Archive for May, 2011

The Incomparable JC

May 24, 2011

No … not that one … although I did spot a couple of (absent) people after the world ended at 6pm on Saturday who’d been whisked heavenwards by the RAPTURE  …

I do find it incomprehensible still (you’d think I’d have learnt by now) that there are those who actually believe such nonsense. The Earth is still flat, the world was created in seven days, evolution is a creation by non-believers and that nowhere – in the billions of galaxies that swirl around us – is there anywhere but here that may possibly nurture Life …

No … not him … the other JC. I couldn’t decide whether or not to get tickets to see him in Brighton but thankfully Tim bought me one. There’s always that fear that your youthful role-models and heroes may disappoint – they may be past it, may revel in nostalgia or, worst of all, simply pander to expectations.

No chance at all with John Cale – none at all. Musically the gig was faultless. The Man, at 69, on keyboards with THAT voice, two other keyboard players, drums, a dazzlingly talented lead guitarist, 3 violins and a cello are hardly a conventional band line-up but – my God they delivered. I wept through 2 songs, danced to a few and was jaw-droppingly stunned by others. There was funk, country, rock’n’roll, gospel and orchestral – a nod of course to Velvet Underground and even one to Kraftwerk – but most of all it was about lyrics and songs.

It was a concert of great dynamics and surprises, of the occasionally familiar and the brand new. Any artist who can successfully pull off a song’s chorus of …

‘Afghanistan, Afghanistan,
Whatever happened to you?’

… followed by one of Thomas’s most profound poems, set to music …

‘Do not go gentle into that good night,
Do not go gentle into that good night …
Rage, rage against the dying of the light’

… is, by any standards, incomparable. Absolutely brilliant so thank you Mr Cale – substance, accessibility and wonderfully intoxicating. If you get the chance – just go – you may not be fortunate enough to have a Tim who over-rides your unjustified hesitation.


May 17, 2011

“Where can you find a decent cup of tea round here?”
(Lemmy, backstage at Lollapalooza Festival 1996, Metallica headlining)


If someone asked me ‘What’s the best METALLICA concert you’ve ever been to?‘ it would be impossible to answer. Any band worth its salt just HAS to be Amazing Live. It’s the benchmark for me how good an artist is. How could it be any other way? However good albums are – live performances have to be better. There’s nothing like the rush of adrenaline being with thousands of like-minded fans, nothing more exciting than the build-up to artists appearing on stage, (more on that a little later), getting totally wasted in preparation for A Big Night Out (not me obviously – how dare you suggest such a thing!), and then, if that weren’t enough, you get to hear your favourite songs LIVE, performed by your HEROES. Genius – what could be more inspiring?

Metallica of course is ALL about live performance. Their astonishingly loyal fans have always been aware of how loyal Metallica are to them. They may deviate musically sometimes, are always up for experimentation, are never afraid to be innovative and, as far as staging a show goes – they’re right up there with the most distinguished and acclaimed. Unless you’ve SEEN Metallica live you haven’t experienced the complete Metallica.

Having said I couldn’t choose ONE gig, there are several which stand out in my memory for all kinds of different reasons. Having the ‘Go Anywhere You Fucking Like‘ pass is such a bonus. I arrived at Earls Court in London for a meeting with the band. It was mid-afternoon and the huge venue was heaving with hundreds of people setting up for the concert that night. I think the most shocking and awesome thing to see were The Trucks – twenty-odd massive black pantechnicons, some with trailers, immaculately parked in rows inside the vast venue. They looked like a fleet of vehicles from a sci-fi movie. Humans swarmed around them like insects, unloading tons of equipment and moving it into place on and around the stage which was almost complete by then. With the precision of rocket scientists, crew members built lighting platforms and gantries, speakers were stacked, set components were slotted together, hydraulic drum risers for Lars were fitted, and hundreds of miles of cable were miraculously placed where they needed to be. We’ve all seen time-lapse photography where our perception of time is altered …

(… speaking of time-lapse photography …  I came across this yesterday – a minor diversion but relevant (kind of) and well worth the couple of minutes. D-click for HD large format …)

…  building an awesome stage set had that kind of time-distortion vibe. I sat mesmerised for a couple of hours.

It always amazes me how a crew can construct and deconstruct such a complicated and intricate set – then build it again the Next Night somewhere else! It was a revelation to witness one of the worlds most professional road crews in the world strut their stuff.

Tension and excitement are what METALLICA shows are all about. Again, in London, the band took anticipation of their arrival on stage to a whole new level. For at least an hour before the first song, the band was followed around by a camera crew backstage as they got ready for the gig and the images were projected onto gigantic screens all round the venue. It was a brilliant idea to communicate directly with fans and reactions were sensational. After watching the band rehearse briefly, mess about (constantly speaking into the camera to wind up their fans), having something pre-show time together wandering in and out of each others dressing rooms – by the time they headed through the endless corridors, heading for the stage, the audience was in a total frenzy. The reception they received when they finally appeared in front of their fans was one of the most amazing I’ve ever seen. The noise level was unbelievable and the excitement made spines tingle.

Access to a band is fundamental to fans. Somehow METALLICA always find a way to allow the fans to get seriously close to them without actually meeting them. (except for the lucky ones of course). The wonderful ‘Some Kinda Monster‘ …

… although at once disturbing, voyeuristic, embarrassing, moving and confrontational – it’s also totally compelling because of its brutal honesty. The no-holds-barred final cut, considering the seriously full-on material is testament to the band’s integrity. Despite reservations from many concerned quarters about releasing the DVD at all, the band insisted on it and, whatever you think of the content – you sure as hell get to know the cast VERY intimately.

Like watching the band from the mosh-pit. You get pretty close! THEN you get an idea of what it’s actually like to play on a stage at a stadium. For fans lucky enough to be invited, or who have the very rare tickets, it’s a close as you ever get to performing with the band on stage! I remember heading, doubled-up, in near total darkness, for a hundred yards, towards a hole in the stage in front of me. The stage floor above me shook, the music thundered and lasers blasted occasionally into the pit. All I could see as I approached it were dozens of pairs of legs. I finally got there and stood up in the heaving mass of fans going absolutely nuts. As I adjusted to the stage spectacle all around me I turned to face the front of the stage and the audience. It was such a shock being right there and hearing the cheers and applause from tens of thousands of fans aimed directly at the stage. Quite something.

After that I think I need a lie-down!

… by the end of the week.

As ever,

Visit for cool stuff. Metallica to be added soon. Can’t wait – aa


May 12, 2011

Well, it’s about time we had more band stories I hear you saying.
So many distractions recently … enjoyable but time-consuming …

… STILL trying to get Ray off the ‘ISCARIOT‘ in I N V A G E N T S

(YOU try getting him off the largest, most lethal, stealth-cruiser on the planet – it’s more than a five-minute mission you must realise !) …

… working on the ‘LovePower‘ album … MUCH more on this soon …
… preparing for an exhibition of original art from my archives … details soon …

… and delivering the newly customised HENDRIX Flying V to replace the one that was nicked from the HENDRIX SUITE … bastards

So … putting it mildly – it’s been pretty full-on.
Now though, at last, I have a little time to create  …


Some great stories of the band on tour and the joys of having those ‘GO ANYWHERE YOU FUCKIN’ LIKE‘ passes. I’ve SO enjoyed writing this one and with only an hour or two ’til it’s finished. I’m sure you’ll all enjoy it too. Collapsing stages, mosh-pits, tour-buses, set-building, and of course – the BAND BACKSTAGE!.

Give me a couple of days ….
As ever … &ie