Tuesday, July 26, 2016

31 Days of Scotch: Day 26

The Cure: Is This the Greatest Concert Ever?

The title is not a faecetious question. It is one that is posed when taking into account that my style of musical taste is predominatntly that of the heavy metal genre. And I have seen all of the greats of that genre too. Iron Maiden, Metallica, Megadeth, Black Sabbath, Dio, Helloween, Ozzy Osbourne, Gamma Ray, and that's just to name a few. I have seen them all at their peak, and I have seen them all in their glory. So the question I pose not only comes from the background of what I normally listen to, but also from having seen a hundred different bands and artists in a multitude of venues, big and small. It is a question that deserves an answer.

Last night I journeyed to Homebush in western Sydney to Qudos Bank Arena (and yes this has changed its name a million times over the years) to see The Cure. My wonderful wife Helen has been a fan of the band forever, and she infused in me an appreciation if not a love for their music. I have rarely in my life chosen to put on an album of The Cure, but whenever it has been put on by others I have always enjoyed it. Disintegration and Wish have always been my favourite two albums, but my enjoyment of their music isn't limited to those albums. I have always wanted to see them live, to see what they would be like, and Helen had always seemed to miss them when they toured Australia. On this occasion we both managed to be on the same page.
There was no support act, it was all The Cure. They came on stage at 8.10pm, and put on a display that I have some trouble explaining just how good it was. The band was just amazing, truly amazing. The rhythm section of drummer Jason Cooper and bass guitarist Simon Gallup drove the night along. Jason's drumming was perpetual motion, rolling along his drum kit like liquid, not missing a beat and keeping the whole band in check. The guttural distortion on Simon's bass guitar reverberated throughout the arena, even in the songs where you would not necessarily notice that instrument. It kept that bottom end solid. Keyboardist Roger O'Donnell was unobtrusive and effective, while guitarist Reeves Gabrels was terrific, with a lot of technical stuff that may have gone unnoticed by those keeping their attention firmly on the main man, but he was very impressive.
Trying to not sound obvious and overly gushing about Robert Smith is somewhat impossible. His voice remains positively awesome after all these years. His guitaring throughout remained terrific, but it is his vocals that are extraordinary. They soar, literally soar, when necessary, and as the face and voice of the band he is still doing an amazing job.

It is a different style of concert from anything I have ever been to before. The majority of the bands that i see are energetic, jumping around the stage, trying to pump up the crowd and get them involved and rollicking. With The Cure, there is minimal movement by the players throughout. Simon walked around the stage most of the time, but the others held their ground, happy to be where they were and play their instruments as they were expected. But they didn't need to. The show itself was amazing. The light show was like none that I had experienced before, and the screens behind the band, that changed for each song and the mood of each song, was brilliantly done.

And the show itself? Well, the band came on at 8.10pm, and finished at 11.20pm. That's right, over three hours of music, 36 of their greatest songs in all. What impressed me most about this, apart from the technically brilliant way the band played, and kept faithful to each song while giving each its live performance, was that there was no pause between songs, no talking or interaction with the crowd that wasn't the music, no agenda to put forth. Robert spoke three times during the night, for a total of about thirty words. It was all about the music, and it was just magnificent.
The crowd loved it. From the slow writhing of bodies during "Let's Go to Bed", to the unadultered joy of "Friday I'm in Love", "Just Like Heaven" and "The Lovecats", they had them in the palms of their hands. All of their hits were played, and just about every song you could consider was there.
I was blown away by some of the live versions of songs. "Pictures of You" swam in to the start of the night so wonderfully well, and was the first real intoxication with Robert vocals. "A Night Like This" was just amazing, and was a high point for me. With no sax to be found, this came as close to a rock song as this band could play, and the exchange of horn for guitar worked brilliantly. This was followed by "All I Want" which continued in this vein. "Primary" conatined all the energy that was to be expected. "Just Like Heaven" and "Disintegration" and "Fascination Street" were all that could have been hoped for. "Burn" was another that was a highlight for me, it sounded terrific. The final closure of "Close to Me", "Why Can't I Be You" and "Boys Don't Cry" was the wonderful final punctuation mark on what was an unbelievable concert experience. The final scene, where an obviously emotionally moved Robert Smith uttered those words "We'll see you again", were received by the fans by raising the roof in appreciation.

So what is the answer to my initial question? As I said earlier, I have seen a lot of my heroes and a lot of great gigs. Last night's performance was the equal of anything I have seen. I truly hope that I get the chance to see them again in the future.

Set List

1. Plainsong
2. Pictures of You
3. Closedown
4. High
5. A Night Like This
6. All I Want
7. Push
8. In Between Days
9. Primary
10. Like Cockatoos
11. The End of the World
12. Lovesong
13. Just Like Heaven
14. From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea
15. Want
16. The Hungry Ghost
17. One Hundred Years
18. Disintegration

19. It Can Never Be the Same
20. Burn
21. A Forest

Encore 2:
22. Shake Dog Shake
23. Fascination Street
24. Never Enough
25. Wrong Number

Encore 3:
26. Lullaby
27. Hot Hot Hot!!!
28. Let's Go to Bed
29. Sleep When I'm Dead
30. Friday I'm in Love

Encore 4:
31. The Lovecats
32. The Caterpillar
33. The Walk
34. Close to Me
35. Why Can't I Be You?
36. Boys Don't Cry

Friday, July 22, 2016

31 Days fo Scotch: Day 22

Stephen King: The Shining pp. 47-78

By the time Part One of The Shining has reached its conclusion, we have firmly established the pattern of behaviour that the Torrance family has been operating under for the past few years, and where the mindset of each family member is at as they prepare to head for the Overlook Hotel for the winter season.

