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Archive for the category “Reviews(ish)”

Brian Blessed, Cambridge Corn Exchange

On Monday night, I trolled over to Cambridge to see Brian Blessed on stage doing his “An Evening With” tour. Safe to say, it was a fun night.

I’ve been a fan of Blessed since his turn on Flash Gordon – which is now a very long time ago – which also gave him his most recognised phrase (and with which he opened the show) of “Gordon is Alive!

The entire show was kind of ramshackle and rambling, certainly nothing like the far slicker comedians and musicians that the audience was obviously more used to. I saw a few people with expressions of “What the fuck?!?” as it went on, because the were very few coherent stories, it appeared to be all more of a shotgun approach, as and when he remembered stuff.  (Without seeing the show again I have no way of knowing whether it’s intentionally shambolic, or that it’s just the way Blessed is)

For me though, I’d pretty much expected that, and it didn’t disappoint or disconcert me at all.

I thought the entire thing was a lot of fun (and also very loud, and sometimes sweary – also things I’m OK with) and would happily go and see it/him again.

I think the final note to leave on, though, is this notice on the doors.

Othello and Aristocrats

On Tuesday, as I mentioned before, I went down to London to see Othello at Shakespeare’s Globe. I’d not seen any previous productions of it, and it seemed like a good plan – particularly as it was only £5 for a standing ticket.

All told, it was OK. Standing at the Globe is OK, although the concrete floor is a lot less forgiving than the original’s mud, straw and whatever. I get that that’s less sustainable in modern London, but yeah, a bit tough when standing for near-as-dammit three hours, once you include arriving before it starts, interval, and leaving.

The play itself was good, and I had a decent view of the stage, albeit from the side. Going in with a pretty blank and basic idea of the play, it fulfilled most of that, and was easy enough to follow. I had always had the idea that Iago was a lot more panto-villain with hand-twisting moustachioed evil – although I suspect that’s just how it’s been built up over the years, as a lot of the irony of calling him “honest Iago” wouldn’t work if he were being blatantly manipulative and machiavellian – so it was interesting (and a bit jarring for me) to see the way it’s played by Mark Rylance as a much quieter role, more of a jealous little man, overlooked by those in power, assumed to be a nobody who couldn’t possibly come up with such intrigues. 

But I enjoyed it (although I feel the ending is another of Shakespeare’s more melodramatic dollops) and came out feeling I’d got what I came for.

Then, because I’m an idiot, I’d also booked to see Brian Friel’s “The Aristocrats” in the evening, at the Donmar Warehouse.  Which also conveniently meant I could go and have a quick dinner at one of my favourite places in that area, Chick’n’Sours (Fried chicken and sour cocktails – my kind of place)

So that’s what happened – a walk back from the Globe to Seven Dials, food, and then with plenty of time to kill I sat outside an empty building on Earlham Street, right by Donmar Warehouse, and just relaxed for an hour – which was lovely. It’s a really quiet street – surprising for being in the Covent Garden area – with enough people going past to be interesting, but not chaotic.

And then Aristocrats. Which, in my opinion, was sadly an absolute bag of bollocks. Apparently it’s Chekhov-esque, which apparently means “sod-all happens”. I’d seen generally positive reviews of it, but couldn’t find much to be impressed by in it, myself.  It was good to have seen it, and understand a bit more about the kind of plays I don’t like – which is always a useful reference point, so long as you haven’t spent an absolute shed-load of money to find out you hate it – but it’s definitely not one I’d bother with again.

Mind you, I was in a seat in the second row of the stalls, right by the stage, and it cost me £30.  So it could’ve been an awful lot worse than it was.

All told it was a good day, and not massively expensive. What more could one ask for, really?

Bat Out Of Hell, Dominion Theatre

Last weekend, I went to see Bat Out Of Hell, the juke-box musical based on the Bat Out Of Hell trilogy by Meatloaf.

It hadn’t been super-high on my priority list, but a friend of mine is running the lighting desk, and it was also in consideration as something to take my mum to later in the year, so I picked up a ticket to see what it was like.

