Chania, Crete – by the sea

My family and I just spent a week in Crete, just outside the city of Chania. A lazy week, basking in temperatures of over 30 degrees. We managed a few trips into Chania, Crete’s second city these days. The old town is a lovely place, centred on its picturesque harbour. The architecture reflects the variety of rulers that the city has had over the centuries, with the Venetian style still strongly evident.

Chania has been settled since neolithic times, and was known as Kydonia during the Minoan era. (Muse fans take note!). It was part of the classical Greek empire and was conquered by the Romans in 69BC and was granted independent city status. It eventually became part of the Byzantine empire in 395AD and remained so, apart from 140 years of Arab rule between 824 and 961, until 1204. Then the 4th Crusade from the West intervened. The Crusaders donated Kydonia to the Marquess of Montferrat who sold it on to the Venetians! They hung around (with a brief Genoan interlude) until the Ottomans conquered what was by now called Chania in 1645. It had been a place of refuge for priests, monks and artists from Constantinople after that fell to the Ottomans in 1453. There was resistance to the Ottomans (as there had been to the Venetians) and all-out war between Christians and Muslims in the 19th century. Eventually Crete became fully part of Greece, and the remaining Muslims left for Turkey after the First World War. There was, of course, a period of German occupation during the Second World War, with disastrous consequences for Chania’s Jewish population. Chania remained the capital of Crete all this time, until 1971, when Heraklion took over.

Well, if you are bang in the middle of the Mediterranean, strategically placed for Greece, Turkey, Italy, the Middle East and Africa, you are going to attract a lot of attention! The Americans still have a naval base on Souda Bay, near Chania.

Anyway, history lesson over, here are a few photos of Chania at its best – by the sea.

The old mosque is now an art gallery.

The lighthouse stands at the end of a long pier, which gives the bay protection from the strongest of the waves.

A view of the other side of the pier.

The old Venetian arsenal.

The tower belongs to the cathedral.

Crete is a land of mountains away from the coast.

Sunset over the Kasteli.

 

 

 

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Latitude 2017

My Latitude No 6. No 12 for the festival. An annual fixture now, for me and my friend Jon G and various members of our families and their friends. Not our wives though! The thought of four nights and days roughing it doesn’t appeal. This year we were twelve, including Jon’s friends Rick and Adrienne and their daughter. Pitched tents in same place, next to the same people as last year – a couple in their late sixties, still loving their music. Setting the benchmark!

The great thing about Latitude – and any festival really – as that you know some of the best moments will come from bands and people you’ve never heard of beforehand. And so it was this year, if not more so than usual. That was because, for me, the headliners, especially on the main, Obelisk, stage, were a bit underwhelming: The 1975, Mumford and Sons and Fleet Foxes. Don’t dislike any of them, but, y’know. I also thought, glancing through the line up, that it was a bit lacking in rock’n’roll. Wrong again!

So here is my Latitude – very different to anyone else’s Latitude. Not better, just different. That’s the beauty of it – there are so many different Latitudes.

Thursday 13 July

We were up there by mid-afternoon. Time to chill and catch up with people. There’s a fairly limited bill on Thursday evening, but I caught a few interesting things in the new Speakeasy tent – a merger of the literary and poetry tents. Economic reasons? A shame, as it cuts the numbers of artists and events. The poetry tent was replaced by a Carlsberg “Danish Bar”.  Carlsberg has ousted Tuborg as the monopoly provider of lager. It’s not the greatest, but it does the trick.

The poet John Osborne was telling wistful tales from his show Circled in the Radio Times, based on a collection of old copies of the Radio Times belonging to his late grandad. For those not of a certain age, the Radio Times was a TV and radio listings magazine published weekly by the BBC. John’s grandad used to circle the programmes he wanted to watch. That, and reflections on days gone by were the source material for an engaging show. John was selling his new book of poems too – No-one Cares About Your New Thing, more engaging and sometimes bizarre takes on ordinary life. I loved his last book, People Aren’t That Happy, Anyway, which I bought after seeing him perform in the poetry tent in 2015. Gave me a few ideas of my own… watch this space.

Next was a high energy poetry collective called Bang Said the Gun. They announced themselves to the sounds of 60s soul, balloons and plastic bottles with stones inside them for the audience to shake and rattle. The purists would blanche, but it was all good fun – and the poetry wasn’t bad either. My favourite was a tall, bearded, drole Yorkshireman called Rob Orton. Musing on how you get meat in heaven if nothing is killed. Very amusing.

Finally, the most listened-to podcast in the UK, apparently, My Dad Wrote a Porno. Basically one guy reads from an excruciatingly bad chapter of the imagined book ( I hope it’s imagined!), while two others constantly comment. It was very funny, including when two women came up from the audience to help recreate a scene. Nothing too outre, but a hoot.

Later there was a Prince tribute, Marcus Brigstocke presents Princefest – just people getting on stage to mime to Prince songs. But it was a reminder of the greatness of those songs.

Friday 14 July

First dilemma of the day: bacon bap or foot long hot dog for breakfast; second dilemma: Julia Jacklin on the BBC Music Stage or Pumarosa on the Obelisk. Had to be Julia, even though I’ve seen her three times since Glastonbury, or four if you count watching her Glastonbury show on the iPlayer.

She played the same set as at Field Day and Glasto, but I felt it was the best yet. Being under the roof gave atmosphere, Julia was in great voice and there was a real power to the set. Helped, no doubt, by the excellent sound in the BBC Music tent. Hay Plain was a strong start and new song Cold Caller had a great guitar splurge at the end. Of course Motherland and Don’t let the Kids Win were things of great beauty. The closing duo of Coming of Age and Pool Party rocked, with a searing solo from lead guitarist Eddie. Julia has been doing the festival rounds and it showed. This set was honed to perfection. Buy her album, Don’t let the Kids Win!

Stayed on in the BBC Music Stage for Formation, recommended by Jon’s son Louis. With the band all in black, I was reminded of the Horrors, with more of a dance beat. I was getting The Rapture too. Good references. A band whose music I’ll be checking out.

It was then down to the venue for new bands, the Alcove, for a folk/country singer called Catherine McGrath. I liked what they said about her in the blurb, including the Kacey Musgraves influence. She’s from Northern Ireland, has been to Nashville, and plays and sings beautifully. Songs mostly of lost love, but with a realism and an edge. Really liked her show. An absolute shoo-in for the follow up.

Back to the BBC Music stage for Japanese House, a London band fronted by Amber Bain. Not sure what the Japan connection is – probably just liked the name. The material is singer-song writer style, embellished by electric guitars and a good beat. Amber played a Fender Mustang left-handed. I was reminded a bit of Shura and even Daughter. The kids thought the XX. And that is a massive recommendation from them. One to watch.

