Somehow I managed to score front row, dead centre seats for the current London run of Eddie Izzard – Force Majeure Reloaded. I think the last time I saw Eddie was a way back, for the Stripped tour – which was sitting further back, but randly behind the, then still together Lenny Henry and Dawn French.
This time there were no other British comedian legends, or indeed anything else, between me and the British comedy legend that is Eddie Izzard. This was the perfect view from which to enjoy Eddie’s sublime facial and body antics as he capered about the stage acting out various mammals, Darth Vader / God and various people all of whom seem to be called ‘Steve’ (or Mr Stevens).
As to the show itself, it didn’t rank as highly to my mind as Dress to Kill or other earlier performances. There’s a tiredness to some of the associations, and whereas earlier when Eddie might crack up at his own joke (or write on his hand that a joke didn’t work) the flow kept going, this time it seemed to create breaks where the whole audience went quiet – eerily so. These lulls were outshone by the times he hit his stride, perhaps mostly so in the re-visiting of the Darth Vader canteen sketch for which he’s now so famous, but this time we end up with a God vs Vader battle which had the whole audience in stitches. So, overall, well worth going down to check it out if you’re in town.
And for the record this time I didn’t get drunk and end up in chatting to him in his dressing room. For which I’m sure he’s very glad 😉
Beck at the Barbican
The other week I was lucky enough to get tickets to see Beck in his Station to Station gig at the Barbican. And by lucky, I mean front row, center. Near enough to reach out and touch his fine cowboy boots. Not that I did, tempting though it was.
An over-arching cowboy and train theme was present from the very start, where Beck and three actors dressed as cowboys crouched round a faux fire – with the London Chamber Orchestra sitting in the background. The backdrop visuals, provided by Station to Station mastermind Doug Aitken, evoked the dry mid-west of America and the trains that slowly cross its wide expanse. Beck then stood to deliver the first of his solo songs to a rapt crowd, an older number on acoustic guitar.
From this gentle beginning we were given many more beautiful moments to enjoy. From poets reading their pieces on the subject of travel, in many styles – from sedate to near rap. To ethereal chamber music as the cowboys pointed slowly out across the audience. Followed by Thurston Moore, ex Sonic Youth, melting the stage and our ears with classic guitar feedback. Across all of this were scattered more Beck songs, ending with the ethereal Wave.
The show may have been pretty short, just over an hour and a quarter, and it certainly couldn’t be classed as a gig – more of a happening – yet most everyone in the audience left with smiles on their faces and the glow of seeing something different and special. This was one of those moments that make you glad to be in London, a city of many delights that are never easily attained but well worth the effort. Yee haw!
As 2013 winds to a close I’m in the midst of a major movie binge on Netflix before heading out for a night of fun ‘n frolics. Right now Fast Times at Ridgemont High is on, still a classic movie if just for all the famous faces as they started out their careers. Then, as of midnight tonight, that’s it – subscription over. I’m going cold turkey on streamed movies. Yep, a new year’s resolution of sorts, who’d have thought.
The combination of an Apple TV and Netflix subscription has been a double edged sword this last year. I first signed up to get access to the new series of Arrested Development – the siren call of more Bluth family antics being too much to ignore – and though it wasn’t as funny as the original three series, it was well worth a watch. Since then the easy access for a few clicks to TV series and movies has been a complete time-suck, though an enjoyable one. I do like my films.
Through the complete series of Breaking, with the final episodes available just after they were on in the US, was a classic roller coaster of a show. To everyone I know who has not yet watched it please do, otherwise I’m bound to accidentally spoiler it for you at some point. Dexter, a replacement series once BB was over, was great for the first few series but the finale did not live up to the rest of it. Then there have been numerous random movies from Hollywood blockbusters to classic international movies, from Disney movies that I’d never seen (Lady and the Tramp – seriously, never watched) to old favourites since my DVD collection is in storage as I get ready to move. That’s a lot of time and bandwidth. Perhaps somewhere out there is a site that works out how much time that amounts to, not sure I want to find it though and somehow I doubt Netflix wants to make that figure too easy to see. Someone else had a go at working out the costs and it’s mildly depressing reading.
