lovelondonscenes – 64

Ealing Jazz festival, this afternoon.

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It’s been going for years, one of many in Walpole Park over the summer. I have great memories of family outings with friends, basking in the sun, catching a bit of music, enjoying a beer, the girls shopping for bracelets, the boys eager for a game of football and a burger.  This year the weather has treated it kindly, after a few damp ones.

There are two music tents. The main stage, in the picture above, tends to feature big band jazz, the favoured sound the be bop of the fifties and sixties, with maybe a tinge of Latin thrown in. Traditional stuff.  The second stage is more adventurous and intimate. We saw a really good band there today, called the John Crawford quintet. Latin Jazz is the easy summary, but within that there was a real variety of sounds and styles, drawing on the heritage of South America and Southern Europe. The guitarist, Guille Hill was superb. He is from Uruguay. John Crawford is the pianist and song arranger. I’ll be looking out for future gigs.

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Latitude 2014

My third Latitude. The best ever? I suspect each one will feel like that in the immediacy of the event,  but there was a sequence of bands on Sunday this year, which I suspect will be as good as it ever gets…

This year it was just three of us: me, my friend Jon and my son Kieran. We do our our own thing at times, when preferences are different, but come together for most of the key moments.

And there were so many key moments…

All the photos here are my own. As you will be able to tell by the quality. Just had my iPhone this year and it doesn’t cope with shooting into lights at a distance. But you get some interesting effects at times. Anyway, I hope they embellish the text.

The festival starts in earnest on Friday. We, like most of the all-weekenders, got there on Thursday, to pitch the tents and enjoy a relaxing evening, taking in a bit of entertainment and enjoying the various discos (if you still call them that) dotted around the place.

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We did see one band, on the Waterfront Stage, called The Irrepressibles. Cabaret? I guess so. Some very subdued songs, then some grandiose ballads with a bit of electronica, with the singer and a dancer gliding on floorboards across the lake. From a distance it would have looked like they were walking on water. The singer reminded me of Morrissey a bit. Entertaining when there was nothing else.

Friday

The best venue at Latitude is the i-Arena, sponsored by the Independent newspaper. If in doubt about what to see, just go there. Doesn’t matter if you don’t know the artists. They are almost all really good. Whoever books them really has their finger on the pulse.

So that’s where Jon and I headed for the start of proceedings at midday on Friday. And we saw two excellent performances. First a young English singer calling himself Rhodes. In that current mould of young, sensitive singer-songwriters, which seems so popular with the youth. He had a bit more edge than some because he played a distinctive electric guitar and had an impressive vocal range. The blurb in the guide likened him to Jeff Buckley, and I could see why. Worth looking out for.

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Next up Mighty Oaks. Simple categorisation would be Americana, but they had something extra about them, from a bit of hillbilly swing, to some big guitar workouts at the end.  A familiar genre, but they did it really well. Multinational: singer was American, but others were English, Italian and German. I shall definitely be checking out their music.

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The next three bands I saw were all in the BBC 6 Music tent. Hozier is an Irish singer who plays bluesy, R&B-inflected pop, with a hint of Irish folkiness too. It was good, but I didn’t get a strong enough impression, enough emotion, from it. Best thing was an interesting cover of Amerie’s “1 Thing”, a dance hit from a few years ago. Asgeir is massive in Iceland, so of course I was hoping for a bit of Sigur Ros-style expansiveness. In fact it was closer to the simpler Sigur Ros songs. So I liked it without getting too excited. Sohn is an Austrian electro wizard, with perfect English. For some reason, he was dressed like a monk. All in black, with a hood, in the heat. I liked the beats and electronic swirls. Another to follow up.

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Back to the i-Arena for Koreless, a young Welsh electro-composer. It was one for a seat on the grass, a beer and letting the soundscapes wash over you. Cue for a shot of the i-Arena, with its big new red tent. Keeps a lot more people out of the rain!

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Next up at the i-Arena was one of the highlights of the weekend: East India Youth. EIY is William Doyle from Bournemouth. He sings, plays bass and twiddles the knobs on a variety of keyboards, computers and beat boxes – all at once! It really was a virtuoso performance. It started steadily, with electronic soundscapes and pop melodies, and sped up at the end, with the last piece an awesome piece of rampant techno. Exhilarating! The performance ended on a massive high. With his black suit, shortish hair and animated style, he reminded me of a young Wilko Johnson chopping the riffs for Dr Feelgood in 1976.

