Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Human Racing & Saving Whales

Last year I went to see several concerts here in Dublin. These included music artists that I had wanted to see since I first heard them in the 1980s. Highlights were Cyndi Lauper, Yazoo and The Bangles. For the past few years there was a good possibility that any pop artist that I had liked could play a concert in Dublin. It was great going onto the Ticketmaster page almost on a daily basis and seeing who would play a date in Dublin as part of a current tour. This year it is noticeable that very few concerts in general are selling out. 80s acts like Simple Minds and Spandu Ballet are playing Dublin's O2 later this year but they, like many other concerts, are not sold out. Ticket prices are still ridiculous. I do not want to pay for a ticket at the back of a venue so when I look at the prices I only look at the best seats available. Spandu Ballet are €70 which I might have paid to see them in a smaller venue like Vicar Street but not in a huge venue like the O2. Ticket prices for stars who still only play bigger venues are also still very high. I can't justify paying a €100 for Beyonce, €140 for Britney or especially €500 for a seat in the first few rows for Tina Turner. 80s acts played Dublin often because they were usually guaranteed a sell out date on their tour. Not any more. Many concerts were marketed as 'Your last chance to see them play!'. It was retro ransom! Leonard Cohen, Elton John and Eagles all played here in the last few years and will do so again this year. Going into the next decade it will be mainly 1990s nostalgia. Which means techno and grunge! Great! But there were of course lots of great pop from the 1990s too and it will be interesting to see who music fans want to see reform and tour again. At least the list of artists that I still want to see is not that long. I know I could go the UK and see a couple of 1980s acts play in one night such as those music acts who play in the Here & Now tours but I still like to see an artist play a one off show. Music promoters cleverly know that the nostalgia audience are mainly in their 30s and 40s and for the past few years those music fans had disposable cash to spend on seeing certain artists play in concert again. One artist that I still would really love to see in a solo concert is Nik Kershaw. His hits I Won't Let The Sun Go Down On Me and Wouldn't It Be Good are still perfect pop songs. Both songs were top ten in the UK in and were taken from his album Human Racing. It is the album's title track that I like the most. Here's the video for Human Racing which went to number 19 in 1984.
Nik's follow up album The Riddle included the famous title track as well as Wide Boy and Don Quixote. A really beautiful song from that album is Save The Whale. It was never released as a single but I think should have been. Here's a very poignant video, posted on Youtube by Strange44, for Save the Whale.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Not Lebanese, Blanche!

In April when I read that Bea Arthur had died I felt very sad. There are some TV stars that people hold in high esteem and Bea Arthur was really one of those people for me. The Golden Girls is still a TV series that I watch and get a laugh out of every time. In popular culture I think The Golden Girls was an important TV show because it featured that perfect mix of humour and drama. Topical and sometimes moral issues were used as a storyline but each time the writing was wonderful. The reason the show was great was because of Bea Arthur, Estelle Getty, Rue McClanahan and Betty White. We believed they were friends. They were like real people who had all sorts of dramas happen to them and we cared. Rarely did they even have to leave their home for a situation to happen and then be resolved. Most of the dramas and laughs were played out around the kitchen table, the sitting room or the good old back yard. Potential love interests came and went but at the end of the day they had each other. I think a show like Sex & The City worked so well years later was because the universal concepts of friendship, loyalty and falling out and making up that began in a show like The Golden Girls were repeated for the next generation. We all love our families but as we make our own way in the world we make our own surrogate family. No one knows this better than gay men. In Blanche, Rose, Dorothy and Sophia we think we see ourselves, our partners or our friends. But also our own mothers, a grandmother, an aunt or another relation. There are many, many shows that I love. There is one episode that stood out for me the most. It was called Isn't It Romantic and was about Dorothy's friend Jean coming to stay. Jean's female partner Pat had died. Dorothy and Sophia know that Jean is gay but Rose and Blanche do not. Jean develops an attraction to Rose and the scenes that followed are some of the best in the show's history. Jean was played by Lois Nettleton and her protrayal is just beautiful, acted with charm, lightness and sensitivity. Her performance was nomination for an Emmy as Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series. The episode was first broadcast in 1986. There were gay and lesbian characters in TV shows at the time but in comedy these characters were often stereotypes, Jean was a different type of protrayal. The entire episode is available in four parts on Youtube. Below is a clip from the episode that features Lois as Jean and also a long scene that is let play out wonderfully where Dorothy asks Sophia how would she react if her child was gay. Sophia's answer was; "If one of my kids was gay, I wouldn't love him one bit less. I would wish him all the happiness in the world". I loved the way those words are said. Estelle Getty as Sophia must have given a lot of people hope in their hearts when they heard her say those words. Those words remind me of my own mother who really is the best. When Blanche joins the discussion it gets funnier by the moment. There is so much in that scene, it's brilliant. Lois Nettleton died in January of 2008. Estelle Getty died in July 2008. Bea, Lois and Estelle were great women and actresses and we are thankful for their brilliance.

