Archive for October, 2012

Firework Finale while Coldplay finish the Paralympics Closing Ceremony, Olympic Stadium, London, September 9th, 2012

Coldplay, Paralympic Closing Ceremony, Sunday 9th September, 2012, London, UK

Kaleidoscope of Colour, Coldplay performs on the Sundial stage in the centre of the Olympic stadium at the Paralympic Games, September 9th 2012

 

Well, after a hiatus of 3 months, where this reviewer did nothing but become obsessed with the Olympics and Paralympics and went to see event after event, it’s time to get back to music. But I could not resist in combining music and sport and so I’ll be doing some pieces on the music I saw during an amazing and unforgettable summer of sport that I will probably never witness again in my lifetime.

About 1/6 th of the planet watched the Olympic Games Opening and Closing Ceremonies and their Paralympics Counterparts which was a few weeks later, on TV .  (Unfortunately, broadcasts of the Paralympics in general was virtually non-existent in the United States, which was a great shame as you guys on the other side of the pond missed a treat on both the sporting and musical side).

For both Olympic and Paralympic games, the 80,000 seater stadium in Stratford, East London was a sell-out.   From a musical standpoint, these ceremonies showcased the best of past and present British music that was at times as eclectic as it was distinct. Lets face it, there’s not many places you could get Dizzee Rascal doing “Bonkers”, The Artic Monkers singing “ I bet you good on the Dancefloor”  and Sir Paul McCartney performing “Let it Be” all together on one bill as they did in the Olympics Opening Ceremony. The Olympic Games closing ceremony went even further with a non-stop wave of British popular music such as the Spice Girls and Madness.

The Paralympics ceremonies thankfully brought this delightfully excessive overkill of British music to an end. The Paralympics Opening Ceremony made minimal use of pop music, the main reference being a marvellous visually impressive choreographed sequence involving hundreds of volunteers carrying umbrellas to Rihanna’s tune of my umbrella.

Rihanna, herself, however, would feature in the Paralympics closing ceremony.

When it was announced that this same ceremony would only feature one artist and that would be Coldplay there was major surprise and disappointment among other big artists who had been angling for a slot.  It is certainly unusual to give one band however big they may be, practically the entirety of the musical side of such a huge event. For one thing, it’s very probable that many of the 80,000 people in the crowd as well as the millions watching on TV were not Coldplay fans. I, myself, had doubts. However, whether it was the combination of the grand spectacle of the event, the sweet melancholy of witnessing the closing act of the most magnificent summer of sport, culture and pageantry, the immense pride in my country and my city or the privilege of being present at this awesome occasion, Coldplay completely won me over. Their music seemed to totally suit this grand stage. It had a timeless epic yet subtle quality to it that acted a perfect accompaniment to the large scale artistic scenes being played in front of the enthralled crowds.  Somehow, I couldn’t have seen any other band in this role.

When we arrived in our seats way up in the Gods (that’s what the cheap tickets buy you but still a bargain compared with the Olympics ceremonies), the excitement in the stadium was palpable. In the centre was a sundial stage where Coldplay would perform. The Closing Ceremony was billed as The Festival of the Flame and there was a number of stages on the way to Coldplay’s opening number including pyrotechnics in the shape of a heart surrounding the sundial stage to symbolise both “The Heart of Many Nations” and for me, the heart of the Volunteers or “Games Makers” as they were referred to, that really did ensure a successful games. Coldplay were to play in the Autumn, Winter, Spring and Summer sections of the ceremony. With a relatively low key and low tempo star with “Us against the World”, the sundial stage was surrounded by black cladded performers doing rhythmic overhead claps. But the visual extravaganza that was to follow is almost impossible to put into words.

 

Coldplay perform in The Festival of The Flame, complete with Fiery Head, Paralympics Closing Ceremony, Olympics Stadium, London, September 9th 2012

Coldplay perform in The Festival of The Flame, complete with Fiery Head, Paralympics Closing Ceremony, Olympics Stadium, London, September 9th 2012

 

Wheelchairs dancers, dancers with flames from the Candoco Dance Company regaled us during “Yellow” and a big flame head appearing at the back of the stadium.  The booming sound of “Paradise” was just epic and contained spectacular aerials on wires with each performer appearing to be holding onto hoops on the end a bunch of giant light bulbs. At the end of the song, these same light bulbs spun into Catherine wheel style fireworks. The light around the stands made up from light sources at every seat in the stadium was like a giant kaleidoscope proved an indescribably beautiful backdrop to all the songs.

