple of weeks on the gig front, here’s the potted summary:

  • Colin Murphy: Nor’n Irn comedian, a weel-kent face on the telly over here, but first time we’d seen him do stand-up (as opposed to sitting at his desk on The Panel, of which we’ve been to a couple of recordings). I remember enjoying it at the time, but I couldn’t actually recount any of his routine now… I suppose that means I’m more likely to enjoy it next time we go and see him though ๐Ÿ™‚
  • Deacon Blue: reformed Scottish earnest 80’s popsters (half of whom are better known for their television roles on Sportscene and River City these days)… bounced their way through all our favourites (Dignity, Fergus Sings the Blues, Real Gone Kid et al.), although Julie thought the intervening years hadn’t been too kind to Ricky Ross!
  • The Feeling: a lively and listenable bunch on stage, even managed to pull off a passable cover of Video Killed the Radio Star… suspect when I get around to listening to the rest of their album, though, it might seem a bit low-key in comparison.

Back to back

Dobey, I’m sure you’d rather avoid iTunes, but it does let you do what you want, in a roundabout sort of way– you can tell it to rip any two or more consecutive CD tracks as a single file, so they’re always played back to back. Of course you then lose all the ID3 info for one of the tracks, and you can’t apply it retrospectively to already-ripped tracks, so we could certainly do better.

Road to Hell and Back

Went along to the last night of Chris Rea‘s farewell tour at the Olympia in Dublin last night… the tickets were one of last year’s Christmas presents, so I’d been looking forward to it for a while!

I hadn’t bought any of his albums for a few years, so I was a little surprised at just how rootsy/bluesy a lot of his recent stuff was… although with post-near-death projects like Blue Guitars under his belt, I don’t suppose I should have been. Not that I was at all bothered by that; I enjoy a good bit of blues guitar as much as the next man (although I can take or leave the lyrics, but that’s true of most of the stuff I like). Julie much preferred the songs from his more chart-bothering days though– “Road to Hell”, “Fool (If You Think It’s Over)”, “Let’s Dance” et al. Even on those, she thought there was a bit too much guitar noodling, and normally I would have agreed, but I didn’t mind it last night… mostly I because I can’t remember the last time I saw a slide guitarist play live, so I was too busy trying to watch and pick up some tips ๐Ÿ™‚

Was a wee bit disappointed that he didn’t have anything to say for himself during or afterwards, given the “end of an era” nature of the evening, but maybe he’s just one of those guys who prefers to let his music do the talking. And nobody could begrudge him that.

Busy few days

… starting last Wednesday really, when I parted company with my old Fiat barchetta (sic), and exchanged it for a newer and shinier but equally-yellow one. I’m not one to get sentimental about cars, but that one certainly accompanied me on its fair share of interesting trips both here and back in the UK where I originally bought it. I’ve even completed one entire (and two partial) house moves with it– only thing that just wouldn’t fit was my widescreen TV ๐Ÿ™‚

Saturday afternoon saw Dublin’s decision to allow a loyalist parade march down O’Connell Street go predictably wrong, with the place “resembling Bahghdad” afterwards according to Julie, who’d gone shopping in town regardless and somehow managed to avoid the violence and bomb scares.

The evening saw Scotland’s rugby union revival continuing, this time beating England at their own game: rock-solid defence and accurate kicking. (Unfortunately Ireland won as well, so they’ll have the triple crown up for grabs when we visit Lansdowne Road in the next game, so they’ll probably be trying a bit harder.)

After that we wandered round the corner to the local pub for dinner, and who should wander in but an Taoiseach Bertie and his fancy-woman for a quiet pint. Which is just what they should be able to do, of course, but it’s hard to imagine Dubya or Tony B being afforded the same privilege.

And finally, this evening I’m off to this Apple Guitar Seminar in Dublin, which sounds kind of cool… I really haven’t made much use of GarageBand or Logic Express since I got my PowerBook last year, maybe this will give me some inspiration. If it’s successful, it might also inspire Apple to open one of their amazing Apple Stores in Dublin, too… it’s kind of sucky that they have no less than six in Britain, but none at all in Ireland (or indeed the rest of Europe, although Paris and Rome at least are scheduled to get one soon).

All your music?

I suspect the European iPod truth is somewhere inbetween Havoc‘s and Benjamin‘s estimates. I live in Europe too, and despite what Benjamin says, I know very few people whose MP3 player of choice isn’t an iPod. And I for one regularly buy from the iTunes Music Store– the selection of music in the Irish store isn’t great, but the ludicrous price of CDs in Ireland still makes it well worthwhile for certain purchases, and it’s scarily easily when, like me, you’re running iTunes at some point pretty much every day anyway. (And it’s trivial to work around the DRM if you want to, not that I ever have any reason to as I’m only ever playing the music on my Mac or my iPod anyway.)

You want it *what* way?

First day working in my new home office since we moved house and BT got around to switching on our broadband connection again. Still a lot of unpacking and cable untangling to do, but everything worked pretty smoothly otherwise. (Wasn’t brave enough to try getting dual-head working on Ubuntu on my Powerbook, though– don’t know if it’s even possible.)

