Wednesday 20 June 2012

Two Inspirational People.....

The Dalai Lama and Aung San Suu Kyi - who both happened to be in the UK - had a private meeting in London yesterday. The Dalai Lama has often campaigned for her release over the years.  I once had the pleasure of attending an event at a Buddhist temple not far from where I live where the Dalai Lama spoke.  He was charismatic, wise, gentle, calm and also very funny with a laugh that makes you laugh too, I just knew I was in the presence of someone special, but he was also very human.  And of course I have great respect for Aung San Suu Kyi as well who has given up so much for her beliefs. This is a lovely photo of two of the most inspirational people alive.

The Dalai Lama and Aung San Suu Kyi in London
 Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL

Tuesday 19 June 2012

Electric Burma

Aung San Suu Kyi was in Dublin yesterday to receive the most prestigious award that Amnesty International bestows,  Amnesty Ambassador of Conscience Award, Which was presented to her by Bono. For many, many years U2 has campaigned for her release from house arrest, yet Bono had not met Aung San Suu Kyi until Monday when she was in Norway to finally pick up her Nobel Peace Prize which was originally awarded in 1991, he accompanied her there and then on to Ireland. He admitted to being "starstruck" at meeting her.

You can watch her lovely acceptance speech for the Ambassador of Conscience here - I love her anecdote about the "Irish of the east". She is a amazing woman whose strength of mind and heart belies her small, petite stature. There aren't many "great" people around nowadays, who can truly inspire people, but she is one special lady. Also her English is soooo good, I know she was educated at Oxford, but her English barely has an accent.

She also received the Freedom of the City of Dublin while she was in the city. This was given to her in 2000 at the same time U2 received the same award.  My friends and I were there in Smithfield to witness this event and enjoy the accompanying concert, it was a great night. but there was also a bit of sadness as Aung Sang Suu Kyi was not able to be there as she was under house arrest in Burma. Her son accepted the award on her behalf.

There was a concert at the Bord Gais Energy Theatre in Dublin called Electric Burma after the award was given at which various artists such as Bono, Bob Geldof, Damien Rice, Declan O'Rourke, Riverdance amongst others performed.  Bono sang Walk On (along with a couple more songs) which was written specifically for Aung San Suu Kyi. It was an acoustic performance and it was simply fabulous! One of those tingly, thrilling moments that all you U2 fans will know about, beautiful, the words even more moving now that the bird in the cage was free and sitting there listening to those wonderful lyrics. It must have been amazing to be there live, I would have loved to have gone over but there was no way I could have at the moment. You can watch the video of this below.

And finally, Happy Birthday to Aung San Suu Kyi, 67 today, and despite her trials she certainly doesn't look it. She was in Oxford in the UK today where she studied and met and married her husband who has now passed away. When asked  about memories the city must have for her and her birthday she said "I feel a bit younger again." Touching, and let's hope there are many more birthdays for her as a free woman.

Thursday 14 June 2012

Coldplay, Manchester 10th June 2012

The weather was good for our trip down the motorway to Manchester but I felt lousy. I had done a night shift at work on the Friday and for some reason hardly slept on the Saturday night, so Sunday during the trip tiredness caught up with me, so much so that I felt physically sick.  At around 2.30pm we arrived at Glen's son's house (he was at the Download Festival with his girlfriend that weekend) in Swinton where we were staying, I went to bed for a couple of hours and actually slept, anyone who knows me knows that normally I don't take naps but I so needed this one! I felt much better when I got up.

At 6pm we went for am meal at a nearby pub called The Farmer's Arms. It was ok, typical pub fayre, nothing, special but ok.  With the aid of my sat nav Glen drove through the centre of Manchester and on to the Etihad Stadium, I doubt we would have managed it without the sat nav. We parked our car for the extortionate fee of £10 and then walked the short distance to the stadium, it was a cool but pleasant evening, so much better than the monsoon conditions there had been the previous night. Everyone was given wristbands (xylobands) to wear at the turnstiles.

Our seats were in the 2nd last row of the top tier but not far back from the stage, it was a bit windy up there lol! One of the support acts, Robyn, was just finishing her slot. The set consisted of four circular screens at the back of the stage, a curved main stage and a small, x-shaped b stage reached by a catwalk, it was all decorated with vividly coloured graffiti. There was a buzz in the audience, I just love the atmosphere of a live gig.

Coldplay made their grand entrance at 9.15pm. Everyone's xylobands (named after part of the latest album's title Mylo Xyloto) started flashing in unison. There was a sea of red, blue, pink, green, blue and white lights all around the stadium and fireworks whizzed into the air from behind the stage, it was pretty amazing. Later confetti canons spewed hearts and butterflies into the air, some even managed to float up to our level. It must have been amazing to be in the crowd at the front.

The opening song was Hurts Like Heaven, followed by Rush of Blood to the Head. The sound where we were (I know sound can vary so much in a stadium) was not good unfortunately, it seemed to improve as the gig progressed but was never really good.

Chris Martin gave an energetic performance, bouncing about like one of the huge balloons that were fed into the audience at one point.  He talked to the crowd a bit, but I didn't feel he had the charisma that makes a front person in a band really special.