The place that rocked the most over the three days was the Lake Stage, the one that opens onto the main area  for eating and drinking, lying down, etc. The first taste of punk and rock’n’roll energy was Superglu (sic). They are from Manningtree in Essex, apparently the smallest town in England (how do you decide?). Nothing new, but loads of Clash and a touch of Green Day. They got a good reaction. And some Jeremy Corbyn chants! Saw them again in the early hours of Sunday morning. Read on…

I then popped over for my first visit to my favourite stage, the Sunrise Arena, to see Sigrid, a Norwegian singer that the Guardian had given a good write up a while back. To my surprise the place was completely packed, mostly with youngsters. I was expecting a bit of Scandi-folk; instead it was a classic concoction of eurodisco pop with those rising choruses. It was greeted ecstatically. Not really my thing though, so after a few tunes I headed back to BBC Music for another Scandinavian band, The Radio Dept.

But I didn’t get there, because as I walked past the Lake Stage I caught Dead Pretties. More punk thrash with a hint of blues. Think White Stripes or Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. A London/Manchester band. Guitarist and singer Jacob Slater, worked himself into a real frenzy. Pure energy. Loved it! He even referenced Tom Waits in a Romeo is Bleeding monologue which introduced one song. Quite a bit going on in this music.

Back to the Sunrise for Marika Hackman. I like her music. She’s rocked up a bit since she was on the same stage in 2015 (check). Essentially Americana, and nothing wrong with a good bit of that.

Back at the BBC Music stage, Beth Orton drifted by. She made an iconic album in 1996, called Trailer Park, which got associated with triphop and Britpop. The song I remember best is She Calls Your Name. I still have that one on my chillout playlist. She didn’t play it – as far as I can remember. Strangely I can’t remember much about the set, and didn’t scribbled many notes. I can only conclude I was tired (early evening lull) or bored, or both.

But blimey, I woke up for the next show! Shame, on the Lake Stage. I knew a bit about them having almost reviewed them once, for an indie website I briefly wrote for. I knew they followed a bit in the footsteps of Fat White Family – wild, lary, noisy. Well they did! They were awesome. Singer Charlie Steen, who came on in a suit (sort of), most of which was eventually discarded, had a real presence. London wide boy, a bit sinister, possibly a football hooligan. He egged the crowd on and spent a fair bit of time in it. In the meantime, the rest of band, who looked quite ordinary, went pretty crazy on the guitars as they thrashed out some punk and rock’n’roll noise. Put a smile on my face!

Back to BBC Music again, for The Head and the Heart. My son Kieran recommended this one. Likeable Americana. Wrote in my notebook at one point, basically, the Eagles. Updated of course, but in a fine and mellow tradition. I hated the Eagles in the 70s, when I was into metal and then punk, but grew to appreciate their tunes later on. And so I liked The Head and the Heart too.

I went into bitty mode for a while after this. First a few songs from Lizabett Russo on the BBC Introducing stage, which is in the same place as the Lavish Lounge, a good place In the Woods to chill. She’s a Scottish/Romanian jazzy folkie. I thought that sounded interesting, and decided to skip the raucous show of HMLTD, whom I saw at Field Day. Jon had to go to see them again – they are undoubtedly entertainers. Anyway, Lizabett wasn’t quite right for me, so I wondered down to the Sunrise, having heard some hugely reverberating basslines coming from there. Always like a reverberating bassline! It was Forest Swords, the vehicle of a Merseyside producer, Matthew Barnes. He was playing an electronic wash of music, while a bassist pumped out ribcage-rattling rhythms. A screen portrayed forest images. It was an intriguing mix. I watched for about 15 muntes, but then had to dash off to the Alcove to see Norwegian pop punks, Slotface. Except I needn’t have, as they were only just setting up when I got there. This was another Guardian recommendation from a while back. I liked their style when I checked their videos. They were good, and I wish I’d had time to see the whole set. But I had to get back to the Lake Stage in time for the start of Cabbage, headlining that stage on Friday, in case they started with my favourite track “Dissonance”. (They didn’t).

 

A rapid ascent for Cabbage this year – a reward for their barnstorming shows. I reviewed one at the Lexington earlier this year, in which I predicted great things, because I thought they had that swagger. I’ve listened to the album since then, and two or three tracks aside, it didn’t really grab me. But they still had the swagger on the Lake Stage. A rocking show, with much moshing at the front. Shame, HMLTD, Cabbage in succession. The moshers had a field day at the Lake Stage on Friday.

It was time for The 1975, headlining the Obelisk. They are a good band, though I’ve never really given them a good listen. I went along with Jon and a few of the others, who wanted to go deep into a packed crowd to find a few of the other others. I held back after a while, as I wanted to make an escape at 10pm or so, to go down to the Sunrise. 1975 were good, and massively popular. The lead singer, Matty Healey, has real style and the tunes often have a Prince-like sheen to them, to my ears. The lighting and backdrop was striking.

So I wouldn’t have minded staying, but I fancied seeing BEAK>. We missed them at End of the Road last year. They are a trio which includes Geoff Barrow of Portishead. The Sunrise was atmospheric in the dark, with all the focus on these three players – one on guitar and synth, bassist seated and drummer. No great stage presence, but the music made up for that. A strident bass – more reverberation – tight rhythms and some early seventies psychedelic guitar and synths. I was thinking Hawkwind and pre- “Dark Side of the Moon” Pink Floyd, for some reason. It was captivating. Jazz, electro, dub – it was all in there somewhere. Glad I came.

And that was the end of the normal concert schedule. But not the end of the evening by any means. I wanted to get back to the main site, but both bridges were jammed with people either coming over to In the Woods or leaving, so I tried the Lavish Lounge, where reggae DJ Don Letts was due on at 11.30. The BBC Introducing stage was still going – a band called Solomons Garden. R&B, urban, two female rappers. Liked them and watched a bit, before going for a wander around Latitude in the early hours. Past the main dance arena, now sponsored by Smirnoff, with the usual big crowd getting on down. Descending to Sunrise, where there was some banging techno. Not tonight. Back over the bridge to stop by the dancing by the Lake Stage. Supposedly DJ Huw Stephens, though two women were DJ’ing as I went by. I went uphill then to see what was happening in the Music and Film, and Comedy arenas. In the first,  I came across the Electric Swing Circus, a six piece band playing swanky swing and a bit of the music that became rock’n’roll. A classy step back in time, with loads of people jiving to the rhythms. Great fun. In the Comedy arena, the Guilty Pleasures disco was in full swing. Always a popular event, it was heaving. It’s moved beyond just the uncoolest hits which everyone loves really, to a celebration of mostly 70s and 80s classic. And if nothing else grabs your fancy, this cannot fail! Even our young posse – ages ranging from 17 to 23 – spent quite a lot of time there later on. It’s irresistible.