 

Aerials performances during Coldplay's performamnce of "Paradise", Paralympics Closing Ceremony, Olympic Stadium, London, September 9th 2012

Aerials performances during Coldplay’s performamnce of “Paradise”, Paralympics Closing Ceremony, Olympic Stadium, London, September 9th 2012

 

During the Winter section and in keeping with the Paralympics the band even had a disabled guest drummer Matt Fraser who has short arms for “God put a Smile on your Face”.

With the stadium bathed in a surreal dark blue glow, Cold play launched  in “Clocks” and green lasers fired out of the central steps. Chris Martin furiously bashed away at his graffiti coloured piano while twirled what looked like double light sabre from Starwars  round the outline of the heart shape. Guests stars included Rihanna who arrived in the stadium on ship truck in flowing red dress to perform the duet Princess of China with Martin and left it suspended on a metal swing over the dancers on my side of the stadium singing “We Found Love”; and  Jay-Z, who performed “Run this Town” with Coldplay later in the ceremony.

Chris Martin and Rihanna perform "Princess of China" at the Paralympics Closing Cermony, Olympic Stadium, London, UK, September 9th 2012

Chris Martin and Rihanna perform “Princess of China” at the Paralympics Closing Cermony, Olympic Stadium, London, UK, September 9th 2012

 

At the end of the main concert part of the ceremony, Martin mounted the high central staircase and for Viva La Vida and in the midst a giant stadium wide confetti shower prompted a crowd singalong. After the closing speeches and the rather emotional extinguishing of the flame of the petal cauldron (same one used in the Olympics) by swimming champ Ellie Simmons and 100 metre champion Jonnie Peacock, Coldplay returned to play “The Scientist” with the audience sing-along and video footage of the Games being shown to which roars went up when certain victorious British athletes like Ellie Simmons and David Weir appeared on screen as well the South African Paralympics legend Oscar Pistorius.

Chris Martin gets Confetti shower at the top of the Sundial stairs, Paralympics Closing Cermony, Olympic Stadium, London, September 9th 2012
Chris Martin gets Confetti shower at the top of the Sundial stairs, Paralympics Closing Cermony, Olympic Stadium, London, September 9th 2012

 

This spectacular show was brought to a spectacular climax on “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall” with a fantastic light and firework display and mass display of dancing creating a hell of a party atmosphere in both audience, and assembled athletes and volunteers on the ground. As Chris Martin thanked the organisers and volunteers he summed it well. This was “the last day of the last Olympics (sic) spirit. This was the last chance to celebrate – to celebrate the pride, emotion and honour with which we put on a damn fine show for the world at London 2012. Over to you now Rio.

 

 

THE CHRISTIANS, MILLFIELD ARTS CENTRE, EDMONTON, LONDON, MARCH 2ND 2007  (as first reviewed in Safeconcerts. Com)

(This was my first ever independent review at the time. I’d done a couple for Blues and Soul magazine and one was about to be published a few after this review in a daily newspaper. Its also one I’m proud. In a tiny theatre not holding more than 300 The Christians rocked out and played their anthology like it was an arena concert. What an amazing experience to be there and I got to say Hello to Gary Christian afterwards)

It has been 20 years since The Christians scored their first major single success with Forgotten Town. This seminal track marked their move into pop’s premier league being regarded as the leading exponent of British Soul in the late 1980’s whose lyric’s provided edgy social commentary. This lead to a successful debut album and a No.1 UK album Colours and a successful European Tour in 1990. So, its was strange to see a grossly underated and talented group playing in a 400 seat theatre. That said, the small venue and a dreary rainy night outside did not dampen the quality of the performance inside. This gig proved to be a greatest hits fest for those priviledged enough to be present. “Whats in a word”, “Born Again”,  “Ideal World” were all on the classic menu. The haunting arrangement of “Words” was particular memorable.  The only modern deviation was “Prodigals Sons” from 2003. In between songs, there was also some entertaining banter. Tongue  firmly in cheek, Garry Christian bemoaned the hardships of ageing by citing the difficulty of climbing the stairs, to which a member of the audience cheekily riposted “Buy a bungalow”.  Through his warm and generous personality he managed to get a somewhat aged audience to sing a along (if somewhat, shakily)  to “The Bottle” and up onto their feet to clap and move to Harvest for The World (no small feat). A grand performance was finished fittingly with perhaps their most socially incisive and anthemic song “Hooverville”.  Throughout,backed by an enthusiatic and competent band,  Garry Christian’s  rich soulful voice was mesmerising and transcended the humble surroundings.  In an era when so many former 80’s band are jumping on the revival bandwagon, The Christians really are a band that deserve to be rediscovered.