Tuesday, 25 August 2009

More than pleasantly surprised by U2

I saw U2 at the weekend, on the last date of the European leg of their 360° tour. I have to be honest, I was prepared to be a little disappointed. I'd read mixed reviews of the show, and I wondered how material from No Line On The Horizon would stand up live next to older, more familiar tracks. As one dear friend memorably put it, I wondered if U2 were about to "jump the shark".

I needn't have worried.

On a warm Cardiff night, I had three genuine goosebump-inducing moments - take a look at the setlist and see if you can guess which three songs had the hairs standing up on the back of my neck?*

And for a show of such size, with such an enormous crowd, the band's 360° set-up really works, especially with the giant (and mind-boggling) circular screen that hangs above the stage from a giant tetrapod. We were sat (yes, sat! Not standing for hours as close to the stage as we could, but sat) in the first tier of Cardiff's mightily impressive Millennium Stadium... and still we had a brilliant view, as Bono et al laid out a varied set for an enthusiastic crowd. And, for the most part, the newer material held it's own (City of Blinding Lights being a slight exception).

Yes, there was Bono's usual ego, as giant as the stadium, but surely that's what you need to stand up and sing your heart out in front of 70,000 people, however much they love you. And yes, there were the usual socio-political messages, and a bit of self-righteousness thrown in, but when the causes are as worthy as these, that's no bad thing, is it?

U2 in 360 degrees then... way better than expected, and the first time I've had goosebumps at a gig for I don't know how long. Yes, an immediate new entry in the oft-discussed but (as yet) unpublished Top 5 Gigs list...

* Okay, they were: I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For (intro'ed with a 70,000-strong singalong that drowned out even U2's PA), Sunday Bloody Sunday and With Or Without You...

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

'Tis the season... the football season

The start of the new Premier League season is just days away, so surely there's never been a better time to sign up to play the free, official Premier League fantasy football game for 2009/10? To enter, simply register for free here.

I'm in a private league too, that comprises mostly music bloggers and their readers, as organised by the excellent Too Much Apple Pie blog - I'm sure they wouldn't mind me extending the invitiation to join their league. To do so, once you've registered and selected your squad of fifteen players, click on "Leagues" in the left hand menu; then simply click "Join", and enter the following code in the "Join private league" box:
Et voila! Your team will now be enrolled in the fourth annual "Group of Death". Hope to see you there! For reasons shrouded in the mists of time, my team is called Breadman FC... and here it is...

Friday, 7 August 2009

"Life moves pretty fast. You don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

Film director and writer John Hughes has died at the young age of 59. He wrote and/or directed a slew of quintessentially American films in the 1980s and 90s, including The Breakfast Club, Pretty In Pink, Some Kind Of Wonderful, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Home Alone, Weird Science, Uncle Buck, and a whole lot more besides.

For me, the film that tops the lot is, of course, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, from which this post's title is a quote. Is there a better film about teen friendship? Is there a better film about about getting out of somewhere you don't want to be and doing something less boring instead? Is there a better film depiction of an inept headmaster than Mr Rooney? (And, brilliant though Election is, if Matthew Broderick lives to be 150, will he ever top Bueller?)

More than twenty years later, Bueller et al would still feature in any list of favourite film comedies I might ever compile. In recognition of that, and the mightily impressive body of work Hughes leaves behind, let me point you to a little musical tribute: The Dream Academy's take on "Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want". Originally by The Smiths, the Academy's instrumental version was used to great effect in Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Go and have a listen, and remember some great films.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Harry Patch (In Memory Of)

Today's the day of Harry Patch's funeral. In case you're wondering who Harry Patch was, until his death a couple of weeks ago he was (briefly) Europe's oldest man, at 111, but more significantly he was the last surviving British veteran of World War I.

Harry served in the trenches for four months in 1917 and fought in the battle of Passchendaele, an awful engagement that lasted four months and left more than 800,000 Allied and German troops dead or wounded.

Back in 2005, Harry was interviewed by Radio 4 about his life. He spoke about the "disastrous battle" of Passchendaele, before going on to speak of the waste and futility of war. He added:
"If two government's cannot agree, give them a rifle each and let them fight it out. Don't waste 20,000 men. It isn't worth it."
These words, and others from that interview, have inspired the inestimable Radiohead to record and release a song entitled "Harry Patch (In Memory Of)". Not only is it a quietly moving, haunting track, it's for a good cause too - all profits go to the Royal British Legion.

You can buy the song here - it only costs £1, so you have no excuse not to. And rest in peace, Mr Patch.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Random factor, like a tractor, part 2

This is a bit of a lazy post, but I like to blog early every month (otherwise there's no page for that month), so in the interests of getting something written, here goes. I'm too tired to write anything original or thought-provoking, and I'm questioning my ability to write anything creative or new... so I'll fall back on firing up the MP3 Walkman, hitting "shuffle" and documenting the first five tracks it plays for me...
  • "Hole In The River" by Crowded House, from Farewell To The World - meandering live music outing for Neil Finn's peerless tunesmithery.
  • "Hey Girl" by The Small Faces, from The Autumn Stone - the mod's mods. Hard to overstate how important this band were to the teenage me. This album's title track is beautiful.
  • "All The Right Friends" by R.E.M., from And I Feel Fine - rare-ish out-take from former label IRS's barrel-scraping exercise. Feels unfinished and under-rehearsed, probably because it was.
  • "Song To The Siren" by The Chemical Brothers, from Singles: 93-03 - this is okay, I guess. Bought the album purely to get a copy of "Chemical Beats".
  • "Grounds For Divorce" by Elbow, from The Seldom Seen Kid - I wonder if this, their breakthrough after twenty years, can be attibuted to bitter 30-/40-somethings wanting to listen to music about divorce?
And there we go. Does any of this help you understand me? No. Know more about me? Probably not. Serve a purpose? Well, you tell me, you're reading this...

Footnote: in case you're wondering, yes, obviously I have done this before - here's Part 1.