Eddie Reloaded


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 😉

Gig: Tom Vek at Heaven

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

  1. C-C
  2. World of Doubt
  3. We Do Nothing
  4. If You Want
  5. Lower The Sun
  6. Hold Your Hand
  7. Someone Loves You
  8. Nothing But Green Lights
  9. Aroused
  10. I Ain’t Saying My Goodbyes
  11. Seizemic s-Leisure Seizure
  12. Too Bad
  13. A.P.O.L.O.G.Y
  14. A Chore

A Space Invader Memory from 2010

This cute little Space Invader used to live near Hoxton Square, alas no more. He’s gone along with pretty much every other recent invader in this area in something that, if tweeted, would likely be called #shoreditchspaceinvadermageddon. Or maybe something shorter. This trend of disappearing Invaders seems to be rapidly spreading across London, no idea the cause is ‘art lovers’ or Council officials ‘cleaning’ but either way it’s a sad loss to the modern landscape. So make sure you get out and find your local invader before it’s too late.

16 Shopping Days to Christmas

I’m old enough to remember the time when working out how many shopping days it was till Christmas required some thought. Now it’s just a case of how many days till Christmas Eve, unless Amazon starts doing Christmas morning deliveries of course. Would that ever happen? One would hope not, but then Sunday’s sacrosanct, shopping free self went the way of the Dodo many years ago and though I do love a Sunday shop, there’s part of me that wishes we still had that day of rest – albeit not for religious reasons. We spend so much time rushing about getting things done these days that forced rest and family/friend time sounds like a good idea to me. Plus it would be a positive step towards a global four day work week, something I’m very much in favour of.

On the subject of weekends, this one bought an early ‘Christmas’ present – a new fridge freezer. It always amazes me how over excited I get with every new domestic purchase these days. The tabletop dishwasher is still an object of adoration, small and perfectly formed. As soon as the new chill cabinet had settled down from its move from St Albans (two days of waiting) it was switched on and every near finished condiment from the the tiny fridge was transferred with loving consideration of where it would live in the new fridge equivalent of a luxury high rise. So much space! Having a proper freezer is the biggest excitement, with the thought of making food and freezing it rather than having to eat it the next day something of exotic wonder right now. Who knows what other joys await… perhaps a new mop?

And of course what post today could be written without acknowledging the sad loss of John Lennon thirty years ago. To commemorate this tragic event I struggled onto the HMV website to try and get tickets to see one of his last remaining band mates at the Apollo. No joy unfortunately, so it looks increasingly unlikely that I’ll see any Beatle in action before they all pass into history. Ah well.

Not all bad news on the band front though. Monday night say the splendid Autolux at the re-vamped Garage, now ‘Relentless Garage’ in Islington. This was courtesy of the ever lovely Amy who was over on a flying visit from LA with the band. The venue was hardly recognisable from my previous visit years back to see Sir Real hit the decks. Back then it was literally a black box, with low ceilings and chronic acoustics. Now, a new arched ceiling and splendid sound system has transformed the place – apparently the new owners found the ceiling hidden behind the low suspended ceiling when they took over the place and had to repair the roof. Good job! Then last night we saw perennial favourites Interpol at Brixton Academy, a smoke machine filled night full of dark indie rock and low lights. A highly enjoyable night, even with the epic chill of the bus ride home afterwards.

Wait. Does that mean I didn’t quite get through a whole post without mentioning how flipping cold it is over here for a change? Yep, England is finally having a proper winter, -2c across London for a few days and right down to -20c in other parts of the country. To be honest I’m loving it. Cold, brisk days are much preferable to the usual British damp. Now if only we could manage some of the glorious, sharp winter sunshine that makes New York winters so magical.

Gigs: Robert Plant @ The Roundhouse

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.

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.

The Amazing Union Chapel Double Team

Last week we got the chance to go see two very different bands on consecutive nights, both at the same venue – the Union Chapel in Islington. Having never been to this venue we didn’t quite know what to expect, other than it has a small capacity of only 800 people which is one of my key requirements for seeing any band these days. We did bump into some folks at Nina’s birthday party who said it was amazing, and that we should sit up on the balcony rather than fight to get in the downstairs pews. Yes, that’s right, it’s all seated but there are no reserved seats. I was loving it already, as someone who feels that real fans who are prepared to get in line early should always be rewarded (in exactly the same way that airlines don’t reward you when you check your bags in early… why are they always the last bags out? I digress).