Monday, May 11, 2009

David's Daily Dramas

This was a post I did on discovering David's Daily Dramas for the first time back in 2007. I couldn't delete this one. Part of the reason that I haven't being blogging a lot recently is that I started a new job before Christmas and have been a wee bit tired. In March, I am going to work 4 days a week to give me time to pursue things like learning how to drive, reading more, see more movies, more writing time and generally do those things that I had hoped to do when I left my perfectly fine and secure job last year. Ohh, and also sell my house and go tour the world, well that bit didn't exactly work out. Ohh, well! I'm enjoying my new job, something I couldn't always say in my life, so that's good. A larger reason that I haven't blogged is that I have become addicted to the Last.FM site where your listening selections, through your I-Tunes and Media Player songs are collected on your own personal homepage and each week you get your own chart. My moaning about the Gallop chart has been replaced by replacing it with my own. The Last.FM site is a fab way to get in touch with people all over the world. Hello Pato in Chile, u fine thing! It is a perfect way to meet guys, in my case, who adore pop music and have to play at least 5 pop songs a day. One guy, Dave in Brighton, has his own blog. His blog is my most favourite internet find in a good while and it the kind of blog I love to read. Dave shares my love for the popstars of the world and also, like fellow fab blogger Enda, a love of Dolly. For David, I publish a picture of Dolly taken when she stayed a weekend in my 950 acre country residence last Autumn. She enjoyed many an hour strolling the grounds, guitar strapped to her back, inspired by the hedgehogs and the odd burnt out car around her. Enjoy the forthcoming concert Dave. Readers, enjoy his words and fab humour at David's Daily Dramas.

The Finishing School

When I first moved to Dublin in 1990 I was unemployed. This was something I wasn't used to, having worked, more or less, since I was 10 (down a coal mine) no, usually in my father's shop, the local supermarket and all those jobs you have to do by the time you are 18. While living in Naas, Co Kildare, after fleeing from a particularly wipe-it-from-my memory job I met a girl, Carmel, who seemed to read all the time. As a child I used to read all the time, as a teenager my bedside companion was usually Smash Hits! or Sky magazine, I spent too much time thinking how would I meet a gay guy, just one, please! Well, Ms Carmel, got me reading again. I read Jay McInerney, Brett Easton Ellis, Tama Janowitz, when they weren't American it would some of the Irish or British modern classics. The writer i liked the most, then, was Muriel Spark.
Muriel Spark was born in 1918 and died this year at the grand old age of 88. Dame Muriel didn't stop writing fine books until two years ago and The Finishing School is as good as any of her previous books I read. Her father was Jewish and her mother Anglican and this mix of parentage would weave through the words of her wry, sharp, novels of which there were many. She worked in Intelligence during World War 2 and then went off to write a few poems, I have never read her poems but I'm glad she had a story in her in 1957 when she wrote The Comforters, her first novel. Her most famous book would be The Prime of Ms Jean Brodie, but it's famous due to Maggie Smith's protrayal of the inspiring teacher. A Far Cry from Kensington, The Abbess of Crewe and Memento Mori will look just as good on your bookshelves. The Finishing School brings a lot of Spark's character traits together and sticks them in a never boring but elitist finishing school in the Swiss mountains. The school, is run by I've-got-a-good book-in-me Rowland Mahler and his wife Nina. Rowland discovers, among his gaggle of aspiring students one student's book based on the life of Mary Queen of Scots which he feels will be the most acclaimed book of recent times. Chris is 17 and is cocksure. Rowland, over 150 pages goes from being understandably envious to deep rooted jealously, obsession, the whole Spark back catalogue of emotions. Nina, hovers around fretting, a bit, Chris, meanwhile doesn't give a shit, well, at first. What's great about a Muriel Spark novella is not only it's assured sharp, black humour is that the secondary characters all stand alone and add to the plot, never overshadowing. This story is just about Rowland and Chris. This book was nominated in the international IMPAC Dublin literary award for 2006, which was won by Colm Toibin, now €100,000 richer! The books are initially chosen by readers in libraries all over the isle of Ireland and it is a great award as it's what the people are reading.

