Wednesday 27 August 2008

What U2 Could Learn From REM

Value for money (1)
Fanclub membership
U2 $45 includes occasional exlusives on 25% one off discount on store merchandise. Recently a free tee shirt/CD on re-subscribing.

REM $12 includes regular newsletters, exclusive interviews/photos, a Christmas package that includes card from the band, plus goodies such as CDs, videos etc. Discount on all store items for members.

Looking after and showing appreciation of fans:
With the fanclub tickets REM gave members wristbands that allowed them early entry into the venue so they could get prime places in the front enclosure. Excellent idea what a wonderful thank you that is to loyal fans.

Value for money (2)
Tickets for REMs gig in Manchester were £45 - very reasonable.

Why U2 can't do some of the things REM do for their fans - especially a reduction in the extortionate fanclub fee? I also think the wristband idea is wonderful too! I know U2 are on a bigger scale than REM, but I see no reason why they can't do similar things for their loyal fans.

REM Accelerate Tour Manchester

On Sunday my friend Dawn and I went down to Manchester to see REM play. We stayed at Jury's hotel which turned out to be the ideal place as it was close to good eating places and the tramline to where the gig was being held.

After getting sorted we went out to check where we would get the tram to the venue, it was very close to the hotel. As it was a Sunday the streets were relatively quiet and we admired the beautiful Victorian buildings that dominated this area. One had gorgeous decorative arches over the windows celebrating famous authors from the past.

We then looked for somewhere to eat. I knew that Deansgate Locks were close by and remembered the lovely meal Debbi and I had in the restaurant of The Comedy Store so we walked the short distance there. Unfortunately The Comedy Store was closed but various other bars and Restaurants at the Locks were open. We decided to go for The Pitcher and Piano and, as the weather was so lovely and warm sat outside on the boardwalk overlooking the canal. we both had fish and chips and I must say they were delicious! Dawn treated me to the meal as an early birthday/retirement present which was very kind of her. We just could not believe the weather, for weeks it has been rain, rain, rain and there we were eating al fresco in sunshine!

At 5pm we decided to head to the Lancashire County Cricket Club at Old Trafford where the gig was being held. We got on at the GMEX stop and it took less than ten minutes to get to Old Trafford. The LCCC is literally right beside the tram station, so it is very convenient, no long hikes today!

We got into the ground quickly and as it was all general admission could sit or stand. We decided to sit in the seats as Dawn had been at a wedding the night before and had sore feet from standing for a long time!

The cricket ground was round with some small stands that were completely open to the elements, luckily the weather was still sunny and warm. About one third of the place was cordoned off as they were replacing the turf. I looked around at the audience and they were much like a U2 crowd, very mixed ages across the generations.

My BIG complaint about the LCCC is the lack of women's toilets. I queued for 30 minutes then Dawn went shortly afterwards and was away for an hour! I was beginning to get worried about her but she'd been in the queue for the toilet all that time! That is ridiculous, Dawn missed most of The Editors set because she was in the queue.

The first support band was Guillimots who I had vaguely heard of but knew nothing of their music. I quite liked them, the singer had a good voice and I loved the strong drumming on many of the tracks played. Next support was Editors who I'd seen play at Glastonbury. I liked them too, again the singer had a strong voice, though as the set continued I was disapointed to find some of the songs rather samey.

REM came on at 8.30pm (there was an early curfew of 10.30pm hence the early start) opening with a blistering Living Well Is The Best Revenge. We were well back so relied on the two screens to each side of the stage. There were also a few smaller screens behind the band, very low key compared with U2 but that's ok, biggest is not necessarily the best!

The band were very together as you'd expect after almost 30 years of being together, there were also a lot of interactions between Bill, Mike and Michael which reminded me of U2. I have always liked REMs music as much as U2's (but I related to U2 more and so became a bigger fan of theirs) and the band were hot tonight. Some of the songs I did not know - I don't have all REM's albums, I didn't buy the last two albums before Accelerate for instance. But most were familiar, What's the Frequency Kenneth, Drive, Ignoreland, Electrolite (one of my favourites), Hollow Man. Pretty Persuasion was dedicated to the Gay Pride Festival that had been held in Manchester that weekend. There were a couple of rants from Michael against President Bush, he's certainly not REM's favourite person!

