Sweet Tidings of Loudness and Joy

Who: Sweet

Where: Nell’s Jazz and Blues, West London, UK

When: 19th December 2019

What: Live in Concert (50th Anniversary Tour)

Last Christmas on the 15th of December I was stood just in front of the stage as Sweet tore up Nell’s Jazz and Blues playing to a packed house and delivering an uproarious set. Well, having started a good tradition, why break and so I and they are back just a little over a year later for more of the same.

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A Comforting Old Wooden Chair (Foreword to a Bob Dylan book)

(Sometime over the last few years I was approached to write a “blurb” for the cover of a book of thoughts about Bob Dylan by an Australian author, Phil Mason. I’ve never met Phil but I’ve been privileged to help him with his research. By the time the book was approaching readiness, the idea had expanded and I wrote a foreword for the book which eventually appeared under the title of “A Voice From on High”. As well as reproducing that foreword here, I take the opportunity to recommend Mr Mason’s book which can be obtained through Amazon in softcover and for your kindle.)

 

“Well I’m sitting in church
In an old wooden chair
I knew nobody
Would look for me there”

Bob Dylan – Marchin’ to the City (Disc 3 of Tell Tale Signs 1989-2006)

In 1707, Isaac Watts, the Christian hymnwriter, wrote a lyric called “Marching to Zion” in which he referred to Zion as the beautiful city of God. Now, this was long before Zion had become a short-hand for some Western European political scheme to establish a physical homeland for disenfranchised Jewish people in the middle East (a scheme commonly referred to as Zionism). It is Watts looking forward to the end of an earthly journey where all the faithful people of God, Jew and Gentile, would be gathered in to an eternal home.

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Two Power Outages but The Cardigans press on to win their Favourite Game

What: Twentieth Anniversary tour of the “Gran Turismo” album

Who: The Cardigans

Where: Hammersmith Apollo, Hammersmith, London, UK

When: 7th December 2018

Twice during this show (once during the performance of the whole of the “Gran Turismo” album and one during the subsequent “smorgasbord” selection) all the sound from the stage failed, leaving Nina Persson and the rest of the band stranded. Taking this all in their stride, they pressed on in good-humoured fashion to return with flash and panache as soon as the problems were corrected.

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Who Loves You, Frankie?

Who: Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons

What: The Farewell UK Tour

Where: The o2 Arena, Greenwich, London

When: 2nd December 2018

A Frankie Valli concert in 2018… is, well, a Frankie Valli concert. Unless you haven’t seen him perform in recent years, it doesn’t come packed with surprises. In fact, it doesn’t have any surprises. Even the possibility of the inclusion of a less well-known album track, say, Streetfighter or Harmony, Perfect Harmony is all but gone. He will talk about a recent album (Romancing the 60s) but that album is 11 years old now. He has one album since then, the Christmas set, “‘Tis the Seasons”, but even though it is the right time of year for something from that, there will be nothing in the show. And the show will probably be much the same as last time you saw him.

So, this is going to be a negative review, right? No, this was a wonderful, wonderful show.

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Steely Dan – “The People Request”

Who: Steely Dan

Where: The Beacon Theatre, Manhattan, New York City, USA

When: 21st October 2018

What: By Popular Demand

On the first days of booking tickets for this “popular demand” show, ticket-buyers were asked by Ticketmaster to write-in their requests for songs to be featured. Now those who booked on the first day were probably (for the most part) die-hard Dan fans who had in mind songs that they had seldom heard before. But if this was the case then, there was little evidence of it in the set that emerged with this more closely resembling a “Greatest Hits” show than two-hours of rarities and deep cuts. Now that is not to say that this wasn’t a wonderful show to see. This band are tighter than they have ever been. Older bands like this either barely tolerate being on the stage as each other (look at the recent Fleetwood Mac debacle) or they have grown close and closer still through years of musical and personal inter-action. The latter is the case with Steely Dan

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Well, I say Troilus is Troilus,… this is… Cressida, this is not Cressida

What: Troilus and Cressida by William Shakespeare

Where: Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford Upon Avon, England

Who: The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC)

When: 18th October 2018

As always, in recent years, I have titled my assessment of an RSC production with a quote or two from the play itself, but I must admit, even to myself, that this title is a little hard to understand and consequently it won’t help you to get to the heart of what I’m trying to say in this review unless I break it down a little.

To explain I must digress a little…

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Orchestral Hackett!

Who: Steve Hackett

What: Classic Genesis Revisited with Band and Orchestra

Where: Royal Festival Hall, Southbank, London

When: 4th October 2018

Steve Hackett, as you probably know, left Genesis a little over forty years ago (yes, I know, doesn’t it make you feel old). A few years ago, he hit on the idea of no longer seeing his musical career as two exclusive parts and introducing Genesis material into his shows – under the umbrella term “Genesis Revisited“. It has worked beyond expectations. Larger venues have been booked. Bigger houses and receipts are taken. Audiences are happy. What’s not to like, right? Let’s see how the current tour is going…

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