High In Milan

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Ok, So I was greedy last year… Not as greedy as I wanted to be but greedy still the same. We had seen Muse in Birmingham at the start of their Drones tour and we were booked to see them in Prague at the start of June but somehow that just wasn’t enough. Scanning the set dates was depressing, lots of the dates were just not achievable or would have involved me flying a netball team size party out, which, given the budgetary constraints of last year was not really achievable. It was then that I noticed one particular date which looked a little lonely, the Mediolanum Forum in Assago, Milan on May 14th. Deal…..Done.

Now I must admit to having been to Milan once , I remember an awkward journey talking at a 100mph to a driver who didn’t really want to converse with me; understandable I suppose as I was ‘the ex’ of his now wife. I remember my eldest daughter being half asleep when I arrived and a tomato that tasted just AMAZING for supper. I remember a hilarious overheard conversation in the middle of an alpine wood on the subject of mushrooms which I could not possibly repeat but had me holding my sides. I also remember an airport! This time I would try harder…

As always we seemed to leave very late on the Friday night, flying from Gatwick early the next day as I recall. I also seem to recall fair flying down the motorway from the south west in order to not arrive at some stupid god forsaken hour, an act I would later regret. I spent the next three weeks worrying as to whether I would get another speeding ticket to go with the one from Dorsets finest that was, at that very moment, sat on my doormat burning a naughty boy course size hole in my wallet. This would go nicely with the three points I had already accumulated on New Years Eve. What Im trying to arrive at is that I don’t really remember flying that much although it was L’s (child no 4, in date descending order) first time. Neither do I really remember landing or the airport. I do however remember having a Marco Polo moment (for which I’m famed) trying to find the hotel but in fact taking us to the Lord only knows where. A very helpful lady on the bus took pity and guided us to a much less circuitous route. Our train ticket however was also not entirely valid and so another kind gentleman of the Italian Rail service, who could see the obvious language barrier eating into his day, decided to just wave us through. No doubt he was tutting at this ‘stupid Englishman’ as he did so. I had purposely arranged a Hotel within walking distance of the venue and it was fabulous, even better when we looked out of the window we could see the venue and the entrance through which all of the lorries and the talent would arrive. Once our gig tickets had arrived downstairs… I felt a lot more relaxed.

You must excuse my fuzziness at this point, the heat and for some reason the tiredness overtook me and so Im not entirely sure what happened next! I remember having lunch at the little plex connected to the venue itself which was lovely (proper food!) and I remember the heat of the Italian day warming these tired old bones.

I also remember the sirens a little later…

They were audible from quite a distance it seemed and they just got louder and louder, I think we were at the time hanging out of our window and just chatting about the venue and the evening ahead. It was then that the sirens forced their way into the conversation and we realised that they were heading for us, or at least the venue. It was then that I had my second, and far less lethal experience, with Matt Bellamy in a Mercedes Benz. We realised that the show had arrived and with that the 3 black S Class Mercedes shown below arrived at the back gate. They were immediately ushered in the gate, up a ramp and deep into the bowels of the building.  Some 10-15 minutes later the sound check started.

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I think I felt the stardust floating in through the windows at that point…. This was an unusual gig for us, for once we were up high in the cheap seats and I wondered how it would compare to being at floor level as we were for Birmingham. The answer was more interesting than I had presumed… It was obviously not as immersive but being high meant a very different experience for the visuals, I think that a lot of the time they visuals set is designed to be seen from afar and not from up close. If you’re close up you want to see the band rocking out, but with the distance, the show is the thing.On the night I took very few pictures, most of them were poor but here is a sample of how immense it actually looks from up there in the gods, I would never have experienced this from the floor. A different perspective all round and I’m glad that we did it.

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What we enjoyed that night was a stunning visually intense set with no compromise on the sound, sure its always louder, heavier, sweatier and more intense down there but like I said  its just a different perspective. For those of you interested in the setlist here it is, a great album crossing set list with Citizen Erased thrown in to please the real hardcore musers:-

 

I think that the highlight of the evening for me though would have to be the back to back playing of 2nd Law: Isolated System barreling straight into The Handler with no visible join as far as the visuals go at all. Isolated System is for me an epic song, played live the song runs through so many emotions and the footage from the video where they run through the woods is what I always imagine in my minds eye when I hear it. A seamless link into the Handler was perfect for being High in Milan as the visuals were out of this world and that ‘trippy’ middle  section is just euphoric in essence. So here it is, our way up high view (not my footage though).

