Sunday, 20 July 2014

Tom Jones

Edinburgh Castle Sunday 20 July 2014 

After the very wet BBC One Live concert the previous night, it was such a lovely contrast to be bathed in early evening sunshine overlooking the Castle esplanade.
View across the Forth to Fife from the Castle
Tom Jones has little to prove. He is that rarest of commodities – a living legend who still genuinely deserves that title. 

Tom in full flow
The crowd were enjoying the balmy evening and as is probably standard at Sir Tom's gigs, many had come dressed to impress ...
Tom Jones masks?
Welsh daffodil
[Note - all the video links in this blog entry are from the Net - variable quality, but nicely capturing the atmosphere.]

I'd never seen Tom live before, and fully expected the fairly standard greatest hits set performed in crowd-pleasing fashion, however, what he gave us on the night was much more than that. 

From his entrance stage-right, he began with the John Lee Hooker blues classic Burning HellHis band were glorious - obviously hand picked, and every song was delivered in a refreshing slightly unusual form.

We were treated to a relaxed lounge version of  Mama Told Me Not to Come followed by a version of Sex Bomb which was full of jazz piano and brass.

It almost seems churlish to mention that he’s 74 years old, but relevant in the context of his voice. He still has the vocal range, and the confidence to mix it up, of someone 50 years younger.

Off-stage, although the crowd ranged in age terms from eight to 80 and was mostly balanced between men and women, the ladies were clearly in charge. Undies were inevitably thrown during Sex Bomb and again often throughout the show.
Bridget Jones knickers?

Jones didn't rise to the bait but, remaining quietly dignified, he allowed himself the occasional chuckle as the offending articles were quietly shunted to the side of the stage.

Musical diversity continued with the accordion and steel guitar driven version of Dylan's  Tomorrow Night, a beautiful Spanish guitar rendition of Delilah ("There's lovely" said Tom as the guitar intro finished), and a slightly Eastern European folk feel to It's Not Unusual. 

There was the rock/blues cover of Howling Wolf's Evil, a fabulous version of Leonard Cohen’s Tower of Song ("I was born like this, I had no choice, I was born with the gift of a golden voice"), the slow tear jerking I'm Never Gonna Fall In Love Again and the country and western flavoured Raise a Ruckus Tonight.

Only Green, Green Grass of Home and You Can Leave Your Hat On were closer to the original and traditional Tom Jones delivery.

He finished a rather excellent 90-100 minute set with an encore - Kiss

Still on top form

The consummate professional, Tom seems to be able to combine careful precision but at the same time appear to be care-free and having a great time. Having now seen the Man once, I would recommend seeing him live - you might be surprised. Great gig!

------ Support ------
The support was James Walsh who is probably best known as the front-man of UK rock quartet Starsailor. 

James Walsh
He was at the Castle to promote his new album Turning Point which, based on this performance is well worth a listen.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

BBC One - Live at Edinburgh Castle

Saturday July 19th - Edinburgh Castle - Various Artists. 

Back in May 2014 I heard that BBC One were doing a live gig in July at Edinburgh Castle.
Presented by The One Show’s Alex Jones, the line-up included some acts I was keen to see, namely Paloma Faith, Smokey Robinson, Rizzle Kicks and OneRepublic. 

The line-up also included plenty of popular classical performers - Il Divo, Katherine Jenkins, Alfie Boe and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.
The music was to be interspersed with comedy on the night: "as Bill Bailey performs his unique brand of musical humour and Fred MacAulay makes a special guest appearance."

"Sounds like it might be a good night out" I thought to myself and shelled out for the tickets.

As the date approached - other acts were added: Jessie J (who made some fatuous reference to "deep fried mars bars" when asked about playing in Scotland), Culture Club (newly reformed - this was to be the first time the 80s group had performed together in 15 years), Kaiser Chiefs (no introduction necessary), Ella Henderson (X-Factor finalist 2012) and Pumeza Matshikiza (S. African soprano).

The night of the concert was a wet one. Thick mist, heavy intermittent rain, but not too cold. Armed with waterproofs, hats and a strange assortment of plastic ponchos, the crowd filled the seats. The mist was so dense that you couldn't tell there was a castle behind the stage, and it was tough to see one end of the Castle Esplanade from the other, but the crowd seemed up for some fun.
Pillars in the mist
Caped crusaders

So, before everything kicked off, before cheery Alex Jones appeared, before any band took to the stage, we got the "warm-up comedian". He gave instructions to the audience about how we should react when one of the many hand-held cameras panned past our happy faces (hands in the air, scream as loud as you can) and generally warmed up the wet and cold crowd. 

Then, still before the BBC cameras started rolling, the Kaiser Chiefs came on to much applause. They explained that they were going to do one number before filming began, so that we could all practise being excited, and launched into "I Predict A Riot" (the link is amateur dodgy footage). 
Despite being slightly unimpressed with the constant instruction on how happy we should all try to appear, I actually enjoyed this kick-off number by the Chiefs. Ricky Wilson (smaller than I imagined for some reason) bouncing all over the stage and kicking over his mike stand - so rock n roll! 
Kaiser Chiefs
Then, with the crowd suitably warmed up, just as the cameras started filming live, the bottom half of the right-hand impressive video pillar gave up the ghost and stopped working. The crowd didn't care as the Kaisers launched into "Ruby Ruby Ruby" and then "Coming Home" but I'll bet the myriads of stage crew probably had the voice of Live Event Production Manager, Steve Nolan, in their ears as they battled to get the damn thing working - which they eventually did, just after the Kaisers finished. 