Further along, towards the Faraway Forest, there was a mini-techno dance happening, and just down the hill, Bar 3AM, in full flow, with its own dancetrack. Music everywhere! I didn’t bother with the Faraway Forest, home of cabaret and hippies, as I wanted to catch a bit of Don Letts. Many a good time has been had at past Latitudes, skanking to the reggae rhythms of Don Letts, and last year, David Rodigan.  The set was very familiar – lots of great reggae covers of pop and rock songs, even Nirvana, to the fore while I was there. I didn’t spend too much time there this year – time was passing and it was only the first night proper. Gotta pace myself a bit at my age! Before I left, I thought I’d take one last look at what was happening at Sunrise. Got there and the beat seemed exactly the same as the one I heard an hour and a half earlier! Was the rest all a dream?

Of course not, and the music does vary a lot late at night at Sunrise. Just a coincidence – or am I turning into it-all-sounds-the-same grumpy old man? No, no, no. Never! Time for bed.

And I loved that walk around. So many different things going on. All those different Latitudes…

Saturday 14 July

The lunchtime slot began at Sunrise with Beans on Toast. Yes, Beans on Toast, the nom de plume of folk and protest singer Jay McAllister. He provided a funny start to the day. Simple ditties, with a bit of a skiffle feel to them, about love, drinking too much, the environment and today’s bizarre politics. His banter in between songs was engaging and, when it needed to be, serious. Like when he talked about fracking starting in Sherwood Forest. Sherwood Forest? How can that happen? The cue for a song about an old oak tree, 800 years old. Think of what it has witnessed. Is it now in danger? A good, amusing, but thought-provoking start to the day.

We stuck with the Sunrise – in my case because the big one was coming up, third on bill. American folk/country singer Gill Landry, from Louisiana was on next. He sang some affecting songs and played a fine electric acoustic guitar. I liked his set a lot.

But it was the prelude to…

Honeyblood! Yeah, my favourite new band, and rapidly becoming one of my favourites of all time. Really. And they were just fantastic today. Only got 35 minutes, so they stripped it down to their rock’n’roll set. Fair enough. Maximum impact in the time available. And it rocked! I have to write down the playlist, if only so I can remember in the future. Justine, Misery Queen – Choker – Love is a Disease – All Dragged Up – Sea Hearts – Super Rat – Killer Bangs – Ready for the Magic – Babes Never Die. A big crowd responded ecstatically. All Dragged Up was the moment that they really upped the pace. On record that song is lively, with its why don’t you grow up chant, but live the riffs are much harder and even faster. Wow! That, and Sea Hearts this time really sent a tingle down the spine. Cat on drums was amazing, thrashing the living daylights out of them, while Steena knocked out the riffs and sang with real passion. It’s a weird thing, but having bigged them up to all the gang, most of whom came along, I felt really proud of the band, even though I don’t know them and probably never will. And everyone liked them a lot. This gig must have been another step to a big future.

Like I wrote in my notebook, even though it was only 2.15pm on the Saturday, THE HIGHLIGHT OF LATITUDE!

After that, having got everyone to Honeyblood, we went along to another recommendation of Louis’. Declan McKenna, on the BBC Music stage. I’d never heard of him. A young lad, who plays a mean guitar and, with his band, really rocked. While remembering the need for melodies! Yeah, another big future, surely.

And then another Louis choice. One of his favourite bands, a pretty hardcore lot called Idles. They were pretty awesome on the Lake Stage. A bit frightening even! The moshing was the biggest I saw this year at Latitude. To call it punk would be an understatement. It was brutal. The guitarists and bassist went wild while the singer punched out lyrics like he was Jason Williamson from Sleaford Mods, except with more shouting. A great live experience, but I suspect they’d do my head in on record, if it was anything like the live sound.

Another rare foray to the Obelisk next, to see Glass Animals. I’ve heard a bit of them, but don’t know them too well. Their songs are intricate and, I guess, bring to mind the likes of Talking Heads, Vampire Weekend and Hot Chip, even Prince. Their sound was a bit lost on the vastness of the Obelisk stage – I’d have loved to see them on the BBC Music stage. Jon moved on after a few songs. I stuck it out and enjoyed it. This is a band I want to get to know better.

I had a little time to spare before the next music, so I had a choice of eating or catching a bit of Colm Toibin in the Speakeasy, being interviewed about his latest book, “Book of Names”. It’s a re-imagining of some of the Greek myths – Agamemnon and Clytemnestra and various family members, all trying to murder each other!   Colm spoke with extreme erudition, and I enjoyed just wallowing in that intellect, a contrast to the general experience at Latitude, which is much more about feeling. And I felt quite sleepy sprawled on the grass too. Mellow. I love these interludes, but I couldn’t do it much, not at Latitude, with all the music on offer.

Back to the music, it was a choice between Two Door Cinema Club at the Obelisk, or Blaze of Feather, a mysterious group involving Ben Howard, who seems to be moving away from the limelight as much as possible. I like Two Door Cinema Club, but don’t really like spending too much time at the Obelisk and fancied the mystery option. So BBC Music stage it was. Blaze of Feather played an ambient guitar symphony. It was great, if you let it wash over you. Which I did. Late on a few of the boys joined me. They said Ben Howard was the one lurking in the shadows. I was trying to decide if he was the singer or other guitarist up front! I’ve seen him at Latitude before and like his music. But that didn’t help me identify him. Oh well. A good show – I’d like to hear the record; it could be quite atmospheric.

And then over to the Sunrise for one of the discoveries of the weekend. An American band called Twin Peaks. From Chicago, I think they said. A wonderful, good time punk/rock’roll band. With a debt to the Ramones no doubt. And all the great rock’n’rollers. Foo Fighters with better and shorter tunes. So upbeat. All swigging cans of beer, establishing a rapport with the crowd. Loved it. Must, must see them next time they come to London. Basically they rocked out, but the programme blurb talked about country and old and new rock, with a punk attitude. As I write I’ve been listening to their two albums. The latest, Down in Heaven from 2016, is not predominantly a rocker at all. I kept on being reminded of the Stones’ Exile on Main Street. But their first album, Wild Onion from 2014, rocked more. I guess, like a lot of bands, when they play live, the volume and distortion is ramped up, and the riffs hit harder. But yeah, that performance on Saturday was rock’n’roll as it should be – infectious riffs AND tunes. 3 minute tunes.