So, Netflix. Thanks for all the good times and have a great 2014 without me.. Now where did I put those cookery books and knitting needles?
Early new years ‘resolution’ time.. I plan to be more rigorous, perhaps annoyingly so, in writing about all the minutiae of what I’m up to. One part of that will be writing brief reviews of everything I watch.
So, first on the block – Howl, another movie I picked up on a random night in Fopp. Howl presents a biopic of beat poet Allen Ginsberg, played wonderfully by James Franco, covering his early life, and the attempt to prevent publication of his book ‘Howl and Other Poems’ on the grounds of obscenity.
The style of the movie jumps around a lot, moving from scenes of Ginsberg giving an interview, or in his early life, then to the court room, where Ginsberg’s book is defended by Jon Hamm looking dashing as always, interspersed with a strange art school style of animation describing the story of Howl itself. All of this is mildly disorientating and I found myself not really getting a sense of any of the characters as a narrative, though Ginsberg comes across well. Perhaps this is in keeping with the chopped up beat poet style – but then we only see a few dashes of that along the way.
Overall worth seeing if you’re fans of Franco or Ginsberg. Or need to have everything Jon Hamm is in of course.
Ah, Pixar. For so many years you could do no wrong.. Then Cars
came out, and we worried that you could be influenced by Disney into having a movie that seemed more about merchandising than anything else. So when the merger happened between Pixar/Disney I had a moment of worry that, although everyone was excited that Pixar would improve Disney, a ‘Disney-fication’ of Pixar might also happen..
So here we have Brave
, the story of a headstrong, young Scottish princess who rebels against her parents desires to marry her to one of the Princes of the highlands to maintain the shaky peace. Magic is invoked, consequences unintended happen, and the story unfolds with beautiful Pixar animated style and a range of Scots accents. By strange coincidence, I watched Aladdin the other day – a perennial favourite for Robin Williams’ wonderful turn as the genie (and some toe tapping tunes). The story of a Princess not wanting to be married off without love is there in both, though turning it round to have the Princess as the center of the story is a nice change, and Merida – the Scottish Princess – is believable as the rebellious, self-sustaining type. There are also other twists, but that would spoil the plot.
The story is not the real hero of this Pixar tale though. The richness of the story seems lacking, with some obvious steps taken and a distinct lack of the layers that keep taking you back to other Pixar movies. This time the magic is in the visuals, from Merida’s stunning auburn locks that almost have a life of their own, to the light changes playing across dramatic Scottish landscapes. The one exception is a common gripe from any 3D movie.. the rotating draw back shots from key locations. Ug. Filmmakers – these do not work out of 3D – the majority of your watchers – and immediately scream ‘movie made for 3D’. Story first, 3D spinning shots second thank you very much. Similarly there are some good characters, but they seem to lack the overall charm (and wit) of other Pixar creations – outside of the main players, who are all enjoyable and engaging and in the case of Merida’s three brothers, welcome comic relief (and cute as three identical buttons).
In summary: A beautiful and enjoyable movie, but not one of Pixar’s best. Och aye.
The other week Jon C & I went to see Tenacious D in all their cockness. I mean rockness. They did surely make sweet rock love to our ear p*ssies. Mmm…
Last night we went to see the long absent Tom Vek play his ‘coming out’ gig at Heaven, and boy was it worth the wait. To a crowded room packed with happy hipsters he rolled out hit after hit, winding the assembled throng to a fever pitch of dancing happiness culminating in his latest single ‘A Chore’ to rapturous applause – helped by the girl from the video (or lookalike) fronting the song at the start.
