Category Archives: Concerts

The bank manager was back

I hope his nose grows. It was either that, or a different pair of glasses, as the man himself said, halfway through the concert. That’s Andy Fairweather Low, and one of my first thoughts during his live online gig tonight was that he needed to see his optician.

He’s very self-deprecating, isn’t he? I ask because I’m still almost a complete novice, but I really enjoyed this. Short, at just over an hour, but they had worked hard at deciding which half of their most popular repertoire they’d play. Some was new, some I knew.

And I do hope that they could hear us applauding all across the globe? That’s what goes missing when the only people in the room are themselves and – by the sound of it – friends and family? Or just crew, maybe.

I was struck by the enormity of it all; the reason a group like this needs to play live via YouTube, and the fact that they can, that it is possible to organise a concert and that anyone, anywhere can buy a ticket and tune in. My own armchair is more comfortable, even with the laptop balancing on a swivelling office chair, and the queue for the toilet was non-existent. But it’s not the same as live, as in the same room.

It will have to do, though. Seems the band had not seen each other for a long time, and their next date is April 2021.

A Euro-evening with Mr Norton

We should have more of this. It was actually both fun and enjoyable. Unless that’s the same thing?

Last night’s replacement for Eurovision was far better than the real deal. I’d thought it would be, but it was good to be proven right. There was no avoiding Graham Norton, or Mr Norton, as he was addressed by the polite ladies in Rotterdam.

He behaved much better, most of the time. (But there is still room for improvement.) First we had the reminiscing of the past, playing an odd and partly predictable selection of oldies and occasionally goldies from the last 60+ years of Eurovision. It was nice to see [some of] them again. I remembered what my problem with ABBA in 1974 had been. Embarrassingly large group, embarrassing clothes, and the surprise of them suddenly singing in English. Plus the winning, except that wasn’t bad so much as a surprise. Katie Boyle looked like Mrs Thatcher’s prettier sister.

And then they won again, in Saturday’s ‘contest’. Daughter was torn between ABBA and Måns Zelmerlöw but luckily she was allowed to vote for more than one.

Then came the more ‘real’ Eurovision, with two hours of this year’s hopefuls, directed by three nice people in Rotterdam. It was lovely! I feel I got to know them so much better than through the ‘postcards’ they usually have. We saw many of them in their homes, and we enjoyed counting the pieces of IKEA furniture, or noting who seemed to have none.

We fell in love a couple of times; the lovely young Italian man and the charming cheeky chap in Austria among them. We’d not have seen any of this without the worldwide calamity that caused the change of programme.

Björn Ulvaeus appeared and spoke wise words as Eurovision’s grand old man. We discovered a UK winner from 1997 that neither of us remembers ever having heard or seen. It was good. And wow, hearing it sung by all the 2020 singers at the end..! Discovered a UK non-winner wearing an interesting dress, or vest, as I would call it. Again, a good song.

To finish a great evening, we had an hour of Eurovision A to Z presented by someone who looked like a Russian millionaire, with good teeth. That was fun, too. More memories to be revisited, and new ones made.

Four and a half hours later we rose from our armchairs, with some difficulty. Even the Resident IT Consultant had remained, and looked like he enjoyed it too. That’s never happened before.

Did you know Marie?

Marie Fredriksson on Instagram

A week ago as the first news about Marie Fredriksson having died filtered through my social media, I turned to the Resident IT Consultant and said ‘If I say Marie Fredriksson has died, would you know who I meant?’

Not surprisingly the answer was ‘no.’ Then I suppose it was my fault, for trying to explain that she had – for a time – lived in the house that Mother-of-witch really wanted to live in, that she was one half of Roxette, singing with Per Gessle from Gyllene Tider. None of this hinted at greatness.

Marie Fredriksson in the Guardian

Later the same day he said with surprise that she’d been mentioned on the radio (=Radio 4). And the next day her photo was on the front page of the Guardian, with another inside and a half page article.

Marie Fredriksson in the Guardian

By the weekend the Guardian also published an obituary, quoting among the people who would miss Marie, the King (of Sweden; not Elvis).

Marie Fredriksson in the Guardian

I reckon the Resident IT Consultant was a little bemused. And I realised I should have said that Marie was one half of Roxette, second in fame and success only to ABBA. (He’s heard of them.)

The thing is, to me – who didn’t follow popular music in the 1980s or 1990s – she was the ‘local’ singer who’d done really well. Where she came from came first, not so much where she went to. And as I mentioned over on Bookwitch, I was in Sweden when her illness had just been diagnosed 17 years ago, reading the sensationalist headlines in the tabloid press. And what upset me was the thought of her small children. Because the mothers at the local playgroup considered her nice and friendly; someone who always said hello, and was not stuck-up like many other people nearby.