And then I went along with the masses. I watched the whole of Mumford and Sons. Jon and I failed to find each other, although we were probably within twenty metres apart at times. The whole arena was completely packed, allowing for the daytrippers taking up a lot of room for their picnic mats and seats. That’s the Obelisk for you – everyone has a different Latitude. Day trip, bring a picnic, your children.  A nice day out. Latitude accommodates that as well as the music obsessives like me. And Mumford appeal to everyone. I’m amazed at how well they have done. Kieran and I were debating this at home later. He really likes them, like most of his generation. He said, if you’d seen them at the Sunrise Arena a few years ago you’d have raved about them. Nailed! It’s true. What I can’t figure is how they went from that scenario to the monsters they are today. But they have, and you have to respect the reaction they got from a massive crowd at Latitude. They had a spot for the great African singer Babaa Maal, which was admirable, but led to a rush for the bar and the loos. And they did something at the end which really lost me. They sang the Beatles’ With a Little help From my Friends, with all sorts of guests. Maggie Rodgers had a lovely voice – she was someone I’d missed earlier. But the collective was all too Live Aid.  I’m not criticising Live Aid, but when bands get to this point, I want to say, don’t forget what got you here. I was in a minority of one in expressing any reservations about Mumford in my group, so I accept I just haven’t got it. I’ll stop digging the hole at this point!

Unusually, there wasn’t a competing act in the BBC Music tent at the same time as Mumford and Sons. Jack Garratt was held back until 11. That was good – meant we could see him too. And he was superb. I reviewed him at the Hammersmith Apollo last year. The set was similar. He has developed a real sense of drama that translates to a big crowd. He is a virtuoso and does show off a bit. But you say, fair play, he is brilliant. Comparisons with James Blake are no longer relevant. Highlights were The Love You’re Given, early on, and the awesome Worry at the end, where he rocked out on the guitar like he was Hendrix at one point. A great end to the concert day.

But as ever there was more. Just one thing I’ll mention this time. I wondered along to the Comedy tent again, and there was a gig called Hot Dub Time Machine. Basically a journey through some of the big dance and rap hits of the 90s and 2000s. the place was packed again and people were singing along to all the words. A lot of fun. I was there on my own, but got a tap on the shoulder. It was Kieran. He was with all the youth in our party. What a turn up. Dad gets there before the cool kids! We greeted each other, but I then kept my distance. Just didn’t want to be the embarrassing Dad. Too self-conscious? Maybe. But you need to give your and other kids the space. It was great just to hook up with them briefly. Have a few photos together. When Hot Dub was over I left them to the next session and spent a little time In the Woods before heading back to the campsite, feeling really good.

On the way I remembered Superglu, who’d played the Lake Stage on Friday, were on again at the Alcove at 1.15. It was about 1.30. I popped in, and enjoyed a bit more raucous punk. Just what you need in the early hours! Wow, it’s these moments you remember.

What a day, what a day.

Sunday 15 July

Sunday. Chillout needed at the start, although I felt a lot less tired than last year, after the Rodigan reggae session, which finished at 3am. This year, Jon and I headed to the Sunrise for a piano performance by Lubomyr Melynik. Something of a pioneer, according to the blurb. On the way, we passed the massed crowd for Katherine Jenkins on the Waterfront stage, by the Main Bridge, which was jammed. She is a superstar.

Lubomyr was a bit of a star too. His pieces were hypnotic, as he built layer upon layer of sound. Not unlike Nils Frahm in that respect. In between pieces he talked about how little of his music was available. His website had “collapsed”, but he had a few CDs to sell afterwards. He needs a good manager! This was seriously good music; but also perfect for lying on the grass, just outside the tent, on a languid Sunday afternoon.

He was a bit of a philospher too. I noted one phrase down. Everything is real, but not real. Yeah, you know what he means. It’s kind of the same as Hume and Berkeley were saying many years ago. My Latitude is not anyone else’s. Real but not real.  Yeah man…

OK, after that, Jon and I checked out Rad Pitt on the Lake Stage. Another band in the Idles mould. Ranting at lunchtime on Sunday was a bit too much for us, I’m afraid. Weird, or maybe brilliant, programming. We headed for the BBC Music tent to see Tom Grennan. He’s a young singer who is a friend of a school friend of Kieran’s. So this one was a Kieran pick. And he was really good. Ostensibly not the stuff I listen to, but I can appreciate a good singer and good songs. And Tom Grennan nailed both of those. He had charisma, a great rapport with the crowd, and most important, a great voice. I was really impressed. An early crowd grew and grew as people heard it. He got a terrific reaction. In my usual, what-does-this-sound-like way, I thought, this guy could be the Robbie Williams for the new generation. Well, who knows, but there was a sense that the only way for Tom Grennan is up.

Afterwards I caught a bit of Ward Thomas on the Obelisk. Twins from Hampshire, with a Nashville sheen, they sang perfect country pop and will no doubt go far. For me it was a bit too slick. I like a rougher edge, rawer feelings. Lindi Ortega my perfect example. But the country sheen is what makes the bucks. Good luck to them.

I then couldn’t quite decide between Lisa Hannigan at BBC Music and Jessca Hoop at Sunrise. Jon went for the latter. I initially went for Lisa, for her ethereal vocals. But overall all it wasn’t really moving me, so I rushed down to the Sunrise. Again we chilled out at the back as Jessca played spartan beats (plucked bass strings on the guitar) and quirky folk pieces.

But next up at Sunrise, two really good bands.

First Girl Ray. Mark Radcliffe has been supporting them on 6 Music. Loved the choppy guitars and the wistful, almost French ambience of their tunes. Singer, Poppy Hankin, seemed quite nervous, or maybe just emotional at having this gig. They have some similarities to Blue House, a band I wrote about last year. Definitely one to follow.

Then the awesome Goat Girl. Loved their sound when they supported Moonlandingz at the Village Underground in Shoreditch. (Liked them way better than Moonlandingz). They came on all dressed up, with singer and guitarist Lottie (aka Clottie Cream?) wearing a striking silk jacket, but with loads of attitude. I thought their sound had really come together since the first time I saw them. They were good then, but now they were absolutely rocking. It’s not exactly rock’n’roll, though the punk riffs kick in from time to time. I hear Patti Smith, PJ Harvey and Sonic Youth in their sound. Which is an amazing combination. I’m really looking forward to their first album. One of the best things at this Latitude.

Then a bit of poetry. Like a bit of variety! I enjoyed Simon Armitage as I read his poetry, amongst others, with pupils with reading difficulties at the school where I’m a governor. He’s on the GSCE syllabus, which explores relationships of all sorts. His poems about father/son relationships are very touching. So I went to see his reading of poems for a new collection. They were more abstract, but he delivered them with style. An enjoyable interlude. Before The Jesus and Mary Chain!