On entering the chapel, with its front tower currently shrouded in scaffolding, you have no sense of the size of it as the ticket desk is in a cramped entrance way, but head to the left or right and up the stairs to the front balconies and the place unfolds like a Tardis till you come onto the cavernous, yet somehow intimate, performance space of the chapel knave. We sat right on the front pews, at the front up by the stage – just a few metres away from the performance. The side angle isn’t ideal, but the closeness is wonderful, plus you get to sit and rest your arms on the stone ledge in front of you. From this vantage point we could see everyone crammed into the pews below, much closer than us but arguably a lot less comfortable. Looking up you see the other balcony pews all around, and the lofty roof above in all its ornate glory. What a place to see a gig.

First up was Iron & Wine, featuring the soulful southern croonings and skillful guitar of Sam Beam. I’ve been a fan of Iron & Wine since an encounter in Fix years ago in Williamsburg, but this is the first chance I’ve had to see him in action, and it was worth the wait, especially in such an amazing venue. Beam started with a totally acapella rendition of one of his songs, which entranced the audience from the get go. Then he moved onto solo guitar, before being joined by a single backing instrumentalist to fill out the parts on some of his more complex melodies. The playlist escapes me right now, but he did cover off most of my favourite tracks, at times leaving us almost in tears. An amazing singer and well worth a listen.

Next up was a slight change of pace, seasoned Welsh singer Tom Jones singing the entirety of his new album ‘Praise and Blame‘. Given the gospel leanings of his latest offering this was a highly appropriate venue, and from the moment Jones came out in front of his (mostly 50+) audience he set a lot of store by that with his between song banter. With his shock of pure white hair, the now 70 Jones still sets the heart racing on his fans, though no knickers were (perhaps thankfully) thrown, and his voice swept teh rest of us along – the man can sing. Another great gig, only slightly let down by his decision to play any classic Jones songs as part of an encore, instead repeating one of his earlier Praise & Blame songs.

So a great week for gigs, and another new favourite London venue located. One of these days I might start actually loving London.. who knows.

And as a brief re-cap of what I’ve been up to in the last month or so since the last post.. There was a brief trip to Israel that was absolutely stunning (some pics here) – Jerusalem is a must see, followed by a long weekend in Barcelona over my birthday. In between those we fitted in a very lovely canoeing trip down the River Wye, which didn’t result in hypothermia for a change, but did result in a broken exhaust for the second time this year. Ah, car ownership. Pip pip.

London’s Velib Bike Scheme Arrives

London Cycle Hire Bikes

Suddenly this morning all the empty London Cycle Hire bikestands are full (or semi-full) with spanking new bikes, along with intrigued Londoners staring at them. As of yet though I’ve only seen someone pushing a bike around, not actually cycling on one so no idea how they work in practice.

This is all very exciting, and now we just have to see how Londoners take to the scheme which has met with varying levels of success in other cities around the world. Hopefully it will get more cyclists on the road as planned and reduce some of the overhead on the city’s public transport, as well as helping to push London as a city for cyclists (we can but dream). As for me, I may sign up – even though I already have a bike – as we live in the central part of London it’s easy to just grab one, cycle to work and park it nearby. Then for any evening trips the same tactic can work without fear of bike theft and the hassle of locking them up.

Of course now we just have to see how the bikes survive the attentions of some of the more Neanderthal natures in British culture… from random destruction and ‘happy slapping’ to drunken cycling and urination. Excelsior!

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.

A Space Invader Afternoon in London

The other weekend I went on a reccy round Soho to find a few Space Invaders I’d not seen. Oh, and to check out the new tyres on my bike as well. It’s amazing how easy a bike is to ride with new, fully inflated tyres, especially when central London is nice and quiet.

You can see the full set of photos from that day here, a total of 14 invaders – unfortunately six of which were already destroyed – another lesson to get out and about and see any invasions in your neighbourhood before its too late.

In related news, Invader has a newsletter out right now, which mentions some new prints at Pictures on Walls in July, and a new, official invasion in San Diego and a full ‘Invader Walk’. Check out the trailer here.