I didn’t really know what to expect – and in many ways, I’m glad of that.  While I did enjoy it, it’s not one I’d go and see again (and also I’m not convinced that mum would like it) so it was definitely worth seeing as research first.  In fairness, a lot of people really like it and have seen it multiple times – and Meatloaf himself saw it a couple of days before I did, and seemed to be pleased with the entire thing.  It just didn’t really do it for me – it’s a subjective thing, and I’m never going to say to anyone “Don’t go”.  It just turned out to not be my thing.

The staging, set, lighting and so on are great, the music performances are pretty good – but the story itself is woeful, and seems to be there just as a kind of bare basic scaffold on which to hang the songs.  (I’m no expert on juke-box musicals, so this could be the case with all of them, I don’t know – and I’m not going to generalise based on a sample of one!)

But still, it was entertaining enough, and kept me amused.  I didn’t come out thinking I’d wasted my money, or disappointed in the production – but I still wouldn’t want to pay to see it again…

 

Ministry, O2 Forum, Kentish Town

I’ve been a fan of the (very loud) band Ministry for a very long time – I missed their last gig in London due to other stuff occurring, and had made sure I got tickets for the gig on Saturday night at the O2 Forum in Kentish Town, London.

As I had nothing else planned, I went down to London early – I know the local area, and there are a few places very close to the venue where parking is free on a weekend, which makes the entire proposition even easier.  In light of my whole “not doing as much” policy, it was still a quiet and easy day – I had lunch, then found a couple of pubs to sit outside and either read, catch up on internet stuff, or do some reading.  With the weather the way it’s been, it was all most civilised.

For the gig itself, I got there in time to see the support act – a singer I’d not heard of before, called Chelsea Wolfe, and her support band.  Personally I wasn’t overly taken with them, but they were better than expected. (I generally expect support bands to be bobbins, but still go to see them if possible. If they’re better than bobbins, it’s a bonus. If they’re bad, then it’s purely as expected, and I don’t feel disappointed by that)

And then onto the main thing.  I don’t know what happened, but the venue suddenly got exceptionally hot, and stayed that way for the whole concert.  It was bad enough that I know a lot of people left early, it really was pretty intolerable.  The gig itself was great, and thoroughly enjoyed the entire thing – but was definitely sweaty and stinky by the time I’d also driven home.

I’d go again, happily – but ideally in rather cooler temperatures, or a venue where the air-con/ventilation was capable of coping with 2,000-ish gig-goers…

 

Ignition

A long, long time ago, someone on Twitter repeatedly introduced me to the chemically geeky “Things I Won’t Work With” blog, which basically did what it said on the tin.  Chemical compounds and experiments that were… on the energetic side, shall we say?  The way it was written made me laugh, and I loved seeing the sporadic updates.

Then it disappeared, and I pretty much forgot about it.

Only it turns out to have been (still sporadically) updated, but on a different site – something I found out this week. I’d been on The Twitter to mention to that original someone about a newly reprinted copy of “Ignition!” (which , from memory, had been one of the inspirations for “Things I Won’t Work With”)  and then other Twitterers reminded me of the name of the blog.

Ignition! An Informal History of Liquid Rocket Propellants” is fascinating.  Originally written in the early 70s, it hadn’t been reprinted in decades – (but there’s obviously been some demand for it, as the publishers weren’t going to go to the effort if there weren’t) but it was on my ‘want to read’ list if I ever found a copy.  When I saw earlier this year that it was being re-printed, and available as an eBook as well, I pre-ordered immediately, and it arrived this week.

The book itself has an irreverent style to it, which is fine – and even understandable, considering that the author was part of a very select group involved in all this stuff.  I’m not a full-on chemistry geek, so some of it is a bit mind-boggling, but it’s been a great read.  I’m really glad I managed to get it in the end.

Danny Baker, Northampton Derngate

Seeing Danny Baker on stage was never one of the things on my to-do list. I’d never been overly taken with his character, or the (very little) I knew about him.