Jack is still dealing in secrecy, having made a special trip to the store in order to use the payphone to call his old friend Al Shockley, who not only got him the caretakers job at the Overlook, but was his partner in crime in going sober at the drop of a hat. It is during this section that we finally discover the reasons why their drinking stopped cold turkey, and that it coincided almost perfectly with Wendy's desire to talk about their future, or lack thereof.

“Danny said he dreamed you had a car accident,” she said abruptly. “He has funny dreams sometimes. He said it this morning, when I got him dressed. Did you, Jack? Did you have an accident?”

“Something had changed him. She didn’t believe it was just her getting ready to ask for a divorce that had done it. Something had happened before that morning. Something that had happened while she slept uneasily. Al Shockley said that nothing had happened, nothing at all, but he had averted his eyes when he said it, and if you believed faculty gossip, Al had also climbed aboard the fabled wagon.
"Did Daddy have an accident?"

That Jack had stayed sober is how the glue held firm on the marriage, and the relationship between husband and wife appeared healed for the moment. But Danny and his strange powers could still feel something below the surface, something that wasn't quite right.
More than this though was the dreams he was having, dreams of a house with large hallways, and of him being chased down those hallways by a madman, someone who wanted to hurt him. His were the final thoughts of Part One, and set up what is yet to occur.

"Danny… Danneee… 

"He started at the sound of that familiar voice and craned out the window, his small hands on the sill. With the sound of Tony’s voice the whole night seemed to have come silently and secretly alive, whispering even when the wind quieted again and the leaves were still and the shadows had stopped moving. He thought he saw a darker shadow standing by the bus stop a block down, but it was hard to tell if it was a real thing or an eye-trick. 

"Don’t go, Danny.."

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

31 Days of Scotch: Day 20

Stephen King: The Shining pp. 1-46

It's amazing, the vast amount of information that comes at you in the first 46 pages of The Shining about the individuals and the family unit that makes up the Torrance family. All three members of this clan, father Jack, mother Wendy and five year old Danny, are quickly and thoroughly summarised for the reader as the story moves ahead without delay.

Jack is being debriefed for a new job, a caretaker role at a hotel, something far removed from the teaching and writing roles he has performed in the past. But that is in the past, due firstly to a major drinking problem, and then due to an anger problem. Combine those two together and you would have some serious issues one would have thought. And such is the case. The family unit has seen better times, and has come close on occasions to breaking up because of Jack's issues, and his mistake in taking it out on his infant son.

Wendy is at home, a home she is obviously unhappy with, and a life she has become concerned about. Her husband has had his down times, and though she may not be exactly enamoured with the job he is seeking, she knows it is better than no job at all. But can this all survive in their current state? Doubts remain.

Danny is waiting for his father to return, and we are privy to the fact that he has a surprisingly fertile ability, one that may not be completely developed at his tender age, but one that is there nonetheless. That he can know how others are feeling, especially his parents, and often what they are thinking, makes for interesting times ahead. His 'imaginary' friend Tony has already shown his head, and would appear to have a role to play as the story moves ahead.

This initial stanza does a great job of backgrounding the story and the characters that we will become intimated with. If there is one thing Stephen King can do, it is set up a story with enough information such that we learn a lot without being overly bombarded. The first passages here have given the reader enough to be intrigued as to what is to come, as well as come to their own conclusions as to how these relationships will survive the test of what is to come. Indeed, the final paragraph of this section of the book sums up the atmosphere.

"Everything was all right. Daddy was home. Mommy was loving him. There were no bad things. And not everything Tony showed him always happened.
But fear had settled around his heart, deep and dreadful, around his heart and around that indecipherable word he had seen in his spirit’s mirror."

Monday, July 18, 2016

31 Days of Scotch: Day 18

Stephen King Book #3: The Shining

Book #3. The Shining. First published January 28, 1977.

I've got a confession to make. The Shining is one of Stephen King's most fabled books. The story of Jack Torrance and his son Danny is one that that has echoed through the years, some would say more notoriously for the Stanley Kubrick film that tears the narrative apart and is often referred to by fans, and King himself, as a stand-alone story that has little to do with his original vision. I have to admit here that I really have no idea, because... well... I have never finished reading The Shining from cover to cover. Oh, I've tried a number of times. I have on at least five occasions picked up the book, started reading, and having got about a hundred pages in I lose interest, and move on to other things. I even 'cheated' on another occasion, and just went to the last forty pages and read them, so I actually knew how it finished without having to try and go through the whole reading of it again.

The question I often ask myself, and which you are probably asking me now, is firstly, why have I had such a problem with the book, and secondly, if I've had that problem on so many occasions, why would I try and do it again? The answer to the first question is most likely a combination of the way the family of Jack, Wendy and Danny are so dysfunctional, of the difficulty they facing in remaining as one unit, and the obvious tragedy that is about to happen up there in the snow. It is a difficult start to the book, one that no doubt comes from King's heart, and the nature of storyline is lain bare for the reader. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that you know this isn't going to end well, and that this three person family is going to be mightily fractured by its conclusion. A lot of King's books have these storylines running through them, but my difficulty in closing the deal seems to hit a roadblock each time I try to push on through. The answer to the second part of that question is the reason I am doing this at all. I want to have read all of King's works, and by moving through chronologically, and reviewing as I go, I can't really back out can I? Thus this should ensure that I break my duck here with The Shining, and, for better or for worse, I should know the full story of the Torrance family's winter from hell by the end.