“It’s not my instrument; for the last time…” Not very talkative during a concert, a funny line blurted out by Robert Smith, front man for The Cure, after returning a cowbell to the side of the stage, during a sprawling set that ran continuous for nearly four hours, with no less than three full encores. The second of two nights playing to benefit Teenage Cancer Trust, The Cure played sans opener, coming on a about 7:30 and performing 29 songs… then the came back for a six song encore… then another seven song encore…. and finally a last three song encore. The sound was amazing, and the band was brilliant. An amazing evening with a stellar crowd, at a historic venue, all for a very worthy cause – it doesn’t get much better than this show…
“I wanted to know if you were up for a bit of dancing now – I know it’s a bit tight out there with bodies and antlers and everything, but hey, there’s no excuse…” Words in-between songs by 80s New Wave pop icon Kim Wilde at “Kim Wilde’s Christmas Party” at O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London, England on Friday night. Given that these four special shows (one in the Netherlands and three in England) were her first solo gigs in some time, I really had no idea what to expect. And since she just came out with her Wilde Winter Songbook of Christmas songs, I thought perhaps the whole show would be dedicated to maybe an hour or so of holiday music. I really couldn’t have been more wrong, as she ended up doing a mix of pop music (including covers) as well as Christmas music, with a sprawling setlist clocking in at two dozen songs, with a two hour performance. At 53, she still looks stunning and sounds amazing, and it truly had a party-like atmosphere, and among other talented musicians, she was joined on stage by her niece, brother, and father, so it was a real intimate family affair. All in all, a brilliant show, and I feel very fortunate to have had an opportunity to be there for it.
This special benefit concert was organized by Crisis, with proceeds designated for their “Crisis at Christmas” as well as their Year-round services throughout the UK. The stellar line-up featured Bastille, Foxes, AlunaGeorge, Michael Kiwanuka, and Jake Bugg, with presenter Clara Amfo from BBC Radio 1Xtra managing the event on stage. It was a high energy show that drew a young and enthusiastic crowd, and was certainly in line with the festive spirit of this week leading into Christmas. The night kicked off with a great performance from the charity organization’s own Crisis Starlight Band and that moment carried through the night. A great evening for a great cause.
“Essentially, the word around here is grateful…” Chris Martin at his piano, backed by the Royal Academy of Music, opening the encore for the night with a cover of “White Christmas”. I’ve written quite a few articles about Coldplay in the past, so any who have read them would know that they are one of my favorite bands (along with Depeche Mode and Pixies). I hadn’t seen them live since their show in San Jose in April of 2012, so it has been a while. They took 2013 off as far as performing live goes, and have been in the studio working on new material. The band has always used their gifts and successes in music to help others, and one of the organizations that they’ve been a big supporter of is Kids Company in the UK. And, as per tradition, they tend to do a special show each year for Christmas and/or New Year’s, so this year it was another of their “Under 1 Roof” multi-artist events. Sharing the bill with them this year was Lily Allen, Ricky Gervais reprising his character from The Office performing as David Brent and Foregone Conclusion, magician Dynamo, and Rizzle Kicks, with Fearne Cotton hosting the evening, along with some surprise guests like Robbie Williams and Tim Rice-Oxley from Keane.
15,000 hardcore Muse fans showed up at the Royal Horse Guard’s Parade in London, England last night for a special one-off concert promoting the premiere of Paramount’s new film, World War Z. As fans waited for the expected partial show (rumor was about half an hour of actual performance), we were shown the same movie trailer over and over and told that Brad Pitt would be appearing on stage before us. Well, he never did appear (apart from some silent footage on the jumbo monitors from the red carpet), but I don’t think the Muse fans could care less, as the usual opener to their shows was modified with some footage from the film, and after those few moments, it was pure Muse (not “Muze”, as the marketing department for the film would like us to believe). Being from the U.S., the awesome setting amidst historic London buildings and the awesome crowd certainly was not lost on me. The energy was as palpable as the heat wave surging into the audience from the pyrotechnics above the stage. But the real power came from the band, who have grown into being one of the best acts touring today, with real anthemic music that stirs the crowd into a fist-pumping frenzy. They ended up playing maybe just under an hour, but I’m certain that they satisfied all who turned out for the special free show, most of whom turned out for the two shows at Emirates Stadium and seemingly universally declared them the best Muse concerts ever.