John McGahern

There are some days I will remember better than others in Dublin. On the 12th of September of last year I had the opportunity through work to go to the launch of "Memoir" by John McGahern. This was a special book launch and therefore was held in a place where it would be best suited. The venue was the Long Hall in Trinity College. I rarely went to book events over the 10 years I have worked in bookshops. I had only read one John McGahern book prior to "Memoir", "Amongst Women" which I had liked a lot. The next month I would find a hardback copy of the book in a lovely little secondhand bookshop in Youghal, Co Cork. While there I also found and loved Roald Dahl's "James and the Giant Peach" and Stephen King's "Firestarter" with Drew Barrymore on the cover. I brought two of my friends, the two Pats, to the launch, both who are well read and whom I knew would appreciate the evening. The event was of course well attended. For all the years I've lived in Dublin I had never been to the Long Hall and it is the kind of place that is like a view you just stand back and take in, a room dating back to 1712. It's high shelving holds 200,000 books and it's high ceilings and beautiful light and colours engulf the person standing in awe. We sat on a bench waiting for the reading to commence. I looked around and saw some writers and academics, Terence Brown and the then recently Booker nominated Sebastian Barry beside us. When John McGahern spoke his accent was the same as it had been as a young man, his appearance that of the classic quite country man. He looked like an uncle. Your father's friend. He read the piece which involved himself, the irate priest of the story and his more irate father. There we sat listening to him talk of the man who is at the heart of most of his writings. To me, it was a little bit of literary history. At the end of the reading he signed copies of his books, something he always did. He had previously been to the shop I worked in and had signed all the stock on hand, which was many. They of course had sold that day. But I hadn't been there that day. My friends got their copies signed and dedicated. He then asked me my name and I said David and then he asked would he sign my name in full. I am glad he did. He commented that my surname was a Southern one. How many names had this man come across over the years. We didn't stay long after that, the room was full of chat and we went quietly down the stairs out into the fresh, bright Dublin evening. Walking through the grounds of Trinity, a place I had once tried to attend when I had began a degree there but it wasn't meant to be. At that time. Afterwards the three of us went for a meal and chatted of the evening. There was no inkling the man was ill at that time and when I heard he had died in the Spring of the next year, I had a little bit of extra sadness. That September evening was a memory because as I looked around the room at the predominately Irish gathering listening to someone speak of the Ireland of my Father and Grandfather I thought this time will not come again.