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We then hopped over to one of the smaller venues, the Alcove, for a “to be confirmed” gig – always the chance of someone interesting. In fact it was a Swedish folk singer called Sumie, who’d missed an earlier show on the Lake stage.  Simple, affecting, but quite gloomy.

I then caught the excellent Cate le Bon on the Lake stage. She’s a 6 Music favourite. How to describe her music? A kind of pastoral Velvet Underground. Slightly quirky and psychedelic, but still grounded in sharp rock’n’roll beats. Those really came through live. Cate rocked out a few times. A captivating concert and really well-received.

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I stayed around the lake stage for Bondax. I’d never heard of them. My oversight. For me they were a revival of Soul II Soul and some of the early nineties pop-house music. Well, when played by the youth of today for the youth of today, they were awesome. One of the liveliest reactions I saw all weekend. Amazing to stand back a bit and just enjoy the sight of hundreds of youngsters really getting into the grooves. This is what Latitude is all about. It’s for everyone. And the energy spreads.

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The headliners on the main stage were meant to be Two Door Cinema Club. They had to pull out at short notice. Lily Allen stepped in. Mogwai were headling the 6 Music stage. Jon and I decided this was another moment for the i-Arena. Another electronic composer, this time James Holden. He had a “real” drummer. They exchanged some awesome beats. I liked it, but found it a bit relentless – I needed a little more light and shade. Jon loved it though. I thought Thom Yorke would too.

Kieran was back with us by this time and we went for a rare excursion into the Poetry tent, to see a blast from the punk past, Attila the Stockbroker. Now in his mid-fifties, he was still arguing for renationalisation without compensation, but also had some touching family stories. Kieran enjoyed it without knowing the back story. Kieran and I then wandered along to the Lavish Lounge, by the lake, having heard some funky South American beats. It turned out to be a band called the Meridian Brothers (though there women in the band) playing some psychedelic Latin grooves from Colombia. The genre is called Cumbia. It was rather good. It took place under the BBC Radio 3 Late Junction banner – a source of fascinating music from around the world.

After that, a tour round the dance venues. I settled on the Lake Stage for some familiar indie, dance and rap. Always a lot of fun. People of all ages dancing in their own way, with the real energy generated by the youngsters, of course.

Saturday

Of course at festivals you are obsessed with the weather. Will the ground turn into a quagmire? Will you you stand there in the rain watching artists on the main stage, feeling rather miserable? Friday was a lovely hot, sunny day, with thunderstorms forecast for the evening. In fact the storm didn’t arrive until about 4am, Saturday. The night was lit up by lightning and the rain lashed down. You could sense it in your tent. Luckily, the time of day meant the ground wasn’t churned up.

More of the same was predicted for Saturday. We were lucky again for most of the day, until Damon Albarn’s encore…

We started in the i-Arena again, with a band called Vaults. They played a sophisticated mix of pop and electronica, with violins in support and a woman, whose name I still don’t know, dressed in a flamboyant red dress, singing with soul. It started a bit like Kate Bush (sorry, obvious comparison) but ended up a bit like London Grammar, with a dash of House. It was impressive. Vaults ought to be successful.

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We stayed for another band at the i-Arena, called Teen. After the name of the singer, not the age of the band. Four American women singing a quirky kind of pop, which wasn’t what the blurb suggested at all. That was an ethereal folkiness. Anyway, it wasn’t that good. We didn’t hang around too long. A rare no-no for the i-Arena.

After grabbing a bit of lunch, we went up to the main stage for Tinariwen. The desert blues in the middle of a Suffolk park. It’s a good sound and one I’ve loved in the form, especially, of Ali Farka Toure. After that, I headed back to the i-Arena with Kieran, to see Marika Hackman. Sounds German, but she was definitely English. The blurb made her sound a lot more adventurous than her live sound was, but it was still pretty good. She could appeal to that current liking for singer-songwriters. She played a decent guitar too.  Kieran gave her the thumbs up. He knows better than me.

