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Two concerts in Barcelona

It has been a great week for live music in Barcelona. As well as the ever popular Wilco (who I didn’t go and see), the two most notable concerts were by very different acts. Jazz legend Ornette Coleman played the  Palau de la Música Catalana on Wednesday evening and Welsh indie favourites Manic Street Preachers played the new Espacio Movistar on Friday.

The term genius is certainly bandied around too often. But that’s what Ornette Coleman is, so forgive me my use of this tainted word. Coleman, for those who don’t know, is one of the last surviving jazz legends of the late 50s, a time when Western music was changed forever by a small group of men working mostly in New York City. A Texan, Coleman (and his quartet) performed a now legendary two month residency at the Five Spot Café, and revolutionised jazz music. Despite having learned to play the saxophone ‘wrong’, the music he and his band created and performed was a sharp break with the current output of scene leaders, Miles Davis and John Coltrane. Davis hated Coleman, which is probably as much of an accolade as anyone could wish for.

At 80 years old, I must say that I was worried that Ornette Coleman would be a talent diluted somewhat by age. I shouldn’t have worried: though physically quite frail, he played with a power and tenderness which was truly captivating. The band, a five piece, was interesting, consisting of two bass players, and electric bass and Ornette’s son on drums. At the centre sat the master, who led us though several numbers from their new album, Sound Grammar.  As well as this, he performed a few of his classic pieces from the old days, including the astoundingly good Lonely Woman (a personal favourite). The venue is OK: beautiful looking, but the acoustics aren’t perfect and the seats are damned uncomfortable. The concert was magnificent, however, and I remarked to Gemma as we left that I might never attend another gig, Ornette Coleman was that good.

But statements like that don’t last long in Barcelona. The very next day, while browsing the internet working, I stumbled upon information about a Manic Street Preachers gig in Barcelona on Friday. Looking further into it, I discovered that it was a concert especially for Telefonica Movistar mobile network customers, and that it was free! To get hold of a ticket, you needed to be a Movistar customer. By sending a text message to a special number, you’d receive a code to be presented at the entrance to the venue. Awesome! But I’m a Vodafone customer and my (admittedly foolish) attempts to trick the system by using my Vodafone account failed miserably. So my friend Nick hatched a plan to get all the Movistar customers he knew to send a text to the special number, and then forward the response on to him. He sent me a code, we queued and we got in. For free!

There was no support band, so after buying several very expensive beers from an impressively busty (though slightly inept) barmaid, the lights went down and we awaited the gig. I was expecting a concert built around the band’s new album (again), but was pleasantly surprised when it turned out that we to experience a greatest hits concert, with all the Manic’s most famous songs performed in what felt like quite an intimate setting. So we had You Love Us, Motorcycle Emptiness, A Design For Life, If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next and the rest of their best songs . The band seemed to enjoy themselves, despite the fact that most of the audience seemed to be moderately bemused (though excitable) students. We had a great time and Nick managed to get some pretty good footage of the gig.

In all, a great week for live music. There’s no doubt that Ornette’s was the most impressive and exciting, but to see the Manics performing as well really capped things off. I love this town.

Ornette Coleman, Palau de la Música Catalana, Nov 7 – 1/1

Manic Street Preachers, Espacio Movistar, Nov 9 – 1/1