But last weekend, I heard an interview with him on the radio, and he seemed… less of a dickhead than I’d previously thought, and actually with a pretty interesting life.  So when I got home, I had a look at details for his current theatre tour, and saw that he was playing in a week’s time in Northampton. And there were still seats available.  So I thought “Well, why not? The most that can happen is I decide I still don’t like him“.  Ticket booked, and on Saturday evening there I was. In Northampton.

As it happened, the show was a lot of fun. And bloody long.  He’d said in the interview (and at the start of the show) that he’s taken over the mantle from Ken Dodd and so on for marathon shows.  (My parents used to say about Doddy telling the audience “I’m the only one who knows when you’re going home”, and this was much the same)  In this case, he started off at 19:45, there was a 15-minute interval at about 21:30, and he finally left the stage at 23:30. Pretty good going.

Also, it’s worth noting that this is the third tour of tales about his life, and by the end of it we were only just getting to where he started in radio at the age of 30. (He’s now 61)  So I’m pretty sure there’s material for a few more tours in him as well.

As it was, a good portion of the first half was concerned with filling out the information from previous tours, so people knew what and who he was talking about during the second half.  The entire thing was accompanied with photos to illustrate the events and places – all with bits being pointed out by the snooker cue he was using as a pointer throughout. He’s also incredibly energetic, constantly walking across the stage. God only knows how many miles he’s covering every night – but it’s certainly not an insignificant number!

The stories he told were pretty epic, with a fair amount of name-dropping and so on – but they weren’t all about being the Big I Am. Obviously there’s a degree of this, as it’s Danny Baker telling The Tale Of Danny Baker, but it’s not excessive, this is the stuff that has happened, and he’s the first to admit he’s been incredibly lucky along the way, along with not always being the hero of his own tales.

Not always funny (although more often than not) the entire show came together really well, and the only thing that actually made it feel as long as it was (Steady on, Matron) was that the seats at Derngate get bloody uncomfortable after a while.

I can’t deny, I really enjoyed the entire thing (poxy seating notwithstanding) and came out with a better impression of Danny Baker than I’d had on the way in.

If the tour is playing anywhere near you, it’s worth seeing.  And if he does another one, the odds are that I’ll go along again. It might even make it onto the to-do list!

 

 

The The, Rescue Rooms, Nottingham

A while back I wrote about seeing The The back on tour, and last night was their first warm-up concert in at least sixteen years.  As well as having a ticket for the first ‘official’ concert in a couple of weeks time, I managed to get a ticket for the Nottingham one as well. Because, well, why not?

Of course, what I hadn’t really thought about was that it was a Friday evening – and even worse, the Friday before a Bank Holiday weekend. Nottingham is generally a pretty easy drive for me – satnav says two hours, but on quietish roads I know I can do it in 90 minutes.   Friday afternoon, to get there in time? Four hours.  Yep, four. Fuck sake. Usually I can get to Newcastle in that time, let alone bloody Nottingham.

Anyway, fortunately I had the time and had planned it out a bit, but still, it made for a longer drive than expected.

The venue was fine for this sort of thing. Rescue Rooms is a small venue – about 450 people – but I actually really liked it. More importantly, it meant that the majority of the audience were there because they were fans of the band (something that seems to be less and less the case with a lot of gigs) so there was a lot less of the usual stuff, people chatting away in spite of the band, or just keeping on journeying to and from the bar.

And the gig itself? It was great.  Because it was a ‘getting ready to tour’ gig, there were no warm-up acts, so it was just the band doing their thing. The band were also experimenting with in-ear monitors rather than the older wedge-speaker set-up (in-ears are a new development since last time they toured) although tonight’s second one will use the wedges, so they can compare results.  All told, it made for an earlier finish, with a curfew of 10pm.  But they came on at 7:45, so it’s not like anyone was short-changed.

The The played a whole range of things from their albums, some less-known than others, but pretty much all the favourites and crowd-pleasers. To me there’s still nothing like a whole audience singing along to a well-known track – and that must be hugely multiplied when on stage.

The entire thing was great, and I’m looking forward even more to the big concert in a couple of weeks.

Oh, and the drive home? 90 minutes, door-to-door.

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