Tag Archives: New York City

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

Exile On Main Street – Pussy Galore

Pussy Galore - Exile On Main StreetI first really got into Exile on Main Street about two or three years ago. It was the sort of time in a Barcelona summer when you go to xiringuitos, get drunk then head into town and get high. My Monday morning commute would be rendered about 300% better if I could listen to the trashy stoned noise of Shake Your Hips and the bombastic rock of Loving Cup at top volume. Late night sessions got much messier with Keith and the boys as the soundtrack.

But that was just the Stones’ version… I mean they were already millionaires and they didn’t even record it in New York City. They did it in tax-exile at Keith’s château in the south of France.

So at the same time, my permanent addiction to Royal Trux was just continuing steadily. I had begun to get my head around ideas like never believe a word Neil or Jen says in an interview and yes, it is possible for a man and a woman to be the joint incarnation of the Rolling Stones’ guitarist, even if he’s still alive. I’d read that there was some mysterious tape in existence which featured Pussy Galore performing a cover of Exile on Main Street, in its entirety.

Anyway, I always thought that this would be the most amazing recording ever… but it was always impossible to get hold of. I mean, this was a limited tape release from about 1986 or something.

Well I managed to get hold of a copy (in digital format) a couple of months ago and it doesn’t disappoint. Of course, you’ve got to like the messy, scabby, Pussy Galore sound if you’re going to dig it. You’ve probably got to know Exile pretty well and not mind hearing it on the stereo in the background as Pussy Galore play, karaoke style.

Just one track from this recording is better than the total output of bands like The Libertines, Arctic Monkeys and that lot. It’s a completely different thing, naturally, but that’s what makes it better.


Reposted from my Last.fm blog. Listen to Pussy Galore – Exile On Main Street.

Albums and their covers

In celebration of the exhibition coming to the MACBA this month, here’s a selection of album covers which I find to be, in turn, thrilling, sickening and indie-cool-self-affirming.

That is to say, here are the covers of some albums I like and love. Not all of the covers are great works of art, but many are. Royal Trux, being my favourite pop-group, dominate the field somewhat. I’ve always enjoyed their album art, given that it combines a variety of rock clichés, fan-art, corporate-style logos and blocked toilets.

Elliott Smith’s epnoymous album has an evocative image of bodies ‘falling’ or ‘floating’ between buildings in an American city. The design represents a haunting pre-shadowing of the ‘falling man’ photograph taken on September 11th 2001 in New York City.

The Flaming Lips’ ‘The Soft Bulletin’ album features an awesome photograph taken outside an ‘Acid Test’ party in San Francisco in the late sixties. I love the way it captures a young man’s intoxicaton, no doubt due to some of the acid he’d been testing.

Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy’s ‘Master and Everyone’ has a simple cover photo which needs little explanation: his face, with its idiosyncratic beard fills the sleeve… his eye seems abnormally deep and reflective, as if it’s been ‘photoshopped’.

After these, the Rolling Stones’ explicitly erectile cover for ‘Sticky Fingers’, Basement Jaxx’s homage to Copito de Nieve, the albino gorilla late of Barcelona’s city zoo, Super Furry Animals’ collage of a famous drug dealer’s various passports’ photos and Primal Scream’s stunningly primal ‘Screamadelica’ cover are all firm favourites.

Album art is a special form which combines the necessities of commercial success and hip styling with an interesting glimpse of how the pop-group (or their record label) view the music contained within the packaging. A good album cover should give a clear idea of the feeling and agenda (I wanted to write ‘philosophy’, but that seems too much) that the album espouses. Either that, or it should have nothing to do with anything. An album cover is, therefore, both an advertisement for the product, and a part of the product itself. As to the design included on CDs or vinyl records themselves – and the other design elements in on an album’s packaging, that’s a different matter. But Royal Trux’s highly suggestive hypodermic skyscrapers which feature in one of their EPs, (though I can’t remember which one), represent to me a pinnacle in album art by virtue of their combination of drug imagery and the New York City skyline.

In a brief note which didn’t deserve a whole post: here’s a great article about the most important website in the world. GYAC: it’s Popbitch.