Thursday, April 30, 2009

PJ Gig, 24 April 2009

Got round to my sisters at around about 7.30. Then had to wait around as no one was in. Our kid was a bit late, she had to pick up a babysitter for her two boys, and a takeaway...she's always late anyway, even before the kids arrived. For some reason time is an abstract concept to my sister which she doesn't really believe in ;-) "No problem", I said to myself, trying not to panic. All gigs I've been to follow a standard pattern: Doors open at 7.00, support comes on at 8.00 main act comes on between 9.00 to 9.30, that is the law. As long as you get there before 9.00 you are guaranteed to see the main act. I helped get her two gorgeous boys out of the car, but couldn't help glancing at the clock on my phone while J and her mate had a leisurely vegetarian (falefal :-)) kebab. Anyway, we arrived with about 20 minutes to go and had time to meet up with some of J's friends inside the Ritz on the balcony...

I've been into PJ Harvey since my sister took me to a gig in back in 1995, (the "Pink Catsuit" tour) which completely blew me away, and I've been a fan ever since. Since then I've always made an effort to go to every tour and dragged my sister and mates along. I remember at the time (1995) I had been on my back for days with a gastric blockage, not eating (in those days I *wrongly* assumed I had food poisoning, it was only a chance conversation with Charlie, now at Papworth, at the CF Clinic that made me realise my symptoms could be related to CF), nowadays kids have the internet, how lucky they are! Thankfully it cleared before the gig and I remember how struck I was by the comparison in my health; going from two days of sweating, starvation and pain, to just feeling normal again and being able to enjoy simple pleasures like eating, drinking, walking and stuff, I'd never appreciated before how good feeling "normal" was, and how much I took it for granted in the past. Perhaps it opened my mind and made me appreciate music a lot more as well.

It's fair to say that me and my sister were pretty blown away by Polly and John, as were most of the audience. It was an intimate venue, and she has a great stage presence, really captivating the audience with her performance. PJ's strength, I think, is her ability to utterly inhabit the songs and become different characters with different songs. The songs were all off the latest album and the previous collaboration from 1996, Dance Hall at Louse Point. For the two albums, John Parish writes all the music (then sends this to PJ on a tape), and she scratches her head and writes the lyrics. It works well. They opened with the first (and only ?) single of the album, "Black Hearted Love", a jazz/blues inflected rock number, easily the most radio-friendly song on the album, before we were into the spookier songs on the albums like "16,14,13", a spine tingling "look who's missing" song about missing children in a garden with no laughter. Indeed, a lot of the songs are almost like spells that she casts over the audience, utterly captivating them. I was most impressed with how good the live version of some of the more *difficult* songs were; In the terrifying Captain Beefheart influenced "a woman, a man walked By", She screams "Chicken Liver Balls, Chicken Liver Spleen" at her male suitor before graphically depicting sodomizing her hapless victim; not exactly easy listening! And the scary "Pig Will Not" that on the album sounds like a PMT-driven howl of rage. But live, somehow, with the drums, bass, rhythm, and guitars cutting loose, it all made sense. Not that it's all shocking, there were some lovely, quiet, torch song moments like "The Soldier", a compassionate song (I think) about the dehumanising effects of war, "Leaving California" possibly about her brief stint in LA, and the gorgeous, poetic "Cracks in the Canvas" that could be about coping with losing someone. And the fantastic, indescribably uplifting "April" which they closed the set with after the encore. All the songs were completely at odds with the cosy chatter that PJ gave to the audience between the songs. "I've stood on something prickly" she said in her unaffected, strong Dorset accent (think Pam Ayers), as a loose splinter caught in her bare foot. And, heart melting "I just want to say, all I can see in front of me is a sea of lovely faces, lovely, lovely!" Really, I could just put her in my pocket and take her home for tea ;-)

Anyway, enough pretentious fan-boy droning from me! I think she's easily the greatest female artist (singer-songwriter) of the last twenty years, and has paved the way for other artists to follow their own musical path; but some of her albums do take a few listens as my misses will confirm! I would probably direct newcomers to her mercury prize-winning "Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea" that is the album that I can get away with playing at parties ;-)

Friday, April 24, 2009

Thornley Bay

Oh dear, I'm such a raving fan boy, there really is no excuse ;-)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Living for the weekend...

Bleuurgh. I've just come back (from a weeks holiday in the Isle of Wight) into a working nightmare! S (who worked opposite me) has left leaving all the horrid old legacy systems to maintain meaning I'm far too busy to post. But it's OK because on Friday I'm going to see Polly Harvey at the Ritz this friday with my sister. Yey! (Have I said that before?)

Live Show of similar gig at El Ray, Los Angeles. I've found this gig on Youtube and it's filmed so well and captured the sound so well that I'm going to post it here. I think these US dates were a warm up for the UK tour as the setlist looks very similar. I'm guessing this was the opener:

Part 1, songs from A Woman, A Man walked by:

Part 2, more songs from the new album, including "Leaving California" and the beautiful "Cracks in The Canvas":

Part 3: songs from the 1996 album, Dance Hall At Louse Point, including the mesmerising "Civil War Correspondent" :

"Rope Bridge Crossing" also from Dance Hall...

Encore (False Fire...but where is April???):

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Gift Of Life

I am really upset that a fantastic girl called Suzy passed away while waiting for a transplant on national transplant day. I don't really want to start ranting on here (like I could) because she was such a positive person I'd be doing her a disservice if I was negative. I'm just going to try and channel my energy into something positive, like running the 10K for the CF Trust. And for the many people on the waiting list like Suzy, please be a 2 minute hero: put the kettle on. Give the gift of life.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Black Hearted Love

Oscar is a lot better and is getting back to his lovely, smiley self. He is allergic to eggs though (this is generally temporary for children and they usually grow out of it after several years), R found this after making some creme brulles, so I guess I'll have to scoff them all instead. ;-)

I'm going to go see PJ Harvey and John Parish at the Ritz at the end of the month, I'm very excited! Hmmmm, I never noticed that PJ has green eyes before, anyway I'm drooling again ;-)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Pertain to train myself to like training with new trainers

Went to the Trafford centre yesterday to get myself a new pair of trainers. Got advised by the callow youth in JD King of Trainers that the best running trainers were the super light pair of £100 babies at the front of the shop. Decided that said trainers were:
  • far too expensive
  • for professional runners
  • I'm not professional
so I decided to go for the cheapo bargain basement ones instead. Have worked out that Greggs bakery is 3km round trip from work, so hopefully I can now start power walking to the bakery every lunch using Greggs' doughnuts as bait.

Oscar has been a bit poorly for the last few days, he's had a cough since we got back from Shanghai really, add a few colds into the mix and he's now quite a way down on the baby-weight percentile thingy :-(. He did have a temp for the last couple of days so under doctors advise we took him to the children's assessment unit (part of the children's ward) at Stepping Hill. The children's ward has been transformed since I was last in (back in the olden days ;-)), into a circular three storey tree house structure with lots of play areas for kids. Unfortunately like in the olden days we still had to wait around for about 3 hours waiting to be seen by a doctor, by which time Oscar and ourselves were thoroughly peed off and decided the best course of action was to take him home and bring him back if he has problems taking fluids, which thankfully he didn't. I have been thinking all sorts about whether he has CF (R is a carrier, the donor was screened, but maybe he had one of the rarer CF types they don't test for?), whether he has picked up pneumonia (from grandad), but after the examination the doctor said he had no signs of chest infection, so fingers crossed he picks up in the next few days.