The Ticket Pile

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The favourite thing I have in my bedroom is a large stack of tickets that sits on my dresser and takes pride of place.

I’m such a concert nerd that I keep hold of every ticket. I love nothing more than spending a few hours looking back through the pile, listening to the music and reminiscing on the best nights of my life. No exaggeration there. The best nights of my life are all concerts, there’s no question about it. However, when I look at the pile, I have so many good memories that I could never chose one particular gig as the best. I just have to count myself lucky that I’ve had so many amazing experiences.

Although my Coldplay butterfly confetti, that fell from the ceiling during Lovers In Japan on the bands Viva La Vida tour in 2009, is looking a little worse for wear, it makes me grin with happiness as I remember the truly magical moment.

My shiny, uniquely designed collection of Big Day Out tickets takes me back to the sun-filled days packed in at Mt Smart Stadium, rushing from act to act, with barely enough time to stop for food let alone a toilet break!

My Fleetwood Mac ticket has me craving a dance in the pouring rain at the Bowl of Brooklands and desperate for November to roll around so I can see them live again.

The Bon Iver stub reinforces my desperate need for new music from what is easily one of the best live acts ever to exist.

I could go on forever.

Memorabilia is the best!

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Song of the Week – The Boxer

Paul Simon
Paul Simon

I still remember my 4th form english teacher teaching us poetry. As she fluttered about the room handing us each a piece of paper with the poem we were going to study we all rolled our eyes, preparing ourselves for some ancient ode written in language difficult to read. Instead we were handed the lyrics to Simon and Garfunkel’s The Boxer and Sounds of Silence. Mrs Smith went about gushing that Paul Simon was the most wonderful writer there ever was and even if we learnt his poetry by listening to music instead of reading the words on a page, it was still the best education we could get.

Mrs Smith was a teacher I REALLY related to.

This morning when I awoke to the news the lyric king and Sting are going to play the Bowl of Brooklands in my home town of New Plymouth next January, I was immensely excited.

Since then, my favourite track by Simon has been on repeat.

The Boxer is a timeless song. It tells a story that touches every listener, this is proven by its popularity throughout the ages. The fact it’s had almost three million views on Youtube demonstrates that it’s never been lost on the younger generations like my own.

The tune, with an intricate guitar melody, delicately picked, cuts right to the soul. It’s the sort of sound that makes you sit up and listen, even if this isn’t your typical genre of music. The vocals from Simon and Garfunkel showcase their famous harmonies. Their two tones come together in a humming sort of resonance. In each verse of the song the vocals are velvety and lullaby-like. But of course that’s not the only element we hear from the singers, the chorus erupts into life in a catchy, repetitive bout. A great build up in tempo.

Best of all is the unique sound which I can’t imagine working in any song but this – the bass harmonica. Similar sounding to a didgeridoo the harmonica makes entry to the song in the second verse, adding a funky, more upbeat undertone to the song. It brings a bit of meat to it.

But of course the star is the magical lyrics. Simon’s soft and delicate voice compliments the melancholic words perfectly. He tells a story like no other, really encapuslating a moment for every person listening to one of his songs. His words are simple, nothing complicated yet they resonate with everyone one way or another. It’s an art we don’t see often in songs today. Simon should be a role model to all.

” When I left my home and my family
I was no more than a boy
In the company of strangers
In the quiet of the railway station running scared
Laying low, seeking out the poorer quarters
Where the ragged people go
Looking for the places only they would know. “

I’m already hanging out to see Paul Simon bring this to life on stage come January. I hope I’ll bump into Mrs Smith there.

John Farnham a legend, Lionel Richie a diva

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John Farnham performs at the Bowl of Brooklands, New Plymouth.

Last night New Plymouth’s Bowl of Brooklands played host to an 80s flashback with rocker John Farnham and soul legend Lionel Richie taking the stage.

The Naki turned it on with the most beautiful autumn evening, the sky aglow with the mountain out in all its glory. The natural amphitheatre was packed to nearly full capacity with fans, either dedicated to one or both singers, old and young ready to dance – and that’s exactly what they did. Whether it was to the fist pumping singalongs with Farnham or the side-stepping foot taps of Richie there was barely a still person in the audience.

But the show wasn’t about the dancing, people came for the music and with two very different singers taking to the stage there was a clear star performer in my eye – John Farnham.

The Australian legend is a class act. His voice is still faultless. He played the perfect set of songs to showcase his work over the years and there was never a dull moment as he proved to the crowd between songs that he’s also a bit of a comedian. He had a tale for every tune. It was much to the delight of the crowd that the perfect weather held its ground after Farnham proudly declared he’s been nicknamed ‘the rain man’ because every time he performs Talk of the Town it starts to pelt down. It was a result to which he yelled at the audience what quickly became his trademark line ‘shuuuuuuuut up!’

Farnham has the crowd on fire, hits Touch of Paradise, Pressure Down and That’s Freedom were rowdy singalongs, before came a beautiful rendition of Man of the Hour –made even more beautiful with the help of backing singer Lindsay Field whose vocal range was mind blowing. Then it was time for everyone to get on their feet as he finished his set with mega hit You’re the Voice, sung with rousing energy and passion. Farnham was back for a much sought after encore to which his fantastic band and he brought to life ACDC’s It’s a Long Way to the Top – what a finish to a brilliant performance.

Next came headline act Lionel Richie and I just wasn’t sold.

