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’

We Breathed The Same Air

Processed_SAM_lokiI’d like to  imagine that it was that ‘Clever North Wind’ that blew in from Paris, Charles de Gaulle delivering my Bristol bound flight 15 minutes early that Sunday 28th August 2011. I know for certain it was the masters of Stuttgart that sped my silver Mercedes along the M4 corridor and I’d like to think it was the gods of Valhalla that guaranteed safe passage with not a speed camera or police car in sight to let me arrive a further 15 minutes ahead of schedule. The destination was Reading Festival and the reason? A rendezvous with those boys from Teignmouth performing the entire Origin of Symmetry album, back to back and in order.

From this point forward however I’m pretty sure that it was Loki who was taking care of proceedings…. It seemed that my car parking pass purchased for the closest car park was not acceptable…. I was redirected to another car park, miles away from the main arena area and things only got worse when I got there as the person at the gate was all for not letting me in as I was “Too Late”. Remonstrations occurred and finally I was allowed into the site but by now I knew I would be late. What I failed to appreciate was just how far away this damn car park was from the main arena… I remember hearing the opening refrains of New Born from such a distance that it was like a tinny transistor heard through a pillow, forbidden fruit after bed time. I walked faster and heard the song that was the whole reason I wanted to be here, Hypermusic. I’m sure it was amazing but by this point my temper was not great. To cut a long story short I arrived very late, in a foul mood elevated only to “reasonably happy” after seeing what remained of their set.

How was I to know that this evening was to be one strand at the genesis of a love story that would burn so fiercely. We were unaware of each other before and remained so after the concert, our eyes did not meet nor our ears hear, we were both here ‘with’ other people. Despite this fact our breaths intertwined somewhere above the heaving mass of the consumed crowd in the rapidly cooling air above the main arena. It would be a full 18 months before our breaths would meet again and ignite something so out of control that on days, even now, we wonder just where is the top of this thing? I hope I never find the answer to that question.

So, yep 28th August 2011, Reading festival. Loki may have had his fun but I’m still getting the better of him. And the footage? The entire Muse set of course as I missed it on that day.

Guess what….. I wouldn’t change a thing