Yes, JMC, the wild brothers of the 1990s. The classic discordant album “Psychocandy”. Laced with feedback over Beach Boy melodies and a couple of atmospheric tunes in Just Like Honey and Some Candy talking, which were perfect for films. The first was in one of my favourite films, Lost in Translation. They came on 15 minutes late, and were told during the set that they’d lost that time. Quite right. Every delay hits the artists on later. So we may have missed a couple of the old favourites, but we did get the two I mentioned just now. And a whole load of rocking tunes with awesome guitar by William Reid. He remained swathed by dry ice for most of the set, and the videos never showed his face, only his guitar, so something was going on here. Tension and stress. Really impressive set, even though I wasn’t familiar with most of it. Catch them again at End of the Road in September.

I met up with my friend Steve during JMC. He has a house near to Henham Park and he and the family come in each day for the music. So they sleep in comfort and have good showers. I say they miss the atmosphere! After JMC we went over to Solas – another chill out area, to see a new Sony artist, Leo Stannard. He was good. Excellent voice, good guitarist, a master of the loops, electronic and on guitar. Felt to me that he was being pitched somewhere between Ed Sheeran and Ben Howard. He’ll have the support; question is, will he have the artistic freedom? Look out for the name though.

I hooked up again with Jon for The Magic Gang, headlining the Lake Stage. They were new to me, but had a bit of a following. I really liked them. They looked geeky, but had some great riffs and melodies. Tunes! About half way through the set, I thought, yes, The Strokes. Not slavishly so, but the same feel is there. Another band I need to find out more about.

And then we piled into the BBC Music tent for Fatboy Slim. I was quite excited at the prospect. Some great beats, celebrations and a few of his classics. Surely? The place was rammed and pretty hot. It kicked off well. The beats and sounds building up to those moments they call the drop. The crowd were really into it. Videos, lasers. An overwhelming sensory experience. But after about half an hour I started to feel, is this going to change, are we going to hear any old favourites? We got teasing hints, but no more. It ploughed relentlessly on. I think Jon and I were on the verging of quitting at various stages in the hour and a half. But we stuck it out – and there were a lot of good moments. We met up with the kids, expecting them to rave about it. Us the grumpy old men. But no. They were pretty excoriating about it. Too samey. Where were the hits, the fun? The same feelings as us. Kieran was brutal about it. I almost felt like defending it. For what Fatboy Slim served up, 45 minutes would have been enough. A missed opportunity really. But still an event.

And that was it. All the gang had a drink together, and then everyone headed back to the campsite. Except I wanted to have a last look round the site. That’s become part of my ritual over the years. A feeling of just wanting that last experience, to say goodbye. With In the Woods the spiritual home, the place where so many of the best experiences have taken place.

And so I wandered over the bridge and down to Sunrise. Trevor Nelson, a top DJ was doing a set. When I got there he was delivering some 80s classics. Luther Vandross’s “Never Too Much”; Shalamar and “Night to Remember”. Two of the best tunes! I had my white socks, but where were my grey loafers? And then “Play That Funky music” by Wild Cherry, everyone chanting the chorus. Young people – they knew these songs. What a great vibe! I stuck around for a bit, but left when the techno kicked in again. Not because I don’t like it, but it didn’t give me a special moment, late on Sunday – or early Monday.

Back at the campsite everyone was still sitting around chatting. I joined the circle. Another twenty minutes or so. A Jack Daniels from Jon’s flask. A realisation that as our children and their friends grow older we start to have more in common. We talk on the same level. Don’t want to exaggerate that – we know when we aren’t needed. But it says that Latitude is going to be to the place, for years to come, when we really come together. Think of all the bands I saw this time because of recommendations from the youth.

May that continue!

 

The Top Ten

Alright, this has been a long blog. I’ve liked a lot of things. So this is my top ten bands of Latitude 2017. I have had to be brutal to get it down to ten. So many others I really liked and will follow up. And others I missed altogether because of clashes.

No 1 – Honeyblood – who else?

No 2 – Julia Jacklin

No 3 – Goat Girl

No 4 – Twin Peaks

No 5 – Catherine McGrath

No 6 – Jack Garratt

No 7 – Shame

No 8 – The Magic Gang

No 9 – Girl Ray

No 10 – BEAK>

Near misses to Dead Pretties, Declan McKenna, Tom Grennan, Jesus and Mary Chain, Cabbage and, of course, the philosopher pianist, Lubomyr Melynik!

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U2 at Twickenham Stadium, 9 July 2017

On Sunday we went down to Twickenham to see one of the world’s greatest bands play a show that featured one of the world’s greatest albums. U2 playing the “Joshua Tree”.  An album which is 30 years old this year. How time flies!

Now, I’m well aware that U2 divide opinion. They’ve been doing so ever since Bono strode out with a white flag in the early 80s to the strains of “Sunday Bloody Sunday”. And especially since Bono took on his role as a spokesman on the big issues the world faces: poverty, war, debt, exploitation, imperialism, hate. And some people just don’t like the music, which has always erred towards the grandiose. But I love the music, especially from the period that spanned “The Unforgettable Fire, “The Joshua Tree”, “Achtung Baby” and “Zooropa”. (I can live without the live album “Rattle and Hum”, though it had its moments.) For me they combined some of the great riffs and anthems with that thing I called celtic soul. Bono called U2, last night, “the loudest folk band in the world”. I get that.

It’s less than 2 years since U2 wowed us at the O2 with a mixture of new songs from “Songs of Innocence” and plenty of old favourites. And the videos and lights were spectacular. But nothing like 2017! The year when U2 returned to their most iconic album and embellished the rest of the set with suite of songs that were pretty much their greatest hits. Backed up by a video screen – and imagery – which was truly breathtaking.

First though, we had Noel Gallagher and his High Flying Birds. And that meant some Oasis classics, as well as the newer songs. It felt a bit odd seeing Noel playing second string to another band: “Champagne Supernova”, “Wonderwall” and “Don’t Look Back in Anger” the aperitifs before the main course. The crowd reacted enthusiastically, especially to “Don’t Look Back in Anger”. Noel didn’t have to do a lot of singing. It has always been an anthem, but it has taken on a new status recently as a way of expressing feelings for the victims of terrorism in Manchester and London,  and of terrible neglect in Grenfell Tower, with such disastrous consequences. In the Saturday show, Noel came out and sang the song with U2 at the end of their set. This time he kept it to himself, but its power was unarguable.

And so to U2. Just before 8.30. The light fading but still fairly bright, on what had been a beautiful day.   Drummer Larry came on first and headed for the extended stage, shaped like a Joshua tree. He struck up the drums as Edge, then Bono, then Adam made their way to the island in the crowd. And then “Sunday Bloody Sunday”. No white flag anymore, but a thunderous celebration, with Edge’s guitar crunching harder than on the record. And then that moved into “New Year’s Day”. Oh my God! My favourite U2 song, to this day. Never fails to stir something in me. A song that helped get me through 1983 after a love that went wrong. A punch-the-air song of hope and defiance:

I, I will begin again!

