Saturday 29 October 2011

Keez Bistro, Carlisle - Review

Cecil Street, Carlisle


Located in the cellars of a Victorian building, lots of nooks and crannies with natural and white painted brick walls and modern decor. Plenty of room between tables, comfortable chairs.  Very relaxing feel to the place and excellent piped music (U2, The Killers, Van Morrison....)

For my starter I had goat's cheese, with mushroom, wilted spinach and pine nuts.  It was absolutely wonderful and the herby bread provided was a delightful accompaniment.  My friend had the homemade pea and smoked salmon tart with dill creme fraiche and she thought that was excellent.

For the main I had pan seared duck breast with sweet pumpkin and sugar snap peas.  The duck was perfectly cooked with a hint of pink and very tender.  Pumpkin is an under used vegetable in the UK so it was a nice change, and it was very good - though I had to pick bits of red chili out of it as I'm not a fan of the hot stuff!

I nearly had chocolate chip cheesecake with mint ice cream for dessert, but I resisted!  Aren't I getting good?

Service was good and attentive, though waits were quite long, the comfortable ambiance of the place meant I didn't mind and it gave my friend and I time to have a good natter!  I was surprised that there was only one choice of red wine by the glass, surprising for a restaurant like that, not everyone wants to buy a whole bottle and more of a choice by the glass would have been good.  I was also surprised that they did not serve cappuccino, the only coffee available was a cafetiere.  But those things did not spoil what was a fabulous meal out.

Expensive.  But during the week the restaurant has reasonable special deals.

Northern Star Rating
Ambiance ****   Food ****

Adam Clayton Interview on BBC Radio 6

Adam with Huey Lewis at the BBC
There was a good interview with Adam on BBC 6 yesterday.  Nothing much new in it really, but he did say that U2 would be working again with Dangermouse from "The first of the new year."  Seeing that has come from Adam, who is generally more accurate than Bono in what he says, maybe it holds more credence.  There was also a first play Blow Your House Down, which is ok but didn't blow (haha) me away.

The interview is available for another six days on BBC iPlayer here.

Tuesday 25 October 2011

Ahk-toong Bay-bi Covered - Review

I wasn't sure about this when I first heard about it.  I tend to hate covers of U2 songs and I wasn't really looking forward to this CD covering the songs from Achtung Baby.  But on listening to the CD I was pleasantly surprised, it is generally a good album.  For those not in the UK and haven't got the CD yet many of the covers are on YouTube.

And, for your interest, the related interview in Q Magazine is fascinating, seems the band are thinking just what us fans are, U2 are at another turning point in their career.  A time of being unsure about their place, relevance and ability to reinvent once more.  The guys are going to have to do a lot of soul searching and work in the next year or two.

The best quote in the article is by the author describes Bono sitting in his seat on the plane as "Compact, stocky and squashed into his seat as he is, he looks like a gothic SpongeBob."  Bet Bono's never been described like that before LOL!

Below is my personal opinion on the songs after the first listen:

  1. Zoo Station - Nine Inch Nails. I wasn't sure what to expect with this U2 done by Nine Inch Nails??  But, much to my surprise, I liked their version of this song.  Sung in a low, whispery tone with an almost Spector-like wall of industrial sound.  NIN made the song their own and it worked - except the ending seemed to go on forever.
  2. Even Better Than the Real Thing (Jacques Le Cont Mix) - The real U2   I'm not a fan of remixes and this one didn't win me over, it was just a typical, tedious remix like so many before.
  3. One - Damien Rice. A bit of a lacklustre, emotionless version of this classic.
  4. Until the End of the World - Patti Smith.  A very individual version of this song and what a voice!  Having said that I'm not sure about this song after only one listen, but have a feeling it's a grower.
  5. Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses - Garbage.  The verses were very low-key followed by a sonic blast in the chorus.  It was ok, but nothing special.
  6. So Cruel - Depeche Mode. Never has a title been so apt. Awful.
  7. The Fly - Gavin Friday.  The perfect performer for this song, Gavin sounds dark, sleazy and dangerous just as The Fly should be. A great discordant, cacophony of  industrial sounds blasts out around the vocals, wonderful.
  8. Mysterious Ways - Snow Patrol.  This is a brave version of the song, very stripped back and different from the original.  But, as much as I love Snow Patrol, I felt it didn't work, the song lost its swagger and sexiness and became tedious.
  9. Tryin' To Throw Your Arms Around the World - The Fray.  Another very individual version of a U2 song.  Faster than the original, it sounded to me like one of the myriad of typical American-sounding songs around.  Not terrible, but not memorable either.
  10. Ultra Violet (Light My Way) - The Killers.  I lurrrrve Brandon's voice and here it was full of the passion within the amazing lyrics of the song.  Lovely!
  11. Acrobat - Glasvegas.  Sorry I'm not a Glasvegas fan, they bored me rigid on the 360 Tour and this punk version of Acrobat is, yes, different, but also bad, bad, bad.
  12. Love Is Blindness - Jack White.  They saved the best to last.  Wow, what an amazing cover this is!  Jack has made it his own and at the same time added to the original.  The emotion is there, and so is anger, screaming, raging anger both in voice and guitar.  It sent shivers up my spine, stunning!

Monday 24 October 2011

U2 Wins Q Award

(Photo: PA)
U2 were honoured at the Q Awards at The Grosvenor House Hotel in London today as the greatest act of the past quarter of a century.  The band was chosen by the magazine's readers,  the award was a special one to celebrate Q Magazine's 25th anniversary this year.  All four band members were there in person to receive the award.

Here's an interview done with Edge at the Awards.  Nice, but nothing new there.

Sunday 23 October 2011

The Rhythm of the Dance

My cousin Glenys and I saw this show at the weekend.  Even though I am a fan of anything Irish I've never seen any of the numerous Irish dance shows that are around and when this came to the Sands Centre in Carlisle I decided to go.

We had a lovely evening - there was even a bit of U2 in the pre-show music, With Or Without You.  What an amazing song that is.  The show was a mix of Irish dancing and singing by the three Irish tenors.  I was stunned by the dancing, it seemed like those people had no joints!  Irish dancing is different as most of the action is from the knees down.  The dancers were mostly very young and I think you have to be young to be able to dance like that!  They were supported by amazing musicians playing the Irish harp, flute, fiddle, uilleann pipes, guitar, accordian and bodhran.

There's something about Irish music that just gets your foot tapping and emotions racing.  I felt quite choked up a few times during the show, even during a song sung in Irish - I couldn't understand the lyrics but the feelings still came across nonetheless, that typical Irish bitter/sweet sadness of those far away from their place of birth.  That's what's special about Irish music, you don't have to understand the words to feel the emotions.  One song performed was Wild Mountain Thyme or Will Ye Go Lassie Go which really showed the brotherhood between the Irish and the Scots, it could easily have been a Scottish song too.There were also influences from other genres, for example Irish dance/music fused with the tango and charlton which made an interesting combination.

 This show is well worth seeing, a brilliant night out.  It seems to be touring all over so if you get the chance do go and see it.  All in all a great evening's entertainment which made me all the more impatient to get back to Ireland - but it's only three weeks until we go to Dublin, it'll be wonderful to be back in my favourite city once more!

Another U2 Crisis?

