Reflections on Suede @The Forum, Joe Jackson @The Palladium

I’ve just had two nights of gigs, Suede followed by Joe Jackson.   Reflections…
Suede were great fun. Playing the whole of their new album behind a screen projecting the film they’ve commissioned to accompany it was a neat trick… it actually worked… in as much as it made the whole crowd listen to their new album in it’s entirety (and there were some special moments when the lights picked them out in their positions, as ghostly images in their own film)… although it was easy to forget they were there at times.
Not so in the second – greatest hits set – where they rocked like it was 1994, Brett Anderson still crowd-surfing, strutting, microphone swinging like he did when I last saw them 20 years ago. The crowd (mostly in their 40s like me) loved every minute of it, but I’m sure I’m not the only one wondering how despite me aging at least 20 years in the last 20 years (and about to have knee surgery), they don’t seem to have aged a day (Brett still sliding across the stage and going down on his knees).  That’s not fair, I thought they were supposed to be the Rock Stars with the hard lives.
Joe Jackson, on the other hand, has aged, but gracefully.  He was on imperious form as always… the best thing about a Joe Jackson gig being that he always has a different line-up of musicians and picks the appropriate songs for the band and arranges them appropriately.  So you always here slightly different versions.
This one was a quartet with electric guitar, but just as the musicians go off one at a time in Slow Song, they also came on in stages, Joe playing solo for four songs, before being joined by Graham Maby on bass who started playing the riff for Is She Really Going Out with Him (Joe feigned surprise), which was then played by the two of them (and the crowd).  The relationship between these two guys is wonderful to watch, as is the fact that all four men sang and seemed to take such pleasure in the whole experience.
Joe’s introductions to the new songs is a wonderful insight into songwriting, where the idea comes from, and nobody can write a bridge or modulate a pop song like Joe.
He was completely humbled that 37 years after his first album he can still sell out the Palladium, and he should be.. as well as proud.  Without much acclaim for the last twenty years or so, he’s been doing it consistenly and doing it well.  A Joe Jackson gig is always a fantastic experience and this was no different.

My personal cultural highlights of 2013

As in recent years… a few personal cultural highlights from this year.

Albums:

Kairos 4Tet – Everything We Hold

A bit of a strange album – part jazz album, part songs (and not necessarily jazz songs, though definitely jazzy).  But lovely.  And I keep playing it.

Opus 5 – Pentasonic

My kind of burning bost bop jazz.  Donald Edwards is one of my favourite drummers ever.

Tomasz Stanko – New York Quartet

I’ve always loved Stanko’s trumpet playing and composition.  Here he gives us a full double album of new material.  Exquisite.

Goldfrapp – Tales of Us

I loved their last album, the synth-poppy Head First, but this is a lovely, contemplative album and a good companion to Head First.

Prefab Sprout – Crimson/Red

I would have preferred a full band rather than Paddy playing everything himself, and some of the arrangements are a bit strange.  But it’s Prefab Sprout!!  The lyric-writing is just in a different league and the melody writing is effortless.

Suede – Bloodsports

Bloody good.  Sadly overshadowed by their idol Davie Bowie springing an album on us a week or so before, but this is a much better album.  More consistent, catchier and definitely one of their best albums.

Curt Smith – Deceptively, Heavy

Probably his best solo album to date.  Vibrant and catchy.  Every song is hook-laden.

Other releases:

Ready to Start – Tears for Fears (Arcade Fire Cover)

It sticks in my head – in a good way.  Roland’s voice is perfect for it.

Looking forward to in 2014:  New Joan as Policewoman, Jimi Goodwin (Doves), Tears for Fears, Phronesis

Books (I’ve read lots, but of those that actually were released this year, my favourites are):

A Delicate Truth – John Le Carre (blogged about here)

A Tale for the Time Being – Ruth Ozeki (I’ve found all her books incredibly moving.  Loved this)

Films:

The Great Beauty – Paolo Sorrentino

Argo – Ben Affleck

The Place Beyond the Pines – Derek Cianfrance

Haven’t been to the cinema as much as I would have liked this year, but these three films really stand out from what I’ve seen.

Gigs:

Phronesis – The Cockpit Theatre

Peter Gabriel – Back to Front Tour

Manu Katche – Ronnie Scotts

TV:

Homeland, Borgen