What always amazes me is how the immersion is no less appealing wherever you are in the building, a different lower perspective of the same two songs (on a different night though).

And for no reason at all other than it is off the scale awesome with THOSE STRINGS {sigh} and the usage of that memorable ‘woodland running’ footage from the Isolated System, Unsustainable…

What did I remember of Milan this though?  Very little, Not even the airport this time…

But I was high…. remember?!

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I Fucking Love Prague….

img_5168Sometimes we all do something a little mad, something where the thought process just seems to be circumvented and replaced with ‘What could possibly go wrong’. That day in September 2015 was one such day where in a moment of utter madness and complete frustration at not being able to get decent UK tour tickets we had instead just bought tickets to see Muse play at the O2 arena in Prague.

Since that fateful day I had had strong feelings that this show was either going to be something else or completely fucking disastrous… That none of us could speak an atom of  Czech, that we had totally failed to book the flights or accommodation when they were really cheap and had instead left it to the last minute and got totally fleeced seemed a precursor to the latter rather than the former…. That we then had the flight from hell due to some of the worst people ever to call themselves nurses, that the flight was also delayed and potentially screwed up all of our onward travel plans in a strange city late at night, only seemed to back up this fact further. Thankfully from the moment we arrived in Prague fast approaching midnight things improved massively, the nurses had by this point pissed off to the baggage carousels which improved things no end; it also seemed that our transport link was intact as the driver was waiting for us when we landed. In addition our contact for the accomodation was amazingly helpful and was waiting for us as we pulled up, to ice the cake the apartment we had rented was much better than expected and we could not have asked for more.

We had one day to explore Prague, a Saturday with the gig in the evening and then a ridiculously early flight out the following morning. The day was blisteringly hot, what seemed like a good idea at first, a tour of the city inside effectively a plastic box, was uncomfortable but could not detract from the beauty of the city; the sights of Prague had captured 6/8ths of my family hearts (that is to say 6 out of 8 of us not just a portion of all 8 of us!). I remember feeling very foreign as we made our way to the venue, Europe in general was on high alert after the earlier Bataclan and Brussels incidents and so it was no surprise to see so many armed police around the city and at the venue itself. The inner entrance to the venue was very utilitarian, heavily manned and with strict security that you rarely see in the UK. We then made our way for refreshments and were promptly not allowed into the auditorium due to the strict no drinks policy, it was gonna be a dry night without a drink for sure….. Once in the auditorium though I have to say that I was pretty amazed by the venue itself and I felt sure that we were in for a great night….

What actually followed was, by a long stretch, the best concert I have ever been to; yes Paris 2013 was special and for very different reasons was the gig of a lifetime, a perfect storm in fact. The show that I saw on that balmy summer evening was though very different to what we all saw in Prague; what we saw in Prague was unquestionably the best live band on the planet right at the very top of their game with an amazingly well put together visual and musical set to a fully engaged audience. The result was the gig of a lifetime… I love that most of our girls got to see this particular gig and that as a family we were all so lucky to be in the right place at the right time for a true one off, best of breed show. The most remarkable thing though is that Muse were able to do this despite the long and gruelling tour that they were nearing the end of.

The trouble is when you have a gig this awesome, and it was off the scale awesome in case I have not mentioned it, committing to a highlight is incredibly hard. The Globalist, and Reapers were of course as always stand out for me, No Map of the Problematique or Resistance to be nominated automatically and so for me the one song I remember above all (with the exception of Mercy) was Uprising, not normally a favourite but on this night, in this city, with these people and this fabulous tribe I find myself in it was perfect. It was my response to this song that gave rise to the blog title  ‘I Fucking Love Prague’.

And the reason that Mercy was so stand out…. Well, just judge for yourself though the video has nothing on actually being there.

Less than 8 hours after this video was taken we were on board a flight back to the UK having slept a little in between, thankfully we were not sharing a flight with our nurse friends and through the extreme tiredness I think that we all knew that Prague had stolen a little bit of our hearts. We will all, I am sure, return to Prague another day though I doubt that it will be to see a better concert.

