Inspiration, Enablement, Empowerment – from the heart

Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

A Quickie

…before I head off into London to attend Mind The Gap …which I’ll hopefully have things to say about later, but not now.

Now, I’m going to talk about how using contacts sometimes doesn’t pay off, but you have to try anyway. A little while ago, the renowned Ken Caillat (if you don’t know who he is, google!) followed me on Twitter, right out of the blue! “Oh cool!” I thought. So, being skint as usual and with Fleetwood Mac about to start a run of dates at the O2, and with my absolute need to see them live, and with Ken’s connection with said astounding band, I messaged him, along the lines of “Hey Ken, now we’re chums, what are my chances of being guestlisted for Fleetwood Mac at the O2?” There was no response and a couple of days later, he stopped following me… ah well, win some, lose some. I did manage to find an affordable ticket eventually and saw them last Monday from a seat tucked into the rafters and perceptually at least, overhanging a vertiginous drop. I still got up and danced, on a bit of floor the size of a postage stamp and it was one of the most memorable evenings of my life. So thank you for not making it too easy for me Ken, though should you reconsider on some future occasion, that could be nice too.


I Should Be So Lucky! – Kylie at BST Review

StubHub asked me for a review of the BST event in Hyde Park on Sunday 21st June. So I’m repeating it here.

On arrival, I settled down to an early picnic lunch outside in the park, with the unexpected bonus of Kylie’s soundcheck for an accompaniment. I got in nice and early and began by checking out the atmosphere and facilities offered by the BST Summer Garden and took in the view from the Terrace Grandstand.

I then went for a walk around the arena, enjoyed a delicious ice cream in the sunshine and encountered the StubHub team, who gave me a free pair of sunglasses (thank you!) and did my #festivalselfie (I’m keeping my fingers crossed for some O2 tickets, ).

Having done a full circuit of the arena, I got back to the great oak stage in time to catch Years & Years, and found my dancing feet for the first time that day toward the end of their set, also getting a first glimpse of Kylie at the side of the stage and clearly enjoying herself. Mika came on next and though I must admit to not having been a fan particularly, he put on an energetic set filled with positive energy and got me dancing again.

Chic with Nile Rodgers took the day to a new level. The funk guitar master showcased his song writing prowess with a string of hits written for Diana Ross and David Bowie among others, as well as all the Chic standards. The set finale included a stage invasion by a host of guests including The Edge and Sam Smith. I danced throughout.

Then came Grace Jones. Statuesque, cloaked, gold masked, awesome. She quickly became topless, wearing only a sheer corset and body paint and progressed imperiously through her back catalogue, finishing with her hula hoop assisted ‘Slave to the Rhythm’. In between periods of mesmerisation, I danced.

Kylie appeared wearing a crown and an apparently ermine trimmed cape and worked her way through her greatest hits. Giant disco balls descended. I danced, even though by the start of her set I doubted I could stay on my by now aching feet and legs much longer. From Kylie’s statement that “I’ve already sung and danced far too much today, I just couldn’t help myself” I gathered that she must be feeling as whacked as I was, and if she could still perform, so could I.

My ticket was for the Terrace Grandstand, though I spent little time there and was in the Premium standing area in front of the stage for all the performances. It was a worthwhile investment though, as it gave access to much more pleasant toilet facilities (though even these were showing the strain by the end) and, had it rained, I’d have had somewhere dry to watch from. My only quibbles would be that it wasn’t clear in advance that the Terrace was divided down the middle, with the better viewing side being reserved for celebrity guests (I peered over a few times, but recognised nobody, and Kylie mentioned toward the end, that her parents were in there) and I noticed that those who held Garden tickets had nice snazzy woven wristbands, while those of us with Terrace tickets (which were significantly more expensive than the Garden ones) had to make do with scratchy green plastic ones that needed cutting off afterwards.

All in all a fantastic day though and one that will stay with me a long time.