Last time we saw Vek play was at a small venue in Montreal in 2006 – to only about 50-100 people and supported by the wonderful The Duke Spirit. It was a great gig, even with Vek having to play drums on most songs as his drummer had left in the tour. This time, the band was in full force and we got to enjoy Vek front of stage, his angular, skinny frame bouncing out the beats to his slices of beat driven indie genius. The sound was amazing, the light show simple but effective. Vek himself seemed to start off a bit nervous, but as he played his hit songs the crowd got increasingly excited and Vek got more relaxed and chatty. Classics such as “The Lower the Sun”, “Nothing but Green Lights” and more kept the crowd moving, and the songs from his latest album fared just as well. Even if I have to admit to not really knowing them (yet) they certainly got my body moving.
Thanks for a great night, Tom – and please, don’t wait so long till we see you again…
Full Set Listing
- World of Doubt
- We Do Nothing
- If You Want
- Lower The Sun
- Hold Your Hand
- Someone Loves You
- Nothing But Green Lights
- I Ain’t Saying My Goodbyes
- Seizemic s-Leisure Seizure
- Too Bad
- A Chore
Last night, Montreal friends Sunfields played the last night of their two week UK tour at The Windmill in Brixton. It was a great gig, in a great *very* un-London feel venue, and I’ve uploaded some photos here. There’s also a video floating around of their lovely, catchy new song Kiss Shy (we expect proper release soon, please…) recorded on the first night of their tour.
It’s been splendid fun seeing the lads over here doing what they do best – play great music and get drunk in their smiley, friendly Canadian manner. Just wish I’d been able to get to some of the non-London gigs. Until the next time though – whichever country it is this time – bon voyage, chaps.
As part of my goal to cook more I had a go at doing pork belly tonight. This was using a recipe my sister cooked for us a few months ago, which I’ll share here. This is for 1-1.3kg of pork belly, which should be enough for at least four people (pork belly is very filling) and it takes about 3 hours to cook:
- Pre-heat the over to 180c. Chop up five large onions into large pieces and lay over the base a flat, over proof pan.
- Score the rind of the pork belly lines 1cm apart, you can ask your butcher to do this for you as it’s pretty tough going. Luckily for me my local butcher (the amazing Ginger Pig) were one step ahead of me. Lay the pork belly over the onions, then pour oil over the top and rub in sea salt and crushed peppercorns to taste.
- Put the pan in the lower part of the oven for 1 hour, then remove and baste the pork belly. If there’s not much juice add some water.
- Continue cooking at 180c for another 1 1/2 hours, basting every 15 minutes. During this time, peel the potatoes and start them boiling near the end of the cycle if you’re having mash.
- Rub 2-3 teaspoons of honey over the rind and put back in the over at 200c for 30-40 minutes. At this point you need to baste every 5 minutes or so keeping an eye on it to make sure the rind doesn’t catch fire or burn.
- Remove the pork belly and cut into reasonable size portions and serve over the potato, with the onions & juice over the top.
Mmm.. delish. Also more of a winter dish than a balmy spring night light meal, but in my defence it was quite cold at the market this morning when I decided to try it.
Last week we had the pleasure to go and see Robert Plant and the Band of Joy play at The Roundhouse as part of the BBC’s Electric Proms season. The crowd veered towards the older range, with some folks obviously not used to going to gigs (‘Are you going to stand there? You’re in our way.’) but that’s hardly surprising given the longevity of Plant’s success. Thankfully, Plant and the excellent Band of Joy graced us with songs from the entirety of his back catalogue; from excellent renditions of Zep classics (Gallows Pole, Tangerine and Rock and Roll being standout), some classic Plant solo music in the form of ‘Tall Cool One’, more recent work from Raising Sand and finally plenty of great sounds from the Band of Joy’s recent album. Overall we couldn’t have asked for more, other than perhaps a full re-formation of Led Zep but let’s not get greedy shall we.
For those of you in these fair British Isles you can see the whole gig tonight on BBC, or later on iPlayer. Not sure if you can see us in the footage… Enjoy.
And in other music gig news, we saw the excellent Yann Tiersen of Amelie soundtrack fame at Koko on Wednesday night. Have to say not a great fan of Koko as a venue, but Tiersen is an amazing multi-instrumentalist, with his violin work truly breath-taking.