Biblical…

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It was hot, I mean not just a little hot… but savagely so. I remember being out with my family at the main stage for some band that escapes my mind. I had come extremely close to passing out in the mid afternoon sun along with the mad dogs of Powderham, I had however survived the afternoon and some (for me at least) very questionable bands; the thought of piling into the ‘New Music’ tent for Biffy Clyro was a welcome one on many fronts. Evening approached and we left the main stage early thus allowing us to move relatively easily to near the front and centre of the stage where we waited; after some time the main stage fell silent and those of the crowd who weren’t holding pattern just for Coldplay started backfilling and eventually filled the tent to capacity. ‘In New Music We Trust’ my arse…..

True, I’d already seen Biffy 4 times before but this gig was unique in that this time I was coming as a fan, not as a fan of the band they were supporting. Paris 2013 changed me…. Honestly, yes Coldplay was a draw but for me this was the highlight, this was what I had come to see. The respite from the heat was welcome, I had in truth forgot how spongy the floor in well trodden areas becomes at Festivals and it took me straight back to Reading with its walk of shame (that led me to miss the entirety of OoS) which felt like walking on the moon or something equally unreal. What was missing (for me at least) from the Reading experience though was the smell that accompanied the spongy underfoot feel, there was sweat and general body odours mixed in with wet aerated soil and of course sweet drinks and alcohol.

Eventually the atmosphere of easy joviality and excitement gave way to a tension borne of expectancy, the simple back lamps were lit, silhouetting the drums and amps and as one we knew that Biffy were now inevitable…. and then…. movement and  the simple lighting gave way to a more complex arrangement which still managed to shroud the stage in shadows, until of course, it didn’t.

Predictably Simon sang the opening lines to Wolves of Winter and then with the usual Biffy energy we were dragged straight into the main body of the song. This was the first time I had heard this song live and man, did it work, despite not being one of my favourites; after a small interlude ‘Sounds like Ballons’ tugged at the ‘sand at the core of our bones’ to warm us up nicely for a literally glorious rendition of Biblical… Now it would be an understatement to say that Biblical is an intensely personal song that means a great deal to me, those lazy chords of the chorus only accentuate the words that trip me with their salted tears. There have been many times in the recent past where it reduces me to tears, singing out loud on that day was no change but the tears are cathartic… I need them. You could hear the emotion in Simons voice as the song ended,  “that was glorious’ he almost choked and I can’t deny him that, its exactly how I felt at that point. There was barely time to catch my breath before an absolutely monstrous rendition of Animal Style which is fast becoming a firm favourite of mine; looking back at footage now I can’t believe that he managed the whole set without swearing, I think he was probably the only person in the whole tent who didn’t!

We had been propelled near-to midset on a very steep curve … where could they go from here? Well, ‘The Captain’ was a great start, our trajectory was lessening now but we were already way up high in the adrenaline stakes and then for me the lowlight of the set occurred, a new song called ‘Friends and Enemies’ which to this day Im still not that keen on.

The final four songs were all carefully chosen to build on each other, each of them being Biffy staples. Bubbles was first up with the instrumental towards the end dragging the audience front and centre into the set whilst Simon had a moment to himself  and confirmed himself as a fully certified rock god. Mountains was next ‘I wont leave, till we’re finished here’ which is a line to live life by; the soft Piano intro giving way to a full on vocal and guitar onslaught and I remember feeling my voice strain during the choruses. The lights dimmed, the volume fell and after a pause the clean guitar intro for Many of Horror led us into those hallowed perfect chords and steady bruising crescendo. Again this is another intensely personal song that left me emotionally drained but buzzing.

It was then that moment we knew was coming but tried to suspend finally arrived, the finale. In the wisdom of the once great BBC this is unfortunately where their footage ends , so it seems,  and nowhere can I find footage of the closing song (except for a 20 second snippet I recorded myself). The song was ‘Different People’, a song that can sit literally anywhere in the set, I must admit that whilst I knew this song it was not until I saw it live here that I really ‘got it’, needless to say this was my highlight and for the following week this was the song that lived monotonously in my head, morning noon and night. Here is that song played live at Munster in 2016 for your enjoyment.

