Friday, 10 July 2009

Blur - Out of Retirement and as if they never left....


With threatening skies overhead, I became increasingly worried about my first foray into Hyde Park gigging. I’ve loved the Essex foursome Blur since my teens and thought jumping around in the sun at their last reunion gig would be perfect, if the weather held! After seeing the coverage of this year’s Glastonbury, it was obvious that a break of four years had only done the band immense good.


I arrived at the park to see the magnificent Florence and the Machine strut their stuff. Florence’s ethereal, powerful voice carried over the already heaving crowd and during the beautiful ‘Dog Days are Over’ as the sun finally burned the clouds away. There was an ever-present festival feel, not bad for the centre of London. I knew nothing of the next support act Amadou&Mariam but their laid back Malian vibe, already a big hit with Mr Albarn, was a quirky change of direction. An hour later Vampire Weekend came on and definitely upped the ante, especially when they rocked their hit ‘A Punk’.


The event had been better organised than I had expected, with polite queuing for the drinks tents and less polite queuing for the not too shabby toilet facilities.


When Blur came on with She’s So High everyone went crazy. They blasted a nice mix of high profile tracks (Coffee & TV, Beetlebum, Girls and Boys) mingled with stuff for the fans (Trimm Trabb, Badhead, Oily Water) cleverly picking from their vast back catalogue, alternating between sunny pop melodies and surly ballads.

There wasn’t any mention of Alex James’ cheesemaking, but he was as cool as ever, and we even got Phil Daniels on a very fast-paced Parklife. The band seemed in sync, and they gave it their all on the blisteringly hot night. Stew Dean (no relation!) has some natty photos posted here .


Alas the performance wasn’t without incident. Although Blur behaved impeccably, I can’t say the same for the over-enthusiastic Friday night fans. More than once Damon, clad in his usual Fred Perry polo, had to use his megaphone to tell everyone to calm down. Myriad plastic bottles were chucked from the back and after making a dash for the front towards the end, I had to turn back when the aggressive throng became too much. It was as if Blur’s music was a siren’s call of regression back to stupid youthful behaviour. Well, we were all drinking cider in a park! 

The band gave not one but two encores. The first featuring Song 2 cleverly referencing Dave Rowntree’s burgeoning political career as the screens lit up ‘VOTE DAVE’. The second gave us For Tomorrow and finished on crowd-pleasing The Universal. With the pack gently swaying in unison we all sang “It really really could happen” and we all knew that it really really had. The essence of Blur in 25 stunning songs. Unforgettable.


You can buy a live album of the 3 July gig for £15 from: .

See and download the full gallery on posterous

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Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Write Club: In support of air-brushing

It isn't very often that my opinion seems to buck the trend. Most of the time I agree with the common consensus. For example, 'yes, its sad that Michael Jackson had died', 'yes, the rioting in Western China sounds horrific', 'yes, the transport to and from Wembley Stadium is appalling' and so on.
But every now and then I try hard to phase out the voice of the so-called 'moral majority' and go out on a limb, listening to my own nagging inner voice. As you will be able to guess from the title of today's post, I am not about to go all controversial and exclaim that the American voting public made a terrible mistake in electing President Obama (although, I believe his polls are down, so maybe some do hold that opinion, I for one, don't). No, I want to talk about my support of the air-brushing of models, celebrities and the like for the purposes of advertising and selling newspapers and glossy magazines. Newsweek way back in 2008 did not agree with me.
Week on week a new record with a heavy advertising campaign is released by a Pop star, a new product is endorsed by a TV actor in gorgeous colour print, or pictures are plastered all over the internet and the tabloids of so-and-so frolicking on a beach in *insert sun-drenched white beach location of your choice*. I read the news (and when I say I read the news, in this instance I mean I look at the pictures of the aforesaid frolicking celebs) and I love looking at these photos. Sometimes though, I can feel a little inadequate. We all ask ourselves, where are the stretch marks, frown lines, cellulite, wobbly bits, muffin tops, protruding veins or fat rolls (unless of course you're looking at pictures of Beth Ditto who makes a living out of bucking the moral majority)? This can't be real....
Honestly, I do not want to see the 'stars' looking run down, wobbly or anything less than perfect. I like seeing them like that. It is part of what makes them seem special and heroic and beautiful. If I wanted to see what people look like in reality then I can step outside my front door. I know that the world is made up of those with varying states of beauty, and I am also fully aware that what I might find particularly attractive (male hairy chests, for example) may not be everyone's cup of tea. But I believe that there is a generic form of perfection and beauty that we all agree on, and I want those people on the stage and screen to remain ethereal, unattainable and unique.
I do agree that having 6 year olds wanting to retouch their photos is not a good thing at all, and the last thing I want to do is to write something which suggests that I am in support of body dysmorphic disorders or that I wish to prolong any genuine unhappiness felt by those looking at images of perfection and finding themselves physically wanting in comparison. 
But, my point of view comes from a secret, and that secret is knowledge. I know that imperfection is there, lurking in every photo. It's just that such imperfection has been eradicated by a clever person using a clever computer program. I am happy in the knowledge that the use of air-brushing means that even with personal trainers, horrific diets, plastic surgery and stylists at their disposal, the rich and famous still need a helping hand in creating a 'special' impression. These people are stuck in gilded cages of their own making for us to gawp at, for as long as fame and interest allows them. So instead of letting this depress me, I let this empower me. Long live air-brushing, let's all do it. Then eventually our children will realise that all these pictures must be faked and they can continue to goggle at the bewitching beauty, safe in the knowledge that underneath, we're all the same.
(picture courtesy of