To Skywalker, with love

Two years ago I went to see Charles Ross' one man Star Wars show with my brother.
Charles Ross claims, and I don't doubt him, to have seen the original "Star Wars" 400 times. And this is "Star Wars" of my childhood not a New Hope, whatever!, what child said "oh, I loved New Hope", "I really want a New Hope action figure!".
In his show which was first performed in his native Canada, he condenses the original 3 Star Wars films into one hour. Dressed in a black boiler suit with not a single prop bar a black curtain backdrop he vocally creates the various music themes, the voices of the characters or in cases like Chewbacca and R2-D2 the growls and beeps, the battles, the humour, the little moments you had forgotten about. He pauses after each film to just take a sip of water. In between, the plots of the films and all their iconic lines are mixed up with his own humour relating to the films and some wry comments about the audience. There is no audience embarrassment here, everything is nostalgic good fun. His Darth Vader and Yoda are inspired and Han, R2-D2, the Emperor, Obi-Wan and Jabba the Hutt are stand outs. While my brother enjoyed the depiction of Han which you would see Harrison Ford in as well, it is his Luke Skywalker that was the highlight for me. It is not just the character of Luke that he takes gentle digs at but Mark Hamill and his acting skills. In asides, he comments on Luke being whiny. When Luke says "I'm Luke Skywalker, I'm here to rescue you!!" most guys in the audience were back in 1977, in my case aged 8 and wishing to be abroad a Death Star or have a light saber lighting up the air. The unimpressed Leia there before you. X wings, Tie Fighters, speeder bikes, the fall of AT-AT's are all recreated. Jabba's laugh fills the room, Leia is both earnest and flighty, Han is an instant space cowboy and poor Chewie, well, the end of the first segment is a real laugh. He uses his hands to be Admiral Ackbar and his ewoks are thankfully swift and not dwelt on. His body like a gymnast to be everything else as he bounds, tucks and rolls across the stage. But this is a show to savour for the first time, your mind seeing Ross in action and the characters he adores also in your head. It's a real experience. The show, done in a hour, is constantly energetic, Ross's face contorts and the various voice changes never confuse but I say like myself you have to be a fan. Only one woman of the 3 in the audience hadn't seen any of the films, the shame! the things women do for their boyfriends! but it would have been impossible for her not to enjoy it. This is a show done from the heart. After the show, the audience were given a preview of the Lord of the Rings trilogy he does, the character in question he uses the one that always freaked me out. He's off on a world tour now and is in Dublin's Spirit venue in Abbey Street for another week so go, if you're a Star Wars fanatic you'll love it.

King For A Day

Wham!, Duran Duran, Culture Club, Nik Kershaw, Yazoo, Depeche Mode, Howard Jones. Back in the 1980's if I had lived in the UK and had even one pop loving friend I could have gone to see these artists at the height of their pop fame in concert. How I loved them then and still do now. I had to make do with the many vinyl singles I bought of their music and for better value the Now That's What I Call Music or Hits albums and of course the pages of Smash Hits! magazine which I bought each fortnight in my Uncle Tom's shop.

Across the street from my uncle's shop in Kilkenny was, and still is, Sherwoods which sold washing machines, cookers, TV's and record turntables. They also had a music department and each week a new batch of 7" and 12" singles would arrive in. This was when it took weeks for a single to climb to the top ten. It was there that I didn't buy Madonna's first ever picture disc because I didn't like the picture used. It was her bride-Virgin look, but most of my vinyl I still own comes from purchases in that shop. The music buyers must have either totally loved pop music or just bought in every new single which suited me fine. Pop star wise nothing very exciting happened in Kilkenny, very few "pop" acts played even in Dublin whereas nowadays there is a major concert every night. In 1985 I was almost 16 and one day browsing in Sherwoods I noticed two people who didn't look very Kilkenny. Strangers. Fabulous strangers. I think I had a "moment" of OH!!!MY!!GOODGOD!!! when I realised that 100% genuine pop stars were standing at the other end of the shop; Tom Bailey and Alannah Currie looking very pop starry. I'm sure some of the people in the shop recognised them but as most of Kilkenny preferred to idolise U2, The Cure or Bon Jovi there wasn't a big crowd around them.
I went and swiftly got the only 12" record of theirs that the shop had on sale. That month it sadly wasn't one of their most famous songs like You Take Me Up,  Doctor! Doctor! or Hold me Now instead it was Don't Mess with Doctor Dream but I had something to get an autograph on. I wish I could remember what both said as they signed the record sleeve for an excited me. Alannah's hair and make up were straight from her Top of the Pops appearances and Tom looked lovely too.
Of course I had to go and feck up this moment but I guess it made it more memorable when I asked "Where's Joe?", Joe Leeway the all important third Twin. I got a muted, quick reply but that was the start and end of my music journalist career, well I was only 15. A year later Joe would leave the group officially but just the month before they had been on Live Aid. Madonna jigging away like a mad thing to their song Revolution, looking back I'm sure I wanted to ask something about Madonna but I never did. While reading on Wikipedia about the group it is now 30 years since Tom Bailey was a founding member of a much larger Thompson Twins band. By 1983 the band were a trio and had several hit singles. Don't Mess with Doctor Dream only got to number 15 in the UK chart, the follow up King for a Day stalled at number 22 and Joe and Alannah would continue on alone the following year. In a way I had met the band, or two of them, at the changing moment of their time in the sun.