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I stayed on for The Acid at the i-Arena. Fronted by Ry X, who did a solo slot (which I missed) later in the day. They are Australian. The sound is electronic and reminded me of the way Atoms for Peace and Radiohead are playing live. Hard electro beats, overlaid by haunting melodies. At one point I was thinking: Depeche Mode veering into techno. It was really good. Ry X sings beautifully and played some searing guitar. This was one of the best things I saw all weekend. Exhilarating, especially as it was all so new to me.

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My plan was then to head back to the 6 Music tent for some eighties soul nostalgia with Hall and Oates.  On the way though, I planned to stop and catch a bit of a band called The Bohicas, who sounded like a good rock’n’roll act. Good? Brilliant! Dr Feelgood meets punk and a bit of hard rock. Straight down the line rocking. Irresistible. First time I’ve seen proper moshing by the Lake Stage – not just kids but middle aged men… and women! (Family and friends? Maybe, who knows). Needless to say, I couldn’t leave after ten minutes. Stayed for the lot.

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Hall and Oates were good though. The 6 Music tent was packed and so hot! I caught “Sara Smile”, ” I Can’t Go For That” and “Rich Girl”, so I was happy. Super-slick.

Jon and I met a friend of his and sat at one of the tables in the open area for a beer or two. We met a guy who was about the same age as us and had charge of four fifteen year old girls. Except he had no idea were they were! One of the few faults of Latitude is that it’s hard to get a decent signal on your phone. The good thing is that it is such a friendly, safe place, you don’t have to worry if you have kids there. While we were sitting there, a duo called Slaves were bashing out some serious noise on the Lake Stage. Guitar and drums again. Fearsome.

I left Jon then and wandered up to the main stage to see Swedish folky sisters, First Aid Kit. They were good, but I couldn’t help thinking of Abba! Not fair, I know. They did a couple of interesting covers: Simon and Garfunkel’s “America” and Bob Dylan’s “One More Cup Of coffee”. Good stuff. With Kieran I then checked out James Vincent McMurrow in the 6 Music tent. I wasn’t overwhelmed, but could hear Bon Iver with beats. He did a good version of Steve Winwood’s “Higher Love” at the end. One of his top songs, Kieran tells me.

That took us to Bombay Bicycle Club. One of Kieran’s favourites. I remember buying a few of their early tracks, on an EP called “The Boy I Used To Be”. I particularly liked “Sixteen” and “The Hill”. They took me back to a band called the Feelies in the seventies. They’ve moved on from there, and have made some really good indie pop. There’s a bit of Vampire Weekend in there, but really, it’s their own sound. The show was excellent, the best thing I saw on the Obelisk stage all weekend. The reception for them was huge.

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Then, before Damon Albarn started on the main stage, we hopped back to the Lake Stage, where Catfish and the Bottlemen were ripping up the place with their indie anthems. Jon was somewhere up front – we couldn’t find him. He saw them at The Alcove last year, and we saw them at the Borderline in London recently. (I blogged on it if you are interested). Frontman Van McCann was as engaging as ever. They have a debut album out in September. It must be a big hit.

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I had doubts about Damon Albarn as the headliner on Saturday. What if he just played all his new stuff? Some if it is pretty subdued. No need to worry. He was superb. The main set was indeed recent vintage, but there was a real energy and passion about it. And towards the end of the main set (headliners get encores, unlike anyone else) we got excellent versions of Blur’s “Out Of Time” and ” End Of The Century”. As the set neared its end the clouds began to rumble. As the encore began, horizontal cracks of forked lightning lit up the sky, to gasps from the crowd every time. It’s fair to say it was a bit of a distraction. And the rain began to fall. The encores included “Tender” (with Graham Coxon guesting) and “Feelgood Inc” from Gorillaz days. Great stuff, though the lightning took equal billing.

