Monday, 29 June 2015

Glastonbury from the armchair

I’ve never been to Glastonbury.  I keep saying “one day” but the sheer size of the thing puts me off to be honest.  Most years I spend a sizeable part of the last weekend in June drinking beer and watching the spectacle from the comfort of my armchair and this was no exception.

Friday saw Florence and the Machine headline, what little I saw of this was pretty good.  I’m not a fan but Flo has loads of energy and put on a good show.  Motorhead were on earlier in the day, I saw them at a festival back in the 80’s and they sounded the same as they always have.  Lemmy looks terrible but what else would you expect?  I caught a bit of proper R&B soul from a fella called Leon Bridges and really enjoyed it.  Mary J. Blige also played but fell into the trap of performing vocal gymnastics while her backing vocalists sang her songs, piss poor show.  I also enjoyed clips from The Vaccines, Libertines, Mark Ronson, Rudimental (always good live), SBTRKT and a tiny bit of Hot Chip.  By the end of the night I’d over indulged in Adnams Broadside.

There was lots of good stuff on Saturday too.  George Clinton’s Funkadelic show looked great fun.  I’m warming to the shouty anarchy of Sleaford Mods, collaborating with Leftfield has to be good.  Burt Bacharach played on the Pyramid stage.  “Who?” asked the family but within minutes we were all singing along.  Paloma Faith is a great performer with a powerful voice and put on a good show.  Pharrel Williams is a great producer but a bit of a knob, the show was fun though.  Headliner was Kanye West.  I like some of his early music but I’m put off by his arrogant persona.  I watched his show with an open mind, hoping to be converted but I wasn’t; more about this in a bit. 

On Sunday evening we watched one of my daughter’s current favourites but Charli XCX didn’t really impress any of us.  A tiny bit of Lionel Ritchie was more than enough.  A couple of songs from Alt J was one too many. Leanne La Havas was OK.  We saw Paul Weller at Latitude a few years ago and he was bloody good too.  Tonight he showed energy, passion and power, proper soulful rock music played by a legend of British music.  My 15 year old Maddie commented; “That old bloke was pretty good dad…” KW take note.  The headliner on Sunday was another group of British musical legends, The Who.  A gig from a band celebrating its fiftieth anniversary could go either way but this one didn’t disappoint.  The band belted out hit after hit, sounded superb and were worthy headliners at Worthy farm.  Highlight for me was ‘Baba O’Reilly which saw the purple princess and I dancing in the living room.  The Adnams Ghost ship was slipping down nicely and our armchair festival finished on a high.

Finally a few more words about the Saturday night headliner, Kanye West.  It’s hard to find the words to describe how I felt about this performance, he was embarrassingly bad.  It started with a low lighting rig making the stage seem small and claustrophobic and KW scowling, no sign of any band.  I thought it would get better, it didn’t.  By the end of the show I was watching only to see how bad it could get.  My Facebook was unanimous, KW was crap.  One friend described watching the show as “like driving past a car crash”.  I’m not a hip hop hater, I have plenty of rap music in my collection and I was blown away watching Jay-Z on the same stage a few years ago. 

KW has seriously lost the plot.  He believes his own hype and really thinks he’s something special.  He doesn’t live in the real world but dwells in one of obscene wealth, alongside his talentless reality star wife, surrounded by people blowing smoke up their backsides.  Kanye West you are an over rated, arrogant, narcissistic wanker.  Take your fake, plastic, fat arsed wife and fuck off due West back across the Atlantic forever. 
And breathe… It’s good to rant. 

Sunday, 21 June 2015

ODI is interesting at last

England and New Zealand have just completed an ODI series that may well go down in cricketing history as one of the best ever.  In the first match England scored a record 408 and bowled NZ out easily to record a comfortable win.  In the next the Kiwis scored 399 and England almost chased it down, in fact if it wasn’t for rain and Duckworth/Lewis I’m sure we would have won.  England scored 300+ again in the third match but NZ completed a comfortable win to go 2-1 ahead.  When they set England 350 to win in the fourth they may have thought they had the series wrapped up but England completed their highest ever run chase to win by 7 wickets.  This squared the series and set up a ‘Final’ for the fifth match at Durham.  This match didn’t have the high scores of the previous four but New Zealand’s 283 would have seemed competitive in a ‘normal’ series.  Once again rain and Duckworth/Lewis intervened making England’s target even tougher but they managed to get over the line to win by three wickets and take the series.

From an England supporter’s point of view the series win was pleasing but far more important was the way we played.  NZ were world cup runners up and are a very good ODI team yet we were able to beat them at their own game with attacking cricket.  At last England have caught up with the rest of the world and are playing the way we should have played in the world cup.  Batsmen dominated this series and Eoin Morgan, Alex Hales, Joe Root, Joss Buttler and in the final match Johnny Bairstow were all superb.  The bowlers suffered but Stephen Finn, Mark Wood and Adil Rashid can hold their heads up.

It may only be ODI but this series has given English cricket a vital lift ahead of the tough Ashes series to come.  Being able to play this way successfully will give England belief that they can do the same against the Aussies.  Time will tell…

“The Overlook” is another in the ‘Harry Bosch’ series of novels by Michael Connelly.  Bosch gets the call to a murder scene but the FBI are right behind him as this case appears to have terrorist links.  The whole story is set in one twenty four hour period and despite all the twists and turns we’ve come to expect, Bosch solves the case.  As Connelly’s books go this is not one of his best but even so it’s still a damn good read!