It was good to hear some of my favourite songs such as Yellow, Viva La Vida, Paradise which I really enjoyed. But there was never a time that I got that lump in my throat, felt deep emotions, felt transported by the music. Coldplay are good but they - for me as music is very subjective - haven't the depth about them that I find in bands like U2 and Snow Patrol.

The stadium lit up with the xylobands - stunning!
They came on for the encore and for a moment I thought "where the hell are they?" It turned out that they had come one at a time onto small stage right at the back of the field, a nice touch giving those fans furtherest away a close up treat for a couple of songs. The band then ran down the side of the pitch and went back onto the main stage for the final three songs. The first was Clocks and the xylobands flashed into life again. Now that it was completely dark the effect was absolutely stunning, so beautiful, like colourful blanket lying over the whole stadium, gently flashing and undulating in time to the music. It made every person feel a part of the gig as indeed they were.  To see that on such a huge scale (I think the stadium holds 55,000 people) and hear the crowd singing along was awe-inspiring.

The penultimate song was the lovely Fix You, another of my favourite songs by Coldplay. Every Teardrop is a Waterfall, combined with communal singing, sparkly xylobands  and then fireworks brought the gig to an end.

I enjoyed the concert, it didn't move me, but I had fun. Coldplay have been accused of being a bit bland, and  sometimes I can see where that comes from. But it can't be denied that they have also created some wonderful songs over the years too. Would I see them again? I don't think so, but I am glad I went this once - though I am miffed my xyloband remained stubbornly dark lol!

  1. Mylo Xyloto
  2. Hurts Like Heaven
  3. In My Place
  4. Major Minus
  5. Lovers in Japan
  6. The Scientist
  7. Yellow
  8. Violet Hill
  9. God Put A Smile On Your Face
  10. Princess of China
  11. Up In Flames
  12. Warning Sign
  13. Don't Let It Break your Heart
  14. Viva La Vida
  15. Charlie Brown
  16. Paradise
  17. Us Against The World
  18. Speed Of Sound
  19. Clocks
  20. Fix You
  21. Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall

Monday 4 June 2012

The Queen's Diamond Jubilee

When I was young I was very anti-royal family, I thought they were a waste of the people's money. Maybe part of that was because I'm only half English, I don't know. But my view has changed over the years (as views do) and, though not a massive royalist, I appreciate what the Queen has done for the country now.  And what struck me at this Jubilee celebration is that the Queen has been a constant in my life, she's always been there in the background since as far back as I can remember, and that's pretty.

Jubilee Concert Stage in Front of Buckingham Palace
(Photo Leon Neal AFP)
For an 86 year old she is doing well too, I was amazed at how long she stood on the royal barge during the Thames Pageant yesterday. Phillip too, though he's in hospital now with an infection maybe it was too much for him at 90! It was a typical British day weather-wise, windy and pouring with rain, one of the choirs on a boat was soaked, their hair plastered to their heads. But the British thing is to just ignore that and get on with things.

A lot of the time the Queen looks quite stern, yet when she smiles her face lights up, wish she would do that more. I don't envy her, still working hard at 86! But she has been a good representative for Britain, she's done her duties well and worked tirelessly - and there's never been any personal scandal.

Fireworks at the End of Jubilee Concert
(Photo Anthony Devlin PA)
Times are hard at the moment, and this has given the country a shot in the arm. Britons don't usually show much patriotism, you hardly ever see a Union Jack flying, we seem almost embarrassed to fly the flag. We've done things we can't be proud of in our colonial past, but we've also given the world a lot of good things, and we shouldn't be afraid of celebrating our Britishness sometimes. It has brought the people together of the four countries that make up Britain, lightened these difficult times, given us the chance to have fun, and also we got an extra bank holiday.

The royal family does need to modernise itself and I think that will happen when William takes the throne, he will move the royal family into the 21st century

60 years on the throne is a massive achievement, wonder if Elizabeth II will beat Victoria's record of 63 years? She seems to be taking after her mother health-wise and she was 101 when she died, so I think she could. 

Saturday 2 June 2012

Bono on The Late Late Show 50th Anniversary Special

Bono appeared as a guest on the Late Late Show's 50th Anniversary Special on 1st June.  The host Ryan Turbridy asked about the new album to which Bono replied that they were writing at the moment and that:

"Edge is in denial of his genius, I'm a little too sure of mine....Larry is suspicious of both and Adam sees merit in both...... U2;s gotta do something very special to have a reason to exist right now ...... There won't be another U2 album unless there's something special  ...... The last three weeks in the studio have been the best since 1979."

Some of which is probably a typical Bono exaggeration and some of which is probably true LOL! He also talked about his admiration of Imelda May (who does a great performance on the show), U2's appearances on the Late Late Show over the years and the upcoming visit of Aung San Suu Kyi (who he calls "A lesson in grace") to Dublin later this month.

The programme finished with the former Miami Showband leader Dickie Rock, still popular with the older generation, singing a cheesy song and it was quite funny to see Bono clapping and singing along too.  But that kind of thing happens in Ireland, it is the one place where Bono is not idolised and can live a relatively normal life, and sing along with Dickie Rock if he wants to, and that's rather nice.  

Watch Bono on the Late Late Show on the RTE website here he appears at the two hour mark.