Michael seemed to be really enjoying himself, often doing wacky dancing - he can certainly move well! He asked the crowd to get out their "portable phones" and light the place up, it looked lovely.

For me the highlight of the show was when they played I've Been High and Let Me In. Both done almost acoustically, full of emotion and Michael's voice soaring in the latter song. Both songs really touched me and gave me goosebumps, gorgeous stuff and what a good concert is all about.

Orange Crush and Imitation of Life (another big fave of mine) got the crowd singing as loud as they could. The encore began with Supernatural Superserious. The show finished with the real crowd pleaser Man on the Moon which had everyone singing along and clapping, a great way to end the show. Unfortunately they did not play my two favourite songs Nightswimming and Find the River, but with a back catalogue as vast as REM's you are bound to miss out on some of your favourites they can't play everything!

I thoroughly enjoyed the gig, there was an intimate, friendly atmosphere and fantastic music. As with U2 there were fans from all over the country and beyond. I just love the gorgeous melodies so many of REM's songs have, the great musicianship and Michael's voice is totally unique, emotional and powerful. A brilliant night and I left on a high.

The Set List

1. Living Well Is The Best Revenge 2. These Days 3. What's The Frequency, Kenneth?
4. Drive 5. Man-Sized Wreath 6. Fall On Me 7. Ignoreland 8. Walk Unafraid 9. Hollow Man 10. I’m Gonna DJ 11. Electrolite 12. Pretty Persuasion 13. The Great Beyond 14. So Fast, So Numb 15. 7 Chinese Bros. 16. The One I Love 17. I’ve Been High 18 Let Me In 19. Horse To Water 20. Bad Day 21. Orange Crush 22. Imitation Of Life 23. Supernatural Superserious 24. Losing My Religion 25. Mr. Richards 26. It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine) 27. Man On The Moon

REM at the End of the Concert at Manchester 24th August 2008 (Accelerate Tour) - Photo by M J Gray

We left the cricket ground and the police and stewards had the dispersal of the thousands of fans well under control. Within 30 minutes of the concert finishing Dawn and I were back in the centre of Manchester. We were really hungry and found a Chinese restaurant, Tai Wu, still open so we decided to go in and have a meal. It was really busy in there - it's the first time I've eaten a Chinese at that hour of the night!

Back at the hotel we relaxed, had a bottle of wine and chatted. A wonderful way to finish a day full of great REM music, delicious food and good company.

Friday 22 August 2008

12 Working Days.....

12 working days is all I have until I retire! Yikes! I can't believe that day is so close. I'm ready to leave my very stressful job, but I also have very ambivalent feelings. I feel excited, nervous, happy, scared. The thought of all the things I will at last have time to do is great, as is the freedom and not getting up early on crap winter mornings! But I've worked all my adult life and know I'll miss aspects of it, one of the main things I'll miss I think is the fact I feel I am doing something useful with my life in my work as a psychiatric community nurse. To me that is important, and I enjoy helping people get their lives together once more. I'll miss a lot of my colleagues who do a brilliant job in often difficult circumstances.

On a personal note, I also am a bit worried about the reduction in income and how I'll manage - but then I can always get a little job for extra money if that happens. Somewhere like B & Q that takes a lot of older people on! LOL!

On a positve note, I do appreciate that I am very lucky to be able to retire relatively young on a full pension. It's going to be a massive change in my life that's for sure, but I think the pros will outnumber the cons in the end.

Saturday 16 August 2008

New U2 Songs "Leak"

Various newspapers such as this have been reporting on the songs recorded by a fan outside Bono's villa in Eze, France, these songs were then posted on the Net. Does this sound a bit familiar? I think so, I can remember very similar things happening in the past. Seems U2 are often rather negligent not long before a new album is released and fans manage to record new music and upload it onto the Internet. You'd think a band like u2 could afford better soundproofing.....