Kylie at the Roundhouse

This is a Post Formats trial, set as a Blogging101 task on October 1st. These images were taken on September 27th at the Roundhouse.

My ticket for the VIP section

My ticket for the VIP section

In the standby queue - not entirely sure I'd get in - but 15 minutes later I had a Guest List Pass!

In the standby queue – not entirely sure I’d get in – but 15 minutes later I had a Guest List Pass!

2014-09-27 21.16.17

Obligatory post-show selfie!

Obligatory post-show selfie!

The domed roof and supporting pillars are amazing!

The domed roof and supporting pillars are amazing!

‘Les Sex’ – I think!

My Kylie Conversion – Part Two

[In Part One, I traced my impressions of Kylie from her role in Neighbours onwards; how loving someone who turned out to be a committed Kylie fan gave me reason to take a closer look and how my appreciation of her as an artist and an inspiration has grown]

Intrigued when Kylie’s Kiss Me Once tour was announced, I checked on ticket prices and at first recoiled. I currently have an extremely limited budget and have to watch the pennies very carefully indeed. I decided that regretfully, I’d have to add this one to my almost infinitely proportioned list of ‘things I’ve missed out on’. Then I heard that she would be performing at a BBC Radio 2 In Concert show in May. I applied for tickets, I didn’t get tickets, I never get tickets for In Concert, despite having applied for just about every one ever! Time for an aside – Jo Whiley and whoever dishes out the tickets for In Concert and other BBC events (plus anyone else whom this may concern) please note: no tickets = no review, ok?*

The year progressed. Then, late in July, I was given a date for an appointment that I’d been waiting on for some time. It was to happen on Tuesday September 30th and would be in London. So I would have a trip into town that day, with travel costs reimbursed and I expected to have something to celebrate. I checked to see what might be happening that evening and realised that this would be the middle of Kylie’s three nights at the O2. I did a quick budget reassessment and began monitoring the ticket resale sites. At the end of August, I bought a standing ticket at around face value and began to get excited. It was also announced that Kylie would be playing the iTunes Festival at the Roundhouse, so I applied for the ticket draw for that too (I actually applied for almost every night in September, as I’ve done, without success, for the past couple of years – this time round, I did get tickets for the Blondie and Chrissie Hynde night – which was pretty amazing! … but not for Kylie).

At around that time, something sparked a thought process, that began with musing on what form my Ideal Dinner Party would take. I decided I’d like the theme to be Inspiring Women. But who to invite? The first name that popped into my head was Kylie. That idea grew, I formed an intention to begin a project around the Inspiring Women theme… and that I was going to have Kylie’s involvement. But how to achieve this… clearly, getting face to face with her and talking about the idea would be necessary. So I formed the intention to meet her and get her interest.

In mid September, I spotted something that looked amazing… someone had listed on Viagogo, a VIP Party Package ticket for the 30th, at a fraction of it’s face value. I grabbed it before anyone else could, but when it arrived, it turned out to be an upper tier seat, right at the back. I was not impressed and complained. Viagogo took their time in dealing with it, eventually calling me only a few days before the gig date and offering a voucher valid against a future purchase and saying I could keep the ticket. There being no viable alternative on offer, I had little choice but to accept, though I was rather disappointed and it was getting a little late to resell the ticket. I offered it around friends, but nobody wanted it. I did also get an absolute classic of a ‘Customer Services BS’ conversation though, which I’ll summarise in another piece!