I think that meeting the Thompson Twins that day cemented my lifetime love for pop music and as I get older something I have to justify as what I like is often ridiculed but so what. While I love songs like Doctor! Doctor! and Hold me now my favourite Thompson Twins song is Sister of Mercy, the video is featured below. No pop stars ever crossed my path again in Kilkenny, plenty would appear in Dublin but they are other stories for now.

The Cryptogram

This was a review of the play The Crypotram which I saw in London in 2007. The man I waited to meet was almost an hour late. If he hadn't been late I don't think I would have read the culture section in The Sunday Times and I wouldn't have seen the glorious review it gave the play The Cryptogram. I wouldn't have known Kim Cattrall was in it or that her performance was described as a master-class. I may have, instead, gone to see some musical the following Monday evening, in London there is always something to see but your choice is usually a lucky dip off the cards on the TKTs notice board in Leicester Square. I have often been familiar with David Mamet's work as a playwright or a screen writer but I had never heard of The Cryptogram. Written in 1994 and despite it's 1950's setting this feels like a brand new and very exciting work. This production is directed by Josie Rourke. The review and the fact that Kim Cattrall starred in it made me glad that I was able to get a ticket. It was also my first time in the Donmar Warehouse. I had no idea how beautifully intimate the theatre is. There are just 4 rows of seats on the front of the stage and also to the sides with overlooking floors above. My seat was downstairs. The set beautiful, elegant, simple American furniture creating it's 1950's style and a high staircase to the side. The story is of a young boy, John (Adam J. Brown), who on the eve of a camping trip, can't sleep and he spends half the early evening ruminating and debating and worrying with his mother Donny (Kim Cattrall), her long time friend Del (Douglas Henshall) is present on that evening as well. They await the return of Donny's husband Robert. Well, The Sunday Times gave far too much of the story away, as at least two thirds was revealed which would have better left to unfold. It is also a very short play, one hour and five minutes but one that feels longer in a good way and because it is Mamet at his best and a lesser known work, it is time to savour. I did find the character of the child, John, whiny and annoying but that is what he is meant to be, his mother's patience becomes the audience's too. But it is the child who is pivotal to the unfolding of the drama and he has the majority of the dialogue in this hour and it is a credit to all 3 young actors who play the part of John in this production's run. Every word said is important, if I saw this play again I would get something else out of the dialogue. Douglas Henshall is truly wonderful here, wide eyed, nervous, vunerable and desperately trying to amend something that cannot be as the night unfolds. Even though I was star struck watching Kim Cattrall she is amazing here. She is elegant and perfectly mannered or composed throughout until there is no need to be anymore. It is to Donny that a cruel blow will follow close after the first, the audience gripped in her emotions, perfectly portrayed in Cattrall's gaze. She is the central character, the one whom the focus of the story is even though this is a play about the turning point in childhood where something happens and things will never be the same again. It is also about the turning point in friendship. This is a play that is heavy in symbolism. What we hold on to, why we do it and what we're left with by doing so. A few minutes into the start of the play, directly behind me, there was a loud crash, I literally jumped and for two days had a crick in my neck afterwards, it sure sounded for real but it was the sound of a teapot laden tray being dropped and then the voice of Kim Cattrall apologising and her introduction. This off stage moment is crucial to the hour ahead, the start, the events now in motion. The crashing noise was right in my ear, at first I thought her voice was a recording but then a second later she strides out, all 50's tweed skirt and ladylike, a true star. Over the next hour you knew this actress, pigeon-holed for a certain TV icon role, belonged on the stage.

Tiny Dancer

This was a review of Rihanna's first concert in Dublin in Spring 2007. This was before Umbrella had been released and looking back now it's interesting to remember seeing a huge star at the beginning of their career. The Tiny Dancer heading was a nod to both her height and the Elton John song, which as of today in May 2009 is back in the charts.

