Saturday, 25 June 2011

BON JOVI... We were born to follow!

In an earlier blog I said it was 6th time I would be watching Bon Jovi, correcting myself its actually the 7th and its still a great show even now! Although their latest albums aren't hitting the standards that their classic pre-2000 albums did, the energy and quality of the performance is still amazing to see.

Those who read this blog each time I post will know that in an earlier blog I have expressed my concerns about how Bon Jovi are now a business not just a band etc etc. That doesn't take away from the fact that they are one of my best bands of all time. Jon Bon Jovi is arguably the best front man in rock and he is backed by three of the best musicians in the business in Richie Sambora, Tico Torres and David Bryan and this makes for a hell of a show. Tonight was the Manchester show at Old Trafford Cricket Ground on the UK leg of the Greatest Hits tour and it was awesome!!! Heres a pic of the view we had although I'm sure it doesn't do it justice as we had a great view considering we arrived late.

I said before the show I wanted to hear my two favourites Blood on Blood and In These Arms and a couple of rarities and they didn't disappoint. They kicked the show off with Blood on Blood before playing through You Give Love A Bad Name and Born To Be My Baby. Blood on Blood is more of a song to end a show with, its an anthemic song about friends growing up and having each others backs and I like that in a song, I write several of my own songs with my own friends and memories in mind. In These Arms was also played and they even played their epic ten minute Dry County so I was content. Besides this they ripped through all the hits you would expect Its My Life, Bad Medicine, Wanted Dead or Alive, We Weren't Born To Follow and ending with Livin On A Prayer and with a few odd numbers thrown in between. For you romantics out there you may know Bed Of Roses which was also great. It was good to see Richie Sambora still at his electrifying best on the lead guitar despite another stint in rehab but Jon was struggling at times on the slippery stage with his leg in a splint as he awaits surgery on his ligaments. Heres a closer pic of the band...

The band were unfazed by the rain which poured throughout the show, JBJ joked about all the people sitting in the mud at Glasto and said he'd rather sell out stadiums on his own rather than with the help of fifty other bands. Tonights sell out show was reportedly played to 46,000 people. Thats 92,000 arms in the air, what a sight that must be from the stage! Although I liked and cheered at this comment I am annoyed that we didn't try and get to Glastonbury this year. If only you could be in two places at once...

I also liked the comment Jon made about having no pre-recorded tracks playing on stage with "no girly backing singers, this aint no reunion tour" etc unable to resist a dig at the music industry today.

Unfortunately I still feel this may be the last time I will see Bon Jovi live, not because I'm bored after 7 shows but because I am now content that I've seen them enough. I have seen them play all of their hits several times over and there are still more songs rarely played in their shows that I would love to see but the chance of them playing those songs are getting slimmer with every new album released. On top of this ticket prices are going up as I have mentioned before. Tonight they played Work For The Working Man, a song about regular people coping with the recession. At face value its a good song but its marred by hypocrisy in my opinion. How can Jon Bon Jovi sing for the working man when ticket prices have shot up for a band that don't even need the money anymore. However this is just a small complaint about a great night.

So although I am in Bon Jovi retirement as of tonight its not because I wouldn't want to see them again its just I want to prioritise bands I haven't seen as much of. I still want to be at the front to watch Bruce Springsteen, The Gaslight Anthem, Against Me!, I've never seen the Counting Crows or Augustana (and I want too!),  and Matchbox Twenty will tour again soon. Having said that I could be like Paul Scholes for England... I may consider coming out of retirement if asked...

My song of the blog this time has to be a Bon Jovi song so I thought I would put up this video of In These Arms which I took at the show. The sound quality is decent. Click the link below to watch...

For those who have never seen Bon Jovi, maybe you have been tempted in the past, you should go they will play for two and a half hours and you won't be disappointed. 

Bon Jovi rock! May this continue for years to come...

Sunday, 19 June 2011

The biggest man you've ever seen!

I apologise in advance if this gets a bit deep and meaningful. Its been a good weekend, Wigan beat Saints in the derby in one of our performances of the season, we had a bbq, the weather held for our party, we had a good a night out, I saw some friends i hadn't seen in a while, but this has all been marred by the death of one of my favourite musicians: Clarence Clemons, The Big Man, age 69, the best saxophonist you ever saw, he had a big heart, a big smile and big lungs too and has spent nearly four decades playing his sax alongside Bruce Springsteen in The E Street band! Before I ramble on heres a couple pictures I've found on and three others off various websites.

