Proms in the Park, Glasgow Green, 10th September 2016

My daughters have birthdays 3 days apart (well 4 years apart, but both within 3 days in July) and my brother has a wee tradition of arranging an outing for them as well as giving presents on the day.  Last year we all went to Edinburgh Zoo. This year he came up with the idea of attending the BBC Proms in the Park, a local event tied to the Last Night of the Proms held annually at the Royal Albert Hall.  My older daughter (aged 7) is a big music fan, in fact she’s a fan of anything involving a stage and performance, and the small one (aged 3) is slowly being indoctrinated introduced to different types of music and has been known to intersperse her nursery rhyme singing with lyrics from some of my favourite bands… Anyway, it sounded like a fun evening and a good way to expose the girls to different genres of live music.
Despite a surprising lack of information available anywhere online, we gathered that a certain amount of preparation would be required, namely camping chairs, blankets, snacks and waterproofs.  Fortunately, Saturday was the first day in about 2 weeks that hadn’t been completely miserable weather-wise so we wouldn’t need the rain ponchos that my parents had helpfully provided.  On arrival in town we found that other, clearly more seasoned Proms in the Park attendees were even more prepared that we were, as they lugged full-on picnic hampers, lanterns and head torches to Glasgow Green.
We scouted out a good position, set out our camping chairs just in time for the orchestra to begin tuning up.  The older girl wasn’t too impressed with this first piece until we explained what tuning up was.  There was a big screen to the left of the stage affording us close-ups of the performers.  The main performers were the Scottish Symphony Orchestra, with guest appearances from KT Tunstall, Collabro (never heard of ’em, apparently they won Britians Got Talent a few years ago) Karen Cargill (opera singer) and the stars of Gary: Tank Commander. Yeah…..
It was certainly an eclectic mix of music, from opera, orchestral pieces, orchestra-backed pop, musicals, a comedy-infused number from Frozen and traditional Scottish ceilidh dances.  It wouldn’t have been my ideal choice of programme, but the main point was to give the girls some experience of a range of live classical/traditional music.  The 7 year old spent all of yesterday composing her own songs and putting on performances, so I would say inspiration=achieved.  She also asked me to put on “that lady that sang and said ‘Come on Glasgow!’ at the concert” so we listened to a bit of KT Tunstall yesterday too.  Thankfully she didn’t ask for Collabro. I am not a fan of musicals.
The live hook-up with the rest of the UK (they link to the Albert Hall concert as well as similar Park events in London, Wales and Northern Ireland) was interesting but when they were encouraging us to sing along to the Scottish contribution to the UK-wide “Sea Songs” collection, then brought out the opera singer to lead us in The Skye Boat Song, there wasn’t a great deal of audience participation.  Everyone knows The Skye Boat Song, but not at that pitch. Around us anyway, there were more people singing along to Northern Ireland’s choir singing Danny Boy.
As usual with classical music, I recognised more on hearing that I did by name.  Looking at the programme I had no idea I was familiar with Shostakovich’s Festive Overture or Bizet’s Farandole but it turns out I am.  Our parents never took us to this kind of thing when we were little, but both my brother and I took up music at school and I played in a variety of wind bands and orchestras in my time, first trumpet, then percussion.  I have played more classical music that I have seen performed by others.  Stuart still plays trombone in a brass band.   I’m glad that both my girls have in interest in music and I plan on making the most of this while it last or before they succumb to peer pressure and develop an interest in boy bands or chart r’n’b.
It was a lovely evening, a good atmosphere and nice to just sit back, chill out and watch the sun setting on the Green.  The People’s Palace was lit up as well and it was one of those I Love Glasgow moments.
To our surprise, both girls stayed awake and interested to the very end.  There were fireworks at the end of the first half (I think for the benefit of the TV coverage which ended then) but we also got some at the finale, much to the girls’ delight.  All in all it was a good evening, and I look forward to taking the girls to more similar events in the future.

KT Tunstall, The Arches, Glasgow, 13th November 2011

I kind of accidentally bought a ticket to see KT Tunstall on this tour.  I had gone in to The Arches box office to get a ticket for The Airborne Toxic Event  and saw that they were still selling tickets for KT’s solo shows. I hadn’t really intended to go, but on impulse bought one cos KT Tunstall rocks and I thought, “why not?”.

I had only managed to stump up enough money for 1 ticket at the time, and unfortunately by the time my other half decided he wanted to come it was sold out, so off I went on my own again.