The rain just didn’t stop after that. Down at the Lake Stage, it made no difference to the dancers. They weren’t wearing much so there wasn’t much to get wet. I watched for a while and felt some paternal concern for all these kids getting nasty chills by the end of the night. But they all seemed to be enjoying it. In the woods, the evening was seriously dampened. The actual In The Woods disco was wiped out. The music played on, but at one time it looked like there were only 30-40 stragglers. The i-Arena was the place to be, as it’s under a roof and bigger than before. It was packed to the rafters. But the music, when I was there, was a bit monotonous. The DJs there are specialist and no doubt reluctant to diverge from their planned patterns to accommodate a larger audience. Still, people seemed happy enough. On to another day.

Sunday

I think this may go down as the greatest day of music I’ve experienced.  All will become clear.

It was also a day for the wellies, after the mayhem overnight, this time with people walking over the sodden ground and churning it up.

First up, at noon, were those old indie stars, James. They had been scheduled for mid-evening on the Obelisk on Saturday, but flight delays had led them to postpone. The place was packed. The band were slick, tuneful, with lots of rousing choruses. Their new stuff was greeted enthusiastically – there were some great hooks. And when they did songs like “Come Home” and “Getting Away With It” the reception was rapturous. Singer Tim Booth was wearing what looked like a black skirt, or very wide trousers. Now bald, he looked a bit like Michael Stipe of REM. He was witty and relaxed. Surprisingly they didn’t do “Sit Down”. I thought I’d missed it, being slightly late for the start, but no. And no matter. It was a really positive start to the day.

Jon and I went up to the Obelisk to catch a bit of the William Onyeabour’s African music show. To be honest it didn’t really hit the button. A bit unfocused. Exhorting people to party at 1pm on a Sunday was always going to be a challenge.

Then it was down to the i-Arena for Nils Frahm. A real favourite of 6 Music DJ Mary Anne Hobbs, in whose judgement we trust. And she was so right this time. One of the moments of this year’s Latitude. A wash of beautiful, hypnotic electronica, embellished by some lovely piano. Looped phrases and rhythms. Maybe Philip Glass is an inspiration. Nils himself was a really nice guy – personable, humble, witty. It was a truly uplifting set, in the woods. Its natural location.

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After Nils Frahm, we joined Kieran for new sensation, George Ezra. Another sensitive singer-songwriter. He did well at Glastonbury, and that rolled over to Latitude. The 6 Music tent was overflowing. Maybe the busiest of the whole weekend. I can see the attraction without getting too excited about it. But the youngsters spoke – George Ezra matters. I’ll go along with that.

We caught a bit of the Jayhawks on the Obelisk stage. I like the band a lot – they’ve made two of my favourite American songs – “Bad Time” and “Miss Williams’ Guitar”, both off their album, ‘Tomorrow The Green Grass”. But they just aren’t well-known enough for the main stage, and the crowd was the smallest I’ve seen for the arena.

But then it was time for a sequence of music made in heaven. Parquet Courts-Eagulls-Fat White Family-Augustines-War On Drugs. It wasn’t possible to see all of each band as they  overlapped and were on the 6 Music stage and the i-Arena, but it was possible to catch most of it.

Parquet Courts are my discovery of 2014. First the 2013 album “Light Up Gold”, then the follow up, “Sunbathing Animal”. “Light Up Gold” is the best New York new wave album I’ve heard since the Strokes’ first. And “Sunbathing Animal” has been growing on me with each listen. I was so looking forward to this concert. And it didn’t disappoint, from the opening “Ducking & Dodging”, with the sharpest riffs ever, to the double treat of “Master of My Craft” and “Borrowed Time’, to the awesomely fast “Sunbathing Animal”, which closed the set. I got quite near the front and felt so excited as they thrashed out all my favourites – except “Stoned and Starving”, but I guess that was too long for this truncated set. Magnificently contrary. True New York rock’n’roll.

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Then it was a rush down to the i-Arena to catch the last couple of songs from up and coming gothic punks, Eagulls. They make a wall of sound. It sounds to me like Joy Division gone metal. Jon saw them from the start and said they played one song twice in a short set, but were brilliant. Time to develop.

Er, then the Fat White Family. What an amazing lot! I knew I had to see some of them, even though it meant missing some of Augustines. The music is punk, blues, psychedelia, Stooges, rock’n’roll. On record it doesn’t always sound that great, but live they are awesomely bonkers. I left before singer Lias Sauodi took off his trousers. But I got the gist.