Saturday September 27th dawned. Not only hadn’t I got tickets for that night in the iTunes draw, I’d missed them on YPlan too, those came up on the Thursday while I was in the gym. For most of the other iTunes gigs, YPlan had more than one tranche of tickets, so I kept a close eye on there through Saturday morning. When none had come up by lunchtime, I was on the point of resigning myself to not going – I was after all going to see Kylie the following Tuesday. But then something amazing happened; I Was Gonna Cancel started playing in my head… it spoke to me very clearly… shut out all the doubtwhat’s on the other side, you will never know, unless you go, go, go …go girl. So, despite having no ticket, I got myself together and caught a train. I arrived at the Roundhouse shortly after 6pm, to find a long queue of ticket holders and a somewhat shorter standby queue. I estimated there were no more than 50 ahead of me at most, so thought I had a reasonable chance of getting in. That wouldn’t be decided until 8pm though. In the meantime, I had my spare for Tuesday with me and thought I’d use this to enhance my chances by offering a trade. I had it in an envelope and wrote on the back “Got a spare? Want to trade for Tuesday?” and held it out as the ticket holder queue slowly filed by. Eventually the back end of that went past; I had a few comments along the lines of “I’d go for that if I had a spare”, but still had the envelope and was still in the standby queue.

And there I stayed, still presenting my envelope with the message on it and the spare ticket in it, until around 7:50. Then two women came by. The nearer one checked back and took a peek at my envelope, but misread it “Oh… so it’s not tonight you need a ticket for then? Sorry!” and turning, walked on. I called after her “Yes, it is tonight I need a ticket for, this one’s for Tuesday, to trade”. She turned, peeled off an A4 printout and handed it to me; then refusing my outstretched envelope, moved on. I was in! I felt elated! I did a happy dance, turned to the others in the standby queue, smiled, said I hoped they all got in too and dashed for the entrance. Arriving there, I showed my ticket and had the response “You don’t want this entrance, you want that one over there with the sign that says Guests“… double OMG!!!

I’m not just in, I’m in the VIP seats at the front of the balcony. I look around, there’s the odd vaguely familiar face or two, that I can’t quite place… and then there’s one I do recognise… Sir Ian McKellen is sitting in the row behind, an aisle and half a dozen seats away. Kylie was just amazing, performing a cut-down version of her tour set, though still an hour and a half’s worth. I stayed in my seat for a while, but Can’t Get You Out of My Head had me in the aisle and I mostly stayed there for the rest. After the lights came up, I said hello to Sir Ian as he passed me on the way out. He asked after my health and shook my hand. I paused to take a selfie or two and then made my way out of the auditorium and down the stairs.

Halfway down the stairs, is the stair… or rather, the landing. The landing that I’d noticed on the way up, as being equipped with a double door on which the notice NO PUBLIC ADMITTANCE was affixed. As I descended the stairs I saw that this landing was filled with people, grouped around Sir Ian and facing the double doors. There was no way past this group, so I stopped a step or two up from the landing and waited to see what would happen; I was in no hurry and here was a little more atmosphere to lap up. I didn’t need to wait long because seconds later the doors opened and Sir Ian and the assembled throng (‘throng’? really? well ok then, mini-throng… micro-throng? nano-throng? bunch? posse?) swept through. I stepped down onto the landing and was ushered through after them. It was clear the doorway led into the stage door lobby and thence out through the stage door into the open area behind the roundhouse, where an army of roadies were loading gear into a pair of trucks. I followed around and found myself in an enclosure that is home to the outdoor VIP bar. It was busy and it took me a while to get a drink. Once that was in my hand I wandered round, but saw nobody of particular interest to chat with.

Opposite the bar, is a building accessed by an open staircase leading to a verandah on the first floor, behind which a white facade stands, framing a doorway and a large window through which a well illuminated room with a TV screen on the wall was visible. From the position I’d taken in the bar area, I was facing this building, of which I had a clear view apart from the lower part of the staircase, which was hidden by the fence enclosing the bar area. A security guard stood at one end of the verandah. I pondered what the purpose of the building might be; offices? crew hang out area? dressing rooms? While my thoughts were thus occupied, a second figure appeared on the verandah, emerging through the doorway. She wore a wide brimmed dark hat and carried something crooked in her left arm… papers of some kind, perhaps a folder. A glimpse of blonde hair was visible beneath the hat brim, but given that it was dark and she was backlit by the window that she was facing away from, it wasn’t possible to make out anything else. My first thought was “Is that Kylie?” but then I considered that it might be someone on her staff… or the Roundhouse staff… or iTunes… She began descending the stairs. Had I followed my intuition – as I had up to that point – and left the bar quickly, I would have come face to face with whoever it was (and having seen a more recent photo of Kylie wearing the same hat, I’m convinced that it was her). But I hesitated briefly, overthinking and emerged from the bar perhaps forty seconds too late. There was no sign of anyone apart from security staff and the roadies and I left at that point, to a chorus of fans outside the gate, asking me if Kylie would be much longer… “I’m sorry, I really have no idea, but good luck!” I called to them.

