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Just crossed my mind to tally up the books etc that I am part way through*. Until 2 years ago I allocated myself one novel per year, and the rest science non-fiction. Then came 3 hours a day on the train, so I’m getting through a fair bit.

The Knife of Never Letting Go – Patrick Ness. Finished today, in plenty of time for this month’s The Last Bookclub on Earth. Soon to be a hit movie series.
Feed – Mira Grant. Will easily finish in time for the next Last Bookclub on Earth meetup. Bloggers versus zombies.
More Notes of a Dirty Old Man – Charles Bukowski. I turn to Hank when I need a pick me up, and to his poetry when I need even more.

henry-charles-bukowski

The Book Your Mad Ancestor Wrote. Short stories by K.J. Bishop, the Aussie genius who wrote The Etched City
Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos – H.P Lovecraft and others. Another short story collection to slowly work my way through
The Colour of Magic / The Light Fantastic – Terry Pratchett. Something light-hearted for when I need a break from dystopian fiction, dark fantasy and gothic horror.

Good (US magazine). “environmental issues, education, urban planning, design, politics, culture, technology, and health”
Mojo (magazine). I have kept all of my old music magazines in case one day I get so rich I can order any CD I want based on a 100 word review. Well that time has come, a.k.a Spotify.
MIT Technology Review (magazine). Serious but readable.
Regulation (magazine). About regulatory policy in the USA, but ultimately about libertarianism. A guilty pleasure.

devereux

The Long Trip: A Prehistory of Psychedelia – Paul Devereux. Scholarly look at everyday tripping at the start of civilisation. Causality?
Dig Deeper: Seasonal sustainable Australian gardening. Hefty tome full of ideas as I slowly create a paradise at home.

Aside from train reading, these are also read over breakfast or lunch, or waiting at the pub at the agreed time while others dawdle. If I’m awake enough to read in bed, I should be working instead.

*part way through and readily findable. There are many, many more buried away somewhere, which means I clearly lost interest. Although it is rare for me to not finish a novel, the same as I can’t walk out of a stage play.

CebtaAnd yeah, TV shows these days… Designated Survivor, Black Mirror, and   Central

 

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Just back from the gig, and I’m listening to I Wanna Be Your Lover. If Prince had played that tonight, verbatim, it would have been legendary. I’d almost be happy with that one song, done right.

I have no problem with Prince – I’m sure he is a lovely bloke. But when you get that famous, I guess the machine controls you.

I’m fucking seething!

Well, kinda.

Almost every seat was $180. Some in the very back row were $99, a token gesture. And down at ground level, surrounding the symbol stage, were seats priced at $350 and $450. That’s where I was. And it was shite. And that was the consensus of everyone down there that I spoke to.

Prince’s concert was “in the round”, a concept I have no problem with. But for it to work, you need a round stage, with the band in the center, and the star working the perimeter. Prince’s show tonight had a massive directional bias, and half the audience were cheated. But at least the hard-done-by half of the audience could look down on him, even if they weren’t exactly facing him. In my expensive seat (which I would have happily swapped for a $99 seat), I mostly got to see the back of the drum kit. I saw a lot of the backing singers, they used the rear of the stage extensively. But I paid to see Prince.

There were screens to watch, but from my premium seat they were literally at a 85 degree vertical angle, and it was painful to watch them for more than a minute at a time.

Prince did visit the rear of the stage – I counted 5 times in 3 hours. And each time was less than a minute. In fact so brief were these rear-facing appearances that only once did I have time to switch my phone to camera mode and take a picture.

The music was excellent and faultless. But I didn’t enjoy it – I only remember two brief happy moments :(  You know when you watch the Grammys or the Oscars and they have a tribute performance, where several songs are merged together and the music is honored. Imagine that for three hours. It seemed Prince did so many medleys that I reckon only two of his biggest hits were played in their entirety, whereas we got to hear a single verse and chorus of perhaps 10. Every time one of my favorite songs started to kick in, it segued into another hit. With no visuals and only sounds to enjoy, I still couldn’t get into a groove.

I did note that he mentioned Australia a few times, but I don’t think he ever said the word Melbourne…

The encores were stupid. One occurred after a 20 minute break in which there really wasn’t much cheering. I’ve never seen such a false encore in all my days. The third encore was so long coming that I gave up and left, along with half the crowd. I wouldn’t be surprised if he played another song or two to half the audience, and even they had given up clapping long before.