It was nice knowing your music, Marie, even if I came to it late. And I’m relieved your children had time to grow a little older, even if longer still would have been preferable.

I was trying to have my hair cut, when

the fans phoned. I’ve never forgotten the constant ringing of the bloody phone, but assumed it was ‘normal,’ somehow. And here I discover in this morning’s television interview with Gyllene Tider’s Per Gessle and Micke Andersson, that it’s not been commonly known… According to Micke his mother was furious. No, more like annoyed, I’d guess. Siv’s too nice to do furious. She had to hire someone just to answer the phone, because it seems the fans didn’t want to book themselves in for haircuts.

Sorry about the interview, by the way. It’s in Swedish. But you can still enjoy it. Per looks a little wrinkly, but Micke has his parents’ good looks. (I know, because he posted a photo of them on facebook last week, and they haven’t aged at all.)

I was too cool back then to have much interest in Gyllene Tider. And it’s weird to think they are now breaking up for the last time (?) and will set out on their 40th anniversary tour this summer. I suspect I will miss it, just as I have all the others. I don’t do crowds well, nor standing for hours.

I – almost – share their accent, and I believe them when they say that they were always a ‘good’ band. It’s what happens when you have cows outside your house.

Gyllene Tider

Farewell to Ray Sawyer

I was sorry to hear that Ray Sawyer died today. He was 81, which seems almost impossible when you think back to his image in earlier days.

Having been a great fan of Dr Hook & the Medicine Show decades ago, I liked both Dennis Locorriere and Ray. Both had gorgeous voices. Very different voices, but which made Dr Hook what they were.

I have always loved the solo album Ray recorded back then, even if in later years I was concerned about his view of women. But I decided you can like someone’s singing, and the song [the music] but still disagree with how women were portrayed in those songs.

I particularly like The One I’m Holding Now, while it illustrates what I say above.

Strauss at the Musikverein

A week ago the Austrians celebrated their National Day. Daughter and I very accidentally happened to be in Vienna just then and – less accidentally – wanted to have a closer look at the Musikverein than you get from our sofa in front of the television on New Year’s Day. We discovered there was a Strauss concert on that very morning, so booked tickets to go.

It was all we had hoped. The concert hall really is that golden, and they really do cram in as many chairs as they can, wherever they can. We had good chairs on the side, quite close to the stage.

Musikverein

The Musikverein is housed in one of many elegant buildings in Vienna, and it was pretty much as I’d expected. The ushers speak English, and were most helpful. There are wardrobes for coats and larger bags, and there I learned – from the woman on my right (who, incidentally arrived long after me) – that you can say ‘bitte’ and be very very rude. She certainly wasn’t going to wait for anyone else to deposit their stuff, thank you very much! It pleased me no end to discover her halfway down a rather long queue for the ladies’ toilets later on. There are not enough toilets, but this is understandable in an older building.

Plenty of bars, however, and the audience indulged in eating and drinking. I’ve always wondered how they get the audience in and out on time when we see them on television. I’m still wondering that.

We enjoyed the concert. The Wiener Johann Strauss Orchester is no Wiener Philharmoniker, but that was fine. Likewise, conductor Johannes Wildner was no Karajan, but a chatty, bubbly chap who told jokes between numbers. At least I think he did. People laughed. My Austrian German wasn’t up to such detail.

We began with the Overture to Die Fledermaus, through lots of Strauss tunes, ending with Auf der Jagd and An der schönen blauen Donau. Much stomping and clapping rewarded us with another polka and the Radetzky March, enabling us to leave on a high. Daughter hadn’t quite dared hope for the latter, so was very happy.

They offer tours of the Musikverein, but I’d say go to a concert instead if you can. It doesn’t have to be the New Year’s Day one. After all, I don’t expect people can leave on January 1st and proceed to have coffee outside in the sunshine.

Or maybe they can. It’s Vienna, after all.

Runrig farewell concert

When I read in the local paper last autumn that Runrig were going to play their farewell concert in Stirling, I thought nothing of it. Because I’d never heard of them.

It’s not as if stuff mentioned in the Stirling Observer tends to be world news, exactly. I simply saw that some unknown group were going to play here. Within days the concert sold out, which was surprising, but then maybe not. I could see that a few hundred or even a thousand people might be interested. Music is nice, after all.

Runrig, last concert

And now it seems that with a second concert added, we are doubling the town’s population for the weekend. 45 000 people are invading, some of them from Australia.