So what lesson do I take from this? Clearly, that following my intuition works and hesitating doesn’t. Also, that making a clear intention is a powerful tool; in this case it came so much closer to working out, than I would have thought possible. Am I disappointed that I settled for ‘just’ an awesome night that I hadn’t expected and missed the main prize? Yes, a little, because it would have been good to have already had that meeting. But perhaps there’s a reason the meeting wouldn’t have been advisable that night and if I’ve done it once, I can do it again. I don’t see this as a failure or as a one-off opportunity that won’t be repeated. My intention remains strong.

Kylie was amazing again at the O2 on the following Tuesday, though I preferred the more intimate atmosphere of the Roundhouse. I didn’t get rid of my spare, because a security man insisted that I couldn’t even give it away outside. I didn’t want to sell it, it wound up costing me nothing and I’d have preferred that someone had it who would have appreciated it. But something good happened there too, I had a chance conversation in a bar before going in, that has resulted in a contact who can open some doors. I’ll write more about this when the time is right!

* note that while ‘no tickets’ = ‘no review’, ‘tickets’ =/= ‘guaranteed review’… though I will probably turn up with or without guest or guests, dance, applaud and generally chat to people. I may ask you and/or artists to join me in a selfie or two. I might ask for a rider as well, though I don’t actually expect you to honour that as a condition of my attendance.

My Kylie Conversion – Part One

Back in the eighties, an Australian soap called Neighbours hit our TV screens. Not being a huge soap fan in general, I didn’t pay all that much attention and was a little puzzled by all the gossip it generated. Though I’ve never been a soap fan, I am hugely susceptible to having my attention hijacked by the small screen, so I didn’t manage to evade exposure. The actual storylines and characterisations washed over me somewhat, but there was something that stood out and shone like a beacon for me… one of the characters was a teenage girl who worked as a trainee motor mechanic!

Why would this be remarkable? At the time, it was a huge, bold, clearly feminist statement. Young girls in the UK wanting to become motor mechanics at that time would have faced a decidedly uphill struggle… and this was Australia, a place fabled for it’s laddish culture; a place that, on reputation, was considered to leave the UK trailing way behind in the misogyny stakes. Neither was this played as the stereotyping exercise it could so, so easily have been presented as; had it been played by a butch presenting girl with masculine features, cropped hair and dungarees… well, the dungarees were there while she was ‘at work’, but this girl was anything but butch. She was petite, feminine, bubbly, cheeky, cute and she was played by Kylie Minogue.

So Kylie was someone who had come to my attention in a positive light, even before her singing career began. I have to admit that at the time when it did begin, I was one of those who thought she should have stuck to acting – not that there was anything amiss with her singing ability – it was that her first few hits struck me (and indeed many) at the time, as formulaic, manufactured, artless. They were the kind of songs that you hear far, far too often; so often that you find you know all the words even though you’re actively trying to shut them out… on reflection, it was pop perfection, yet something that left me cold.

