Beck to Beck at the Barbican

Beck at the Barbican 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!

Movie Review – Howl (3/5)

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.

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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Space Invader Japan Invasion Kit

Good news for all fans of Space Invader, he’s just re-opened his Space Shop with a wide selection of goodies. First up are the ‘Made in Japan’ Invasion Kits – IK_13 – made to celebrate his current show in Japan. They come in two flavours – 30 signed at €350 a piece (already sold out) and 150 unsigned at €200 each*. Get ’em while they’re hot!

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The New York Drawings of Matteo Pericoli

Thanks to the Guardian I’ve just learnt all about Matteo Pericoli, an Italian who moved to New York in 1996 and started doing beautiful line drawings as a hobby while he worked as an architect. This hobby evolved into something more serious, and now Pericoli has a series of books showing skylines around the world. His New York views from famous people’s windows are my favourite though, showing a range of vistas from traditional NYC landmarks, through water tower strewn rooftop landscapes to just the windows of the opposite building. Pericoli has even won acclaim for creating the cover art The Beastie Boys ‘To The 5 Boroughs‘ album. Lovely, evocative stuff.

Duchess of Malfi: The Revenge

Having had such an amazing time at the ENO/Punchdrunk production of The Duchess of Malfi last week we decided to go and do it all again… Was it any different the second time around? Yes, but it lost something in the repetition, the innocence and excitement of the unknown. That said, it was great to follow the Duchess (the excellent Claudia Huckle) around to try and follow her story.

The highlight for me this time was being one of the first people into the building and the intense sense of dread walking around an almost pitch black set, with rate fellow spectators as they emerged from the gloom. In one room where the dry ice machine was on overdrive I had to just stop walking for a bit, it was so unnerving. There was a room on the ground floor I didn’t even enter it was so dark. Eventually other audience members joined me, and at this point the wonder of seeing the bit players come out to lead us all towards the main action took over. Slow dances broke out across the set and eventually the principle singers emerged and the story started. You really started to appreciate the artistry of the stage management, with the lights in areas dimming and intensifying to help draw you towards particular areas, or move you away so for diversionary tactics.

Following the Duchess did lead to some overlap in what I’d already seen, however there were still so many new experiences along the way to be head. Being in the pitch dark as lightning flashes illuminated the Duchess and her brother, a bizarre birth scene with digital baby. Seeing the Cardinal ‘abduct’ a female audience member and give her a solo performance in his room was at once chilling and elicited some jealousy. Being almost knocked over by the Cardinal’s assistant as he ran through the set caused me to swear out loud. During the finale one of the mourners draped themselves against me for a while which was unnerving. There was still more I missed, the secret schoolroom inside a cupboard, and the cardinal’s story, but again it was a superb experience being so close and intimate with talented performers, and one we were glad to repeat. Roll on the next show.

Oh, and as an aside this is apparently my 1000th post on this blog.. Cake anyone?

Cool Stuff: Brosmind Army @ Kemistry

A happy lunchtime find – Kemistry Gallery currently has a show on by the quirky Barcelona based Brosmind Studio, called Los Canotiers. The ‘Brosmind Army‘ comprises a number of limited edition ceramic characters, modelled after the terracotta army in China. Each ‘platoon’ consists of 50 characters and is named after their particular headgear, in this case the ceramic boater hat, or canotier, that each character wears. By rotating this hat, you rotate the face the soldier presents to one of three different expressions.

The show is on until 31st July, and you can even purchase the handmade, limited edition sculptures. A pure white ceramic canotier, in a limited edition of 50, costs £290 each. For those of feeling a bit more flush you can go big, for one of the 9 platinum coated characters, priced at a cool £420. Very tempting.

Nico: A Beautiful Art Magazine

nico magazine – issue 04

I picked up a copy of nico magazine due to the wonderful paper filigree cover by young artist Yulia Brodskaya – and I recommend you do the same. It’s well designed in a mix of English and French, with stunning photography and other art works, but still maintaining a light touch. Go check it out – or just be inspired to try out cutting small bits of paper and sticking them down yourselves.

A Very Neon New Year to Everyone

Space Invader Neon @ Lazarides Grifters Show
Originally uploaded by ultrahi.

As the last few hours of 2009 draw to a close we can reflect on the year that’s been. Or we can do the same as every newspaper across the world has done and reflect on the decade that’s been – the ‘noughties’.

2009 for me has been dominated by an increasingly joyous obsession with Space Invader graffiti, combined with my first full year of work in London since ’97 and the opportunity to do some European travel. Prague, Paris and Barcelona all featured – as did happy return trips to New York and Toronto. My carbon footprint has been quite heavy this year, apologies to the world on that. There have also been a number of weddings – so further congratulations to Aimi and Gary, Paul and Victoria and Chris and Cecilia on that front. Not to mention the great increase in quality time spent with my family now we’re on the right side of the world again.

2009 was also a great year for gigs – from perennial faves TV on the Radio, Daedelus, PJ Harvey and the amazing Blur reunion gig at Southend. We thought that Blur wouldn’t be beaten, but then a last minute intimate Pearl Jam gig at Shepherd Bush snuck in there to give them a good run for their money, as well as unexpectedly superb Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Pixies gigs. Wow. 2010 has a lot to live up to there.

As to the decade. Well you can read this blog if you want, which started in earnest on February 27th, 2000 with this unauspicious first post. Yes, this blog is almost turning ten! It’s seen a lot of good times with friends around the world, and a lot of tragedy with the events of 9/11 and the election of George Wanker Bush amongst others. Although the Internet has revolutionised our world, it hasn’t helped us to overcome the fears and governmental idiocy that have been introduced at the same time – or at least not yet..

Decade highlights for me have to be the arrival of four nieces and nephews, getting to travel round the world and learning to scuba dive, living in New York and Montreal, making some great friends, and spending half that decade with the ever lovely M.

So for everyone, everywhere – here’s to a happy, healthy 2010 and the decade beyond. Go for your dreams and don’t listen to the naysayers. Skol!

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.