Prince was very slick, but there wasn’t a single moment where (I felt) he connected with the audience. There wasn’t a single moment where he sung beautifully, or soulfully.

The crowd loved it (I say that based on the dancing and smiles). But cults get similar reactions, and that doesn’t mean they are good. There are seven fish’n'chip shops in Williamstown (where I live) and I wouldn’t eat any of them for free – even though it is my favorite meal ever. Yet they are all still in business, because most folk are too easily pleased.

The hi-hat drums… well Prince was mostly behind them, and at the same relative height. Here’s the best it got for me visuallly – and it was extremely brief.

Here’s what a reporter from The Age said about Prince’s prior gig in Sydney:

Most shows start and end as strongly as possible and, if they have to dip, do so briefly in the middle. This one was a veritable roller-coaster: one minute you’d be feasting on the hot funk of Jam of the Year; the next you’d be scratching your head at The Song of the Heart, Prince’s goofy song from Happy Feet. Or you would be getting Delirious and partying like it was 1999 (why does he so often cram the upbeat jams into medleys?) only to find him sliding into a teasing, unfulfilling read of Little Red Corvette.

Don’t get me started on the painfully indulgent 20-minute meander through Purple Rain or the fact that he kept us waiting another 20 minutes in the dark for a final encore of Peach.

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Splendid evening last Sunday at the Recital Centre, and I was fortunate to have a seat in the 2nd row of a full hall. And it was interesting to note that they only performed once in Sydney, but had three shows in Melbourne. I guess we are more dark and arty here… or perhaps the Sydney Opera House is a bigger venue ;)

Of all the artists performing, a dozen of which had come here from the UK or USA, I only really knew of Green Gartside (Scritti Politti). I had heard of Robyn Hitchcock, but not heard his music – and based on what I saw tonight was not my cup of tea. These did impress:

  • Kate St John – beautiful, multi-talented, formerly of The Dream Syndicate all those years ago.
  • Joe Boydthe producer of Nick Drake’s albums, who pointed out that almost everyone (back in the day) was introduced to Nick on a 3rd or 4th date back at the date’s home, where they played Nick to you and if you didn’t like him, the relationship might not last. This was true of my introduction as well, early 90s in Edinburgh.
  • Danny Thompson – who played double bass on Nick Drake recordings, and was really a key component – then and now.
  • Krystle Warren – American singer who has a wonderful voice as well as very emotive singing. Similar to Joan Armatrading I guess, and could be very popular, very soon with the right songs.
  • My favourite was Lisa Hannigan, and I will surely be seeking out her music.

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I had the privilege this evening to watch the 4th public appearance of Pajama Club, featuring Neil Finn and his wife Sharon Finn, Sean Donnelly and the constantly smiling Aussie drummer Alana Skyring. Corner Hotel, Melbourne, June 15 2011 (full lunar eclipse).

But first, the support act, Glass Towers, are excellent. Just teens, from Byron Bay, I got the impression they have a big of a future as Silverchair. To me they came across as a band on the 3rd or 4th album, in terms of polished performance, own personality and song construction. What I really loved was the closing song and the obvious (!) Trail of Dead influence.

I’m usually useless when it comes to hearing songs played live that I haven’t heard before. But of course most of the songs, being by Neil Finn, had an instant catchiness, so I feel I already know the yet-to-be-released first album. The quality is consistent with Neil’s last few albums, with Crowded House and Tim Finn. Neil was a little bit funny, a little bit self-absorbed. He reminded me a bit of the the introspective self-righteousness of Grant Lee Buffalo and Lloyd Cole live, but not nearly as bad. The rest of the band were cool. Cool.

I loved it when one of their original songs (?) merged into Are Friends Electric by Gary Numan. It was a brilliant cover, and with some positive criticism, has the potential to become a new Tom’s Diner.

Not that he is running out of steam, but I have noticed recently that the introduction of female backing vocals can really revive a singer-songwriter’s career. Recently I have noticed this with Ed Harcourt and Robert Plant, and years ago for me this improved the work of…. Gary Numan.

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