Sunday 10 August 2008

Diet Update

I haven't done an update on how my diet is going for quite a long time, I'm pleased to say that I have now lost 28lbs and am over halfway to my goal weight! I still attend the Weight Watcher meetings regularly - they really help me keep focused.

The weight's coming off very slowly recently, these last 3 weeks I've only lost half a pound each week. But it's still a loss and they say it's best coming off slowly. It's hard at times, my social life tends to be mainly centred around going out for meals, but I'm managing that fairly well.

People are really noticing now and it's always encouraging when people comment on the weight loss. I still feel motivated so - watch this space!

Another Irish Band Outsells U2!

Found this on the Net and I thought I was seeing things at first. The veteran Irish band The Batchelors have released a greatest hits album and it has outsold U2s Boy, October and War by a large margin. Even in their 60s heyday The Batchelors were considered cheesy. Seems more people than me thought re-released re-masters are a waste of money.... And the re-releases have done even worse in the US. What people really want is NEW music, U2 please give a release date - for October!

You can read the full article here

Thursday 7 August 2008

Rock Star on Holiday

Bono has been with his family on holiday in the South of France. But he's crossed the border to Italy now and these lovely photos were taken in beautiful Portofino in Italy. It must be really weird having photogrpahers following you when your on your hols, but I supposed they are well used to that by now.

Tuesday 5 August 2008

Bono Remember's U2's "Boy"

Bono remembers U2's "Boy"
Rolling Stone, August 05, 2008 by Bono

(Bono seems to be regularly writing into music magazines nowadays, this is something he sent to Rolling Stone. If Bono's name had not been on this I would have known it was written by him. It's absolutely fascinating reading in his wordy and inimitable style, full of wit, honesty and many insights into this very complex man. I must admit though he lost me a couple of times when referred to some films I'd never heard of, and what exactly is "malene├┐ss"?)

Without further ado: Entering the blogosphere, a review of BOY from the singer who was one at the time of recording… We the members of said post punk combo are very complimented by DAVID FRICKES 4.5 star review of our debut, an album we always believed in. I remember now a generous JON PARELES review from the VILLAGE VOICE in 1980, a line something along the lines of “this is peter pan, I hope they break up before they grow up”. Anyway, as my band mates and I attempt to finish our most complete and radical album yet, here’s my why and what I think is right and wrong about BOY having listened to it for the first time in over twenty years.

If you start from the pseudo british accent and the little reported fact that the singer sounds like a girl, things don’t look too promising …the annoying gene is present in self consciousness and self immolation… you do want to give the singer a slap for lots of reasons but let’s start with the pretentiousness….the singer has obviously been listening to SIOUXIE AND THE BANSHEES, JOY DIVISION and a few others whose combined archness and artfulness was just too much for the freckled face teenager from northside of DUBLIN…. neither fully protestant or catholic, IRELAND had left the boy with a face like a baked bean and in search of a nonregional identity…a theme that continues to the present.

As for the non lyrics that Wunderkind STEVE LILYWHITE had begged him to no avail to write… well….the excuse is that in the manner of another POP idol, IGGY, they were for the most written live on the microphone ..this was noble in its search for authenticity but a very flawed idea that almost gauges the eyes out of the albums open face but alas, the strengths way out weigh the weaknesses…maybe because it was an album about vulnerability.. BOY eschews the usual subject matter of rock and roll’s hurry to deface its own innocence through knowingness, sex, drugs etc in favour of a refusal to grow up …think GUNTER GRASS’s Tin Drum VOLKER SCHLONDORFs film of the novel released the same year as BOY…if ninetynine percent of rock and roll is about sex this one percenter is about virginity and not wanting to lose it…malene├┐ss is more elusive here and I can see now why the album had such a connection in the gay community with songs like TWILIGHT and STORIES FOR BOYS.Then there is the galling religious audacity of writing a song about agape love at eighteen years old….that alone deserves some gold stars as well as the custard pies.