Last night I went to see The Pussycat Cats in concert. A big reason to see them was the fact that Rihanna was their support or rather, co-headliner. Unfaithful was one of my favourite songs of 2006. Before I went to see the concert I was going to just include a paragraph on Rihanna in an overall review but Rihanna is in her own right is a true proper star. Last year she won 4 Billboard music awards including Female Artist of the Year. When you consider the other 2 nominees were Beyonce and Mary J. Blige, both who had a successful year, this was a particularly impressive win. The worst thing about support artists is that they get the skimpiest set, usually preformed in front of the curtain (in the case of Dublin's The Point, a sheet). Rihanna's set was v cheap looking, a rather ugly metal bed headboard style thing but that didn't matter. She had six dancers, 4 female straight out of a Chicago audition and two guys who have watched a lot of Usher videos. A retro styled DJ  mixed music in the corner of the stage. On a Pussycat/ Rihanna tour there are no twenty piece orchestra or any musical instruments at all.
Her opening song was Pon de Replay. It was pure r'n'b/ pop fabness. Rihanna doesn't have a lot of hits to date, but those, bar We Ride, are very fine. Dressed in a "that dress leaves nothing to the imagination" black and white outfit, you quickly realise that Rihanna's stage routine works with a combination of three factors. The first is her dancing. Performing to a backing track throughout, often singing over her own vocals, she therefore has the time and energy to lead the dance routines of her backing matches and in true r'n'b potential future Diva style shows that she is the star. The second is, bluntly, how she looks, that confidence she has. The short dress is worn on purpose. Rihanna wiggles and bumps and grinds throughout. But this is no silly Ho in so many Hip Hop male superstar videos. Her confidence matches her sensuality for the entire performance. The third, and what I think will make her persist as a star is the look in her eyes. Bold, cocksure, very beautiful. I have no time for gay men who cannot see or regard female beauty and the power of it. Rihanna's gaze has the ability to hold the audience in her hand. Rihanna has already starred in last year's Bring it On: All or nothing, another sequel to a Kirsten Dunst teen dance movie. I have no idea what her acting abilities are like in this but I'm sure with a proper director Rihanna could be a future movie star. Unfaithful is sung at the front of the stage, dancer less thankfully, wearing a sparkly Kylie like dress. The, as you can expect mostly v young audience, sing along. I commented to my friend the irony of mere children knowing the words of a song about infidelity. S.O.S is the song that most people want to hear. The dance routine to it is flawless and the music loud and a club like atmosphere is recreated in Dublin's most popular haybarn. A third costume change, black Christina like swimsuits, alas the male Ushers preferred the Slim Shady range. The show is not perfect overall. Some songs I have forgotten already but I only have 3 of the singles to date. During an overlong costume change her dancers dance to recent hits from Nelly Furtado, Shakira and Justin. I have never seen a star use the songs of whom are her pop competitors to entertain the crowds, I felt a remix or instrumental version of one of her songs would have been better. When she finally exited and her part of the show was over, for a moment I felt that was it, almost forgetting the main act were yet to appear. I would love to see her with a full band or Unfaithful sung in a concert hall like setting. Tiny in person, seeing Rihanna I realised it once again gave me a buzz to hear a song I love performed here in Dublin.