Sure he is more of a chart topper than Farnham and the crowd knew more of his songs but he was well and truly outshone by the performer leading him. Richie can sing, and he was at his best while sitting at the piano taking on his softer ballads but to be frank, I found his entire set boring. It’ll get better I kept telling myself, but it didn’t. Even when the five-time grammy winner played Easy, a song I love, I was left uninspired. There wasn’t the same passion we’d seen in the previous act. It was simply lacklustre.

Then came Richie’s attitude, to which many people in the crowd were left with a  foul taste in their mouth. In comparison to Farnham’s fun loving, crowd focused show, Richie came across as an arrogant performer who’s too big for his boots.

He began his set by insulting the weather saying it was freezing and how could this be summer. Sure that’s fair enough I thought, he does come from California after all. But he didn’t need to harp on about it regularly throughout the show, it ended up sounding like he thought he was too good to be there. It riled people up even more given the fact he’d been a real diva and chosen to only fly into New Plymouth at 8pm that evening therefore missing out on the beautiful day Taranaki had turned on for him. But insulting the weather Taranakians are so proud of was only the beginning. Throughout the rest of the set it was all about him. Never mind the thousands of people who’ve payed to come and see him play, it was all me, me, me. I got sick of hearing about how great he thinks he is very quickly.

Enough complaining, I’m sure the fans got what they came for at least. He played all the hits, All Night Long was a toe-tapper, Dancing on the Ceiling and a rendition of We Are the World were crowd favourites.

Overall, it was a great way to spend a night out in New Plymouth but I could have left happy after the first act. I want more of Farnham. He really does live up to his nickname of ‘the Voice’ and I recommend you get along to see him perform some time.

Song of the Week – Everyday People

Everyday People – Arrested Development

It’s time for a 90s flashback. On Sunday night I headed along to WOMAD (World of Music, Art and Dance) at New Plymouth’s Bowl of Brooklands. What an event as usual, even a cyclone couldn’t deter the crowds. The biggest of which flocked into the natural amphitheater main stage to check out hip-hoppers Arrested Development.

The old school rappers had people up on their feet dancing and echoing chants within minutes. The energy was electric. They played a perfect mix of new songs and old favourites but it didn’t matter if you knew them or not – the audience was included in every song.

These guys may be a hip-hop group but boy-oh-boy can they sing as well as rap. Lead rapper/singer Speech nailed every note and wowed the audience with a stunning rendition of Bob Marley’s Redemption Song to finish the set. Tasha Larae has a powerhouse voice, she belted out notes that had everyone screaming with excitement because they seemed almost impossible to hit so perfectly. Montsho Eshe made sure there was never a dull moment on stage dancing around like a mad thing the entire performance, I could hardly take my eyes off her she grooved so hard yet she still perfectly delivered every backing vocal.

It was a memorable gig with the obvious highlight being Everyday People. Everyone in the crowd new every word to this song and the singalong reached new heights. What a jam. I can’t get it out of my head so it HAD to be this weeks song of the week. Enjoy.

Fleetwood Mac are coming to NZ – get excited!

Me and some friends at Fleetwood Mac at the Bowl of Brooklands in New Plymouth 2009
Me and some friends at Fleetwood Mac at the Bowl of Brooklands in New Plymouth 2009

If you could be any singer, alive or dead, who would you be?

It’s a question I like to ask people. For a music junkie like me, how one answers this question tells me a lot about them. I mean how seriously are you going to take a guy who says he would be Justin Bieber? Maybe there’s something attractive about having a pet monkey, but wouldn’t you rather swoon like Paul McCartney – one of the greatest artists of all time?

So one Easter as I sat in the car on the Auckland motorway, bumper to bumper, barely moving and cringing with distaste at how many hours longer my trip home to New Plymouth would take than normal, I turned to my passengers and asked the question. They’re my friends for a reason. Their answers were Adele, John Lennon and Cat Stevens.

What’s my answer you ask? It’s easy. Stevie Nicks.

So you can imagine my excitement yesterday when Fleetwood Mac announced they’re returning to New Zealand in December to play Auckland’s Vector Arena. Now I’ve calmed myself down enough to write I have four words for you. YOU CAN’T MISS IT!

The band was last here in 2009 when they played New Plymouth’s Bowl of Brooklands and boy oh boy what a concert. I fancy myself as a bit of a concert connoisseur and this gig was easily at the top of the list.

It was a miserable December night for an outdoor venue but the faithful fans gathered in a sea of blue and yellow plastic rain ponchos. The rain never let up and the natural grass amphitheatre quickly became mud. But no worries, the crowd never lost faith and they had good reason to put up with the conditions because as soon as Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood hit the stage the weather was the last thing on their mind for the next three hours.

I still remember it like it was yesterday. Starting off with Monday Morning, The Chain and Dreams, the crowd was whooping and singing every word within seconds. And it didn’t let up the whole set. Nicks is exactly as you’d imagine, wearing a sparkly ‘gyspy’ dress and shaking her body like a true hippy. Buckingham has amazing stage presence, strumming that guitar like his life depended on it. Often the drummer gets lost on stage, but not Fleetwood, he’s as much a part of the performance as the others.

They sang the classics and backed each other up in their solo pieces. Tusk, was perfectly timed. As the sky opened up people stomped their feet in the mud dancing like mad, every time one slipped onto their bum the people around cheered louder and sang louder.

Everyone stood dead still as ex-lovers Nicks and Buckingham sang a chilling rendition of Landslide, a song Nicks wrote when their long relationship was coming to an end, to each other from separate ends of the stage. All before coming together and wrapping up with upbeat crowd favourite Go Your Own Way and power ballad Silver Springs.

It took about three days to wash the mud out of my clothes, but every scrub was worth it.

Fleetwood Mac are a must see in concert so take my advice and go, I’ll see you there!