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I had to leave the Fat White Family early, because I had to see Augustines. They are spectacular live, and were completely brilliant on the i-Arena stage two years ago. I’ve written plenty about them on this blog in the past. So I simply say they were as magnificent as ever.

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And then the highlight. The War On Drugs. I’ve been listening to the album “Lost In The Dream” so much. Totally in love with it. Aching melodies and spaced out guitars.  To see Adam Granduciel and the band close up playing so many of the great songs was not just awesome, but truly moving. As they played the magnificent “Under The Pressure” I felt like time was standing still. So lost in the moment. Adam’s guitar playing was incredible. At one point I thought, it’s like having the “Freebird” solos in nearly every song! And that is a compliment. When the show ended and Jon and I walked out to find Kieran, who’d watched from further back, I felt tongue-tied. If I’d tried to describe how good I thought it was, I think the tears would have flowed. When music is beyond speech…

Will War On Drugs conquer the world? I don’t know. I can’t see them writing for the stadium, like Kings of Leon did. Adam may just settle for Neil Young-style authenticity. But he may just become so good that no-one who loves rock’n’roll can resist.

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After that, there was a feeling of, what do we do next?  But we stayed on in the 6 Music tent, ceding the front to the youth this time, to watch Clean Bandit. The dance-meets- classical-violins combo. Hugely popular and brilliant live. The place was again packed and there were celebrations for just about every song. The dance beats were authentic and varied. A superb show. I couldn’t get a decent photo, through the combination of people’s heads and the flashing lights. But with Bombay Bicycle Club, it was the pop highlight. Which means that for many, it was the best of all.

Neither Jon nor I were all that bothered about the Black Keys, who were headlining the main stage, so we wandered down separately – having gone for food – to the i-Arena, for a final show. Julia Holter. Took us most of the show, despite the fact that the arena was only a third full, to spot each other!

It was a perfect end to the weekend’s music. On the basis that you never know what the i-Arena holds, this was one of the most leftfield performances. Haunting vocals that seemed to echo through the space left by the small crowd. The dark night sky, the silhouettes of the trees. An accomplished band playing avant-garde snatches of sound. A violinist who echoed John Cale in his best Velvet Underground moments. A saxophonist who explored the limits of his instrument. Backed by a rhythm of cello and drum. The songs were jazzy, quirky, soulful. A bit hard to pin down. But perfect for the moment. The close.

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But of course, once the main shows stop, the music doesn’t end. Jon and I went over to the Lavish Lounge and watched an Italian drum and electro duo called Satellitti in the Late Junction slot. The music was harsher than I’d expected, but was another example of the the surprises you get at Latitude. Then we went back to meet Kieran by the Lake Stage. Funk and soul was the theme for a while. Not the kids’ music, but they were going for it. Jon parted company with me and Kieran at about 12.30 and we went into the woods. After a while we settled on a reggae party, with music courtesy of DJ Don Letts, who used to play reggae to the punks in the seventies. The music was brilliant. The rhythms had everyone skanking. We broke off at 2am to check MJ Cole DJ’ing at the i-Arena. It was good! Kieran decided to stay and disappeared into the throng. I went back to Don Letts and stayed until it finished at 3. The last moment at Latitude. You know when you leave and walk through those gates that’s it for another year. I left it as long as possible.

There was a lovely moment around 2.30 when Bob Marley’s “Is This Love” came on and everyone was singing. In the woods, the night air, beer in hand, is this love that I’m feeling?

Latitude…

This is love that I’m feeling! 

 

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Neil Young, The National and others at Hyde Park, 12 July 2014

Hyde Park, bang in the middle of London, has been playing host to an increasing number of concerts in the summer. It’s a great venue because it is such a big park and can cope with the intrusion. And there are loads of tube stations nearby, to get home from.

I went to the Neil Young show this Saturday. We were lucky with the weather. The sun shone for most of the day, although there was a burst of rain for about 15 minutes around 7.30.

On the main stage we had Half Moon Run from Canada, Tom Odell, The National and NY with his old muckers, Crazy Horse. The second stage, a rather nice enclosed area, had the likes of Caitlin Rose and headliners, Midlake. But because it was enclosed, people couldn’t enjoy it from outside. So there were queues to get in. There were a couple of other open air stages with up and coming bands.