I got to the venue just after the doors were due to open, but there was a massive queue around the block. It was bloody freezing but I didn’t want to wander off some place and come back to find the place packed out so I joined the queue. Fortunately they got us moving quickly and before long I was in. Inside The Arches wasn’t much warmer than outside, but I checked my coat, grabbed a drink (from the handy “soft bar”) and looked for a spot.

It was indeed pretty packed. Unfortunately it was packed mostly with people who weren’t used to going to gigs, they were middle aged ladies with their long-suffering husbands / daughters / drunken friends grateful for a night out. They were all dressed in their finest gear as if for a “proper concert” and were complaining about there being no seats. Great. I settled on a space by the wall at the right hand side, about  halfway back, trying to position myself behind the smallest people I could find.

There were 2 support acts, in my usual disorganised fashion I didn’t note their names. They were both soloists, 1 girl, 1 boy. The girl was good, and although she played an electric guitar, she played it very softly and gently and I couldn’t help but think she’d be ideal playing acoustically in a cafe or bar as kind of background music. The guy had an acoustic guitar, but was more rocky with it, I quite liked him.

So then it was KT’s turn. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the “solo show”. I knew she had a recent EP out, which I hadn’t bought, so imagined there’d be stuff from that, and I had hoped she’d do stuff from the “Acoustic Extravaganza” album/EP whatever it was, which I really liked. I was a bit disappointed. It was just her (obviously) but she made good use of the recording loop things that she’s quite well known for, which I think is cool, but she played loads of songs from her main 3 albums.  I’ve seen her 3 times before, I think once per album, so I’ve heard all those songs before and was really hoping for something different.  Clearly with it being just her she was doing a different interpretation of them, but still.

Don’t get me wrong, she is still awesome, her voice was amazing, it was great to hear her just with the guitar, sometimes acoustic, sometimes electric, and as she said it was kind of like her going back to her roots and her busking days.  I really liked the 2 songs she did on the piano, I had no idea she played the piano so well.  I would just have liked more variety in the setlist.

I have to talk about the audience. Oh. My God. they were so irritating. There were loads of them who insisted on filming practically the whole show, or taking photos constantly.  My view wasn’t great at the best of times, but more often that not all I could see was somebody’s fecking iphone screen blinking away. Seriously one guy in front of me was so bad I was beginning to look for an object to throw at him. The ones that weren’t filming were talking. These were the ones who clearly had got the first album for Christmas all these years ago, had continued to hear the hits off that album on Clyde 2 or some other lame radio station that is stuck in the 90s since then, hadn’t heard and didn’t care about any of her other stuff and were only interested in hearing those songs. So they gossiped during all the other songs. I was looking for more objects to shove in their mouths.

So all that kind of detracted from my enjoyment somewhat.

Also although I love KT Tunstall, and could appreciate that she was putting on a really good show, I just wasn’t enjoying it as much as I thought I would.  Maybe it was because I had recently seen a few new bands and these were really amazing gigs, compared to the more familiar territory of KT, maybe cos I was tired due to aforementioned gigs, or maybe the crowd were just outright spoiling it for me but I just wasn’t feeling it.  I didn’t have the same emotional reaction as I did to the other shows, the same anticipation, excitement and engagement with the songs, lyrics and music as I have done previously.  I knew it at the time but couldn’t really figure it out, I’m not much more able to put my finger on it now, but it just felt like there was something missing.

Anyway, the gig finished and I headed outside. I saw some people were waiting for KT to come out.  I wasn’t in a particular rush to get home, so I thought I might as well wait too. Like I said, my reaction was nothing to do with the performance that night, I still think KT is an incredible performer and I didn’t know if I’d get the chance to meet her again.  I decided to stay as long as there were other people, and as long as I could still get my bus home.  A security guy came out and told us that seeing as it was the last night of the tour there was a bit of a party going on inside, but the venue would be chucking them out at midnight, so we decided to hold on til then.

Our waiting was not in vain, and KT herself emerged with a few of her crew.  She was surprised to see so many of us still there, and was very nice going round signing things, taking photos and generally chatting.  I dived in quickly cos I wanted to make sure I got my bus, she signed my ticket and posed for a photo, taken on my phone by her very tall friend/manager/whoever so it looks rather creepy but I couldn’t complain.