Below is a thought provoking quote from an article by Brian Boyd in the Irish Times.  My feeling  (and that of many other long-time U2 fans,)  that U2 are at another major crossroads in their career once more, seems to be confirmed in this article.  Over 20 years after their pre-Achtung Baby crisis can they weather this storm and come out with another classic album?  I'm not sure they can, but they often do their best work when under pressure, so they may just give us something special. Just don't be so obsessed with the "mainstream" Bono......
The article is from an interview in Toronto and also reviews From the Sky Down.  You can read the whole article here.
Back to the future: 'The app format brings you back to that world of gatefold sleeves' 
Looking back at the trauma of getting Achtung Baby on its legs and having to forge a new sound and identity, Bono says, “It’s actually worse for us now than it was when we went to Berlin.”
He shrugs off the fact that the band have just recorded the biggest-grossing live tour in the history of popular music and wonders whether U2 can still be relevant. “We can play the big music in big places. But whether we can play the small music, meaning for the small speakers of the radio or clubs, where people are living, remains to be seen,” he says. “I think we have to go to that place again if we’re to survive.
“There are so many U2 albums out there. We need a reason for another one. The whole point of being in U2 is that we’re not here to be an art-house band. Our job, as we see it, is to bring the art house to the mainstream; our job is to puncture the mainstream.”
Earlier, he was using an iPad with the Achtung Baby songs and videos on it. “That’s probably what our new album will look like,” he says. “I’ve been talking about this for the past four years.
“Our last album was the first album to be made available as an app with BlackBerry devices, but it didn’t work: the functionality was not what it could have been. New formats are going to happen. I’m always banging on about this. The app format brings you back to that world of gatefold sleeves, of being able to read lyrics – and [now of] being able to play the album at home on your plasma TV.”
Bono at the One foundation, in Paris, this week.
Photographs: Fred Dufour/AFP/ Getty Images

Sunday 16 October 2011

U2 at the Clinton Foundation Concert - Review

Half of U2, Bono and Edge, topped the bill at this concert celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Bill Clinton Foundation and Clinton's 65th birthday.  And what an eclectic acoustic set this duo played!  They opened with Desire, followed by I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For, the latter was lovely really liked this slower version.

Then Bono announces that they were going to play a song that.
"We've never played before."  What?? "...... This a a song that takes as it's subject, the mysterious difference between a man and a woman"  Yep they played A Man and a Woman live for the very first time!  Not a personal favourite song of mine, but it was a very good version, complete with a Apple Macbook backbeat (which of course doesn't compare to Larry!)

The next song was the predictable Sunday Bloody Sunday, which I'm heartedly sick of, but it was well done, both Bono and Edge were in good voice.  Nice that it was sung with Bono on the narrow walkway in the crowd.

Calling themselves "Irish buskers"  Bono went into one of his ramblings.
"One of the bummers about being in a band .....really you just hang about with men all the time.... being in a rock'n'roll band is kinda  like being on an oil rig.  I was talking with the Edge about this and he said we should get a string section, they often have girls in them."  Only Bono could compare being in a rock band to being on an oil rig!

They were joined on stage by a string section, mostly made up of females and launched in a song that
"Should have been a very big hit .... that was before Jimmy Iovine was working with us.  Look what that did on the last one." Mmmm, not sure what was going on there.  Then they played Staring at the Sun, another surprise, so so long since I've heard that live, the strings sounded great in it.  Amazing that they chose to play a song from Pop which was totally ignored throughout the 360 Tour.

Next "You might know this one, it wasn't a hit either."  Bit of a hit obsession going there Bono?  One, did actually get to number one in Ireland!  It was a very emotional performance of the song, after seeing from the Sky Down, this song has become all the more special to me.  Bono added a little of Stevie Wonder's Happy Birthday at the end of the song.

Clinton got on stage thank both Bono and Edge for their various charitable works before they finished with Miss Sarajevo.  It was lovely, the strings were perfect with it and Bono's operatic part sent shivers down my spine, beautiful.

It was a set for fans in a way, most people know Sunday and One, most of the others would be new to a mainstream audience.  Great to see them doing this, keep experimenting lads, I'm still hoping to hear Walk to the Water and Luminous Times live one day.

Watch U2's set below.

