The Perfect Valentines

Last Friday was the mystical combination of Valentines Day and a full moon, so as a suave and sophisticated international playboy, my night was to be filled with exciting adventures, heart stopping romance and other acts too lewd to mention in public. By which I mean staying in, watching movies and getting organised for my friend Sheila’s wedding to the lovely Matt, now Mr Woodbridge (congratulations both!!). Yes, I rock that hard.

Then everything changed. The artist formally known as Prince, now formally know as symbol was in town, performing last minute gigs to lucky souls. Through the wonders of Twitter and social media ‘#PrinceWatch’ was on constant refresh on my phone, and then came the fateful message – “Prince is playing. Now. At Kings Place near Kings Cross”. WTW!

Romantic night in plans scuppered I grabbed everything I could and shot out the door. I ran swiftly through the streets of Walthamstow, texting friends as I went, testing my knee fitness down the epic stairs of Blackhorse Road tube (when will they fix that escalator?) and straight onto a tube. Kings Cross was but a few short stops away. The signs were in place. I would make this gig, oh yes!

As I caught my breath the tube wound its way under the streets of London. My mind raced. How many people in this carriage were on the way to see the small purple music god in all his glory? With every minute I knew the exponential laws of digital communications and London transport would be extending that queue. Another 10, 100, 1000 people – what was the rate of growth? The train paused, waiting outside of Seven Sisters. “Please move train, please! Prince awaits!” I quietly willed the train to go, the lights to change and eventually they did, more precious minutes lost.

Then the tube pulled into Kings Cross, laces freshly tightened on my red tiger trainers I raced along the platform and up the stairs. Past friendly police helping some lucky chap put his hands behind his back to gently cuff. Past drunken groups of friends laughing too loudly with each other on their night out without a date, each hoping without hoping that tonight some other desperate soul would change their lives and create a story for their wedding – yes, we met on Valentines, how funny is that? My mind was focussed, no thoughts of soul mates intruded on my calculations of the fastest route out of the warren of Kings Cross to my destination.

The rain was starting to lash down as I raced up York Way. As I passed some people they realised we were heading to the same place and started running too, shared madness making us laugh and smile at each other even in our very competition. Then I was there, to the sight of a line already snaking from the venue and up the stairs onto the road. It had only been 40 minutes since the announcement. My friend Sanj had been nearer than me and was 50 people further down the line – queue etiquette kicked in and I resisted the strong urge to play the “my mate’s holding my place” card. We were both there, now all we could do was wait.

As new friends were made in the line, someone from the venue came past with a clicker. The prognosis was not good.. We were past the cut-off for this 300/350 seat venue and, no, there was only one show tonight. This couldn’t be, we reasoned. Surely we’d all invested so much the fates would be on our side? The line kept growing along with our nervousness. The wind and rain howling around us to represent our inner turmoil hidden behind smiling faces.

The line started to move, soon we would know the truth. A slow edging and the slight shelter of the building kept us more out of the wind. Small mercies. The thoughts of toilet breaks and warming beers crossed our minds, but no-one would dare to leave the line. Closer and closer we got to the door. Then, disaster, the line stopped moving. Murmurs and questions started to rise up from everyone. We were so close, only 15 metres from the door. The line was now so long that it still stretched far beyond where I’d first joined up an hour or so before.

Official news came down the line – the show was on and was full, I was just that bit too late. Oh damn that short delay in the tube! Damn not living in the Guardian offices! Then, more news – a second show would be put on! We’d gone from being at the back of the venue to now being almost first in. Oh happy day, callooh callay. Smiles erupted on us all, with sad thoughts for those people still waiting out in the new torrential rain back where we’d started as no third show was on offer.

Shortly we were inside the venue, tickets bought, warming whiskey in hand courtesy of Sanj. We could hear the first show in progress, doors sometimes opening to give us a brief blast of Prince sound, cheering and warmth. Then the first show was over, people streamed out faces glowing and red, smiles from ear to ear. It would soon be our turn, not long now.. Then the security guards told us we would go in, “slowly please!”, the crowd didn’t want to hear that – a surge began – security got anxious. Somehow I ended up near the front and got let through to the doors early, racing along to the door I was in. The venue so small, I got to the middle of the second row and grabbed seats for Sanj and myself. Prince’s symbol attached to the mike was but a few metres away, could this be any better?

Waiting for everyone else you could see the smiles on everyone’s face. We all knew how special this was. The security guards also knew, but didn’t want us taking photos – a harder task to prevent these days with every phone a camera. The anticipation was rising and then, the three women who formed 3rd Eye Girl – Prince’s current band – came out. Elegant and tall, they welcomed us and asked that we didn’t take photos – while telling us of the next few gigs; Koko tonight, Ronnie Scotts on Monday – then a few in Manchester and Brixton Academy soon. After all the sneaks of information this was a welcome flood. Then they left the stage and the lights dimmed..

Suddenly he was there, Prince, the man we’d come to see, striding confidently onto the stage with an afro and back hair jacket, shoes with perspex souls that flashed with red lights. We all stood, seats abandoned and didn’t sit for the rest of the show. He moved gracefully to sit on a chair at the front of the stage and smiled warmly at us all. The crowd erupted in cheers, everyone grinning wildly. Then he launched into an acoustic version of Raspberry Beret and all was good with the world as we sang along.

The show was only an hour or so long, but what an hour. Hits mixed with cover songs flowed effortlessly from one to the next. Acoustic became electric, classic songs became jams, hits became singlaongs. His band were tight and talented and though obviously deferring to his lead they held their own and jammed fluidly with him across many riffs. I’d forgotten just how good of a guitarist Prince is, his face bright with the obvious pleasure of playing as his fingers flew over the frets. Later his bass and keyboard playing would also astound, as would his dance moves. And that voice, oh that voice.