“The Zombies started over 52 years ago…” One of many breaks in-between songs wherein Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent – two founding members of the band – would provide some background and history on the “musical journey” myself and others in the packed indigO2 took part in throughout the concert. I love to have opportunities to witness true rock and roll pioneers and icons do their thing on stage, but given how long ago the band started, I always adjust down my expectations and anticipate nostalgia filling in where perhaps the performance might fall short. This perspective of mine ended up making me that much more thrilled once they started doing their thing, because the five men on stage were true musicians at the top of their game. They played flawlessly together, the sound was superb, Colin’s vocals were nothing short of staggering and sublime, and their music – new and old (and covered) sounded as contemporary as anything “new” I hear these days. I was truly floored by how The Zombies hit on all cylinders with their show in London last night, and cannot recommend enough turning out for their upcoming tour in the United States. Brilliant musicians and they put a variety of songs through their paces in a unique way that makes me wonder even more how this band never became so much bigger in popularity.
Last night’s Depeche Mode concert was the last for me, representing the fifth show in the past two weeks. The second of two concerts back-to-back at the O2 Arena in London, as with the night before, I elected to take a spot in the front row center at the end of the catwalk extending into the vast general admission standing floor. Waiting for the band to come out, it was a bit of déjà vu, but it turned out to be anything but… with the prior four shows, the set list was exactly the same at Bratislava, Slovakia’s Štadión Pasienky, Zagreb, Croatia’s Zagreb Arena, Budapest, Hungary’s Puskás Ferenc Stadion, and the prior night’s show at London, England’s O2 Arena. The signal that last night’s gig had something different in store was the familiar sound of distorted guitar feedback that marked the opening of Depeche Mode’s “In Your Room”, which opened into the awesome Zepyhr Mix version of the song. A friend of mine from California also turned out for the two O2 shows, and we turned to each other at the same time with a “holy shit!” expression on our faces. We knew at that point we were going to be treated to an amazing – and unpredictable – show put on by my favorite band on Earth, and they did not disappoint. An epic conclusion to an amazing personal (and literal) journey with the band and their music over the past two weeks, spanning a number of countries all over Europe and coming to a close in their home of England.
“Welcome To My World” – the song Depeche Mode has been using to kick off each gig for the European leg of their Delta Machine World Tour – took on a whole different meaning for me tonight as I had an opportunity to see Depeche Mode play in their native home country of England. Playing two shows back-to-back at The O2 Arena in London, this marks my fourth consecutive Depeche Mode show in the past two weeks (having seen them previously at Bratislava, Slovakia’s Štadión Pasienky, Zagreb, Croatia’s Zagreb Arena and Budapest, Hungary’s Puskás Ferenc Stadion. Surprisingly, though the set list has not changed show to show, the concerts themselves have all been pretty different from one another, and completely different experiences on a personal level to be sure. One thing I didn’t expect with the London shows was that what seemed like a majority of the concert goers (close to stage on the floor at least) were not from England, but other countries, so it was quite a multicultural affair. I’ve also made a concerted effort to change my own point of view – literally – with each show, and with this first O2 gig planted myself at the foot of the catwalk that extends out into the audience (and is much shorter in the indoor arenas compared with the outdoor stadiums), and it was really a fantastic experience. Seeing the expression on Dave Gahan’s face as he came out to the end for “Never Let Me Down Again” – close up and in real life – made this relentless two week country-hopping adventure worth it just for that amazing moment (which I managed to catch on video as well). As I’ve mentioned over and over in the reviews leading up to this, Depeche Mode has long been my favorite band, and these concerts have been nothing short of epic.
Last night was a really historic and wonderful event by a little band called Ash. And I mean “little” in the most complimentary sense… a band that has stayed true to its roots and its fans. The group from Ireland celebrated their 20th anniversary in style, by really creating an event that celebrated their fans as much as themselves. This was most appropriately illustrated by their second of three (yes three!) sets, which transformed from an acoustic concert in a very small setting (which made the typical MTV Unplugged show look like a stadium gig by comparison) to a session of “Asheokie” (i.e. karoke, but with fans fronting for the band themselves). It was really unlike any show I’ve ever been to, and demonstrated a lot of class and, well, tremendous fan service. [Read more…]
This is the seventh and last in a series of photojournals covering concerts during my trip to England and France. Tonight I attended a Rihanna concert at the O2 Arena in London, England on December 20th, 2011. [Read more…]