It didn’t stop there. Two more songs out on the Joshua tree. Two more I would have picked myself. “Bad” and “Pride”, both from the “Unforgettable Fire”. “Bad”, the song that turned U2 into global superstars after Bono pulled a girl from the audience at Live Aid  and danced with her in front of millions. “Pride” the song that got bounced off the set because “Bad” went on too long. “Pride”, an ode to Martin Luther King, which also has the best chiming Edge riff of all. An inspiration always, for me, even if the great comedian, Bill Bailey, also a talented musician, can mock how easy it is to play. Well, I say, no-one ever did it like the Edge, before the Edge.

So, after that fantastic four, the band returned to the main stage and took a bow, while the amazing screen came on. Unlit, it almost looked like cardboard, with a Joshua tree shaded on part of it. Lit, well check some of the photos for a hint of the wonders. It’s fair to say the screen was a fifth member of the band this night.

And a run through “The Joshua Tree” began. The album loaded its big hitters up front, and so, after the fab four starters for the show, we had “Where the Streets Have no Name”, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”, “With or Without You” and “Bullet the Blue Sky”. What can I say? It was pretty overwhelming. Not just the music, but the video images too. The big spaces and landscapes of the USA, the roads, the desert, the Joshua trees. The country U2 had a love-hate relationship with at that time. They were in awe of it, and the music of America, but also railed against the imperial war that still raged in Central and South America. “Bullet the Blue Sky ” with its incandescent guitars and brutal drums and bass, is the song that expresses that angst and anger. It has a twin on the album, the lesser-known “Exit”, which is the second last song, before the heart-wrenching “Mothers of the Disappeared”. For those who remember vinyl LPs, “The Joshua Tree” was a bit of an album of two halves. Side one was the monster. Side two was relatively subdued, and I’ll admit that I never paid it quite so much attention. But last night, U2 made it a revelation, adding power, and of course aided by the wonderful imagery. And, as just two examples, “Exit” had a frenzy about it, as Bono did a dervish dance in a cowboy hat, and Edge sliced through the riffs; while “Mothers” brought out the mobile phones for the first (but not last) time, to create a sea of stars, as Bono lamented the fate of the disappeared in South America and elsewhere, against an unchanging backdrop of women, mothers, holding candles aloft.

You know, there was so much to take in from this show. I’m still processing it.

The band went off briefly, and returned for an anthem and then a bit of rock’n’roll, U2 style. To my great delight we started with “Miss Sarajevo”, a wonderful song off the “Passengers” collaboration with Eno. A tribute to how people keep things normal in times of war. Transposed to the plight of Syrian refugees in Jordan. A big flag passed around the lower tier of the stadium to that effect. Then that rock’n’roll. Three songs with big riffs and kaleidoscopic backdrops: “Beautiful Day”, “Elevation” and “Vertigo”. It was noticeable around where we were sitting, which was quite expensive, as I’d pressed “best price” on Ticketmaster while loads of tickets were left, that these songs got the best reaction of the night. That tells me I was ten years older than a lot of the crowd in my area, and a bit less inclined to to the obvious favourites. And when people pushed by, going for beers during “Bullet the Blue Sky”, I did wonder why they’d come to the concert. But y’know, we all have our different U2s, just like we do our Bruces and Radioheads.

Then, finally, three from “Achtung Baby”, the album which, for me, rivals “Joshua Tree” as U2’s best. “Mysterious Ways” with its electro-funk beat, Bono’s vehicle for getting a woman out of the crowd to dance with him. And have her five minutes of fame, as the screen captured her image in multi-colours. Whatever you think of Bono choosing someone 30 years younger and getting out the video camera, it was a spectacle, and the fan had a night to remember, hugging the band members and being on that screen. Unreal.

Then it was “Ultraviolet” with its baby, baby, light my way refrain, as the screen showed the faces and names of great women from the last hundred years and more. Old and new. A genuine tribute – easily mocked, by cynics, I’m sure – and a powerful reminder that if the world was run by women we would be in a much better place. Probably… funny things happen to people when they take control. Male and female.

And last, inevitably, “One”. The phones out again. Communion. It’s an interesting song. Study the lyrics and you’ll see it’s that we are one, but not the same. It’s a song about a troubled relationship. But it has become a song about unity – in love. The title, the feel, has risen above the original intent. The togetherness has overcome the sadness. The celtic soul remains.

A wonderful end to an extraordinary concert, one of the best I have ever seen. So much to absorb – like I said earlier, I’m still processing, reflecting. While listening to U2 of course!

This was a return to the greatest album and the greatest hits, but it wasn’t an easy option, a tired rendition. This was a band as restless and innovative as ever. Taking time, this time, to celebrate the music they know their fans love most. But shaking it up, toughening it up, and using the sound and the vision to create an experience that may have surpassed anything they have done before.

It’s no coincidence that Bono took time to pay tribute to Brian Eno, the great innovator and sage, who was with U2 at the height of their journey, their achievement. Tonight’s magnificent display was testimony to his influence – to this day.

Just awesome. Here are the photos.

The entrance.

Sunday Bloody Sunday.

New Year’s Day.

Where the Streets Have no Name.

With or Without You.

Bullet the Blue Sky.

Exit.

Mothers of the Disappeared.

Miss Sarajevo – flags and refugee camp.

Beautiful Day.

Vertigo.

Mysterious Ways.

One.

 

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Words and Music from One Track Minds at Wilton Music Hall, 3 July 2017

Last night I went with a friend from work to Wilton Music Hall, in East London, to hear some words and music in perfect harmony. Talking of harmony, the last time I went to Wilton Hall was to see the Staves in 2015. It was still being refurbished then; it’s looking great now. Tonight was an event hosted by One Track Minds, who bring artists, comedians, journalists, musicians, and even politicians together to talk about a song that changed their lives. I say even politicians, because they need to approach anything they do outside their own sphere with caution, given the general public attitude towards them, and the media scrutiny. But one of the stars tonight was a politician.

I found the evening fascinating, moving and inspiring. Well I would, wouldn’t I, given my love for music? And it’s wonderful to hear other people articulate their version of that same passion. Their story. There were six speakers, who gave introductions of varying lengths before their chosen song was played. This is what we heard…

Jenny Offord is a sports journalist, who turned to her trade after the 2012 Olympics, having been a civil servant for eight years. She took the risk and followed her dreams. She spoke passionately and amusingly about the way society moulds girls and young women, denies them opportunities. And her song was one I hadn’t heard before, by Beyonce, called “If I Were a Boy” off her “I am…Sasha Fierce” album.  An uplifting start.

Next up was a young poet, Antosh Wojcik, who spoke incredibly honestly – and poetically – about his battles with the “dooms”, and how different people react to him when he is afflicted. His musical choice was an electronic piece by Flying Lotus called “Tiny Tortures” – the sort of music you can just lose yourself in.

