Sunday, 25 March 2007

The Home of Football

Yesterday saw the occasion of the first football match to be played at Wembley Stadium for five and a half years. Courtesy of tickets costing a mere £10, I was there. I went to the old Wembley a few times and, like any English football fan, I held it in high regard. But the new stadium shows the old one up for what it was: a relic. The new stadium is the finest piece of architecture that I've seen since I visited Karnak Temple. To label it "stadium" sort of degrades the place - the last new stadium I visited was Sixfields and comparing that place to Wembley is like comparing Boyzone to The Beatles.

The match was good - England U-21s 3 -3 Italy U-21s -but that was merely a sideshow. The 55000 people who attended were there for the setting not the action. And I've never seen 55000 people populate an area so sparsely! You could have added the average White Hart Lane attendance and still not filled the place. It's safe to say that I was pretty impressed. All that needs to happen now is for Fulham to get to the FA cup final next year.
Something happened in the evening that may have never happened before - I missed an England match. I met friends in Eton where we couldn't find any room in any pub that was showing the match and then we went into Windsor and had the same result. It was of significant consolation that by all accounts the match was utter crap and I probably had a better time just getting drunk. I did this with considerable enthusiasm and earned myself extra style points by waking up this morning with a sprained ankle and no idea how I'd sustained it. Then, after a good half hour of pondering, I remembered stumbling down the stairs at Slough station whilst running for a train. The good news is that I caught the train, the bad news is that I had promised myself that I'd start my fitness regime tomorrow. Oh well.

Monday, 19 March 2007

The Best Band in the World

After I had set ridiculously high expectations for for Arcade Fire's show on Saturday it was inevitable that they would let me down, wasn't it? Well, no. They were every bit as wonderful as I'd hoped and, in fact, knew they would be. Songs that already sound impossibly expansive when played on hardware at home take on an extra dimension in the live setting. It's barely conceivable that this complex music could be accurately played live at all but it all works so well. They really do make the most glorious noise I've ever heard.

What is very apparent is how much they all (ten of them, I think) love playing these songs. They each play each one as if it is the last they'll ever get to play. Then they do it again with the next song, and the one after that. Win is a brooding presence (and probably the only rock star to ever successfully sport braces) but Regine, in particular, seems to be the embodiment of everything that is joyous about Arcade Fire. She is at once lost in the music but also right on top of everything as she sings and plays keyboards, drums, accordion and hurdy gurdy with an incredible energy. If it wasn't for the fact that there is so much going on elsewhere on the stage then you wouldn't be able to take your eyes off of her.

Every song was a killer but highlights for me were hearing the Funeral songs. They generally have a more anthemic quality to them than those from Neon Bible, excepting Intervention, which makes for more jumping and arm waving and chorus-chanting, things that I did more of on Saturday than I probably ever have. I was totally feeling it, man! Wake Up was amazing, featuring a level of crowd participation rarely seen outside an Old Firm derby.

I'm going to put the song order in now, just to help the memories stay in my mind. Same goes for this youtube clip featuring crap sound but showing a little of what it was like to be in the crowd during Wake Up. I now have to wait until Glastonbury to see them again. If I don't get a ticket I will be very very unhappy.


Keep the Car Running
No Cars Go
Black Mirror
Black Wave/ Bad Vibrations
Ocean of Noise
The Well and the Lighthouse
Power Out
Wake Up
Guns of Brixton

Thursday, 15 March 2007

The World's Most Prolific Terrorist

On the left is a picture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Here is a page featuring a list of things that he is said to have confessed to. I wonder what percentage of the world's terrorist attacks he has masterminded or taken part in. (When I say "terrorist attacks I mean those carried out by Muslims against the west. From what I can make out these are the only ones that seem to matter these days.) I would guess that Mr Mohammed had a hand in just about all of them and that includes those that didn't even take place which is most of the events on the list. Am I alone in being mightily impressed by the man's stamina? How the hell did he manage all of this?