I WILL FOLLOW is still a rush and a marker for innovation (the percussion in the drop was a bicycle spinning, wheels upside down and played like a harp with a kitchen fork…)ADAM CLAYTONs bass is a revelation to me on this listen, and up there with JOHN ENTWISLE and PETER HOOK in its inventiveness… LARRY MULLEN too is jumping through hoops to create a circus of tom tom parts and spectral spectre like snaring…. giddying up and clearing the fence every time…. I agree with DAVID FRICKE that they are not yet a rhythm section in the traditional sense but maybe something more interesting … the ‘weight’ of U2….Steve LILYWHITES production deserves a lot of credit here for its sonic prowess, big music in little hands..But the star of the show is THE EDGE some guitar credit must be shared with the groups that helped shape us,people like PINK FLOYD, PIL and TELEVISION… guitar players like STUART ADAMSON VINNIE REILLY etc but there is something happening here that is truly special…EDGEs genuine genius developing on the blank and bleached photographic paper…. avoiding all the obvious blues scales that blind every other guitar player that ever heard LED ZEPPELIN …THE EDGE finds some new colours for the spectrum of rock. Colours he now owns … owning a colour, wow .. imagine owning the colour yellow like VAN GOGH… EDGE owns, well I'm not exactly sure what colours they are… indigo or violet or crimson?… but you sense an emotional colour temperature that is unique to him… its his palette we’re painting from. he’s following the jazzmen’s maxim to “own your own tone and you will become contagious ” and as a result you can hear him show up in lots of rooms hes not in, isn’t that right…?Surely this is the most influential guitarist since the great composers JIMMY PAGE, PETE TOWNSEND,NEIL YOUNG but remember he doesn’t have the history of the blues to plumb, these are unchartered waters…was to the English psychedelic revival we were also inspired by and plundering .. THE TEARDROP EXPLODES and ECHO AND THE BUNNYMEN…they were better than us no doubt about it…with ECHOs CROCODILES a better debut on pretty much every level… that and their next album HEAVEN UP HERE having the same effect on their moment as RADIOHEADS BENDS AND OK COMPUTER.

It was all there… songwriting, playing and standing in front of the mirror type coolness but of course the pursuit of coolness is rarely the same thing as the pursuit of art. This was obvious to a lot of our contempories too BUT maybe not not not talking about Teardrops or the Bunnyrabbits or Wah Heat! but for many of our peers, the most important bit was lifestyle and the fashion piece which we clearly were not very good at. And it is very very important…An almost essential companion to greatness… From ELVIS to THE BEATLES THE WHO to THE STONES THE CLASH to PRINCE, STYLE has been part of rocks revolution and evolution…. our only addition is comedic failure to fit into the grey or vivid clothes of rebellion and the crime of thinking no veneer was the utterly radical way to look and sound…and then there’s the other thing, the lifestyle….of course the life of the artist is always more compelling than being an artist. To live in the garret with a knife in your hand and a bleeding ear is more romantic than the fragility that leaves open the wound … Bohemia is more attractive than suburbia but maybe you don’t live there, maybe you live on a street which is like any other street where the opera that goes on behind parted curtains is more than enough…..It was briefly for U2. You can have everything the songs, the production, the face, the attitude but still not have “IT”…U2 had nothing really, nothing but ‘IT’…

For us music was a sacrament …an even more demanding and sometimes more demeaning thing than music as ART, we wanted to make a music to take you in and out of your body, out of your comfort zone, out of your self, as well as your bedroom, a music that finds you looking under your bed for God to protect your innocence……i’m proud of this little Polaroid of a life I cant fully recall. As well as the ability to make embarrassing mistakes, the demands of a great debut might be fresh ideas, fresh paint and sometimes for its canvas, a fresh face.

I miss my boyhood.

Bono, 3rd August

(c) Rolling Stone, 2008