All in all I have mixed feelings about the night, but I’m glad I went and definitely glad I got to meet her, so it was a good impulse buy in the end.

I Am Arrows, KT Tunstall & Mystery Jets Roundup

Ok these are extremely late.  I have been meaning to write them up for ages but with one thing and another I never quite got round to it.  But in only a few short days time I’ll be heading off to London for part 1 of my EuroWAStravaganza so I thought I’d better get cracking with these first.

OK that may need some explanation – WAStravaganza was a term Abby Williamson used to describe her and her friends’ road trip down the west coast of the States to see several We Are Scientist shows.  We Are Scientists → WAS → WAStravaganza.  So now We Are Scientists are on the European leg of their tour, it has become EuroWAStravaganza. See?

You can expect a lot more comment on We Are Scientists in the next few weeks, I’m surprised at how little I have written about them on here so far, but all going well that will change.  Watch this space…..

But for now I am going to tell you about 3 other gigs I have been to (fairly) recently.

First up – I Am Arrows, King Tuts, 19th September (see I told you I was mega-late)

I Am Arrows is essentially Andy Burrows who used to be the drummer in Razorlight.  Now I was never really a fan of Razorlight, but I came to hear about Andy through his work with We Are Scientists (woops, there they are again!).  He recorded the drums for their latest album (Barbara – go listen!) and in various publicity /facebook / twitter etc his solo stuff was mentioned so I thought I’d check it out.  It was nothing like I expected, it was neither Razorlight-y nor WAS-y but it was good.  I don’t like catogorising, but it is kind of acoustic, sometimes folky, sometimes bluesy, some soulful, some cheerful songs with beautiful melodies and great rhythms and overall it is just good. I’m not very good at describing music  and I don’t want to compare him to anyone else in case you love that person and then are disappointed or hate them and are put off.  Anyway when I found out he was coming to Glasgow I had to go and see what he was like live.

Again the live show was nothing like I expected, but it was nice to be surprised.  The acoustic-y stuff had been zooped up with electric guitars and amps and it was a lot louder that I anticipated, but again it just seemed to work.  It was still the same songs, and Andy himself sang lead while rocking out with an acoustic guitar but he had a full on electrified band behind him.  It gave the show a great energy and got everyone singing along and dancing along if they didn’t know the words.  King Tuts usually has a good vibe, and that night was no exception despite a lot of the audience not being that familiar with the band.

Some good banter from Andy, who seems to be a really nice guy, an impromptu jam of “Hey Mona” (blast from the past!) and a cover of Tears for Fears (definitely not Scottish) made for a thoroughly enjoyable night out.

Support – 2 bands, neither of which I can remember the names of right now and I can’t be bothered to look up cos it’s late and I’ve still got 2 more shows to write about.  1 was good and the other was not, that’s all I remember.  I might dig out the details and add later.

Merch – I got a t-shirt with I Am Arrow’s Sun Comes Up Again album art on the front which is pretty cool.  Bonus points for having shirts in ladies sizes 🙂

Next – KT Tunstall, Barrowlands, 23rd October

I love KT Tunstall.  Some people think she is really bland and boring and only does soppy love ballads, but she isn’t and she doesn’t! She is cool and rocks and does loads of interesting songs and I love her so there!

Her latest album is a bit of a departure from her previous two and she got some stick for it, but I prefer artists to try new things rather than churn out the same old predictable stuff again and again.  Although the production is different, it reminds me a lot of her Acoustic Extravaganza album (or was it an LP? not sure what difference it makes in the download age…) which I really liked.

I have seen her live once before a couple of years ago at the Glasgow Academy (then the Carling Academy, now the O2 Academy I think? Although O2 have the ABC now.  Are they taking over all venues?) and she was excellent live, so I really wanted to see her again.  However this time was the Barrowlands.  I know the Barrowlands has a great history etc etc but I don’t particularly like it.  So I approached with trepidation.

We positioned ourselves at the side of the hall so my pregnant cousin-in-law wouldn’t get crushed but we had a pretty good view (until a group of, I don’t know, some kind of traditional Jewish guys came in complete with hats – WTF?).  KT was awesome, the new songs sounded great, she did all the old hits and chatted to the crowd quite a bit.  She did a cool solo version of Other Side of the World and the usual pedal-recording thing with Black Horse, but had to re-start cos the audience were clapping too quickly and it ended up in her words, “like a rap”. Ok she may have put a sweary word in there but I don’t want to write that here.