I remained largely oblivious to Kylie’s progress through the nineties. I wasn’t taking much notice of popular music generally then and later dubbed it “the decade that music forgot” though it would probably be more correct to call it “the decade when I lost interest in music in an attempt to accommodate the ‘real world'”. I became responsible, I became serious, I made commitments to those I loved, I struggled to build a career that my heart wasn’t in, in order to provide for those to whom my heart belonged. I became distracted. I did hear then current music played, but little of it made any impression and I preferred to listen to things that were infused with nostalgia.

Soon after the millennium turned, things changed very markedly. The career dissolved and after an effort to create an online business that was just too far ahead of the curve to have any chance of success, I fell into amateur dramatics and the odd bit of background artiste work, primarily to take my mind off things. I also began to notice there was some good music around. One summer evening in the early naughties, I was recruited along with a few of my amdram colleagues to perform a tableaux for guests as they arrived at a grand fundraising ball. We were provided with transport and sandwiches and were permitted to join the guests for the music and dancing once they’d finished dinner. I wound up on the dancefloor with someone very sexy, moving to Can’t Get You Out of My Head… I’d heard it before, but it was only in this context that it really hit me how perfect it was. I find that music resonates… if at all… in particular areas of the body. This resonated in my pubic bone, in a way that nothing else ever had.

As the noughties moved on, I noticed and liked a few other Kylie songs. I wouldn’t have considered myself a fan though, or even particularly interested in her work generally; it was more of a passing appreciation of particular songs. Her overcoming breast cancer was something that raised my interest more. This was something completely worthy of celebration and truly inspiring.

In 2009, I began an online relationship with someone I have still never met, but with whom I fell deeply, completely, utterly in love. Even though she… let’s call her N… declared her undying love for me too, there was much that she skirted around telling me about herself, her life, her likes… though there were also some things where there was great depth of disclosure… that she was in a civil partnership for example (though that relationship appeared potentially terminally shaky at the time – it recovered, needless to say). It was thus not until 2011 that I learned N was possibly Kylie’s number one fan, when in response to my text message asking if she had anything interesting coming up, she announced that she and her partner were going to see Kylie at the O2 that same evening. We had a conversation in which I teased her about her admission of a huge crush that’s lasted since she was a little girl when Kylie first appeared on the scene (N is somewhat younger than I am).

The following year, I saw Kylie’s performance at the Queen’s Jubilee Concert on TV and was impressed. I saw someone who I felt had improved as she’s matured, yet who still has that essential spark. She stood out, possibly even stealing the show (though Grace Jones and Madness were also impressive). The seeds were planted. Later, I purely by chance stumbled on the film of the Aphrodite tour shows at the O2 being shown on TV. I’d been aware that Kylie puts on a stunning show, but seeing just how spectacular that was knocked me out! The way she weaves elements of burlesque, fetish, high camp and general sexiness together, is breathtaking. The only downside was that I wept my heart out through All The Lovers, because not being able to sing along to that while looking into N‘s eyes was just too much to take.

Then The Abbey Road Sessions came out and having heard a couple of tracks, I had to buy it. It has to be one of my favourite albums of all time… and believe me that is saying something! Lush arrangements utterly transform those older songs that I once would eye-roll at and sidestep where I could. And now even hearing them in the original arrangements makes me smile. As an aside here, this effect isn’t something that’s confined to Kylie’s early efforts – I’ve noticed something similar quite often… you hear a song that made you cringe a couple of decades ago and find yourself smiling, singing along, dancing round your kitchen; because what it evokes now, is not the cringeworthiness, but happy memories of the good things that were happening in your life at that time… because however unwelcome it was then, that song was the soundtrack for those memories.

Fast forward to this year and the release of Kiss Me Once. My first impression was slight disappointment, perhaps because I’d taken The Abbey Road Sessions as a statement of a new direction and was expecting something more aligned with that than with Kylie’s earlier work… I even made a comment to the effect that I felt it was perhaps a step backwards. Yet after hearing it through a couple more times, I was sold and I admit I love it.

[In Part Two, I’ll talk about what happened next… in my thought processes and in how following an intuition led to something amazing happening]


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