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Leftfield, Worth the wait

I’m lucky that over the years I’ve managed to see nearly all my favourite bands or musicians in concert at some time.  There are a couple of very notable exceptions but those boxes will now never be ticked.  I never saw Bob Marley but I did see the Wailers.  Never saw Led Zeppelin but I saw Jimmy Page on stage with Aerosmith at a festival.  One of my favourite albums of the 90’s was “Leftism” by Leftfield, dance music at its very best!  Despite seeing many big names in this genre I’d always managed to miss seeing Leftfield, until last Saturday night.

Mr Green had sent me a link to a stream of their new album (are they still called that?), the first in years.  It was good and we decided seeing them was a must, it was a pleasant surprise to find out they were playing London Forum in just a few days.  So in the company of our better halves we pointed a motor southward and headed off to the smoke.  As ever the journey passed quickly in laughter and chat, within a couple of hours we had pulled up and parked just around the corner from the venue.  We were in London with time to spare so grabbed a beer and a fantastic pizza before the main event.

There was a DJ warming the crowd up, he was pretty good and got us moving but I can’t remember his name.  The Forum is a nice medium sized venue which filled up fast but we’d got a good position on the floor in the middle and we weren’t budging.  As usual there was a frustrating pause in proceedings; the crowd was ready to go! 

At last Leftfield arrived with a beat and a bang, the crowd responded and the atmosphere was perfect.  This was the way it stayed for the next hour and a half, loads of new tunes and a good sprinkling of old ones.  The room didn’t stop moving and the dub tunes in particular lifted the roof.  If I had to pick a highlight then an old fave, “Inspection Check one” would have to be it.  I love many types of music and there are many different types of brilliant live experience.  This didn't have the visual energy of the Prodigy and it wasn't the extravaganza of Screamadelica but for dancing with a crowd of blissed out, like minded people it was as good as it gets. There was the obligatory trippy light show and a couple of guests joining the show but it was mostly about the rhythms and the dancing.  Sometimes I want a gig to end, others I’ve had enough by the time they finish but I wanted this one to keep on all night.  I waited a long time to see Leftfield, I wasn’t disappointed.  Would I go see them again?  Hell yes!! 

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Match, books, Gig.


I’m not going to write crappy match reports on this page anymore because anyone with an interest in cricket will know what has happened.  But I’m still going to talk about cricket.  England lost the second test to a very good Kiwi team.  1-1 is a fair result for this series between two well matched teams.  Whereas at Lords England fought back from poor positions to win, at Headingly we did the opposite.

England had good starts in every one of the four innings.  NZ were 2-2 but reached 350.  We had an opening stand of 177 but slumped to the same score.  The kiwis were 23-2 second time around but once again we let them off the hook.  Then 47-1 was pretty good in our second innings but we were bowled out.

The scorecard doesn’t lie.  England’s bowlers went around the park and our spinner was just not in the game.  Moeen Ali is a good cricketer but right now his bowling just isn’t up to scratch.  He needs to go back to his county for a season or two and work on learning his craft, just like Swanny did.  He might come back as a very good spinner.  Until then England must either give Rashid a chance or look to the county game and pick the inform spinner.

England got next to no runs from numbers 3, 4 & 5 in this match.  No problem with Root, he’ll come good but Ballance and Bell need to find form quickly or at least one of them must go.  Two batsmen waiting in the wings are Alex Hales and James Taylor.

In years gone by a draw with New Zealand would have been seen as a poor result but they are a very good team at the moment.  They play imaginative, attacking and entertaining cricket with a great attitude and none of the snarling nastiness that some teams, including England, have been guilty of. Going into an Ashes series a win against NZ would have been a big confidence boost but maybe the positive in defeat will be a changed team selection.

NZ vs Aus would be a really good series right now and from here it’s hard to pick a winner.  Aus are playing West Indies at the moment and this will be a good gauge as to how the rest of the summer may pan out.  At the moment I can’t see the XI that played against New Zealand beating the Aussies, it will be interesting to see if the selectors see it the same way.

More McEwan…

Circumstances and coincidences saw two more Ian McEwan books come to the top of my reading pile.  This author usually deals with human emotions but you never know where he’s going to take you and a happy ending isn’t guaranteed.  He keeps us readers on our toes!

The Children Act is about a Judge called Fiona Maye struggling through a difficult time personally whilst seemingly carrying on to her usual high professional standard.  The scenes are vivid, the characters likeable, the story very readable but the outcome not entirely unexpected.  A very good read but not one of his best.

Enduring Love starts in tragedy and threatens to finish in the same way.  In between the story meanders but picks up momentum and the reader is not entirely sure of the truth.  As usual it is easy to picture the places and people that McEwan brings to life.  This is a very good book but not as absorbing as Ian McEwan at his very best.

A Gig.

“F*cked up” won’t be to everybody’s taste.  I’d describe them as somewhere between Punk and Metal, loud and shouty with big guitars it sometimes get a little psychedelic. I’m not a huge fan but Giles is and it had been too long since I’d seen any live music so I decided to keep him company.  The evening began with a drive down to Camden and a club called Koko’s. 

We got in with a little time to spare.  F*cked up hit the stage and the room was soon up and jumping, even we two forty somethings were nodding our heads and bouncing a bit.  It was a short set but a good one with a few tunes that were familiar even to me.  I’m sure this is not just age talking but it was bloody loud and it didn’t do too much for the sound as the guitars seemed a bit swamped.  Still a bloody good set and a very enjoyable hour.

There was another band on but we decided as it was a week night to hit the road and get home at a reasonable hour.  As usual the car journeys fly by in conversation and laughter and it’s a shame when the night comes to an end.  I’d forgotten how much I love live music!