The news that these confessions came not in a court of law but during his incarceration Guantanamo Bay are worrying. Or they may have came during his 3 1/2 years in a secret CIA-run prison. Of course there will be allegations of torture and these allegations will probably not be proved but will just hang around in the air like a nasty smell. But what if torture was proved? What if Mr Mohammed was found to have confessed to the murder of Daniel Pearl after having been alone in a dark room for two months whilst having Scissor Sisters played non-stop at full volume? What would happen is that all of his other confessions would then carry no weight and he would have to be set free to carry on whatever it was that he was doing in the nineties. Which is plotting to kill lots of infidels.

Is it possible that he's confessed to all these things to make his prosecutors look stupid? It reminds of of those episodes in detective shows where a father confesses to something but is then found to have been somewhere else at the time of the crime and it transpires that he was covering up for his errant son. The prosecution's case is always pulled apart very easily in this situation. What if Mr Mohammed's passport shows that he was in another country at the time of Daniel Pearl's murder, for example? It's possible, that's all I'm saying. And all it takes is for just one of these apparent confessions to be proved to have been obtained under torture for the entire case to fall apart.

Women and Children! LET'S GO!

If my life could be displayed on one of those heart rate monitors that you see on hospital dramas and cartoons it would probably look a little like a heartbeat. The peak and and trough section would be my weekend and the resting bit in between is my Monday to Friday existence. I rarely do anything of note on weekdays. My week brings me little intrinsic, or extrinsic, satisfaction but what it does do is neatly bookend my Friday nights, Saturdays and Sundays. I enjoy my weekends. Weekends are fun and sometimes, just sometimes, feature events that really make life worth living.

Since last summer my life has been leading up to this weekend and, more specifically, this Saturday when I finally get to see Arcade Fire. It may appear that I'm over-dramatising this event but I don't think so. I've invested a great deal of emotional capital in this band and I expect little less than a near-religious experience. That's a lot to ask but I wouldn't expect it if I didn't feel that Arcade Fire would oblige. They're currently shouldering the kind of praise that would might make Muhammad Ali blush and they're doing so with apparent ease. Last week's NME described them as the best band in the World. The cover of Sunday's Observer magazine will feature the question "Is the Arcade Fire the best band in the World?". Music journos are fond of a bit of hyperbole but they aren't so keen on being made to look silly. These articles would not be appearing if there was any chance of the band letting anyone down.

So. On Saturday I get to see The Best Band in the World and I'm very, very excited.

Thursday, 8 March 2007

Shepherd's Bush is our Playground

I saw Brett Anderson play Bush Hall yesterday and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Brett was excellent, but then I would say that. I'd probably be impressed if he played a set of Kraftwerk covers on a banjo. Luckily for everyone, apart from banjo/Kraftwerk fans, he played his forthcoming album, along with seven Suede songs which were rapturously received. Brett still looks good. He dresses quite soberly now, but always stylishly, and looks less a pop star than he used to but he would still exude more stage prescence than most of the idiots that pass as front men these days if he were dressed in a smock. He's also realised that it's not a good idea to be too precious about his new material. He knows most people are there because of Suede and so Suede songs he shall play.

My recollection of the evening is tempered by my having been quite drunk. I was in a foul mood when I arrived in Shepherd's Bush as the journey that should have taken me 30 minutes actually took 3 times that since there was a problem with the trains. So I decided, as one does, that drinking quickly was a good idea.

It turns out that I was right, as usual. The pub we (me, Kerri, Alex) were in is one of the few in the country that sells Brother's Pear Cider and so we had a few of those in order to affect some Glastonbury nostalgia. And it worked, even at £3.90 a bottle. Add to that a few pints of Amstel and I was in a very happy mood come gig-time. Consequently, I don't have a very good recollection of Brett's new songs but the old ones are crystal clear.

The journey home was far easier than the journey out but getting home drunk at 12.30 on a school night is never fun. It could be far worse though. I, for example, could have had to wait until 1am at Kings Cross for my train home and then fallen asleep on it and woken up in Peterborough then had a get another train back to my right stop, finally getting home just past 5am. Like Alex did.