Charlotte Gainsbourg @ Shepherds Bush Empire

Last night we went to see Charlotte Gainsbourg sing for the first time in London. At a fairly busy Shepherds Bush Empire, a crowd that consisted of a large proportion of French speakers waited in anticipation for the actress daughter of the famous singer to show us her own skills. As you might expect, they weren’t quite up to the high bar Serge set, but Charlotte has created her own style to set herself apart and it works well.

The crowd responded well to tracks such as Master’s Hands and the excellent IRM, which work best with Charlotte’s soft voice, but it was for covers of her dad’s songs that the crowd went wild – especially a finale of Couleur Cafe. The singing shadow of Serge Gainsbourg is hard to avoid if you’re his only heir, but maybe it’s best to embrace your heritage at times. As Charlotte herself said in a recent interview when asked who she would invite to her dream dinner party?: “Ghosts. Yvan, my children and my father, because they never met.”

Space Invader in Action in London

Regular readers of this blog will know I’m a tad bit obsessed about Parisian street artist Invader. In fact this very afternoon was spent cycling round Soho updating my map of London invasions. Sad? Me? Anyways, in carrying out a bit more research I came across this video of Invader in action on the streets of London, cementing his 116th London invader to a wall. Hopefully I can get to it before some numpty takes it down.

Keep up the good work, Monsieur l’Invader!

Update: Here’s a picture of the invader.

Flight of the Conchords @ Hammersmith Apollo

Kiwi Splendour – Jemaine & Bret in action (more pics)

From the very first moment that Bret & Jemaine, better known as Flight of the Conchords, took to the packed, ecstatic crowd at Hammersmith Apollo we knew we were in for a treat. Sporting home-made cardboard box heads the expectation was for We are Robots, but instead they launched straight into Too Many Dicks (On the Dancefloor), giving Arj Baker – Dave from the show & tonight’s support – the chance to show his rap chops. The crowd lapped it up and every other classic song the Kiwi duo rolled out, whether they were pitch perfect or slightly off with hilarious recovery. One surprise though was quite how potent Jemaine is. That man can deliver an accent, and a sexy pose, like no-one else in comedy today – with the possible exception of Matt Berry. Even Bret’s talented musical delivery & banter seemed sometimes to be playing second fiddle to the ‘llama faced’ god.

All the crowd pleasers had been delivered by the end of the almost two hour set, no mean feat when you’re two guys on stage all the time. We Are Robots (with Jemaine’s amazing Schwartzenegger impersonation), Hurt Feelings, Woo Song, Business Time, Carol Brown (with Bret as all the exes) and a finale of epic mock-rock God proportions with Bowie and finally Sugalumps. Boy, did they give us sugalumps. Especially the lucky front row who received Bret in full effect as he clambered into the crowd. In between the fan friendly songs the guys took time to regale us with stories from their tour, involving the hilarity of muffins and elevators delivered with deadpan perfection.

A perfect night, with the only downside being the ridiculous difficulty in getting tickets when they first went on sale. I believe the gig sold out in three minutes, not helped by a ‘maximum’ of six tickets per person. Six! By the 5th gig the Conchords announced the guys had sensibly started asking for photo ID and will-call picket for everyone, but this was for Wembley Arena rather than the relative intimacy of Hammersmith. Something really needs to be done about the touts scalping their profits, not only the ones outside, but the corporate off-shoots of companies such as TicketMaster who encourage people to tout and re-sale tickets to profit from real fans. ID pickup is likely the best solution and it really can work, as I saw earlier in the month at Thom Yorke’s Atoms for Peace gig in New York. That aside, the extra money spent was worthwhile (see, I’m part of the problem…) I just wish it had gone to the men who deserved it.

The Conchords gave us an amazing night and showed us that New Zealand isn’t all Hobbits. There are Elves and Maoris as well. Sexy ones at that.

The Imaginarium Opens Tomorrow – Friday 16th

Terry Gilliam’s latest magnum opus, featuring Heath Ledger in his fateful last ever role, is opening tomorrow in cinemas across Britain. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is a beautiful gothic fantasy set in modern day London. The story revolves around the mysterious Doctor Parnassus who has the skill to guide your thoughts to reveal your inner imaginary world. Parnassus was once a monk who made a deal with the devil for long life, and many other deals and bets since then, one of which involves the soul of his first child due at the age of 16. Parnassus tried to prevent this by never having a child, but (un)fortunately he did – a daughter played by the sparkling Lily Cole. And so the scene is set for the story.