Last on before the interval was Guy Pratt, a musician and latterly a comedian. He has played bass with many of the greats, including Pink Floyd, Bowie and Roxy Music. He described a holiday from hell as a teenager with his family – in fact three of the speakers recounted family holidays. There’s a theme here – these experiences are etched on our memories. In Guy’s case, he was at one point lying on a bunk bed, recovering from having tried smoking with an “evil” cousin. He noticed a cassette player nearby and pressed play. A song came on, all jittering synthesisers, throbbing bass, strident guitars and, at the end, an Irish violin. He was mesmerised, and at that moment knew what he wanted to do with his life. Be a musician. And the song? “Baba O’Reilly”, the opener on the Who’s 1971 album, “Who’s Next”.

As we listened to the song, it occurred to me, for the first time, how much Bruce’s “Jungleland” owed to “Baba O’Reilly”. We spoke briefly to Guy in the bar after the show. I mentioned this and he said he’d been at an awards show in the US last year and Bruce had publicly acknowledged that very connection. Well, there you go.

After the interval it was the turn of Harry Michell, an up and coming actor and comedian. He recounted the moment, aged 10, when he discovered Paul Simon, on a cassette in the car with his Godfather, on a family holiday. “You can Call me Al” was the big tune for him, and gave him the irresistible urge to dance. Fast forward to the end of his time at Cambridge, when he met a guy called Ed and they became good friends. One day, nursing post party hangovers, they revived themselves by dancing to “You Can Call Me Al”; the pain forgotten, and the friendship cemented. Last night Harry regretted Ed couldn’t be there due to work commitments… and then suddenly he was there. I think it was a genuine surprise. Ed took the stage and they danced to the Afro beats of “Al”. It was the most celebratory moment of the show – everyone clapping along, amused by the dance moves. A real laugh.

The person who had to follow this was the MP for Hampstead and Kilburn, Tulip Siddiq. She won the seat in 2015, taking over from Glenda Jackson. She had a fairly small majority, but like so many London Labour MPs who had been worried about losing their seats, she won this June with a massively increased majority. For her this gig was a challenge that no others faced. The anti-politics and the risk of being misreported always loom large for any politician. But she did really well. Because of her honesty and sincerity. She admitted her fears. She talked eloquently about the stories her constituents came to her with, and then switched to the personal. The battles she faced as a young, Muslim woman in British politics. The barriers to aspiration. The stereotyping. Echoing a lot of what Jenny Offord referred to in a different context. Her determination to overcome the barriers really came across, as she warmed to the task, and, I think, sensed the audience was with her. Her song, which reflected the sense of determination and aspiration, was “Piano Man” by Billy Joel.

My work involves working with politicians. The majority are good people, committed to doing their best for their constituents and their country. Past events have tainted them all, and social media is relentlessly negative. But still people want to do the job, for the best of reasons. And tonight we saw a politician who deserves support for what she is trying to achieve.

And that left us with Mark Thomas, the radical comedian, the hard core protester. His talk was pretty in-your-face, intense. The early part focused on his father, who Mark described as “the rudest man in South London”. And it got worse than that! It felt almost like a catharsis. Eventually we moved to another holiday from hell – six people in a barge on a canal in Coventry! By this time Mark was a punk, with bondage trousers, the lot. He described how his shows of emotion had softened his father a little, and how he got a pass from the holiday to go back to London to see Ian Dury, supported by the mighty dub poet Linton Kwesi Johnson. It was a song off LKJ’s album “Forces of Victory” that Mark chose to play. “Want Fi Goh Rave”. Great stuff. Brought me back to the best musical time of my life – punk, new wave, reggae. A voyage of discovery which never stopped. I wrote about it all in my book, “I Was There – A Musical Journey“, which is available on Amazon.

In the bar afterwards, we got into a conversation with Mark, as he came by on his way out. I said how much I shared his love of punk and reggae, and he asked me to name my top five punk tracks! Never easy to do on the spot, because there are so many candidates. But we agreed that “White Man in Hammersmith Palais” by The Clash is as good as it gets. And then agreed vehemently about the greatness of Stiff Little Fingers and The Ruts, who both featured in his talk, as well as the Pistols and, of course, LKJ.

After he left, I thought, here’s a guy who is a successful and well-known comedian who takes the trouble to stick around and talk to people he doesn’t know, because they share a love for the same music. I salute him for that.

So, a great evening of talk and music. There was another event with different people tonight, and it comes back in August. Meanwhile, there’s a session at WOMAD. I’ll be getting back for the August gig, if I can.

Of course I also got thinking about what my song and story would be. I think it would have to be about the night I first heard “Racing in the Streets” by Bruce Springsteen on the radio, in the darkness of my bedroom, back home during the holidays from university. The moment when I knew what Bruce’s music would mean to me – forever.

You can read about that in my book, too.

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Bryan Ferry at Hampton Court Palace, 21 June 2017

On Wednesday 21 June a few of us headed down to Hampton Court for a bit of musical nostalgia. Bryan Ferry, once the lead man in Roxy Music, for which we will revere him forever. Set lists from earlier shows suggested that the Roxy catalogue was getting a bit of a revival on the current tour. This could only be a good thing…

And it was a good thing. In fact it was the Main Thing, which just happens to be the song they kicked off with. From Roxy’s 1982 coffee table classic, “Avalon”. The album that people, who would never otherwise have listened to Roxy Music, bought in 1982 and beyond. Smooth, sophisticated, a bit melancholy, but not too depressing. Perfect for the yuppie dinner party. It was a Bryan Ferry album really, as everything from the late 70s onwards was. And it was one of the albums that sums up music in the 1980s. I rather like it, by the way. I was an 80s twenty-something after all.

We took our seats, four rows from the front, with our “free” plastic glass of champagne (80s yuppies, yah?) after a pleasant Lebanese meal in East Molesey, the other side of the river from the palace. Called Mezzet, and on Bridge Street, if you are ever down that way. It’s the manor of my good pal DC, who arranged the evening. And it started well with “The Main Thing” and “Slave to Love” and then just got better and better. Song three was one of my favourite ever Roxy songs – “Ladytron”, from their first album. The spooky synth intro one of their finest moments. The classic “Out of the Blue” followed that. We were in for a good evening.

We saw Bryan in this same venue ten years before. At that time he was promoting his album of Dylan covers. Only one song from that got an outing this time: “Simple Twist of Fate”. But we did also get a cover of Neil Young’s “Like a Hurricane”, which gave one of the two excellent guitarists, Chris Spedding (he of “Motorbiking” fame, and session man par excellence, rumoured to have played the riff for the Sex Pistols’ “Anarchy in the UK”) a chance to play his best licks. The other guitarist was Jacob Quistgaard, who did a very good Phil Manzanera impression, adding his own style to the solos and riffs too. His outro to “Ladytron” was awesome.

