Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Waterboys Yeats show, Wexford Opera House November 2010

Having seen the opening night of this show (''The Waterboys present An Appointment with Mr Yeats'') earlier in the year in the Abbey Theatre, I thought I'd try and kill two birds with one stone by seeing the show again and also getting to see something in the newly refurbished Wexford Opera House.
Both elements turned out to be worth the 4 hour round trip.

The show was not sold out and it was a fairly quiet audience, but yet again I was blown away by this new Waterboys project. For anyone not familiar with it, Mike Scott has put about 20 Yeats poems to music and has been intermittently touring it as a concert since earlier in the year. Apparently there is a dvd on the way, and hopefully a cd too.

Put simply, these are some of the best songs he's ever written. Obviously he's 'working' with a somewhat noted lyrics writer (!) but full credit to Scott and band for the strength of the tunes and the arrangements. I think it must be something to do with the meter or the rhyming (I'm no expert on these things) or the fact that Yeats was musical himself that makes them so good. I heard Scott say in an interview recently that he heard Yeats could be seen tapping his finger in ryhthm while he wrote his poems, so maybe it's not a leap to say that if he was writing today, he'd possibly be a singer-songwriter rather than a written poet?

And, even beyond the lyrics, some of the songs go off in to extended musical areas that thrill an audience, using classic Waterboys dynamics and incorporating the skills and sounds of this ten piece version of the band.
The lyrics also sit in very nicely of course, and it's a selection of Yeats poems that range in topic from love to politics to mysticism, some of them very obscure. Indeed the only truly household name choices are Lake Isle of Inisfree and September 1913.
Both of these work very well, with Lake Isle given a straight blues treatment and September 1913 a suitable mid paced epic style.

Some of my other favourites were;
The Song of Wandering Aenghus - a nice slow piano led opening, building up to add more instruments, with some nice solos from the horn section, especially flute.
Down by the Salley Gardens is cleverly done to what seems to be the tune of The Lakes of Pontchartrain and works very well, nice trombone solo on this one.
Sweet Dancer is one of my favourites, faster than some of the other songs and very catchy.
White Birds - truly epic song, another builder, and nice bird like flourishes at the end from Steve Wickham's fiddle.
Mountain Tomb is a powerful short song (changed arrangement from last time?)
Let the Earth Bear Witness, nicely done to the backdrop of Iranian protests on a screen, which apparently influenced him when writing the music, and destined to become a Waterboys anthem - it would be great if they played some of these songs at their 'regular' shows.
Mad as the Mist and Snow - this one done in a very theatrical way, a fiddle led epic
Politics - another really good blending of Yeats and Waterboys, not a poem I'd ever heard of, but one of the highlights of this great concert.

As before, they finish with some more familiar encores, Stolen Child (their first Yeats experiment, a one-off song from the Fisherman's Blues era), a very rocking Don't Bang The Drum, and a crowd pleasing Whole of the Moon, sending everyone home happy.

Don't miss the chance to see this show, playing in Dublin tonight, and then touring again soon in the UK, I think.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Leonard Cohen at Lissadell, Sligo 31 July 2010

The press and fan reviews have all been so superlative that I feel I am just weighing in with nothing new to offer - but I just couldn't pass up offering a few thoughts on this amazing night, so here goes;
It was yet another extraordinary show. Leonard has now played ten shows in Ireland since his resurgence in 2008. I've been to five of them, and despite the relative sameness of the setlists, have enjoyed each one more than the last. Well, almost!
Certainly, Saturday night in Sligo was my favourite. AND, I got 5 new songs, 3 of which are brand new songs apparently from the forthcoming new album. Good to see him shaking up the setlists.
The best of the new songs is Born in Chains, a wonderful epic with gorgeous melody and lyrics. A song Leonard and his current band were born to sing. And, indeed, he generously gives each of the girls a verse each to sing. Here's a youtube of it from Saturday night;
All the other new songs were excellent too. And, the 'regular' numbers still sound as fresh as they did in 2008. Hallelujah, I'm Your Man, If it be your Will, Marianne, Anthem all were highlights for me. This is such a tasteful and good humoured band - and the sound always seems amazing at Leonard concerts, relatively low volume, well mixed, Leonard's voice sitting nicely on top..
Finally, a word on the venue - a really gorgeous place for a concert, complete with great atmosphere. Benbulben mountain, Sligo bay, the Lissadell house itself, what's not to like (logistical transport problems notwithstanding), no wonder Leonard was moved to quote Mr Yeats!
Oh, and did I mention - the show was 3 hours and 45 minutes!
Hoping it wasn't my last Leonard show..
For good measure, here's another youtube, this one of 'Hallelujah', many thanks to the taper;