I’d only seen Prince play once before, sitting high in the nose bleeds at Madison Square Garden in 2004. He’d held us all in thrall at that large space so to see him in a 300 seat venue was beyond sublime and to be within two metres of him, well. I suspect at some point he made direct eye contact with almost every single one of us, but what struck me was that it wasn’t about a sexual pose I might have expected from earlier songs, but a feeling of warmth and intimacy and true pleasure in being with close with his audience. This was a valentines day for us all, and he was glad to share it.I can’t remember every song, the full setlist is here, but I do remember it ended with Purple Rain – smoke flowing out across the stage as Prince sat behind the keyboard encouraging us to try and reach the high notes. And though we clapped and cheered and hoped, through the return of the band to bow and smile one last time, the gig was over and it couldn’t have ended any other way. The moment though, will last forever.

So huge thanks to the crowds of people on Twitter who post to #PrinceWatch to share the love, if you get the chance to go and see him yourself on this tour then do it – you won’t regret the time spent lining up and you may make some good friends in the process. But most of all thanks to Prince for still playing smaller venues like this, and showing us a world through your purple tinted glasses.

Saying goodbye to a habit

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?

It’s the Ends of the World As We Know It

It’s been a hot few days and nights here in London – weather all too familiar from New York, but not comfortable here in a city that doesn’t really get icey cold air conditioning. A small fan just ain’t cuttin’ it, though the pleasure of a pillow fresh out of the freezer is truly outstanding.

So on this hottest day for seven years I decided a brief jaunt to a chilled cinema was in order – to catch The World’s End, finale to Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright’s ‘The Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy‘ following on from the splendid Shaun of the Dead & Hot Fuzz.

An almost eerily empty cineplex seemed very fitting for this sci-fi apocalypse tinged film, though from the very outset the plot felt somewhat less relaxed than Pegg & co’s previous outings. An overly long flashback sets up the premise – Gary King, once the coolest kid in school and now a messed up ex-drug addict, believes his only happiness (and perhaps salvation) rests in successfully repeating a pub crawl that failed 20 odd years before. This pub crawl, taking in the ‘Golden Mile’ of twelves pubs culminating in The World’s End of title fame. To achieve this he gathers his original friends, now all very settled down, and off they go.

Of course, this being from the brains that invented the zom-rom-com nothing is quite as it seems. Very quickly the plot transmutes from the simple plays of mid-life reminiscence into a sci-fi romp. Though original in its own concept, the film plays homage to many films (even somehow Lord of the Rings), and part of the fun is recognising the source. Unfortunately these nods seem more like the highlight of this outing rather than an added bonus, as the whole affair felt like a sequence of sketches and visual ideas strung together on a tenuous premise rather than a coherent whole.

The World’s End is certainly an enjoyable film, but nowhere near the heights of its stable mates. Perhaps it will turn out to be a grower, fingers crossed! On the plus side – two hours of being in a comfy, air conditioned seat was well worth the £15.

Smoking causes George Bush.

Your slim frame
Your eager eyes and your wild mane
Oh they, keep me where I belong
All wrapped up in wrong.

You’re to blame,
For wasted words of sad refrain.
Oh let them,
Take me where they may.
Believe me when I say.

Oh, I will be your accident if you will be my ambulance
And I will be your screech and crash if you will be my crutch and cast
And I will be your one more time if you will be my one last chance.
Oh, oh fall for me.

Your slim frame.
Oh, your simple stare and your wrong, wrong name.
Oh, they keep me where I belong,
All strung out in song.

Why so tame?
When we could shoot longer vines through younger veins.
Sip slow from night’s deep wells,
And watch our garden swell, once the seeds are sown
Wild and overgrown, you’ll see.
Hearts’ colours change like leaves.

Oh sweet, sweet dream fall for me.
Fall fast,
Fall free,
Fall for me.

Because I will be your ambulance
If you will be my accident
And I will be your screech and crash if you will be my crutch and cast
And I will be your one more time if you will be my one last chance
So, sweet dream, fall with me.

Fall fast.
Fall free.
Fall with me.

It Is Biutiful..

Just watched Biutiful – the story of a dying conman played by Javier Bardem. Set in a Barcelona that rarely graces our screens, dark and flawed, seering your emotions from high to low with wonderful intensity with Bardem at the centre, pulling you along through his dark life in a fractured city. Director Inarittu’s view of this Barcelona is more akin to the slums of South America than the picture perfect rose tint of Woody Allen who also took Bardem and Barcelona as his muse.

I don’t know when I’ll next be in Barcelona, a city that always felt like a home, but I’ll certainly look at it with fresh eyes when I do. Surely the mark of a great film.

The End of a Course

Last week was the final week of my Portrait Course at Central St Martins. It’s been a great ten weeks. Not only have I learnt a lot, gotten to play with a lot of proper studio lighting kit and had lots of willing people standing around having their photo taken, but it’s also been a lot of fun. Bonus! Big thanks to everyone on the course and of course to Peter for teaching.

Street Art: Space Invader @ The Outsiders, London


Space Invader invaders The Outsiders gallery, London.

Space Invader currently has a show at The Outsiders, in Soho. It’s not quite as epic as his 1000th Parisian Invader show earlier this year – but you can get Invader waffles.. Mmmm. There’s also a cool video of the artist at work in the basement along with an invaded disco ball. Or you can drop a cool £5000+ to buy an official alias on one of his many works. Hint: It’s getting close to Christmas and the show’s on till Christmas Eve… Click here for a few pics.

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