Tuesday 30 September 2008

Ronnie Spector, Glasgow Arches, 29/09/08

It was one of those nights, the best kind of nights, nights where you are nervous, you don't know what the performance will be like, let alone the result. The kind of night where there is a sense of anticipation in the air beforehand, is it really going to happen? I've always thought that you can compare some gigs to football matches and this was one of them. With a tingle of nervousness and excitement I entered The Arches to see Ronnie Spector.

The Arches is a unique venue in the heart of Glasgow, dis-used railway arches that used to be warehouses that have now been turned into a multi-purpose centre for arts and entertainment. Last night a crowd of all ages came to be entertained by one of the most famous female singers of all time - Ronnie Spector.

Spector was a member of the original all conqueoring girl group - The Ronettes. With Phil Spector writing and producing you had a chance of success, throw in the unique and beautiful vocals of Veronica Bennett (Ronnie Spector) backed by her sister Estelle and their cousin Nedra Talley and you had a winning formula that produced outstanding moments of musical beauty.

Shortly before 9pm the lights dimmed and a guy resembling Peter Stringfellow took to the stage to announce that Ronnie would be on in 10-15 minutes. He then proceeded to warn the audience that any form of photography would result in a swift eviction from the premises - nice.

The dj's from Glasgow's 'Eyes Wide Open' club played rare grooves and beats from the 60's and the volume increased the closer to stage time. The Ronettes were not the original Ronettes, simply Ronnie's backing band. They came on and started jamming, they stopped and launched into 'I Wonder' and Ronnie entered from the back of the stage. She looked and sounded fantastic

The next hour and 15 minutes went by in a blur as Spector sang her heart out, playing hit after hit. There was a gorgeous opening sequence containing 'I Wonder', 'Do I Love You' and 'Why Won't They Let Us Fall In Love' before the crowd erupted with appreciation and Ronnie sang the classic 'Baby I Love You'.

Spector looked great, her jet black hair hanging loosely past her shoulders, a far cry from her beehive from the 60's. Her tight trousers were still a little too loose for her slim figure and she had to pull them up on a number of occassions. She would sit on the drum-riser and then gently walk to the front of the stage at the most dramatic moments in the music, a professional, working the crowd, but remaining out of reach.

The crowd contained people of all ages, from teenagers, to many in their 60's and probably their 70's as well. A lovely old couple in front of me told me that they were here for the guys 65th birthday and that he never thought he would see Ronnie live on stage. They swayed and sang along to tunes that have been the soundtrack to their life for 40 plus years.

The tunes - ah the tunes. The lyrics are remarkably simple at times, but they are lyrics that anyone and everyone can relate to - heartbreak, loss, wanting, needing and loving - genius. And the music, Spector was backed by two keyboardists, a drummer who resembles the drummer from Gorrillaz, bass and guitar. The band were, as you would expect, sh*t hot.

If the audience wondered how Ronnie could top the opening half, they didn't have to wonder for long. She rolled out classics such as 'Walking In The Rain' (probably my personal highlight of the night), 'So Young', 'Best Part Of Breaking Up' and then the song a lot of people had been waiting for 'Be My Baby'. Spector also threw in a song that Bruce Springsteen had written for her and 'You Can't Put Your Arms Around A Memory' that she recorded with The Ramones.

To football style chants of 'Ronnie, Ronnie, Ronnie' she came on for an encore of 'I Wish I Never Saw The Sunshine' and 'I Can Hear Music' leaving the crowd with huge smiles on their faces.

This was a remarkable gig, possibly once-in-a-lifetime. I hope she comes back!


Wednesday 3 September 2008

Connect & Sigur Ros

Our day started early on as Dave arrived to pick Lynn and I up from our flat at 9.15am sharp. We left not long afterwards and enjoyed quiet roads all the way to Inveraray. The scenery was spectacular and the mist rolled on the hills in the distance. We arrived at the car park at 1pm and paid a tenner to get in. The car park resembled a swamp and as we came to the point where we had to cut off the temporary surface Dave joked that Lynn and I should get out in case he got bogged down and we had to push.

Seconds later Dave was bogged down and we were ankle deep in mud. We soon got him out with the help of a fellow festival goer. Lynn had already got her 8 quids worth out of her funky new wellies. We walked along a country path that was slippy, muddy and almost like quick sand in places. It was raining quite heavily at this point and on the way we bumped into our friends James and Michelle who resembled drowned rats. They had been camping for the weekend and were taking their stuff back to their car and I think they were also contemplating just going home as they were cold, wet and miserable. Thankfully they changed their minds and we bumped into them later on.