Unfortunately the Barrowlands lived up to my poor expectations, people around us at the side seemed think it was ok to talk loudly all through the show, particularly during the new songs that they evidently didn’t know or care about hearing.  After she did Black Horse about half of them left to go to the loo/bar etc, as if that was all they came to hear.  There was the usual contingent of drunk obnoxious guys who must just go to every gig there and drink themselves stupid and cause fights.  But despite all that we still had a good night, and KT as usual put on an excellent show.

Support – we got there too late to really hear them I think.  Didn’t really pay attention, can’t remember who it was.

Merch – lots of tiger themed stuff as per her album title, I wasn’t sure I could pull off going around with a half KT / half tiger head on my chest, so I opted for a red and black striped tour t-shirt with dates on the back.  Again, points for having ladies sizes (but then I’d expect that from a female artiste) but extra bonus points for selling tea towels! Yes, you can buy a KT Tunstall tea towel.  I didn’t though, would be weird drying dishes on KT Tunstall’s face.

And last but not least Mystery Jets, ABC, 30th October

Hmm what can I say about the Mystery Jets? I bought tickets to this gig as soon as they went on sale cos I had such fun the last time I saw them, but I didn’t get round to buying the latest album until much later, then I was so obsessed with KT Tunstall’s album that I didn’t start listening to Serotonin until really close to the gig.  At first I wasn’t sure about the new material, it was a lot more mainstream then their previous two albums, altogether more conventional.  What I like about the Jets is their quirkiness, that their personalities come through in their music, that they have personalities. Their earlier stuff was full of weird stories, characters, unconventional structures, rhythms and arrangements.  It took me a while to get into it, but once I got it I was an avid fan.  I’ve got to be honest I was a little disappointed that Serotonin lacked those characteristics.

However at the gig we managed to get right up front at the barrier and when they came on and started playing Alice Springs it all just clicked with me. I saw the new songs in a new light live, a far better light.  I don’t know if that was how they were always intended to be heard, or whether seeing them being performed and the additional expression that goes with that made a difference, but it was so much better than I had expected.

We were over at William’s side, and I could have happily just watched him all night.  He looked like he was having such a good time, quite often looking into the crowd and smiling at people or laughing at us singing and dancing along.  Something has to be said about his guitar technique.  It is crazy.  He doesn’t use a pick or plectrum, he just strums and batters away with his fingers all the time.  I have no idea how he manages not to rip them to shreds. It is a sight to behold.

Last time I saw them playing Blaine was the one to watch, he had a whole percussion set near him, as well as his guitar and keys and would enthusiastically shake rattle and roll throughout each song, almost falling off his stool with the vigorousness of his accompaniment.  This time however he was more restrained.  I’m not sure if it was just more in keeping with the tone of the new material, or maybe he wasn’t feeling quite so energetic this time.  They played a really short set, about 45 mins, with no encore so maybe he wasn’t feeling too good.  So he stuck to singing and guitar / keys I think but delivered the goods with that.  They played Melt which was beautiful and Flakes, apparently at the request of someone in the audience, and that was one of the highlights for me too.  I was really hoping they’d do Dreaming of Another World but they didn’t.  After being a bit ambivalent about the new songs I ended up wanted to hear more of them.

Afterwards we tried some stalking to see if we could meet the band but failed miserably.  William emerged briefly and I approached him hoping to say hello, but he was chatting to someone else and I was too polite to interrupt, then he darted off. Kai came out later and went for some food, and some other girls followed him but I wasn’t really interested in talking to him (truth be told I couldn’t even remember his name at the time, I had to look it up after).  We waited at the door for about 90 mins, told the bouncer we were waiting for them, even tried Tweeting them but to no avail.  It was the night before Halloween so there was some theme party club night happening at the same venue after the gig, and there was a ghostbusters car parked outside blasting out the theme music, so at least we had some entertainment while we waited.

Support – again we only saw the end of the set, can’t remember the name but they weren’t very good.

Merch – I got a tour t-shirt with the album art on the front, but no ladies sizes, I had to get a small man’s! Better than last time when I had to get a junior size.  Come on Mystery Jets, get it together, we need ladies size t-shirts!

Phew, ok that is that.  So they are not really reviews as such, I only go to see bands I like, so I don’t write critiques, just my thoughts on my experiences.  Hope you found it vaguely interesting.