Tim Robbins @ Union Chapel

Last night we headed down, yet again, to the Union Chapel in Islington. This time, we weren’t checking out beardedly soulful singers of Americana, or disgracefully growing old Welsh crooners – we were there to see the transition of a fine screen actor into a card carrying musician. Whether it is the post-divorce mid-life crisis tour, or the ultimate fulfilment of a childhood dream, Tim Robbins and his band put on an admirable show, with an excellent, but way too short, support slot from Kami Thompson.

Looking suave in a long coat, his grey white hair slicked back atop his child-like face, Robbins strode out onto the stage with his extensive band. His expression was a mix of nervousness and joy throughout the set, and that showed itself in his songs – with a set-list that seemed more ‘favourite songs on random’ than careful curation, veering between his own songs and covers. The Chapel was nowhere near full capacity, with the top balconies closed off and seats still free in the venue, perhaps it was a bit too brave to try a small medium sized venue at this point in a career, but those people who were there enjoyed the show to its full. The highlight of the show came too early, with a singalong to an old blues gospel staple that had the audience grinning gleefully. This energy carried Robbins through the next few songs, but at some point that seemed to desert him and the set peetered out rather than ending with a bang. With the encore, ending a song earlier would have helped us leave on a high – but these are all tricks that Robbins will likely learn as he faces more real audiences, as well as finding which songs his voice carries best. Camp Billie Holiday covers may not be an ideal to strive for, Johnny Cash was a good fit with some great harmonica and Tom Waits.. well, you need Tom’s voice as Scarlett Johansson already proved.

Overall, an interesting night but more ‘watch this space’ than a gig that everyone will rue missing. Either way, you have to give Tim credit for following a childhood dream with such gusto and obvious joy. Bless you, sir.

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.

Doctor Who Hamlet Hits London – Sells Out. Duh.

Well, for those of you who aren’t Doctor Who fans turn off now.. for those of you who are, you’ll be sad to hear that the London run of the RSC’s Hamlet, starring David Tennant and Patrick Stewart sold out in a few hours earlier today.

Having been one of the many thousands who beseiged the Novello’s ticket site earlier today, I can only say it was one of the more stressful moments in my life. The site was constantly up and down, in the same way that the phone line was constantly engaged. In fact, even when we somehow managed to, apparently, book tickets the site refused to confirm the purchase! How stressful is that? Well it turns out a lot less stressful now after the box office confirmed that my payment had gone through – yay!

Of course now I have to find out how many times I paid for those tickets, as without a confirmation page and unable to get back through again I tried repeatedly to ‘Confirm and Purchase’ to no avail. Fingers crossed the ticket server was sensible enough to work out that the tickets had already been sold and not charge again, but given how badly it dealt with the whole thing then nothing much would surprise me. In all fairness this was extreme demand, but surely it was expected? Still, it could be worse – Ticketbastard could have taken even more of my money along with other people’s as they sell tickets for a thousand quid markup on their ‘fan to fan’ touting site with their ‘service fee’. Why hasn’t this travesty been shut down yet?

Personally for popular, limited events such as this I believe London’s theatres should start to follow a Glastonbury style of ticketing to prevent the amazing levels of touting. Named tickets, that can only be used by the people whose names are on the ticket and present valid ID. Can’t make the show after all? Then return your ticket for a full refund, allowing real fans to get last minute tickets at the face value rather than 10x, and you get a priority place in line for returns on another day – for example if you happen to be ill. Admittedly this is a lot more work for the ticketing facilities, but if people are dedicated to getting rid of touts and helping the fans then what other options are there? Or the other option is to follow a Madonna-esque model of pricing, with an auction being held for the better tickets ensuring that all the money goes to the RSC rather than anyone else. Then with the extra cash they can run more cheaper tickets to help expand the audience of Shakespeare to those less able to afford it – which was part of their goal of casting David Tennant in the first place.

As for me, I can’t wait for my yearly dose of ‘Sci Fi Shakespeare’. Last year it was Patrick Stewart as MacBeth and the show was wonderful. This year – it’s Whovians and Trekkies in the audience as two great British actors tread the boards in one of the world’s most famous plays. Allons y and make it so! Sorry, my geek side kicked in.. resistance was futile. Coff.

Curing a Sickness in our Culture

When you train a puppy, part of the training is to get them used to you not being around. When you go out, you might put them in a room where if they pee it doesn’t matter so much, and when you come back and let them out you should avoid giving them attention right away. The goal is to get them less dependent on your attention and hence calmer, more balanced and a better all round member of dog society. And maybe also less likely to pee on your nice new couch out of excitement.

Moving on, there’s a great article in Rolling Stone about Britney’s life and the ongoing tradegy of what’s happening now. Obviously this is another in a long series of articles about Britney, and the amazing paparazzi circus that follows her and that she helps create, but the Rolling Stone at leasts gives a vague attempt at taking an impartial view – plus it’s not unreasonable for a music magazine to write about a musician, surely? Anyways, go read it – and then never, ever read anything about Britney in the gossip rags ever again. Ever. Actually, just don’t read gossip mags. Full stop. Period. Then little puppy Britney might just have a chance, and so might the rest of us.