My friend Jon and I started with Half Moon Run. Really liked them. It was Americana, but with a sharper edge. Inevitably I heard War On Drugs in them, because they are my new favourite band. But also, the chiming guitars reminded me of Radiohead’s “In Rainbows”. And there s nothing better than that. I’ve since downloaded their 2012 album, “Dark Eyes”. It’s very good.

Tom Odell was OK. I liked a few of his ballads. But the rockier ones didn’t do much for me. I felt his strength was pop rather than rock, if you know what I mean.

We then went over to the Barclaycard Theatre (not exactly a rockin’ rebel name) for Caitlin Rose. Really enjoyed her set. Good country rocking. She spoke really fast – nerves or just her style? But she sang beautifully. I’ve enjoyed her album, “The Stand In” recently. She is worth checking out.

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Then it was back to the main stage for The National. They are a band I know I should like, but for some reason I’ve never really got around to listening to them until recently.  In the last couple of weeks I downloaded all the albums and gave myself a crash course. I liked what I heard, but also acknowledged that it was music that doesn’t always jump out at you straightaway. Singer Matt Berninger sings deep and it takes a while to get the nuances. So I was still on the learning curve as I watched them on Saturday. I liked the sound, didn’t get all those nuances, so felt I was almost there, but not quite. Some of the backdrops were extraordinary. The show made me want to listen more, which I’ve been doing since, discovering great songs like “Pink Rabbits” from latest album, “Trouble Will Find Me”.

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After The National, we went over to see if we could see Midlake, but the queues were too big. So we wandered over to one of the smaller stages and saw a bit of James Bay. In keeping with the event, he was playing Americana, but he is English, from Hitchin, I think. I really liked his sound and will be checking what he has on record.

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And so on to Neil Young. He and Crazy Horse make an awesome sound, but also quite a monotone one. I tend to dip in and out of Neil’s sound, which gets a bit gloomy if you you listen to it too much. I know my good friend Paul will be appalled when I say this, but I got a bit bored on the night. I loved the guitar sound, but the musical backdrop is just a bit clunky when you listen to it for two hours. And I didn’t get “Cortez The Killer” or “Like A Hurricane” to send me home home really happy. There was a moment, half way through, when he played “Blowing In The Wind” by Bob Dylan. It got a great reaction. Better than most of his own songs. But he didn’t play many of the ones that would have got the same reaction, though in fairness he followed “Blowing In The Wind” with “Heart Of Gold”.

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It was a concert for the Neil Young aficionados. I couldn’t escape the feeling, watching the big screen, that Neil and his mates needed to tidy up their hair and clothes a bit.  Yeah, OK, I know its all authentic, but Bruce Springsteen  and the Stones show how ageing stars can really really put on a show.

So, I left, with my respect for Neil Young as high as ever, but thinking, could do better.

It was a great day though. Some excellent music. A good vibe everywhere. Sun shining. Easy to get a beer (albeit at £5.50 a pint). And a decent ostrich burger too!

 

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Sportsthoughts (115) – Germany win the World Cup!

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Well, after England went out – so early, it seems like another age – I adopted Germany as my team, although I thought Brazil might do it, with home advantage, Neymar and all that.

So last night I was feeling remarkably close to how I would feel if England were in the final. Why? I just think the Germans are playing fantastic, joyous and admirable football at the moment. At club and national level.

No antagonism towards Argentina. With Messi, Aguero, De Michelis, Zabaleta, Mascherano, I liked them too. A brilliant display by Messi could have lit up the whole tournament.

But it was not to be.

I thought the first half was a good game with open football and chances for both sides. The best fell to Argentina’s Higuain – and he put it wide. Aaah, such a missed opportunity! The second half was more attritional and nervous, and so we went to extra time. Throughout the game, Germany had the better possession, marshalled by the imperious Schweinsteiger, but Argentina had chances. In extra time, Palacio just didn’t have the legs (despite being a sub) to get on the end of a simple chance. And so we moved on to the decisive moment. A break down the left by Schurrle, a good cross, and then Goetze, on as sub, controlling the ball superbly with his chest and volleying in from an acute angle. Awesome technique. A goal absolutely deserving to win a World Cup final.