Thank you Biffy, it was indeed truly Biblical and as cookie monster has always said ‘Mon the Biff’

Something from nothing

It was very frustrating, 20th June was fast approaching and the four eldest girls as well as myself and Zoe were, well, pumped I think is the best way to describe it. For three of the girls and Zo it was to be the first time they had seen the Foos live…. And Mr Growl likes nothing more than Foo virgins! Me, I’m a shameless slut and he’s had me before but i was still willing to be put through the aural assault that Wembley and the best live band on the circuit had in store for us. I wanted my ears to be violated by that beardy man like he’d never done before. And then….. well, then of course Gothemburg happened. True, it was funny watching him corpse when later in the set (with a shattered femur) he had to sing “Learning to Walk Again” We waited patiently for news but it was all too inevitable. First the mainland Europe dates were cancelled and then, Manchester, Wembley, Glastonbury and then more.

Gutted was not the word, it was also difficult to see when a reschedule could occur. We took the opportunity anyway to head off to London, enjoyed the sights sounds, smells and tastes of Camden Lock, Covent Garden and sadly way too much of the inside of bloody Primark for my liking. We returned without a visit to the hallowed turf to pray at the altar of rock.

Time passed…. And the memory fades. I believe we waited long enough….23 days in fact, though it seemed much longer and then a whisper became a rumour, became gossip and finally it all gave way to a fanfare, 5th September, Milton Keynes. Be there…. so we obliged, after what seemed like an interminable wait!

The day came and as is the way of these things, we were late to the venue, which unfortunately meant that we missed part of Royal Bloods set. They looked a little bit like this:-

What we did see of them was awesome, the sun was out and so even the imminent arrival of Iggy Pop could not dampen our enthusiasm. I’m Bored… The Chairman of the Bored.

The afternoon gave way to the early evening, the light faded and as it did so the area in front of the stage filled with ever more people. The expended breaths of every man, woman and child in that small area hung low in the semi lit arena, waiting for the moment. Time drew out, and the chatter and buzz of expectancy increased, the slightest flicker in the large FF flag drawn across the stage elicited hushes and pointing fingers until finally a cacophony of guitars and growly Grohl asked us ‘Are you fucking ready!?”

The opening strains of Everlong accompany Growl screaming at us

“We came back for you”

And then….. the curtains just seemingly disappeared in front of our very eyes, like an elaborate magic trick performed with silks leaving the Foos, the lights, and that fucking sound. As always, they pounded through the set with perfection (but always too fast); Everlong, Monkey Wrench, Learn to Fly.

Something from Nothing? Yep, they sure did that when they turned the tables on the crowd asking us to light up the stage for Dan the lighting guy. Big Me was very special as Im sure you’ll see from this video I found. I just loved turning around and seeing 100,000 candle phones. I seem to remember spending more time facing away from the main attraction for this song

And still they kept coming at us, Congregation, Walk, Cold Day in the Sun all delivered with the legendary humour that Foos bring before something a little bit special. In fact with this much historical perspective it becomes even more special than it seemed at the time.

Under Pressure, with guest appearances from JPJ and Roger Taylor. A special birthday tribute for Freddie and now with the passing of David Bowie not too much later the list of people by right of birth entitled to sing that song falls to zero. Dave and Taylor gave it their best of course, but they would be the first to acknowledge they were treading in the footsteps of Giants.

Times Like These, These Days, Breakout, Arlandria lifted us ever higher. We were then treated to the fabulousness that is Outside. But none of these were for me the ‘Take Home’ moment, this came later and when it did it took my both by storm and surprise:-

“We’re gonna play a song we’ve not played in a long fucking time”

“Because 7 people wanna hear it!”

 

I’m grateful to those 7 people, this song made my night and a lot of others people nights too I suspect.

And then, all too soon…. it was over. Yep, we always say this but I think in this instance it really was true.  The reason was of course “that omission”, “that song” that didn’t get played… Sure Id have loved to have heard Johnny Park, Wheels and Stacked Actors but I’m talking about My Hero which for the first time in forever did not get played. I later learned that the song was on the set list right after Outside but was somehow… just missed.

“There goes my hero, He’s ordinary”.

 

A lifetimes worth of amazingness in just one night….