Tuesday 11 October 2011

From the Sky Down Review

To be honest I've found it very hard to write this review, there is so much in it and it's hard to know what to write about and what to leave out.  So I suppose the best way to start is to say I really enjoyed the documentary.  I wasn't sure what to expect, knowing that U2 can be control freaks I thought it might be more of a promo for the Achtung Baby remasters released at the end of this month.  But, it was far from this, it was a, sometimes painfully, honest picture of U2 at a very vulnerable point in their personal and creative lives together. It doesn't focus on the making of Achtung Baby, but moreso on the difficult, personal transition from The Joshua Tree to Achtung Baby.

The format was a mixture of old and new footage of the band interspersed with excellent animation.  Brian Eno, Daniel Lanois, Flood and Paul McGuinness also said their bit, but most of it was left to the band members to talk on and off camera.

There was more pre-Joshua Tree history and footage from previous documentaries than I would have liked, but, as not everyone watching would be an avid fan,  it was necessary to have some history of the band's career to set the context for what happened after The Joshua Tree Tour.

The honesty displayed was both touching and revealing.  The fact that they felt they were flying by the seat of their pants during The Joshua Tree tour was surprising.  They were not ready for the Big Time and felt they were not up to the mark and were full of self doubt.  Bono talked about how difficult it was to cope with certain sections of the gigs and they showed him having a rant about something that had gone wrong in a show.  He generally comes across as uber-confident, but this documentary shows he has his struggles and self doubts like anyone else.  So at a time when those outside of the band thought the tour was triumph, to the band members themselves it felt anything but.

The self doubt continued on into Rattle and Hum, though done for the right reasons, it turned out to be a huge mistake for the band.  Ironically, if they had been as honest as in this documentary in the Rattle and Hum film there is a good chance it would have been received better.  They were truly shocked by the negative reaction to it.  The documentary showed a little of the famous 1989 New Years Eve gig and the "Dream it all up again" speech from Bono.  

There was not much communication after the tour and Bono and Edge took themselves off and Larry and Adam felt a sense of abandonment.  They re-grouped in Hansa Studios in Berlin at the time the Wall came down.  Bono's more human, funny side does come across in this documentary and his impersonation of the British Airways pilot landing the last plane in a divided Germany was hilarious.  I can see why Hansa is a special place to record in, it is a beautiful space to be creative in.

It was a time of great change for Europe and that was echoed in the band.  As Alan Yentob said in his introduction, the city was seeking to renew and reinvent itself just as U2 were. Hansa had inspired numerous artists, but initially it wasn't happening for U2.  The Hansa sessions from twenty years ago were interspersed with their recent visits to record there for the Achtung Baby remasters.  There were also clips from footage recorded for the remasters in Winnipeg this year.  Plus there was even a little from "Dogtown" in Dalkey where they continued to work after the Berlin sessions. Sometimes that was a little confusing, but at the same time it was interesting to intersperse the four different recording environments.

There was a fabulous version of Love Is Blindness sung by Edge with acoustic guitar.  Sometimes you forget what a lovely voice he has.  Again, there was such honesty here as they talked of how this song was influenced by the break up of Edge's first marriage.  He said he was running away from his personal problems and was trying to find refuge in the music.  This created a huge resonance within U2 which until then had felt very stable and whole.  I think it was Bono who said that it felt like all of U2's community and music was cracking and falling apart.

The most captivating moment in the documentary is when One (working title Young Blood, I think it should have been New Blood) is born.  It starts in a section within Mysterious Ways (working title Sick Puppy).  And it is fascinating to see it form and develop in the footage from the original sessions.  Bono experimenting with the words and melody while the others tried to build the music around that.  You can feel that excitement of something special happening within the band, it is riveting stuff to say the least.  One is truly a song about the rebirth of U2.

It seems the band regains it's belief in itself after that and can move forward into a new U2 age.  Bono reinvents himself,  if he's going to be The Fly he  needs "some protection ... some armour"

Lou Reed's glasses
Jim Morrison's pants
Elvis's jacket - and a bit of his hair.

As Adam so succinctly puts it the band move "Into a brighter light."