A couple of nights out last weekend… Harry Hill at Vicar Street on Saturday (my choice), and the Backstreet Boys at The Point on Sunday (Julie’s choice). Harry had his amusing moments, but I’ve seen him do better work, and Julie was seriously unimpressed. BSB were, well, five blokes looking younger than they ought to, singing close harmony 90’s pop songs amidst dry ice, lasers and indoor fireworks. More memorable for the spectacle than the music from my point of view, but Julie went to bed dreaming about Kevin so I guess she enjoyed herself ๐Ÿ™‚

A Bench in Soho Square

I happened to mention the knackered state of one of my Kirsty MacColl CDs in the pub last night, and whilst trawling the web later for possible replacements, I was inspired to have a bit of a poke around to find out a bit more about her. Like many people, I guess, all I really knew was that she was the legendary Ewan MacColl‘s daughter, was married to renowned producer Steve Lillywhite for a while, worked with Billy Bragg and The Pogues amongst others, and was killed in a diving accident off the coast of Mexico in December 2000.

I was surprised to find out she’d collaborated with a lot more people in my CD collection than I’d imagined… Simple Minds, Eddi Reader, Brian Kennedy (okay, he’s not in my CD collection, but Julie likes him!) and Roddy Frame amongst others. The reports of her memorial concert read like a who’s who of intelligent pop from the 80’s… and no, I don’t believe that’s an oxymoron ๐Ÿ™‚

Sadly, it seems there’s no imminent sign of justice for Kirsty, despite an eponymous campaign led by her 81-year-old mother Jean. The owner of the boat that caused her death, Guillermo Gonzalez Nova (a wealthy Mexican businessman, who has business interests in the UK in the form of CostCo), was on board at the time, and some eyewitness accounts place him at the helm as it powered through waters from which such craft were banned. Instead, however, an illiterate boathand was charged with negligent homicide and fined all of £61, and attempts to have Gonzalez Nova himself charged as the senior crewmember on board have failed because authorities “couldn’t find him”. Er, right.

In the past year or so, the case has at least been re-opened. Watch this space.

The Gig that was Too Big?

Like much of the world, I was glued to the Live 8 proceedings over the weekend, mostly the London concert. FWIW, I think the Murrayfield gig on Wednesday will probably be much better, partly because it’s in a stadium (sprawling park gigs never really sustain much of an atmosphere), and partly because the line-up looks a bit more to my taste– there are certainly a lot fewer people on the bill that I’d just like to slap.

Politics really isn’t my thing, so I’ll stick to my impressions of the music that was on offer at Hyde Park.

Acts who were better than I expected: Stereophonics (surprisingly good vocals), Madonna (nice choir– shame about the face), Mariah Carey (actually sounded like she could sing, even if she’s as mad as a box of frogs), Keane (generally a pale imitation of Travis, but performed better than Fran and Co on the day), and The Who (could all still have been 21 if you’d shut your eyes).

Acts who disappointed: Paul McCartney & U2 (for the opening song– Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Dirge hardly got the crowd going รก la Rocking All Over the World), Elton John (didn’t play any of his good ones from his pre-American-accent days), and Pink Floyd (more of a kiss-and-make-up stunt than the anticipated psych rock treat).

Acts who were even worse than I feared: R.E.M. (plumbed yet more depths of stripey blue pretentiousness), UB40 (the reggae equivalent of the Black and White Minstrel Show), Snoop Dogg (reading out some sweary words to a backing track still ain’t music, whatever anyone says) and U2 again (as skin-crawlingly self-important as ever, sound about as authentically northside Dublin as I do, and even David Copperfield would have turned down that dove stunt for being too cheesy).

Everyone else performed much as expected, really. It certainly didn’t have the momentous feel of Live Aid about it (which I have to confess never really caught my attention as a 14-year old at the time anyway– I seem to be one of the few who can’t remember what he was doing that day, other than watching the last hour or two). But it goes without saying that I’d love it to have the desired effect.

Money for Nothing

As I mentioned last week, we were off to The Point again this weekend, this time to see noted guitar picker and former Dire Straits frontman Mark Knopfler.

It’s been ten years since I last saw him live, and in some respects the set wasn’t a lot different, bar a wider repertoire of solo material– fortunately he does at least now seem to be over his pedal steel guitar phase, which started with the last couple of Straits albums, and bled into his first solo outings. Otherwise the staging and arrangements haven’t changed much in a decade, which isn’t a bad thing, just a little surprising. I was a tad disappointed that Private Investigations didn’t feature this time around, but we did get a satisfyingly-rousing version of the epic Telegraph Road instead (although the pianist did sound a bit like he was playing it out the Alchemy song book– the tinkly bits on the Money for Nothing version remain the definitive ones for me…)

Modern-day critics often look back sneeringly on Dire Straits, but as somebody who was learning to play guitar finger-style at the time while most kids were happy to go the plectrum-and-power-chords route, their omnipresence (and of course, Mark Knopfler’s in particular) proved to be a big influence for me. He might never really look like he’s trying, and he still sings about as well as Bob Dylan on a bad day, but I could have listened to him all night.