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

After the Dance, play review

After the Dance, by Terence Rattigan is a thoroughly enjoyable play set in the inter-war years, extremely well staged and acted in the Lyttleton auditorium of the National Theatre in London.
It's set amongs a dissolute crowd of people mainly in their late 30s who were too young to fight in WW1 and are going to be too old to fight in WW2.
The only thing of note that they did in their lives was to party their way through the 1920s, and now even they are starting to think how shallow it all might have been.
As one of the play's great lines says, 'they used to be the bright young things, but maybe they weren't so bright, and now they're not even young'
The plot mainly concerns two relationships, one a marraige (supposedly) of convenience, and the other of a younger couple, one of whom loves the alcoholic male party of the other relationship. There are several other characters, the most important of whom is a supposedly apathetic friend sponging on the rich alcoholic, but who turns out to be more perceptive than all the others put together.
Anyway, suffice to say, that it is a very well written play, with some excellent social insights into life in the 1930s, and very well developed characters. All the actors were good, but especially the leading 4; Benedict Cumberbatch, Nancy Carroll, Adrian Scarborough and Faye Castelow.
I tend to love anything set in this era, so perhaps I am biased, and therefore really loved the play, but I would maybe concede that some of his other plays, such as the Deep Blue Sea, perhaps have a bit more to them.
Highly recommended though.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Dylan Limerick review

(pic from Thomond Park, 4 July 2010, with many thanks to the photographer Graham Martin)

So, Bob Dylan's first visit to Limerick, his 2nd visit west of the Shannon and his (I think) 26th show on this small island (24 of which have been since 1989)
As is usual with Irish shows, I was hoping it wouldn't be a disaster, or at best, only a mitigated disaster, fearing the 'repercussions' from disgruntled fellow countrymen. However, my fears were unfounded, as this show not only maintained the high standard of the Dylan live 2010 experience, but was actually the best of the 4 shows I saw on the current tour, and clocking in at 2 hours and 18 songs, was also the longest show of the tour, and with 4 encores, it was looking like he didn't want the show (nor the tour) to end.

But, lets go back to the beginning. A drunken, but fairly good natured crowd, who had enjoyed the adequate but not exactly overwhelming support bands, got straight into the thick of enjoying Bob's rollicking Leopardskin Pillbox Hat opener, and indeed the first 3 songs (all of which were different to the previous night's Hop Farm festival show) were very enjoyable.

Then, he repeated Just Like a Woman from the night before, complete with crowd sing-a-long bit (well, sort of..), prior to giving us many more highlights, such as swampy Together Through Life opener Beyond Here Lies Nothing, complete with trumpet solos, the new arrangement of Tangled up in Blue (which is somewhere between a fascinating 're-imagining' and a train wreck!) and a top notch hat-trick of Time out of Mind songs, Trying to get to Heaven (gorgeous), a scintillating Cold Irons Bound and a spiky version of Lovesick.

Best song of the night for me though was probably Workingmans Blues - my favourite song from the Modern Times album and a song that he had never played in Ireland. Such a poignant song, especially nowadays, and sung with a pathos that could only be conjured up by THAT particular cracked and wheezing voice.

In fact, for the casual Irish Dylan fan, it was a cracking setlist, with Bob treating us not just to that song, but also playing 3 songs (Beyond Here, Change Coming on and Jolene) from the current album Together Through Life, meaning he has now played four of them here in Ireland (and this an album he has yet to play a single song from at any UK concert!)

Another major highlight of the show, was Bob's general demeanor, with an even more animated approach than has been the case thus far in 2010. It's just so good to see him out at the front of the stage again and engaging with the audience, along with his ever more eccentric stage movements, harmonica flourishes and facial expressions. Not to mention some reasonable guitar playing (his organ playing remains as wilful as ever!). All of this animation is any amount of times better than the insincere chat one sees from other artists (yet no doubt, people will still complain that Bob isn't chatty enough).