Germany 1 Argentina 0.

No doubt that the best team won the World Cup. Germany have been threatening this for a while. They are a team with barely a weakness. A team. I really like the way Thomas Muller plays, in midfield or upfront, searching for space, the Raumdeuter. Schweinsteiger, Khedira (injured at the last moment last night), Kroos and Ozil are a superb, flexible midfield/attack, with Muller. Philip Lahm is the best right back in the world. And Manuel Neuer must be the best goalkeeper. Hummels and Boateng are as good as any centre back pairing and Hoewedes does a solid job at left back. Klose at centre forward was a weakness, but gave the team shape and did break the all-time World Cup goal scoring record.

For Argentina, the story is inevitably about Messi. He won the Golden Ball award for best player of the tournament. Absurd. He looked embarrassed when he got it. He played well enough until the later stages, but he didn’t make a difference. James Rodriguez, for Colombia, did until the quarter finals. He won the Golden Boot, with six goals. But he didn’t take Colombia past Brazil in the quarters, so can’t be the best of the tournament. For me that has to be one from Schweinsteiger, Lahm, Kroos, Neuer or Muller. Robben of Holland in with a shout, but for me it would have to be a German. Muller would be my choice. Five goals and always in the play. Phenomenal effort throughout.

What will we remember from this World Cup?

First, the glory of Brazil. The scenery, the stadiums, the crowds, the beaches, the love of football. Magnificent.

And inspired by all of that, it was a tournament of good attacking football, until the nerves of the later stages took over. With one exception of course…

That result. Brazil 1 Germany 7. It will be the one thing that is remembered about this World Cup. The most traumatic event in Brazilian football history. How will they react?

We had the Suarez biting incident too. But that has been forgotten, largely, through the brilliance of so much of the football. Suarez was in denial for a few days then confessed and apologised when he needed to do so to get his transfer to Barcelona. Cynical.

What about England? Remember them? A team in transition, they didn’t do that badly. They could have beaten Uruguay, but squandered chances. Likewise Costa Rica. I don’t think we should be too hard on them. Let’s see how the Euros go. Some promising young players. They should be asking now, how can we learn from Germany?

So life moves on. Another month and the Premier League starts again. Very few players from our league, English or foreign, shone in this World Cup. Time for some humility?

Not much chance of that!

 

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Sportsthoughts (114) – World cup reflections, day 26

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(Photo courtesy of a Mark Chapman tweet).

Well….

As the late and great sports commentator, David Coleman, would have said: quite remarkable!

The most devastating result in World Cup history? How will Brazilian football recover from this?

Those of us who follow Arsenal will recognise that first half. First goal goes in: fear. Second soon after: panic. Third: collapse. All the basics of defending, the organisation, running back, covering, tackling, go out of the window. The ascendant team are sharp, fast, keep the ball and start passing it into the net. They look surprised at how easy it is. Liverpool, Chelsea… Germany.

The Germans scored four goals in six minutes. They were brilliant, incisive, ruthless. But Brazil were shambolic. Did the defence really depend that much on suspended Thiago Silva? Well, it seems so. Could the team cope at all with the loss of Neymar? Clearly not. Fred and Hulk were as cumbersome as ever. Oscar looked as lost as the day I saw him marooned in Griffin Park, Brentford, as Chelsea stumbled to an FA Cup draw against the Bees on a freezing January afternoon. Suddenly this Brazil team looked truly second rate. So much for my forecast.

Germany were awesome. Strong, organised, precise, hard-working, clinical. When Brazil imploded they took ruthless advantage. Muller, Kroos, Khedira, Schweinsteiger, Ozil. All stepping up, in total control of midfield, where the game is won or lost. Klose’s goal making him top World Cup goalscorer of all time. The defence unbreakable.

In the second half, Brazil had an attacking spell, as Germany inevitably relaxed. Neuer, in goal, was imperious, blocking everything Brazil had to throw at him. He – and the defence – looked absolutely gutted when they let Oscar score right at the end. True winners.