It was a Thursday, I remember it well, at least it was a Wednesday really but I always think that Thursday lend more gravitas to any given situation so it was a Thursday/Wednesday with no gigs in the immediate pipeline. Sure there was the Foo Fighters in June, but this was March I’m talking about…. And then my better half alerted me to the fact that Muse had announced a series or gigs. I mistakenly assumed that we were looking at gigs some months in advance but closer investigation revealed an inevitability that was a week away and more than that we were looking at Exeter. Wow. On it like a car bonnet, except the only gig as a Muse member I could guarantee was at Newport… Now, as Meatloaf said, I would do anything for love but I wont do that, Newport was just NOT an option as the last time I visited said town I ended up breaking a ten year smoking hiatus and I cant afford the premium increase in my life insurance. As a regular ticket buyer I knew that my only chance for tickets was in the bun fight they call ‘General Public Sale’ and with limited stocks my hopes were really not high; But… you know what, by the grace of god…. I managed to secure two tickets for me and my most adored to see Muse at the University of Exeter. Nothing could have prepared for me for just how perfect this was to be…. Not as ‘Life Changing’ as Paris 2013 but right up there for sheer ‘Fuck me’ ness. Together we pored the previous set lists to get an inkling of just what amazing shit we were going to see and it become apparent whilst it would be a fabulous ‘Showbizzy/Origin of Symmetry’ type of night, it also was clear that I would not be blessed with ANY of my favourite songs. Bygones….,  Friday Night arrived and predictably Muse Opened with this…. In evidence through this song are the arms and yelps of my most adored and in addition my own head clutched by my hands. Heaven indeed

Indeed, your ass does belong to me…. And then against all hopes when the encore arrived  we were treated to this which made my year, let alone my night. Tears were in evidence and for that I am unapologetic!

Enjoy.

In a Heartbeat…..

Some days are just better than others, June 22nd 2013 was just one of those days.It was Paris (whats not to love?) and it was Muse who blew us away with the gig of a lifetime. Every song was perfect for them, perfect for Paris and perfect for us that night. What made it even sweeter was that two hours prior to the concert my (now) fiancee and I had got engaged on Pont Neuf, Truly magical and we can even see ourselves in the crowd during this, my all time favourite Muse song. Enjoy….

Sent To Coventry (A Good Thing)

Being sent to Coventry is not ordinarily an experience that we aspire to, let alone is it what constitutes a nice birthday surprise; for the 3 elder girls we decided that this was precisely what they needed. So we piled them in the car on the 22nd May 2013 and did precisely that, we said precisely nothing to them! At least, we said nothing about where the final destination was. Coventry it was, Ricoh Arena to be precise and a date with those darn Teignmouth Boys. Sadly we missed the opening act Bastille who we fortunately caught later in the year at Leopollooza and true… we did have to sit through the nonsense that was Dizzee Rascal “What the fuck you talking about Birmingham?” What followed though was to be remembered. For two of the girls, this was their first big concert and I think lays the bar pretty high for the rest of their gig going life. For all of us it was the first time as a family we had got to indulge our passion for music together. But mainly it was to be remembered for this:-

Just for once it was not me who was crying; overcome with emotion at hearing unintended played for the first time in many years my ‘Snus’ put me to shame. I’m sure she won’t thank me but the photo below is one I managed to find as testament to that magical evening in the industrial heartland of England, Probably not too far from Solihull…..

Tears for Unintended

If youre interested in the set list from this evening thos guys at setlist.fm are on it as per usual:-

I normally like to get some video of the events that is personal to us, you know the sort of thing, someone from across the stadium caught my left earlobe in frame 31 and its quite obviously mine etc etc…. Sadly we were so far back that this was not possible, Instead this very random video of our own from the end is what I’d like to share.

Aside from the actual music itself there are two things I love about gigs:- Firstly,  the 2 minutes before, and as the main act come on and start to play. I love being toward the front, thinking you are all crammed in tight everyone baying for the band and then they appear… Screams, shouts and lots of holding of heads. As the first chord is struck it happens, that magical moment, the whole audience as one take two steps forward with new found space. I love that moment, so very surreal and yet forgotten about almost immediately.

Secondly, I love the feeling of love, chaos and confusion immediately after the show. Yes, the act are gone, the lights are up and the night is ending but the adrenalin and the feel good factor are running high in everyone in the stadium. Aside from the unconscious drunks there’s not a person in that space with anything other than joy in their heart. We are all lost sheep, aimlessly at first, heading towards the exits from the battleground that filled our ears and minds until just a short a minute ago. The music had invaded us completely, whatever issues and troubles we arrived with seem to be suspended at least until reality has time to resume and exert control again. This video to me displays this, it is us wending our way out of the stadium, for want of a better word ‘stoned’ in the moment.