The best example of just how animated he is now was on the set closing Ballad of a Thin Man. For over 6 months now, this song has been extraordinary every single night, reminding me how unusual it is for Bob to not get sick of a song, and either drop it, or simply start singing it with the most bizarre phrasing he can think of. Ballad of a Thin Man seems to get more majestic every night, and tour to tour, city to city, it leaves the audiences ecstatic as the main set comes to a close.

Anyway, after the end of the main set, we were all set for 2, or perhaps 3 cursory encores, but Bob was having such a good time and it was such an enthusiastic audience (down the front anyway), that he stayed on for 4 songs, with the biggest highlight of all being the Irish debut of the relatively rare recent song - I Feel a Change Coming On. And just in case anyone was in any doubt that he played if for the James Joyce Irish writer connection, on production of the line in question Bob and bass player Tony exchanged huge grins with each other. Like a Rolling Stone of course went down as well as it always does, with the mixed age Irish crowd roaring the chorus as lustily as any Scottish or Italian crowd!

Before I close, some negative points - after all, no concert is perfect; the band did seem to have some on-stage technical problems during one or two songs (didn't really affect anything), and some clown in the crowd pointed a green laser pen light at Bob for the last song or two (other artists have in the past been known to storm off stage for such an offence). Also, the venue was too big really, and with that swirling wind, I imagine the sound (which was perfect down the front) can't have been great in that big stand down the back.

But, to finish on a positive note a jaunty Blowin in the Wind with nice closing harmonica solo wrapped up proceedings, leaving most people very happy, and bringing another really good European tour to a close.

And I must say Limerick was an enjoyable experience overall for this Leinster rugby fan, even despite hearing the news that Bob had requested four (count 'em, four!) Munster rugby jerseys for himself! (Thomond Park is the home of the Munster rugby team)

Finally, a brief note on the previous day's show, at the Hop Farm music festival in Kent. A very enjoyable and scorchingly hot day out, met lots of people I hadn't seen in years, and found it a pleasant adult oriented rock/folk festival which was (mostly) fairly well organised. I wasn't massively impressed by the earlier artists, but Mumford & Sons certainly drew a crowd, and a grumpier than normal Ray Davies still managed to give us enjoyable set. Bob played a disappointingly short set, but it was very well performed, and had some amazing highlights, not least of which was that pink shirt!

See everybody next time..

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Bob Dylan Ljubliana review

Phew. 33 degrees all day, and 29 degrees at night in a stuffy little gym in Ljubliana. Everybody was baking, none more than Bob, who was pouring sweat after just a few minutes. But this didnt stop the hardest worker in show business (now that James Brown is dead) giving us an extremely good show. I,m on the road (and using a peculiar keyboad, so apols for any unusual punctuation), and don, have much time, so I,ll just make a series of general pointsm rather than write a long review;

- This tour seems to be a step up in standard again, even from the US and Japanese shows
- He seems fit and healthy (and sporting a wedding ring)
- He is extremely engaged and animated
- He is out at the front of stage for approx 8 of the 16 songs
- lots of great harp playing
- he has a new guitar, looks like a dull brown strat, not as nice as last year,s Duisenberg
- Tony Garnier was seated for the entire show, rumours of a leg injury( Bob may end up the last man standing of his NET band, not to mention, he,ll probably outlive us all!(
- the crowd was fantastic, extremely young, and no doubt in good form partly due to having just beaten Algeria in the World Cup!
- continuing the football theme, for me the only ,own goal, of the night was Rolling and Tumbling (he has so many much better blues songs than this one)
- but that minor blip aside, there were simply incredible versions of many songs tonight, Don,t Think Twice, Tryin to get to Heaven, Just Like a Woman, plus a lovely new arrangement of Simple Twist of Fate
- The main highlights for me though were the (by now) tour de force Ballad of a Thin Man, and maybe the best Blind Willie McTell I,ve ever seen!
- The band have matured, Charlie really fits in now, and Donnie was even audible on a few occasions!

That,s all I,ve time for. Maybe will update again after Padua. Ljubliana is a beautiful town, and Slovenia has some stunning scenery. Gonna drive to Padua via Lake Bled and down the Adriatic via Trieste.