Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Hawley in Barcelona. Photos.

As promised, here's a few photos I took last Saturday at Richard Hawley's gig in Barcelona. Feel free to peruse, but please do quote the source. Otherwise, you're in for castration (for caballeros- ladies are to be let off lightly).

Monday, October 29, 2007

Richard Hawley, Sala Apolo, Barcelona 27 Oct 2007

A Review

Life's bizarre circumstances: I never managed in England, and it's in Barcelona I get to catch a glimpse of my new musical hero.

The bar next door to Sala Apolo is packed with 30 or 40-somethings sipping the local equivalent of Carling (a lager that goes by the moniker of Estrella Damn) and sporting New Model Army t-shirts…

For a second I ponder at the unusual music taste combination…did they in any way find some sort of connection with Hawley's vintage brand of rock'n'roll…or is senility getting the better of me as I totally forgot NMA were to play the venue next door? I've dragged my girlfriend along tonight. She's no Hawley fan, but is willing to keep an open mind.

And so we head for the entrance. Difficult to judge from a 30-second experience but bouncers appear a touch friendlier than the power-crazed ex-convict-bunch back in the UK…no-one ever died from a smile and they seem to be aware of it.

We make for the upper level and Sala Apolo is, quite simply, beautiful. If expectations are anything to go by, the surreal setting heralds a great night: a cross between 'Cabaret' and vintage 50s dancehalls. In fact, the ballroom scene in 'The Shining' could have easily been filmed here.

It's a cosy, red-tinted little venue, donned in vintage lanterns and tasteful decor. Most strikingly, as we approach the stage, we find out there are no barriers. None. I can't help but think that if the guy standing next to me is going to be sick - not unlikely given the state of him- Richard Hawley's monitors will be in for early retirement.

Again, amazingly, capturing the best spot exactly right at the front is as easy as piss. Staggering pisshead on my left included, the audience are incredibly well behaved. Any gig I watched in England before, and I mean any, there was always a fucker or two completely off their head, spoiling it for everyone else. But thankfully not here, not tonight.

Javier MacKenzie, the one-man opening act, displays remarkable talent - though it's difficult not to think he could do with a band. Soon it's ten o'clock and Hawley-time.

Aside from his absolutely amazing, mesmerising voice, melodies and arrangements - as well as the compelling atmosphere his records evoke- what drew me to Richard Hawley in the first place was the obvious affability of the character.

As he walks on stage, Chelsea boots, jeans complete with turn-ups, white shirt and black blazer, it's quite obvious the word pomposity doesn’t fit into his dictionary. Before strumming a single note, he clocks the guy on my left (who's at pains to articulate a slurred "kr-ooh-nher!" at him) "You're pissed, aren't you mate? 'Ammered!" he smiles, "I'm going to get pissed myself after the gig".

Hawley's friendly banter with the crowd includes a Partridge-like moment when he asks for a ceiling fan to be turned off. He looks puzzled for a split-second and then proceeds to put it right "I don't mean these fans! I don’t wanna turn you off! I want to turn you on, you know!" he protests. Only to add, with a smile, "And oooh, by the way…I feel quite turned on tonight".

Later on, he'll introduce himself as "Maria, a crossdresser from Barcelona", and as I ask him if The Washington, a Sheffield pub owned by Pulp's Nick Banks, is still standing, he quips "It is still standing, but it's shite!"

When I decided to find out more about him I couldn’t believe he started his career in The Longpigs. Thankfully, his music is miles away from them. With a voice as magnetic as nothing else on earth, the guy was born to sing his own music. Morrissey tried to give voice to his rockabilly instincts and I'm still not entirely sure he managed to pull it off.

Hawley, instead, he's cracked it exactly right and he's turned me into a hardcore fan. Which I didn’t think would be possible past the age of 25. Music can convey the intensity of emotions like nothing else on earth but you won't know the full extent until you soak in, in silence, each one of Richard Hawley's records, Coles Corner and Lady's Bridge in particular. You'll almost feel reluctant to breathe in case you frighten the moment away.

Live, he's even more effective. He performs most of his new album Lady's Bridge with subtlety and style, striking that perfect balance that makes him sound epic without, in fact, being epic at all. I can't remember who said that it's not the notes that matter, it's the spaces in between and Hawley and his band are testament to that.

is the perfect opener, followed by a gentle rendition of Roll River Roll. It's quite obvious his voice is in fine form tonight and his band know exactly what they're doing. Just Like The Rain is followed by the fact-of-the-day that the video was filmed in the Spanish city of Almeria, and Tonight The Streets Are Ours is so heartfelt it's like an emotional air-raid condensed in a three-minute classic.