Once this fact had sunk in, I asked the Resident IT Consultant, who is not known for being cool, if he had heard of Runrig. Before all this broke lose, I mean. He had. Daughter had. And Son. So that just left me. It was suggested that living so long in England might be the reason, as the English aren’t fond of culture from north of the border.

I spent last night trying to ascertain who I should compare Runrig to, just to get a reliable measure of how famous they are. Not so much who else plays that kind of music, but simply the level of fame. I’m not sure we managed an answer to that, except a lot more famous than I’d thought.

Then asked what kind of music they play… So Daughter treated us to an impromptu Spotify concert on her phone.

Not bad, I suppose.

And we might not be one of the 45 000, but it appears we will be able to hear the concert if we open the windows. More, if we go for a short walk, but that would probably mean in the company of the rest of Stirling; the ones who don’t have tickets.

McCartney at my dining table

How things change!

There I was, idly clicking the link to Paul McCartney singing in James Corden’s car. I thought it’d be a few minutes, but I was in a post-dinner lull, so could afford the 25 minutes required. It was a great programme, but that’s not really what I wanted to mention here.

It set me thinking about how it’s financed; how I am able to watch it via YouTube and not even sit through commercials. I don’t know. But I appreciate it. And I can watch it again, with no need for a video recorder and available space on a tape, or any other recording technique requiring forethought.

And on my phone, not even a computer needed. Yes, I know a phone is a computer, really. I meant no large machine needed. Just me and the quiet after dinner. I don’t even object to James Corden, and I’m someone who objects very easily to people. I’m thinking he’s saved by being a History Boy. Once a HB always a HB.

The quality of the recording, both sound and image, is almost like a miracle after the early days of wobbly YouTube or the old video recordings of thirty years ago.

If I’d known then that I’d be able to watch something like this on a tiny handheld contraption, I’d not have believed it.

Nor would Mother-of-witch, back in 1964, maybe, when she sacrificed herself and went to the cinema with the very young witch to see a Beatles film. Possibly A Hard Day’s Night. I don’t recall. It was the Beatles. That’s all that mattered. And all that screaming. The teenage girls must have thought they were at a Beatles concert, and not in a small provincial Swedish cinema.

Back then we definitely couldn’t watch again, at least not after the one – possibly two – weeks the film was on, to disappear and never be seen again. It certainly didn’t end up on television. If it had, then two or three decades later it would have been possible to record it, and watch again. Until the tape wore out.

And here I am, even more decades on, idly discovering a programme on my phone and simply allowing myself to sit there and enjoy. That’s progress. At least, I hope it is. There’s more to life than watching Paul McCartney, but in this day and age it might be best to take whatever good stuff comes our way. In case that’s all there is.

Eurovision 2018

Strobe lighting. Eurovision was better without it. I can close my eyes as well as the next witch. But when I do, and especially at this time of night, the inevitable becomes, well, inevitable, and I fall asleep.

Daughter was saying she liked the German entry, and I was puzzled, not having noticed it. I dozed off with Serbia and completely missed Germany.

So what do I think? I liked Ireland. Norway wasn’t bad, and Spain got better for each short repeat. I liked Slovenia’s hair, and Finland’s outfit. France was OK, and that’s something I don’t often say. The vampire needed an interpreter. Or did he?

Didn’t mind who won out of Cyprus and Israel. I disliked both. And Daughter was somewhat scandalised at my negative view of the Swedish entry. Well, it did nothing for me. And if the singer is who Daughter reported him to be, then he’s part of a dynasty, and as such is successful enough as it is.

It was fun to see Daniela Ruah not wrestling people to the ground, or shooting them, even if her first dress was rather ghastly. Although, where was Kensi when ‘our’ SuRie was attacked? A good wrestling to the floor would have been useful.

And Graham Norton is tiresomely not Terry Wogan.

He rocked on the left

And now he’s left us. Jerry Williams was – if not one of a kind – then definitely one of few. He might not have been Sweden’s answer to Elvis. Jerry – really Erik Fernström – who died on Sunday at the age of 75, rocked. But perhaps not that way. He was cooler. He was more your leather jacket and motorbike kind of man.

We have had a few of those. What made Jerry stand out was his political convictions, starting out as a communist, and remaining a communist all his life. Some people forget where they came from, once success finds them. From what I hear, Jerry stayed true and relatively unspoilt all his life.

Jerry Williams, Varberg

I only saw him in concert once, about twelve years ago, when he came to Societetsparken in Varberg. He was as great as I’d expected him to be, the children liked him, and everyone else I spoke to seemed to be big fans. Usually when you chat to people, you find some who don’t share your taste. Young and old, they all loved him.