Wisdom the PCD way

This was a review of The Pussycat Dolls first concert in Dublin. While looking for a photo on The Pussycat Dolls concert, I felt I couldn't use a full group photo, the reason being was that Kimberly was at home sick. So instead we had just five Pussycats on stage and the group member who I would love most would be Carmit. The show was led for the most part by Nicole. She is the main vocalist in the group and several times she sang on her own while the four other Pussycats sat behind stage in the wings. At one point she sang Feelin' Good, performed acapella and was completely spellbinding. Holding up the microphone like a light in the dark she recreates the Nina Simone song and there is only the Nicole version that you think of. She also sings How Many Times, How Many Lies on her own and introduces I Don't Need a Man as a song she wrote, almost saying, "I don't just sing and dance!" While Nicole's solos were gorgeous, I much preferred when all 5 of the group was on stage together. Each has their own personality, completely aware of their audience and with a genuine appreciation of their moment in the pop spotlight. The opening song would be one of their biggest hits, Buttonz, which was their fourth single. To start with, it is a wonderful song and dance routine. But then the song itself literally exploded, pillars of flame burst out behind the main stage and you hope to God that Jessica and Ashley didn't go too mad on the hairspray. Buttonz then morphs into a loud and dancetastic remix version, their choreography too quickens in pace, all arms and workout crazed style. It was a memorable opening setpiece. What was interesting is that Buttonz is followed by Beep, the only time bar a mash up of My Humps that I have liked The Black Eyed Peas, in the form of Will.I.Am. Stick with u follows a bit later and even a bit of Don't cha. "No girls! too many hits too soon!" I thought. But no, the whole show would be a success from beginning to end. There is no encore and strangly no loud demand for one because they give it their 100% throughout. I will never forget seeing Kylie's "Showgirl" tour and Madonna in Slane but this was one of the best pop concerts I have ever seen. It is obvious that the tour is centred around Nicole's future solo career but if this tour is anyone's moment for me it was Carmit's. After 12 years in the group Carmit is at 32, one of the oldest people in the concert hall that evening which made me feel a bit better! To emphasise their individuality they each thank the audience seperately. Step forward a bit of PCD wisdom. While I don't quite agree with Nicole stating that Don't cha is "a female anthem": (I am much hotter than your dowdy girlfriend, boy, so dump that bitch!), I was instead more impressed when Ashley's "live your dreams!" speech used the words "Get an education". The audience were mostly girls of a certain age who looked like they were actually at the Sluttiest Child awards but the "better yourself" was the best pop wisdom I have heard from the stage in a long time. On Carmit's turn she spoke of her Cleft Palate which she seemed to do a lot of work in the area of raising self esteem for people who have it. I didn't even know what it was until my friend told me about it in the queue outside earlier that evening. Carmit then said celebrate being different. A gay heart beat in the darkness. None of this stopped Carmit looking like Xena dressed as a hooker in Space. That's why we love her. Despite being 97% female, 1% boyfriends or dads and 2% men who like men and pop, Nicole and co annoyingly referred just to the girls in the audience. Talk about making a boy feel different. When at Christina last November a "not exactly beaten with the ugly stick" straight guy was taken out of the audience, strapped to a revolving wheel and womanhandled by Christina and her minxy dancers. It was more embarrassing than interesting. Three much younger people were ushered onto the stage at the Pussycat Dolls show. Thankfully the same routine wasn't repeated or social services would have been outside in the carpark. The selected three, at first, looked like Christans being led into the lions in "Gladiator". Instead they had to dance in front of the thousands who whooped and cheered for Ireland. It was a sweet, uplifting moment. How I wished to have that confidence at 16! Or even 26! As the three weren't exactly shite dancers my friend figured a local dance school had received a call in advance. One of the three was a joyous guy, he seemed the type who had gone to the concert with his girl friends more so than his girlfriend. He was hero of the moment doing the dance routine of his life, so far. Assuming he was indeed a friend of all that is glittery, he was for his 2 minutes of fame, a little celebrity, hugging a bemused Nicole on his way out. And that to me is what pop is all about. I hate the word fun. It is too simplistic. It is a tag. But this concert was that word. One factor that I really liked is that they had no male backing dancers. Just themselves. Even Madonna, Kylie, Dannii rarely perform without the token straight looking male dancers. My inner feminist dies a death at a concert like The Pussycat Dolls but this male free stage was a little bit of power by girls. Please Pussycats, don't break up yet, even with your revolving door policy. Nicole you're fab, hold on another while for a solo career, your girls, especially Carmit need you. Make a fab second album. Your fans deserve it.