Towards the end of the documentary the 1990's trips in the famous East German Trabants are interspersed with recent film of the band in the same cars in Berlin.  It is strangely touching to watch.  In new footage the band drive about in a Trabbie and then stop and get out of the car.  Adam, in the back, laughs as he initially can't get the seat in front of him to move forward so he can get out of the car.  Bono, holds out his hand to help him out of the car and they share a moment of laughter together.  It's a sweet moment, and I feel it's symbolic of why U2 survived the difficulties of the post Rattle and Hum trauma.  They fought to survive both because of their musical creativity and their friendship for each other, both were too special to lose.  And that is something that is special and still holds them close to this day.

This documentary gives us the truest insight into U2 I've seen, they should have done this a long time ago.  For fans like me it gives a unique insight and for people who are not fans, hopefully it will show them the human side of U2, how seriously they take their music and what they have achieved.

I don't feel my review has done the documentary justice, watch it and enjoy, you don't often get the chance to see this side of U2.

Monday 10 October 2011

The Imagine Peace Tower

Yoko Ono relit the Imagine Peace Tower on the Icelandic isle of Viðey on 9th October in memory of John Lennon.  The Tower is lit up every year from October 9, the anniversary of The Beatles singers' birth in 1940, to December 8, the day he was assassinated in New York in 1980.

Yoko was accompanied by their son, Sean and around 850 locals, who joined with them to sing John's song 'Imagine' as the beacon was turned on.  As the tower lit up, it sent a huge beam of light 4,000 metres into the air and projected the words 'Imagine Peace'.

In a statement, Yoko said.

"I hope the Imagine Peace Tower will give light to the strong wishes of World Peace from all corners of the planet and give encouragement, inspiration and a sense of solidarity in a world now filled with fear and confusion.  Let us come together to realise a peaceful world."

Apparently Yoko chose Iceland for the location of the tower as she felt it had a purity that many other countries have long lost. 

Spectacular though it is, nature managed to put on an even grander show than the tower that night with a spectacular display of the Northern Lights!

Photo by Guðmundur Fylkisson

It Wasn't Me

No Words Needed

Sunday 9 October 2011

Apple Day (Nothing to do with Steve Jobs!)

One of the few fruits that thrives in northern England is the apple.  This is the time of the apple harvest and many areas hold their own Apple Days.  Today I went through to Harestanes, a country park just outside Jedburgh, to meet up with my friend Alison and to go to my first Apple Day.  It was difficult to find and in the end I came across it by accident and arrived half an hour late!  Alison was helping out at a Border Organic Gardeners stall and I met her there.

Apples, Apples, Apples!
We went over to a room in what looked like a converted stable block which was full of fresh apples, the gorgeous, aromatic smell hit you as you walked in.  I had never seen so many apples in my life!  Most were English varieties, but there were some from the US, Australia and other countries.  All had information about them on little cards complete with how they tasted.  You could touch and pick up the apples which was nice, somehow you want to be tactile with things like this.  There was one absolutely huge whopper whose taste was noted as "insipid", not exactly inspiring!  They also had information leaflets about how to look after apple trees, I picked one of these up as I planted a Cox's Orange Pippin tree in my garden earlier this year and have no idea how to look after it.

The Insipid Whopper
There was a stall of honey products that had delicious ginger cake made with honey instead of sugar.  We had a wander round the craft rooms, one had fabulous leather handmade handbags - one of the women was actually making one when we were there.  They were beautiful and unique, expensive but not outrageously so.  I had to put my sensible hat on and resisted the temptation to buy.

We went to the cafe for something to eat, and there was an apple theme to much of the menu.  I got into the spirit of it and had tomato, celery and apple soup (delicious) and an apple and cinnamon scone (equally delicious.)

We went on a walk through some nearby woods which was very pleasant, shame I'd left my dogs at home, but I am wary about leaving them in my car nowadays with all that you hear about pedigree dogs being stolen.