As Parnassus and travelling show troupe try to save his daughter’s soul they come across Tony, played by Heath Ledger, hanging from Southwark bridge. They save him and he, in turn, acts to save them – or does he? All is not clear as Tony’s character evolves. Along the way Tony finds out about Parnassus’ magic mirror that reflects your innermost mind and enters it himself – and it is here that Terry Gilliam’s genius saved the movie when Heath unfortunately passed away – every time Tony enters the mirror he becomes another actor; Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell all take up the reigns to play the mirror Tony and to great effect.

Go and see this movie. You won’t see much press about it as Terry Gilliam is one of the most talented Directors in the world today but his movies never sit comfortably in the ‘blockbuster’ genre and so marketing departments seem to give up in despair – instead he makes us pay attention to the wonders he creates on screen and use our brains and imaginations to full effect. Parnassus sits with Gilliam’s classic fantastical movies; Time Bandits, Brazil, Baron Munchausen and the Brothers Grimm – all wonderful flights of fancy and visual feasts. More info on the film and a larger copy of this wonderful poster can be found here.

September so far…

Hmm.. seem to have been a bit too quiet on the ol’ blog-o-sphere this month! This I attribute to not having anything witty or insightful to say. Apparently my Mercury is heavily retro-graded according to my ever helpful friend Paula. Possibly I’m just recovering from an epic August full of weddings and other fun stuff.

So, a brief update on the month so far: we’ve wandered around many areas in North London to try and work out where to live next. Hampstead was very nice but stupidly expensive, but the heath is lovely and you can swim in the lakes as long as you don’t mind catching something! London Fields was lovely but stupidly expensive. Stoke Newington had a nice park, and was only ridiculously expensive – notice a trend here? Living in London may have its upsides, but cost of living certainly isn’t one of them. We also went along to the London Twestival, which was great fun – most of which was had doing craft making small Twitter style birds. Ah, bless.

This last weekend we saw the ever wonderful Massive Attack at Brixton Academy last friday, where Martina Topley Bird did a stunning beatbox version of Black Steel. Then Saturday was a day full of family nephew related fun around London, followed by our first trip to Buttoned Down Disco which was highly enjoyable.

Sunday we braved the many thousands of other cyclists at the London Skyride. It’s a wonderful chance to cycle round car free streets in central London, but I have to say it feels less safe cycling round with little kids either wobbling around left and right or zooming through small gaps than it does with cars! That and the somewhat OTT corporate sponsorship from Sky and the highly un-environmentally friendly rubbish, plastic bags, etc generated by the free giveaways. Bio-degradable bags, anyone?

Other than that I are mostly be running a lot. Or was at least until last night, when my knee gave out going past the Houses of Parliament. So another fitness regime has bitten the dust.. for now!

Pearl Jam play Shepherds Bush Empire – August 11th!

In what is likely to be one of the ‘must see’ gigs this year for indie rockers, if not the rest of us, Pearl Jam have announced a special one-off gig at Shepherds Bush Empire on August 11th. It’s time to beg, borrow or steal your way in there folks, as this promises to be something else.

Of course considering Pearl Jam sold out London’s humongous O2 in 17 minutes I think we can all safely assume that those not in the industry will have a gnats piss chance in hell of getting in. Still, hope springs eternal, and for those of you who are hopeful (read: ‘deluded’) what you need to do is pre-order a copy of Pearl Jam’s new album Backspacer from They will then send you a unique link that lets you fight it out during the pre-order period between 21st and 22nd July. For the rest of us tickets are on sale July 23rd but let’s face it.. there won’t be any beyond 0.1ms into the pre-sale assuming HMV’s servers don’t go into meltdown. Which they will.

A Fun Day at the London Marathon – with side of Gordon Ramsey

Just back from a fun day down at the London Marathon, helping raise awareness of Battens Disease with my sister. We were camped out down by the west entrance to Canary Wharf, next to the BBC London radio bus, all wearing our bright orange t-shirts. And while we were there who should run past but Gordon Ramsey. Bless. Who knows, next year maybe I’ll give it a go… Maybe.