We walked past the camp site on the way to the festival entrance and I could see why they were contemplating going home, after two nights in a mud bath it would probably be the sensible option. We got to the site entrance and were soon on our way in, walking up to the impressive Inveraray Castle. The muddy path and turned into a tarmac road and gravel and it felt good to be on solid ground. We were told that the festival wouldn't be starting until 1pm and we couldn't get to the stages until that time, and, as we only had day tickets we shouldn't have been allowed in at this time - just after 12pm. We refused to leave as the stewards didn't exactly inspire us with confidence when they said we could get back in without a wrist band. So we hung around in the rain and I bought a Sunday Herald as they were giving out free mini-umbrellas.

When the site finally opened at around 1.30pm we had a quick walk around, quickly finding the fantastic food tent and having a roll and shredded lamb. Other options included Loch Fyne Oysters, Haggies, Neeps and Tatties, Macaroni and Cheese and much much more. We then nipped into the cider tent before heading to the Guitars and Other Machines stage. At this stage I have to say that the whole site was a bit of a mud bath, but the Guitars and Other Worlds Stage resembled the Dagoba system where Luke met Yoda. The first band of the day Black Cherry came on to play to around ten people standing in puddles. Their noise soon alerted people from nearby and soon there was a crowd of around 100 who didn't know whether to watch the band or a little kid running around through the puddles splashing his parents.

We quickly left the Dagoba system and headed round to the main stage, via the Kopparberg cider tent again. The pear and mixed fruit cider was going down very well. The main stage was less swampy and straw had been laid near the front to soak up some water. We caught a bit of Young Knives, but they didn't really do anything for either of us so we wandered over to the Your Sound new bands stage and caught a really good Scottish band called Endor. We then made another trip to the cider tent before heaidng back to the main stage to catch a bit of Santagold. They were alright, they certainly brought a bit of colour and flair to the day.

After stopping off for more cider and bumping into our friend Sita we headed to the Your Sound stage to catch an excellent band called Moth and the Mirror. They are a 6-piece based in Glasgow and have their own unique sound. I couldn't say how they are influenced by but I imagine they must have Sigur Ros and Arcade Fire albums in their collections. But they sounded original, I think they must have a diverse range of influences, well worth checking out.

After more cider and some food we headed over to watch Elbow on the main stage and amazingly it stopped raining! Elbow were on excellent form, they have always had excellent taste in music, they have been ambitious and maybe now, with songs like the antheemic 'One Day Like This', their time may have finally arrived.

After Elbow we wandered back to the cider tent - do you see a pattern emerging? - and then back to the Your Sound stage to catch the excellently named We Were Promised Jetpacks. Their energetic pop punk sound drew a decent sized crowd that they seemed to appreciate.

It was still dry and there were blue skies above as we headed back to the main stage to watch the band we had come for - Sigur Ros. This was Daves third time seeing them, but it was the first time for Lynn and I. The sun set on the hills in  the distance and Sigur Ros arrived on stage and launched into their unique orchestral sound. To describe their music as cinematic or orchestral is probably doing it an injustice. It's bigger than that, no-one else sounds like them, it is music to soundtrack your life - and of course the likes of Polar Bears. 3 songs in they played the theme tune from the BBC's excellent Planet Earth, otherwise known as Hoppipolla. The hairs on my neck stood to attention and the sound was almost overwhelming. The band didn't let up and played some tracks off their new album alongside older tracks - I can never remember the names. With a string section and brass band backing them they pulled out all the stops, their brass band wore 'see you Jimmy' hats at one point. The band were having fun and sent out sprays of confetti into the crowd at one point and had everyone playing drums at another.

I can honestly say that it was one of the best performances I have ever seen. Life affirming stuff.

After that we went back to the food tent for one last bite to eat and then down to the main stage to catch a bit of Franz Ferdinand. If Franz Ferdinand caught any of Sigur Ros they must have been wondering how the hell they were going to top them. Regardless of whether they did or not, they sounded quite flat and bland in comparison - no offence to Franz Ferdinand who are usually a good live band, but following Sigur Ros is pretty impossible.

We left after 30 minutes and made the long walk back to the car park through the mud. Dave's car was stuck in so we had to get some help pushing it out, returning the favour to someone else. Thankfully we got out early otherwise the car park would have been a nightmare.

As for connect, I hope the sun shines next year and the line-up is as strong as the first year to tempt me back for the entire weekend. The location is lovely, the atmosphere is great, the food is out of this world and if Sigur Ros play again it might just make my summer.

Check my friend Daves photos at www.flickr.com/photos/bigdavetaylor