Finding His Way

This post was a review of Justin Timberlake's 2007 concert here in Dublin. Over the years I have seen several memorable concerts in Dublin's RDS. I have seen Prince and Michael Jackson there in the 1990's and seeing Justin Timberlake at the same venue, well, he had elements of both artists.
Queuing outside the high walls of the venue I heard the support act starting up early, I had assumed it was going to be producer Timbaland doing a DJ set but no it was Fergie. The opening notes of her debut solo single London Bridge sounding poptastic. On entering the venue myself and my fellow pop fans, Connell and Joelle, were delighted to see it was to be a concert in the round, we had a very comfortable standing spot for the whole evening. The sky was blue throughout and as we have had rainy days in Ireland for the past few weeks this was a huge added bonus. While I love many pop acts I have never liked The Black Eyed Peas, maybe it was the silly name or the fact Where is the Love was never off the radio when it was a hit. Fergie, whom I had often dismissed as a cheap and trashy was in reality a real proper popstar, wearing a tiny top, tiny glittery skirt and yellow and black knee socks she looked, well, fergalicious! The songs she sang included the singles Glamourous, Big Girls don't Cry (currently number 3 in the U.S. Billboard charts) and The Black Eyed Peas, My Humps. During her set I thought she was singing a song about her Mary Jane shoes and indeed she was when I looked up the track listing of her album later, it is v good too! Sadly she went out on a muted note singing the "slow tune" Finally she was gone, no encore but Ms Stacy Ann Ferguson, overall, you was good girl! The wait wasn't long until Justin came on stage. The set was a large circular stage with steps down two sides, alas not where we stood, the band were all very familiar looking, in fact it was going back to the time of The Revolution, New Power Generation, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis and indeed The Time and that is where one of the many Prince comparisons come in. But Justin is a complete and utter star in his own right. What was good about the day was that on the strength of two hugely successful solo albums nearly all the audience knew his music catalogue really well. The show began with the song that opens the album, the title track, Futuresex/Lovesounds. Of course there was the usual bevy of dancers, who were a bit too CD:UK, but for me the best dancers were his four backing singers, because of the r'n'b, almost pop-gospel style of his music they were ideal for this tour especially on the gorgeous version of Losing my Way and Cry me a River. The audience were mainly in their mid 20's and lots my age, hooray! but there were also several gangs of teenagers who sadly felt the need to ole! ole! ole! every now and again which Justin wisely ignored. He did go into "hello Dublin" overdrive and at one point had a tray of Guinness delivered to raise a toast to the crowd. Justin Timberlake is pure smooth. He looked flawlessly dressed in smart shirt, tie and expensive suit but with white trainers, of course. This was not a big spectacle of a show, there was a Close Encounters style lighting rig which never did much overall. The sound though was excellent, the beautiful jittery opening notes of My Love cut through the stadium grounds with thousands singing along. It was actually going in the direction of one of the best concerts I had seen, What goes around..comes around was performed brilliantly and then, well, Justin took a break midway, maybe to finish that Guinness, who knows. Timbaland came on set and played a pot pourri mix of videos and remixes he has done, so we watched on the giant video screens, a montage of Nelly Furtado, Missy, Aaliyah and then Justin and Nelly and Timbaland all together on the recent number one Give it to me. This was, as my friend Connell said, the ideal moment for Justin to come back but nope, didn't happen. It was all a bit messy and a shame as Timbaland is the greatest pop/r'n'b producer at the moment. If he had done a set before or even after Fergie it would have worked much better, instead it made the main act disjointed. However, it didn't take Justin long to get the crowd back to normal. Lovestoned was wonderful and also included was my favourite part of the song I think she knows. The only N'Sync song he sang was Gone but as part of a three slow song set it was a bit slow overload. Cry me a River was the moment for me when you hear an artist sing a song you love and wait to hear. Throughout Justin left a lot of his famous dance moves to his dancers but when he danced, especially during Like I Love you, Sexyback and My Love he was as good as seeing him on the MTV music awards or music videos. He also played the piano, keyboards, the keyboards around his neck, multi-tasking as Connell said. There were no surprises during his set, no cover versions or moments like when he sang Rehab during another tour date changing the words to "they tried to make her go to rehab, she said no, no, no". Hmmm, I wonder who that could be about! Justin is well aware of his audience, he is a teen idol grown up, slightly reinvented who has successfully mixed pop with the hit success that r'n'b provides, especially in the U.S. market. The closing song was, of course, Sexyback, overall it was really a good fun, night out. I was so glad I went to this concert, the past few days have not been good ones for me but I felt fine during the whole evening and if Connell and Joelle do read this, I couldn't have asked for better pop concert company, thank you both.