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Sufjan Stevens, Edinburgh International Festival. Review.

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The penultimate night of the Edinburgh Festival saw Sufjan Stevens make one of only two UK appearances in support of his extraordinarily intimate album, Carrie and Lowell.

It’s clear that Stevens is something of a perfectionist as the quality of design, lighting, sound, performance and video were all of a standard I have never experienced in a rock performance in the last 35 years.

This was most dramatically realised in Blue Bucket of Gold; the song that brought the main set to a close.  At around 13 minutes long and with a wig out session that built and built and built, with the most beautiful use of mirror balls that is imaginable, this climax to the show simply took the breath away

(Here it is as performed in Columbus earlier this year)

His band is also remarkable, each one a multi instrumentalist, they float around the stage from instrument to instrument with a minimum of fuss as each song emerges, largely, but not exclusively from Carrie and Lowell, (Vesuvius, from the slightly disappointing Age of Adz, was a crowd pleaser).

Had someone dropped a pin in the Edinburgh Playhouse during some of the quieter numbers, in which you could almost hear Stevens’ heart beat, there’d have been a collective groan so absorbed was the audience in this intense and uplifting musical experience.

Once again I have to applaud Fergus Linehan for his vision in bringing so much contemporary music to this festival.  I saw King Creosote, FFS as well as Sufjan, but sadly missed the Anna Calvi show that I had tickets for.

Each one was a life affirming masterpiece in very, very different ways.

On completion of the show Sufjan came back and played an impromptu set that belied his control freakery because it all went Pete Tong during one of the numbers but NOT during John Wayne Gacy Jr, an all time favourite of mine (a murder ballad as he introduced it).

Not heard it?

You are in for a treat when you watch this…

Thank you Sufjan.  Thank you Fergus.  It was monumental.

Unquestionably *****.



FFS. That was good. (Franz Ferdinand and Sparks at Edinburgh Festival Theatre)
August 25, 2015, 12:09 am
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Pardon the obvious cheap jibe but it HAD to be done.

Franz Ferdinand and Sparks (known as FFS) collaborated on stage tonight in the Edinburgh International Festival and ended their show with the ironic “Collaborations Don’t work”.

Ironic because they do.

Not since Elton John and Kiki Dee has collaboration hit such great heights.

I jest.

Sparks and Franz Ferdinand are made for each other.  Their art school schtick is a perfect match.  Their angsty jittery, jangly synth/guitar combo creates greatness at every turn and, of course, each gets to showcase their three best songs.

Franz chose Take me Out (awesome), Michael (good) and Do you Want to (awesome) to shattering response.

Sparks elected for No 1 Song in Heaven (awesome), This Town ain’t Big Enough for the Both of us (awesome) and When Do I get to sing “my Way” (good).

Frankly the effect of this and their sublime collaboration was almost overwhelming.  This was a truly life affirming gig that anyone in that audience will talk about for years.

Thank you Franz Ferdinand.  Thank you Sparks.  Thank you Edinburgh international Festival.  Thank you Fergus Linehan for your vision to put this on.



Why is the BBC killing the Met Office? Money. That’s Why.
August 23, 2015, 11:20 am
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The John Kettley is a weather man app will be released shortly.  Because from now on although the Met Office will be forecasting the weather it will be broadcast to us by some fucking dot com that will be taking the Met office’s data and delivering it to us through some diaphanous cloud of bits and bytes.

This is the work of evil.

Some fucking BBC procurement officer went home on Friday night to be kissed on the forehead by his ugly wife as she said;

“Hello Henry how was work today?”

“Splendid Daphne. I ended 93 years of brilliant service, scuppered a large number of meteorologists careers and saved the tax payer threepence halfpenny when I appointed Meatoffice.com to do the weather from now on.”

“Oh Henry you are so adorable.  Shall we make some jam?”

“Yes Daphne.  No, actually, I am so high on adrenalin.  Let’s make…marmalade.”

Whoever Henry is in real life he is to be despised.

Let’s hear it for John Kettley as the BBC procurement team stuff action man sized models of Michael Fish up their anuses.



Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour at The Traverse. National Theatre of Scotland.

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Alan Warner’s hilarious novel, The Sopranos, has finally made it to the stage with a fancy new name and a soundtrack featuring a phalanx of ELO songs plus a stunning acapella rendition of No Woman No Cry.

The six strong female cast and three female instrumentalists vent more filth and spleen onto the Traverse 1 stage in 100 minutes than a score of submariners could muster in a month at sea.

Name a taboo and it’s delivered with gusto; spunk, jiz, shit, spew, piss and blood all make bawdy appearances in a play that makes Bridesmaids look like Play School.

Adapted by Billy Elliot writer, Lee Hall, and brilliantly directed by Vicky Featherstone it bowls along at 100 miles an hour yet pauses periodically to allow the bitter sweetness of the story to take root. It concerns a day trip from Oban to Edinburgh by the school choir of Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour to take part in an annual choir competition. Given a day to explore Auld Reekie the six characters we follow go apeshit in an orgy of drink, drugs and sex as a long line of male suitors (also played by the girls) have varying degrees of success in attempting to conquest what look like easy challenges but invariably end in failure.

It’s belly laugh out loud from start to finish but has fantastic moments of poignancy and features a number of outstanding vocal performances in keeping with the girls’ status as high-class choristers

I’ve been waiting a long time to see this and the wait was worth every minute. This is certain to be one of the hottest tickets on The Fringe and predictably is completely sold out even before the preview.

But it’s touring throughout Scotland in September so travel as far as you have to, to see this magical production.



Jeremy Corbyn. What’s going on?
August 11, 2015, 11:06 am
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Latest polls show Corbyn could win the vote overall in Round 1 as he has a 53% preference.

Why is this?

Well, clearly there is some mischief afoot as 60% of his voters are newly subscribed labour Party members.  So they joined the Party simply for this vote.  This means many of them will be Tories.  I find this a little troubling and certainly extremely disingenuous.  But the fact is the Labour Party has brought this on itself, after two decades of Blairite stuff and nonsense.

The Labour Party no longer stands for anything.  Jeremy Corbyn stands for everything.  The trouble is 9for the Labour Party) what Jeremy Corbyn stands for won’t get them into power because it will involve raising taxes.

So the outcome of all this will be a much more balanced UK party political system but only one party that can win power.  The Conservatives.

That said it should also shake up Scotland with a left wing party that should seriously challenge the SNP once again.

It’s a curate’s egg.  I long to see Labour stand for what it should, but fear the outcome.

Damned if you do.  Damned if you don’t.

We live in strange political times.



While we are on the subject of Nick Cave’s brilliance…
August 11, 2015, 10:50 am
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One of the best live performances I ever saw was at Glastonbury in 2012.

The girl in the white dress @7:45 is simply breathtaking.



Palaces of Montezuma. By Grinderman
August 11, 2015, 10:32 am
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That lyric throws up a visceral mental image, doesn’t it?

For me it’s the couplet that stops me, breathless, every time I hear it.

Its sheer audacity, but also its incredible writing skill, cannot be ignored.

First, the rhyme. JFK and negligee.

How eloquent.

Three syllables each.

In perfect cadence.

Second, the layer upon layer of meaning as diaphanous as the lyrical garment they’re wrapped in.

We all know what he’s talking about.

We all know the accusation. But he doesn’t make it. He simply uses ten words to summarise the scandal of the last century

It’s completely epic.

And it demonstrates what Google has been saying for some time now. Great writing gets noticed, gets attention, gets authority.

I concur.

Now hear it.




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