Saturday, June 18, 2016

Alice Cooper at The O2

The O2 Arena, London. Saturday 18-June-2016.

The Stone Free Festival was an opportunity to see the legendary Alice Cooper.

The first act Blackberry Smoke impressed. They are an American Southern rock/country rock band from Atlanta, Georgia.

Apocalytica were my first encounter with Cello Metal - who knew that was a thing? File under "Hmmm. Interesting".

The Darkness were OK-ish. Not Mary's thing so she went out for that set.

Finally the act I suspect was the real reason many were there - Alice Cooper. He kicked off with "No More Mr Nice Guy",  always one of my favourites.


The Evening Standard wrote: "Cooper’s tightly drilled, heroically daft pantomime was in fine fettle, despite the 68-year-old’s reduced mobility and absence of patter. As if it were 1972 (the whole point of Stone Free), there were explosions; the traditional live snake on Is it My Body; the guillotine ritual on the Killer/I Love the Dead medley which, not entirely unpredictably, ended with Cooper being resurrected by the love of a lascivious woman; a 20ft monster on Feed My Frankenstein and two fake Kennedys having a fake brawl during the closing Elected." Full review...

I think "heroically daft pantomime" describes it perfectly.

Louder Than War’s Sophie Sparham wrote: "The band’s encore consisted of a series of tributes to fallen rock stars such as Keith Moon, Hendrix, Lemmy and Bowie. It was great to see such a legend paying tribute to musicians that have passed and revved the crowd up for ‘Eighteen’ and ‘Schools Out’, which he sang accompanied by bubbles that came out from the side of the stage." Full review and pictures...

The tributes were great rock and roll songs and very touching all at the same time.

So that's another act ticked off the bucket list :-)

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Tom Jones at Hampton Court Palace

Thursday 16-June-2016.

An excellent concert as you might expect from Jones "the Voice". A few of the greatest hits and others lesser known numbers all delivered with expert musicianship. The crowd seemed to be mostly made up of the faithful followers. There were a couple of pairs of knickers thrown on the stage but I believe that is more of a tradition these days.


John Clark of 'The i' wrote: "... any fears that this was to be a sombre affair were blown away by a set based mainly around tracks from the recent trilogy of albums (Praise & Blame, Spirit In The Room and Long Lost Suitcase) in which he revisited his blues, gospel and country musical roots and influences. [...] The voice from the valleys was as powerful as ever and the whole evening had a contemporary feel rather than being a tired collection of past successes." Full review...

We had planned a picnic in the grounds but the heavens opened so we picniced on the dining room table then headed off. Tom came on just after 9pm and played for nearly two hours, they clearly have an immovable 11pm curfew. He sang the expected hits, Delilah, It's Not unusual, Green Green Grass, Sex Bomb and Kiss (my favourite), interspersed with other songs I didn't know but all excellent.

Top evening.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Chicago 2016 - Statues

Chicago, Illinois, USA. 12/13-June-2016.

As well as the Blues Festival we also used our time to see some of Chicago's statues:
"Downtown Chicago is home to more than 100 sculptures, mosaics, and paintings placed in plazas, lobbies, and on the Riverwalk. The dedication of the huge sculpture by Pablo Picasso in 1967 confirmed that Chicago was a city for the arts. Since then, major works by Alexander Calder, Sir Anthony Caro, Sol LeWitt, Richard Hunt, and Ellen Lanyon, among others, have been added to this free open-air museum." The Chicago Public Art Guide
The tourist information office had relocated from the Chicago Cultural Centre to Macy's where the guy behind the desk printed us a list of major public art works. We used that to spend a couple of mornings wandering round downtown Chicago finding and ticking statues off our list, we managed a fair few.


In alphabetic order:

Alexander Calder - Flamingo

A spectacular piece of curves and sharp angles put me in mind of feathers and beaks.

Alexander Calder - Flying Dragon

Anish Kapoor - Cloud Gate (1)

A major selfie opportunity for almost everyone there.

Anish Kapoor - Cloud Gate (2)

Looking up and seeing the distorted reflections is really disorienting, it made me giddy.

David Smith - Cubi VII

Edward Kemeys - Lions

Frank Gehry - Jay Pritzker Pavilion

Hector Guimard - Paris Metro Entryway

Henry Moore - Large Interior Form

Jaume Plensa - The Crown Fountain (1)

This fountain is a fun piece with the changing back projections.

Jaume Plensa - The Crown Fountain (2)

The first time we saw it was a really hot day and all the children were having so much fun splashing around under the waterfall and in the pool.

Jean Dubuffet - Monument with Standing Beast (1)

I like the way you can walk into and through this one like an old castle or standing stones.

Jean Dubuffet - Monument with Standing Beast (2)

Jerald Jacquard - Space Junction of Energy

We only noticed this as we were leaving for the airport, directly across from our hotel by Belmont station.

Joan Miro - Miro's Chicago

Louise Nevelson - Dawn Shadows

Marc Chagall - The Four Seasons (1)

Marc Chagall - The Four Seasons (2)

Pablo Picasso - Untitled

This is credited as the piece that started the whole public statues thing in Chicago. It even gets a mention in The Blues Brothers:
Elwood: This is definitely Lower Wacker Drive! If my estimations are correct, we should be very close to the Honorable Richard J. Daley Plaza!
Jake: That's where they got that Picasso.
Elwood: Yep.
Richard Hunt - We Will

Richard Lippold - Radiant 1

Sol LeWitt - Lines in Four Directions

Took us a while to spot this one: not just a statue but the whole side of a building.

If we ever go back there are plenty more on the list we still have yet to see...

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Madeline Bell at Ronnie Scott's 2016

Saturday 04-June-2016.

Third time of seeing this irrepressible singer and just as much fun as the previous two occasions. Her shows always sell out fast so we nabbed our tickets as soon as they were announced. We persuaded our friends Tim and Sarah to come up to London for the weekend and join us for this.



She was joined by Tommy Blaize, the lead singer with the Strictly Come Dancing Band, for a couple of great duets.



She always has a good chat with the audience. As a reviewer on Trip Advisor remarked "I hope I have as much lust for life, energy and kindness when I reach my golden years." I'll second that.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Distillery Tour at Sipsmiths

Chiswick, London. Wednesday 01-June-2016.

Mary bought me a tour of the Sipsmith distillery for Christmas which came with a bottle of gin. The gin I could make a start on any time but this tour is so popular that they were booked months ahead and, what with trips to Italy, this was the earliest date we could make.

We were one of the first to arrive and the welcome drink was, of course, a gin and tonic. I was pleased to note the tonic was Fever-tree which I had switched to as soon as I discovered it a few years back, forsaking all other tonic waters. Our host opined that Schweppes is a perfectly respectable tonic water but for me it would be of necessity not choice.


The tour was actually a bit of a misnomer as the whole distillery is in one room, an old garage. Most of the "tour" was a fascinating history of gin including the Gin Craze period in the first half of the 18th century and subsequent legislation. Well done, Sipsmith!

It was Sipsmith's pioneering efforts with HMRC in getting the size restriction removed from stills in order to obtain a license that has opened the doors for many other craft distilleries to spring up.


It was not all talk. We tasted a number of their fine products including a Pimm's-like cup and a Sloe gin. They also produce small batch runs of experimental flavourings on a quarterly basis some which were a little outrĂ©.


A fascinating tour - highly recommended.