Back in sunny London

Back in London again after my super fun week and a bit back in New York. Thanks to everyone for making time to hang out – it was great to see you all – and those of you who I didn’t get to see, fingers crossed for next time! Plus a big ‘up’ to Sandra for letting my couch surf for the week. You rock!

Now I just need to adjust to getting up in the morning for work at the time I was just about finishing carousing for the night… Ug. Thankfully it’s a bright and sunny morning, so the walk in should shake the last bit of sleep from my eyes. Then it’s the longer term trauma of re-adjusting back to London life after a week of the New York simplicity and intensity, with the usual question – “why don’t things in London just work as well as they do in New York?”. Or cost as little. I mean.. $25 for a week metro card in New York.. that’s about £18 for unlimited travel all over the five boroughs 24 (yes, count them) hours a day. It’s always a sobering thought. Not that London isn’t a great city, it’s just one you have to work at enjoying more than you do in NYC.

OK.. enough blog related procrastination. It’s back to work with me.

"Do you see this?" – King Lear @ The Young Vic

We were fortunate enough to get tickets to see Pete Postlethwaite King Lear at The Young Vic before it, very deservedly, sold out. So last wednesday we all headed down nice and early to get our seats, as it’s open seating, and ended up three rows back in the centre with splendid views. Nice. The seats are also pretty comfortable, which was useful as the performance is just shy of four hours including its two, very short, intervals.

The lights come up on the members of King Lear’s court dressed in late 70s garb, with everyone gathered around as Lear splits his kingdom unfairly between his daughters, and from that moment on we were gripped. Postlethwaite sounded for a moment as if his voice was going, but that might have been affected for the role as later his voice sounded amazing. The stage is set up to look somewhat like an abandoned set of steps, with grass growing through (freshly sown each performance I’d imagine given the treatment it gets later), and in the background corrugated iron leading up to a rickety set of covered steps.

So much happens in this amazing play, from the length and epic scale of the play itself, through the amazing performances of Lear, Gloucester, Kent and Gloucesters sons Edmund and Edgar, amongst others, through to the staging itself – at times light and whimsical, at times bloody and gory, but always gripping. This is not a lightweight Shakespeare, it grabs the play by the lapels and shakes it into a worthy spectacle. Modern, yet timeless, owing much to cinema, but rooted in the theatre. That said it’s not one to bring young kids to, as some of the gore is mildly brutal and disturbing, as well as the more overt sexual themes in places.

This is a great play. Postlethwaite is brimming with emotional intensity, not least during Lear’s steady decline into madness. His loss at the end, fighting for sanity and gripping his dead daughter Cordelia between his legs as he himself dies is wrenching. A solemn contrast to some of the set pieces that went before. Stand out moments: Lear in a dress twirling his parasol having completed his descent to madness, Gloucester’s son Edgar avenging his father against his half-brother Edmund with an amazing ‘play fight’ with bright plastic swords that ends with brutal reality, Gloucester’s earlier torture scene – paying homage to Reservoir Dogs, the flight through the rainstorm – with real rain – and the birth of Lear’s grand-child, the late 70s/early 80s staging – subtle and pervasive alongside English flag painted faces in Lear’s retinue, the fool’s capering intensity and banter, and Lear’s rage as his plotting daughters abandon him. So much to enjoy, and enjoy it we did. Very much indeed.

Arty Day

Since I’m happily on Christmas hols already, combined with last week’s random purchase of a Tate membership, I decided to head down to the Tate Modern today to check out the Rothko and Cildo Meireles exhibitions. Oh, and the apocalyptic future vision currently in the turbine hall. Good fun – but have to say the Rothko didn’t grab me, so no real change there. The Meireles work on the other hand was wonderful. Highly engaging conceptual art that you get to play with and enter – from rolling balls around, to fighting your way through suspended rulers to cracking underfoot glass – my favourite. Well worth a visit, but hurry – it ends January 11th.

In other random news – it sounds like David Tennant may be returning to Hamlet in the last week, no guarantees though. Of course this means there will be a flurry of activity waiting for returns, etc if it does happen and I’ll find myself wondering if it’s worth the, usually effective, returns queue wait. Somehow I think returns will be unlikely after all the furore thus far. Still, if he does return to tread the boards we may brave the line. And if that doesn’t work, there’s always Pete Posthlethwaite in King Lear at the Young Vic I guess.