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Thursday, 2 July 2009

Write Club: Running in heels...

Today I am wearing some lovely brown wedge heels, that I bought a year ago from French Connection. They are very summery but they aren't very comfortable, hence I now remember why I haven't worn them in about 6 months. However, as I am 5 feet 3 inches in stature, I feel like wearing high heeled shoes makes me feel taller, thus more empowered, thus better able to put my opinion across in deep, political, high-brow coversations (with er, giants).
Or, do I just wear them so that those over 5 foot 7 don't have to stoop to hear me?
Some female friends, all of whom sit comfortably in the 5ft7-5ft11 height group, a group that is almost as foreign to me as the 5ft7- 5ft11 male group, were very excited about the prospect of going out dancing together tomorrow night. The reason for their excitement? As they are all a similar height, they could all wear heels without the risk of alienating their other dwarf-like friends. Queue constenation from my quarters (oi, I'm down here). I couldn't understand why, at their respective heights, they would want to wear these shoes? They are uncomfortable after a couple of hours/minutes standing or even sitting, let alone dancing for hours, and you can't really make any kind of dash unless a) you don't mind the prospect of falling flat on your face, or b) you are Sarah Jessica Parker and you've been practising for 6 years. Heels put you at risk of health problems in later life, and worse, they put you at risk of meeting seemingly attractive members of the opposite sex who on standing, are found to be 4 inches shorter than you (Sophie Dahl is the exception, not the rule). Did I also mention that they are extremely uncomfortable?
The glamazons batted away my warnings and all agreed that wearing heels made them feel sexier, lengthened their (already pretty amazing) legs and made them feel more feminine. There I was thinking that those blessed with greater-than-average height revelled in their power and prestige on a daily basis, but what they really care about is that all this height apparently doesn't guarantee them sex-appeal.
My friends made valid points, but it wasn't enough to convince me. I can't compete with a 6ft lady with endless legs, in the office or at a club; but come tomorrow night, surely it will look sexier to be sashaying in flip-flops rather than grimacing at the edge of the dancefloor?

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Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Write Club: Time, Tennis and Tradition

With recently going on holiday to the amazing Indonesia (more on this in later Write Club updates) plus returning to over 200 work emails, Write Club has suffered significantly। It seems that both myself and the All England Club are suffering from poor time management. I can't achieve everything I would like to in the time period I've been given. Have I become sluggish in the sunshine, or am I a victim of an ever-speeding ever-demanding world? Wimbledon has been throughly entertaining so far, with the (current) great British hope Andy Murray still on course to win the competition. However, Murray wants to take his sweet time at Wimbeldon. The match against the Swiss Warwrinka last night was intense and fascinating, but the late finish (10.43pm GMT by my clock) together with the strange richocheting echo of the service balls (both a bi-product of the new Centre Court roof) just wasn't for me. The All England Club are attempting to control the time and the weather for audience enjoyment, but I am just not sure that this works. I love the traditional finish of epic evening matches at just before 9, giving the players time to rest and plan. Tennis, as a game of mental as well as physical strength, is what makes it so riveting. We aren't willing to give up 3 or more hours of our time for many other sports. Yes, it takes more time, but its just as riveting. So I'd like to have a little bit more time please, for my work, my tennis concentration, and for some sleep! And I reckon Andy Murray अग्रीस.