Afterwards, seeing the weather wasn't too bad, we sat in the central square, had a cappucino and listened to four musicians playing traditional music.  As I listened I noticed how like Irish music it was, bodhran and all.  There was a lovely atmosphere, busy and the people were chatty and friendly. It's good to see that local people still like and frequent traditional events like Apple Days.  It was a first for me and I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Saturday 8 October 2011

Friday 7 October 2011

Bono's Tribute to Steve Jobs

I thought this simple, but eloquent tribute from Bono was a touching eulogy to a man who left this world too soon.

Bono's Tribute to Steve Jobs, a True (RED) Champion

"What made Steve Jobs truly great is that he was only interested in doing truly great things.  He was bored by an easy ride or easy profit.  In a world littered with dull objects, he brought the beauty of clean lines and clear thought. This rhyme of intellect and intuition could be applied to a wide range of subjects from the US education system, to sculpture, to the fight against HIV/AIDS where his support of (RED) literally transformed the lives of two million people in Africa.

He changed music. He changed film. He changed the personal computer and turned telephony on its head while he was at it.  He was tenacious in the extreme, his toughness never more evident than these past few years in his fight for his life as well as his companies.

Steve told me as proud as he was of Apple and Pixar, his real pride was his family.  He was a thoughtful and tender father, and loved nothing more than hanging out in the house with his belle Laurene and the kids.

I already miss of a very small group of anarchic Americans who through technology literally invented the 21st century. We will all miss the hardware software Elvis."

Sunday 2 October 2011

There's a Bat in the House!

Last night I was sitting sipping wine and watching TV when I caught some movement out of the corner of my eye.  My kitchen has a glass pane above the door and the light was on, and there was a bat circling round and round in there!  I'm not sure how it got in, the window wasn't open, the only thing I can think of is that it crawled up the extractor shaft which has partially come away from the wall.

Now what to do?  I am aware that bats carry disease, that can be very harmful to humans and animals, especially rabies, so I didn't want it to get near my dogs (we don't vaccinate against rabies in the UK because it isn't a canine problem here due to strict quarantine laws) or worse still IN one of my dogs!  So I decided to just leave it for the night and hope it would go out the way it came in.

Next morning I left the dogs in the cage in the bedroom where they sleep, shut all the doors and gingerly ventured into the kitchen.  Don't know what I expected, to be dive bombed by a tiny bat or something LOL?  I looked round and there was no sign of it, methinks it must have gone out again, but I left the boys in their cage just in case it appeared out of nowhere again.  Then, as I was making my breakfast, again I noticed movement out of the corner of my eye, the bat was in a small, partially filled watering can on top of the fridge!

Mmmm, what to do once more.  I looked into the can and the poor little bat was floating on the top of the water, delicate, paper thin wings spread out so it didn't sink, it had a furry little head.  I had to rescue it God knows how long it had been in there.  But I didn't want to handle it, as I could get bitten and it would stress the tiny creature out even more.  I got a strong cardboard box I had, made a few air holes in it and put it on the worktop.  Then, knowing the bat would not be able take flight from the can I poured some of the water out, then when there was only a little left in tipped it and the bat into the box.  The bat was in a sorry state and just laid there in a sodden heap, I thought it was dead.  I took the box outside and , as it was raining lightly, (yes the Indian Summer is gone!) I half opened the flaps at the top so that there was shelter for the bat, yet it could easily fly off if it wanted to.

A few hours later I peeked in, the bat was still there, but looking much better all dried out and in a bat position not a heap like it had been.  At dusk I peeped in again, and was pleased to see the little fellow was gone.  I was chuffed that the escapade had a happy ending!

Saturday 1 October 2011

Double dose of U2!

October 9th BBC1

U2: From The Sky Down
Davis Guggenheim charts the making of U2's 1991 album, Achtung Baby.
2011, U2
Highlights of U2's Friday headlining slot at Worthy Farm.