Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Gig Heaven

Well, last night was the Maria McKee gig I've been looking forward to for weeks. And what a gig it was! First off was the venue. Bush Hall is somewhere I hadn't heard of 18 months ago. It seems to be the best kept secret location for small gigs in London. About 10 minute's walk from the Shepherds Bush Empire, it's a small, unprepossessing little hall. In fact, if you didn't know it was there, you'd walk straigh past without noticing it. Inside, it's got a capacity of about 350 at a guess. It means that if there's no seating (like last night) if you're at the back, you're still probably only going to be about 25 to 30 feet from the stage. The staff are all friendly as well. If you look at sme of the names who have played there, you would've thought it would be better known...

As for the gig itself, it was awesome! Maria came on stage at 9pm, and stunned us all by launching straight into Life Is Sweet. Now, this is usually her final number, so you can imagine the shock! It's still such a perfect song ten years after it was written. I swear it ranks alongside One by U2 as one of those songs that have the ability to transfix and transport you away. I couldn't believe that she chose it as her opener. After that, she joked "It's all downhill from here!". Typical Maria :-) All the way through the gig, she was joking with the audience, teasing her husband Jim (who was back on bass guitar duties), regaling us with the fact that Tom, the drummer, got held up in customs as he hadn't got his work visa yet, or that Amy on backing vocals was in fact the nanny of her Irish Godchildren. She has such a natural way with the audience. On top of that, she's blessed with such an amazing voice and range. She can make songs soar into air, then slip effortlessly into a growl to bring power to a real rocker of a song. Even when she's done backing vocals for other people (such as Texas and U2) her voice shines out. When it comes to her own material, then the power and emotion comes through even more. It's really a voice that has to be heard live to get the full effect. Even though her albums are great, hearing her sing live is ten times better.

As for the songs, I think she chose to go easy on us by not doing too many from the new album, partly because the album only came out yesterday, so we didn't have much chance to learn them! Of the ones she did play, it sounds like her new album is a scorcher, again exploring musical styles that you wouldn't normally expect, and finding fertile ground for her songwriting. In the end the songs came from almost all the last 20+ years that she's been in the business. It went back all the way to old Lone Justice tracks such as Shelter, Wheels, Dixie Storms, through to her early solo songs; Breathe, Am I The Only One (Who Ever Felt This Way), Has He Got A Friend For Me?, up to the Life Is Sweet era, (Absolutely Barking Stars, Life Is Sweet), and High Dive (High Dive). There was even A Good Heart, the song she wrote that became a big hit for Feargal Sharkey. I'm looking forward to hearing the version that she's recorded for her new album (once my copy finally arrives from Amazon!). As for finishing with You Are The Light, that was a special touch, particularly for those of us who were at her gig last year at Bush Hall. At that gig, her guitar went out of tune, and she had to fill in while Susan (who was doing backing vocals at the time) went backstage to tune it. So, she launched into an accapella version of the old Lone Justice classic You Are The Light. It got a great reception then, and an even better one last night. All in all, a wonderful night:-) It's almost criminal that she isn't as well known as other singer-songwriters who came after.

If anyone out there who likes good music can do far far worse than buy Maria's new album, Late December It's music at it's most pure...

Friday, 20 April 2007

A few days off at last

Well, I've finally taken a few days off work. I'm usually guilty of not using up all my holidays 'til the end of the year, so it makes a change to take time off this early in the year. The real reason is, of course, that I'm going to see Maria McKee at Bush Hall in London on Monday night, so I thought I'd take a few days off, rather than rush straight back in to work. I'm really looking forward tothe gig. If anyone out there is in London on Monday night, and they're at a loose end, trust me, Bush Hall will be the place to be! It's a little over a year since I saw her play there on her acoustic tour. It's going to be a really good night, I'm sure. Plus, I've now got the hotel for my holiday arranged, so I'm in an even better mood:-) Time to open a bottle of vino, methinks:)

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Bourton On The Hill

Bourton On The Hill
Originally uploaded by Fearless Fred.
Okay, here's a photo taken from the top of the church in the village my parents live in... Hopefully this'll post to Bloggr okay!

Ha ha!! It worked! As you can imagine, a nice sunny Friday afternoon, where the temperature means wearing T-Shirts is the right choice, is just the right time to take a photo across the village :-)

Eye of the beholder...

This is a post I've been debating in my mind for a few weeks now. Those who know me know that I suffer from psoriasis. It's a skin condition that I've had now for something like 10 years. For a lot of people (at least here in the UK), it's something they've only heard of through a TV show called The Singing Detective. While my case is nowhere near as severe as what's shown there, it is something that affects how others see me, and so it affects how I see myself. I won't go into depth about what it is or what causes it. Partly that's because there's a lot of resources that give details about it out on the 'net. Partly it's because it's not relevant to this post....

Instead, this post is to give a point of view of a sufferer of psoriasis. For the most part, it's something I don't think about on a normal day. It just means I have to spend 15 minutes on top of what most people have in the morning treating the areas where I get the psoriasis. Those are the good days. Then, there's the bad days. For example, there are the days where I have to get up early (4:30am ish) because I'm flying somewhere for work. On days like that, the psoriasis starts to get dry and itchy after about 10 hours (particularly after being on a plane where they de-humidify the air) so I'm trying to hide the scratch reflex and red, dry areas from customers. Even worse are the times where I'm going out on a date. I dread that moment where I meet the woman, and I can see in her eyes that moment, not of revulsion,, more of pity. You can almost see the wall being built behind the eyes, blocking you off from a potential relationship, purely because of how you look.

I know this looks like a straight-on whine, and to a certain extent it's true. But then, psoriasis is something that creates this reservation in the sufferer and in the eyes of others, separating those who suffer from it from the rest of society. It's based on the old adage that the first impression counts, and sufferers unfortunately can only ever make a poor impression, given the visual impact that psoriasis makes. Am I angry about that? Yes, at times. Do I feel it's unfair, most definitely. Still, I've found that true friends, (those who understand and accept you for who you are and what you look like) are more common that I would've thought. That makes things so much better...

As an aside, we had such lovely April weather here in the south of the UK over Easter. I'll try to post a link to the photos I took of my parent's village, once I work out how to do that!