Jessie J was up next. Dressed appropriately for the weather, she performed Price Tag and Keep Us Together 
Jessie J
The crowd sang along to the extended version of Price Tag, but the "brand new track from my new album" Keep Us Together lost the momentum thus far. Jessie seemed to enjoy it though :-)

I was quite looking forward to Rizzle Kicks and when they started their set with Down With The Trumpets backed by the full brass section of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, things were sounding pretty good. 
Rizzle Kicks

Unfortunately their second number Tell Her was a fine example of harmonies gone wrong. No auto-tune out there lads... I had to admit, this was dire!

Bill Bailey was up next, doing his unique style of comedy laced with music, this time based on the Match of the Day theme tune.... the lounge version, Polish cartoon version, Jewish folk song version and so on. Bill definitely raised a smile or three with the audience.

Paloma Faith was the next act on stage. I like Paloma - always slightly off the wall, but what a voice. Given that Rizzle Kicks were not as good as I'd hoped, my fingers were crossed for Paloma.
Paloma Faith

She came on (during a particularly misty weather moment) with her three backing vocalists and some very high shoes, said "Hello beautiful people" to the crowd and gave us Only Love Can Hurt Like This and Trouble With My Baby
No disappointment here - I loved her performance, just wished there had been more than two songs.

"Local boy made good" Ronnie Corbett was on next, in his dinner jacket and dodgy tartan trousers.
Ronnie Corbett

He started with an a cappella  version of Westering Home (with lyrics related to his lack of height) which wasn't even slightly funny. He then started to tell a joke about him and his wife travelling up to Edinburgh by train, but completely lost the plot, forgot what he was going to say and stuttered on for a few seconds. I'm not sure if it was too much hospitality before coming on, or if he is actually ill, but it was pretty embarrassing. Fortunately he cut to his introduction of the next act...

Katherine Jenkins and Alfie Boe came on and performed Barcelona. It was ok, but not great. 
Kathy and Alfie

Alex Jones thought it was "Brill-ee-ant" so maybe I was just being over critical.

Previously unannounced, we then got Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott (Beautiful South) who didn't waste time with pleasantries but quickly gave us DIY and Happy Hour.
Beautiful South
This was cheerful singalong stuff, and the crowd seemed to enjoy.

Ella Henderson was introduced next and she came on confidently to perform a couple of songs - Ghost and Believe.
Ella Henderson
Her cover of Cher's Believe was pretty good and definitely the better of the two songs. The crowd joined in and accompanied her on the last chorus.

Fred MacAulay was up next - he did a short stand-up routine which was slow to start, but did get some laughs as he talked about his December Kilimanjaro trip and the Band Aid song "There won't be snow in Africa this Christmas time". 

One Republic were next and once again, I had reasonable expectations having heard some of their live recordings before. They performed Counting Stars and Love Runs Out. Counting Stars sounded a little pedestrian and by the numbers, but Love Runs Out was pretty good.
One Republic
However, I have to admit to being very slightly disappointed - I think they'd be much better in a smaller more intimate venue.

Alex Jones then introduced Boy George but it was just a quick chat about how long it was since he'd performed live before Il Divo came on and murdered Amazing Grace. 
Il Divo

This was muzak at its most mediocre, despite the efforts of the massed pipes and drums of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards. 

Bill Bailey came on again to provide some comedy relief 

After the earlier faux classical offerings it was a refreshing change to hear Pumeza Matshikiza the S. African soprano. 
Pumeza Matshikiza

She sang  Thula Baba/O Mio Babbino from the Castle entrance just behind the stage. Her performance was such a stark contrast to the mediocre tunes from Katherine Jenkins, Alfie Boe and Il Divo. This was one of the highlights of the concert for me.

Culture Club looked pretty good as they trouped on and they sounded good too. George's voice seems to have improved with age.
Culture Club
They did Do You Really Want To Hurt Me and Karma Chameleon great saxophone on the latter. Unexpectedly good performance from Culture Club - old material, but still sounding good.

Bill Bailey was back to cheer us up with his "car-horn-o-phone" medley, the highlight of which was the 1812 Overture with Castle cannon backing.
Bill Bailey

Alex Jones then introduced Smokey Robinson - great set, but unfortunately all the individual video footage has been removed from YouTube with the exception of his duet with Jessie J on Cruisin'

Smokey Robinson

Unless of course you can find the whole concert footage and sit through it until about 1:45:00 to hear Tears Of A Clown, Cruisin', Tracks Of My Tears in that order. Tracks of my Tears was the stand-out song, with audience participation. Smokey's voice was good, and he looked quite fit for his age, but his face did look a little bit stretched :-)

Smokey left the stage and from the back of the Castle esplanade former swimmer Gregor Tait and former track athlete Lee McConnell jogged in to a burst of The Proclaimers’ 500 Miles from the pipes of the Royal Dragoon Guards. This was the final leg of the Queen’s Baton Relay, before it went to Glasgow for the Games opening ceremony. The baton was handed over to Fred MacAulay to transport it to Glasgow. Alex Jones had to take charge of Ronnie Corbett who was wandering aimlessly on the stage, but as she shepherded him on stage, he stepped on the hem of her dress and ripped it big-time! 

Alex coped admirably and while keeping Ronnie out of harms way, she introduced the final and previously unannounced act...Incongruously enough it was John Miles with his one big hit Music which was performed in rousing (if slightly overblown) fashion, by Miles himself at an all white grand piano, the full Scottish Symphony Orchestra and London Community Choir, while the castle was lit up in the misty background by an impressive closing firework display.
John Miles

All in all it was an interesting evening. Less of a concert, more of a TV spectacle I think, but there were some memorable moments - sometimes for all the wrong reasons!

The Full Live BBC broadcast was available here (2hr 10min), but sadly no longer and I can't find an alternative.