There was an interval of sorts when Bryan went off to change – white shirt to black shirt! – and the band played an instrumental, which showed off their talents. The star was saxophonist Jorja Chalmers, who has been with Bryan’s band for a while. She has a bit of that Roxy Music style – not quite conventional – and played some brilliant sax fills. Quite why she didn’t just stay at the front all the time I don’t know. Maybe Bry didn’t want her stealing the limelight. There was also an excellent violinist, Marina Moore. She stayed firmly in the shadows, but did all the bits that embellished Roxy songs even before Eno left and was replaced by an actual violinist, Eddie Jobson.

It should be noted also that, even at the tail end of a sweltering London day, with temperatures over 30 degrees, Bryan Ferry did not discard his jacket. Ever stylish, even as he creeps into his seventies. Wow, yes, his seventies, and he puts on a show like Wednesday. I’m in awe, and hope I keep as well when I reach that age – a bit to go yet!

But anyway, after that interval, with Bryan in all black, the show went from good to unbelievable. First, my favourite “Avalon” tune, “Take a Chance with Me”, all melancholy elegance. And then a trio which made any true Roxy fan go home in ecstasy. First and third, songs from the first album, “Re-make, Re-Model” and “If There is Something”, all rock’n’roll weirdness; and in the middle, the greatest song. The lights dimmed, Bryan at the keyboards, semi-lit, shadowy. So appropriate for the song, “In Every Dream Home a Heartache”. The bizarre ode to an inflatable doll. Decadence and sadness, in equal measure. As good a rendition as I’ve ever heard.

That kept us Roxy aficionados happy. Now it was the time for the rest of the audience. Just as we saw when Roxy played at the O2 in 2011 the place truly came alive when the band played the first bars from that coffee table classic album “Avalon”. This time it was “More Than This”, followed by “Avalon” itself. My friend, who calls himself “Dood” when he comments on my blogs, said in an email that it was a Pavlovian reaction from the forty and fifty-somethings. Suddenly all these people launched themselves from their seats, headed for the front and danced! And yeah, it was infectious. The vibe was good. No moshing, of course. Not in Hampton Court Palace. But Mum and Dad dancing par excellence!

And the hits just continued. Back to the 70s, but recognisable to all. The iconic “Love Is The Drug” – dim the lights, you can guess the rest – the even more iconic first hit “Virginia Plain”, the highly danceable “Let’s Stick Together”, the frantic “Do the Strand” (one of the very greatest Roxy songs, with the immortal line, rhododendron is a nice flower, which DC, Dood and I chanted in unison, to the bemusement of people around us) and then, the final touch, the John Lennon song which Bryan has made his own, “Jealous Guy”. Played almost as a metal classic with the soaring guitar from Jacob. An anthemic end to a brilliant concert, the second half in particular just being a rush of wonderful songs and memories.

I veer around in my musical preferences. As any reader of this blog will know, I love Honeyblood more than anyone else at the moment, and their show last week was awesome. This was a total contrast, but I enjoyed it just as much. Roxy Music are one of the greatest bands in my musical story, and Bryan Ferry and his superb band kept the music of Roxy, and more besides, truly alive tonight.

PS. Didn’t have my trusty digital camera with me, so photos are from my iphone 5S. But they give you an idea, I hope.

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Reflections on Radiohead at Glastonbury 2017

After staying up to 2am watching the BBC coverage of Glastonbury, and then getting up quite early to watch the Lions lose to the All Blacks, I’ve been having a lazy Saturday. Amongst other things, playing Radiohead and reflecting on the concert on the Pyramid Stage last night. For me, it was a triumph, a journey through the back catalogue, with an emphasis on “OK Computer”, which was released 20 years ago. 20 years ago! But there was a sense from when the cameras panned onto the crowd, and from all the usual nonsense on social media, that a lot of people weren’t all that impressed.

Why was that? Well, really, because it’s Radiohead. In my view the best band in the world, and the most original and innovative over the past, say, twenty years. But if you don’t get them, they are not always an easy listen. Not since “OK Computer” really. Because that was followed by “Kid A” and that changed everything. The moment when the guitars lost their dominance, replaced by all manner of electronic bumps and squeaks. I guess that was the problem for the uncommitted in the Glastonbury audience: there were guitars, but not always as they would wish to hear them – building up to an anthemic, singable chorus. (This is why Coldplay are the ultimate modern Glastonbury headliners).

The two hour show was a greatest hits show – for the Radiohead aficionado. I mean, for me it was close to perfect. All those “OK Computer” songs (7 of them) and most of the best Radiohead songs since then, like “Pyramid Song”, “Everything in its Right Place”, “Idioteque” , “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi” and “Nude”. And songs like “Mxyomatosis” and “Bloom” are now regarded as Radiohead essentials too. And we had maybe my two favourite songs from “The Bends” – “Fake Plastic Trees” and “Street Spirit (Fade Out)”, and my best two from the new album, “A Moon Shaped Pool”, namely “Daydreamer” (which opened proceedings) and “Ful Stop”.  So no complaints from me!

But I could sense that restlessness when the band probed the more obscure and discordant reaches of their incredible back story. As they are entitled to do and will always do. Radiohead have never pandered to the obvious, and that is one of the things their followers love. At last year’s amazing Roundhouse shows, they kicked off with five straight songs from the new album. Each was greeted as an old favourite. Not many bands of long standing could do that.

But even Radiohead will give an audience a bit of what they need, and we got “Paranoid Android”, “Fake Plastic Trees”, “Creep” (now fully rehabilitated) and, finally, “Karma Police” at the end. Oh, and “Lotus Flower” too, just to show that Radiohead do what they want. I was begging the TV at the end that the show would finish with “Karma Police” – they couldn’t possibly leave it out, could they? No, of course not. And the crowd lost itself and kept singing that chorus for some time after the band had left the stage.

There will be a lot of debate about where this Radiohead set ranks amongst the great Glastonbury sets. I’d have it pretty high, and one which will rise in the rankings with the passage of time, I suggest.

Others may disagree!

(By the way, if you’d like to see my take on the whole Radiohead back catalogue, other than the most recent album, my book “I Was There – A Musical Journey” has 16 pages on the band. Available on Amazon and Kindle).

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lovelondonscenes 133 – Vauxhall Bridge/St George’s Wharf at low tide

Took this shot last Wednesday on the way into during our heatwave, which we all moaned about of course. I really like this scene – there’s something surreal about the architecture – always reminds me of Star Wars. And the low tide and big blue sky seemed to combine to give a sense of clarity and space. Some people hate St George’s wharf – not me though.

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