Coles Corner subtle-swelling chord progression captures the hall and I'm basically transfixed. Hawley introduces the graceful Lady's Bridge adding that "it's not a euphemism" while the wonderful Hotel Room is "a song about addiction", conjuring up a cinematic mood that would give David Lynch a run for his money. Darlin Wait For Me is "for our wives cos we're soppy old gits really" and what follows is one masterpiece after the other; the timeless Born Under A Bad Sign -my personal favourite - and the new single Serious.

Were it not for the British public being obsessed with trends and fickle notions of cool shoved down their throat, it would easily be a chart-topping contender. There's still time for the classic Something Is off his debut album: "I'm going away my sweetness, don’t you cry, cos tonight is the best time that we've had", he sings.

You know the old cliché that time flies when you truly enjoy something. Well, it's the encore already. The Barcelona crowd are clearly engrossed - can you blame them- and they're treated to the moody, almost spectral, Tonite and a lump-in-your-throat rendition of The Ocean, (initially spoilt by a pillock behind me laughing out loud until his own girlfriend had the sense to shush him).

"Gracias", Richard Hawley pronounces as he heads off. I look at my girlfriend and she proudly announces she's totally fallen for his music. And then it's time to go. Already.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Ming Campbell resigns!

And so the story goes that Menzies Campbell managed a flimsy 18 months.
He admitted that, in spite of his competence and integrity, there was no chance he could halt the Lib Dem's downward spiral. Since he took over from Charles Kennedy in January 2006, the party has been trounced at all local elections and in all opinion polls. Campbell was, to put it bluntly, totally uninspiring.
This is the right time to for Kennedy to throw his hat back into the ring. When you look at the desolate, depressing British political sytem, where they all look the same and the difference between Tories and Labour amounts to the width of a rizla, Charles Kennedy is the right person to take up the challenge. He may trip up while he speaks, he may not be a Blairite-style automata, but at least he's not like the other politicians. Get him back!!!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Two-wheeled cunts

Motorbikes are right up my pet-hate table, high as they are there in the league of all-time straight-to-your-nerve-centre annoying noises, on a par with mosquitos, in-aircraft toddler-crying and Celine Dion's voice.

Brum is simply packed with tossers riding about in their souped-up bikes, overly concerned with proving macho credentials through one-wheel swerving, left-right-and-centre overtaking and racing miles above speed limits. Race bikes, of course, are the most annoying. "Oh the freedom, maaaan", they would inform you. Freed from traffic, traffic lights and basic road rules, along with the hip pull-a-rock-chick imagery they evoke, aren’t motorbikes the coolest vehicles on earth?

Except for one, actually two, things. In 2005 motorbikes accounted for over 50% of road accidents. That's a huge amount if you think of the totality of vehicles in circulation. Coincidence? It may as well be. To me, it just proves most bike people are amongst the most selfish, self-centred, inconsiderate motorists alive (how long for?) given that it's not just their own spinal liquid they're going to spill out, but other people's too.

And that's without dwelling on the enormous noise those things produce. There are times you walk down the streets hearing industrial pneumatic drills throbbing about only to realise that of course there's no sign of road works nearby: it's just a hyper-cool souped-up bike roaring past you. And there's no way you can get sensitised. Play me the Titanic soundtrack CD everyday. I'll puke each time, like clockwork.

In Oldbury there's even more bikes around- only louder. If karma is anything to go by, the only conclusion is that my new strategically-located abode serves me just right. The sense of smugness as I signed the tenancy agreement was quickly followed by the bombshell of having a motorbike retailer as a corner shop and a bike repairs as you take a left. I'll go and have a kip.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Cold calling

For the past few days my UK phone has been telling me of several missed calls from a Manchester number. Yesterday I finally managed to catch them. "Sir, we're from [classified] services", was all they said, quickly moving on to their script: an almost incomprehensible succession of "selling our products" and "customer services", all the usual crap. They spoke so quick I'm not even sure it was **B. It could be **M, or even LSD, or anything. I told them I wasn’t interested and that was that. So far, nothing unusual.

Except. Same again the following day. **B -whatever that stands for- on the phone, with the specification that it was a [classified] that had given them my details. Nice. The guy the other end of the line then went: "For security purposes, we need to ask you to confirm your personal details. What's your date of birth?" I said: a) you're the one calling me, I don’t know you, and you're asking for my personal details. Shouldn’t it be the other way round?" b) quick answer: are you trying to sell me something, yes or no?

And the man went, "for confidential reasons I can't answer that question, sir".
Goodbye, then.