The Brazilian crowd booed that goal. They were cheering Germany’s passing by the end. They had disowned their own side, their country. I shudder to think of the repercussions in a country were football is everything. Where they have never experienced a defeat like this. It may begin simply with shock, and sadness. (I’m sad myself to see Brazil so humbled). Then it will turn to anger. And then maybe realisation of what needs to change. But what is that something? Almost all of Brazil’s top players leave the country to play in Europe, where the riches are. Most of Germany’s players play in Germany still. As do the Spanish – let us not forget their recent dominance. Is it still possible to play the Brazilian way when hardly any of the team play in Brazil?

Questions, questions…

Germany now must be big favourites to win the World Cup. Except… maybe another team will emerge from the second semi looking as strong. Holland will always give Germany a good game. And Argentina still have the magic of Messi.

Onwards!

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lovelondonscenes – 63 – Le Tour a Londres

I popped down to Westminster this afternoon to catch the Tour. It was due at 3.40, arrived well past 4. And being July in England, a light rain fell on us for much of the time, as we waited. But it was good to be there.

Here are a few photos. As the peleton arrived it was just a question of pressing the photo button again and again and seeing what turned up. The cyclists absolutely flashed by. No way you could say, there’s Sagan, or Froome, or Contador. Half of the photos were the back of people’s heads. So there’s a lot of cropping here, which has slightly altered the focus. Still, you get the impression…

While we waited.

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The race.

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After work, I walked up to Green Park to catch the tube home. I wanted to see the Fan Park. It looked like it might have been fun in the afternoon. I liked this shot on the Mall though. Norbert Dentressangle is clearly a big man for the Tour as it moves from stage to stage. Here with the Union flag.

France and Britain – we love each other really!

 

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Jack White and the Amazing Snakeheads, Hammersmith Apollo, 3 July 2014

Jack White, fresh from a successful appearance at Glastonbury, played the Hammersmith Apollo on 3 July. I was offered a ticket at the last minute after he’d changed the date of the concert, which meant someone else couldn’t go. So glad I took it!

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Jack was supported by the Amazing Snakeheads. Great name – you just know they are going to be hard and heavy and bluesy. They are from Scotland. I’d heard a few tracks on BBC 6 Music and thought they sounded pretty good. I checked their album, “Amphetamine Ballads” and wasn’t so sure I could take the whole thing. It was a mid-tempo noise that wore off after a while. Live was similar, except there was an electricity to the sound. And it had attracted a lot of people. Normally the support slot at concerts isn’t that well attended. The Apollo stalls were 90% full for the Amazing Snakeheads. It felt like something serious was happening. Singer/guitarist Dale Barclay and the drummer were both shirtless. That’s always serious. This was hard edged rock’n’roll. A bit of Iggy and the Stooges. A bit of the John Spencer Blues Explosion. Intense.

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As a 55 year old I can’t help making those references to other bands. And my verdict on the Snakeheads was: good, but a bit one-paced. But in the seething masses at the front I bet there were kids who thought this was the best, hardest, rawest thing they’d ever seen. The future. The same reaction as my generation had to the Pistols and the Clash. That’s the great thing about rock’n’roll. Always re-ineventing itself, always inspiring new generations.

Jack White was a look backwards and to the present. He’s got a new album out, “Lazzaretto”. He’s done all sorts of things over the past few years, but his finest moments were in the White Stripes. That’s where the blues power of his music met metal and made some of the most extraordinary music of the 2000s. The Apollo concert covered most of the bases of his recent years and I can’t say I recognised all of the songs. But, in a way, it didn’t matter what he was playing. It was just a wild, improvisational, hard-rocking, essence of the blues set. Raw power. I liked ‘Icky Thump”, “Hotel Yorba” and “Ball and Biscuit” because I knew them. But the whole thing was awesome. His band, with thumping drums and scything violins, complemented the wildness of his guitar.

It was an eruption of the blues. True heavy metal.

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And it ended with a fantastic rendition of “Seven Nation Army”. The crowd went wild and did most of the singing. Visceral.

Yeah, Jack White has captured the essence of rock’n’roll, the electric, metal blues. Amazing Snakeheads are in a similar space.  Jimi Hendrix would be proud of both of them…

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