In an ideal world guys like Clarence would live forever but nature has taken its course in the cruel way that it does. Its hard to explain how upsetting this passing is for me, Bruce Springsteen and The E Street band are my all time favourites so it cuts me up to see band members leaving like this. I first discovered Bruce Springsteen back in about 1998 with his greatest hits album and since then I've never looked back as his performances and songwriting both with and without The E Street band have been nothing but inspirational to me. When you see The E Street Band perform you can see the closeness between the band members, they are like family and if I'm upset about Clarence passing I can't imagine how Bruce himself and the rest of the band must feel right now. Organ player Dan Federici one of the original band members passed away in April 2008 but the band played on. Can The E Street Band ever be the same again without their token saxophonist, I'm not so sure. I'd like to think so but I don't know how I would feel watching the band without Clarence or with someone else in his place. Time is taking its toll on one of the most legendary bands ever to take the stage and knowing the great songs that they continue to produce its upsetting to me that their era is slowly coming to an end. I'm just glad I was able to see the full band live in concert before all this began to happen and from now on, these great musicians will just have to live on in our memories.

Bruce Springsteen released this statement on his website:

It is with overwhelming sadness that we inform our friends and fans that at 7:00 tonight, Saturday, June 18, our beloved friend and bandmate, Clarence Clemons passed away. The cause was complications from his stroke of last Sunday, June 12th.

Bruce Springsteen said of Clarence: Clarence lived a wonderful life. He carried within him a love of people that made them love him. He created a wondrous and extended family. He loved the saxophone, loved our fans and gave everything he had every night he stepped on stage. His loss is immeasurable and we are honored and thankful to have known him and had the opportunity to stand beside him for nearly forty years. He was my great friend, my partner, and with Clarence at my side, my band and I were able to tell a story far deeper than those simply contained in our music. His life, his memory, and his love will live on in that story and in our band.

This suggests that the band will play on and I wouldn't be surprised to see Bruce write a song in tribute to Clarence as he did with Dan Federici. When Dan; not as prominent a figure at the front of the stage like Clemons (but just as important) passed away I was gutted then but I don't remember feeling like this. Clarence had this loveable presence on stage, Springsteen would share banter with him night after night and the audiences loved him, so did I. He will be sorely missed by all the fans.... 

There are many great sax solos that Clarence has played, Born To Run, Sherry Darling but most notably 'Jungleland'. This is my favourite of all the Bruce Springsteen songs, the romantic imagery between 'The Rat' and 'The barefoot girl' and the story that unfolds is nothing short of a masterpiece in this ten minute song. For about 3 minutes in the middle though is the best saxophone solo that you will ever hear where Clarence steps to the front of the stage and takes over. I hope you take the time to watch this video, I realise it is ten minutes but it is worth it and when you do bear in mind that Clarence has continued to belt this solo out way into his late sixties with the same precision that he could in his thirties and take into account he has had surgery in both knees and this video was only shot in 2009 so he sits down for the most part. Found myself welling up when I watched this...

Thanks for the music and the memories, see you further on up the road Big Man, 
Rest in peace....

Friday, 3 June 2011

Eric fell in love with an FBI informant.

In my last blog post I hopefully introduced some of you to the band Against Me! Their singer is a man named Tom Gabel and in between the last two Against Me! records Tom recorded his own seven song EP called 'Heartburns'. This was a collection of songs that were mostly driven by political motivation but one song in particular I've found interesting, the song 'Anna is a stool pigeon'. Apparently a stool pigeon is an old term for a police informant but is also a hunting term. Anyway I was listening to a podcast with a half hour interview with Tom Gabel and he was playing a few of his new songs in between talking. He explained that he got the idea for this song out of Elle magazine when he read a story about this girl only known as 'Anna'. This is the article but read to the end of this blog before you read it.

Elle Magazine article about 'Anna'

Basically, this Anna was at some sort of activist movement and she became associated and hung out with some pretty hardcore activists. Whether she felt threatened by them or what they were capable of I'm not sure but she ended up writing an article about them. The FBI saw it and decided they wanted to pay her to go undercover with some activists and be an informant, to keep an eye on them in case they should start some trouble. Anna became an undercover activist and infiltrated a group of three people named Eric McDavid, Lauren Weiner and Zachary Jenson and maybe a few others.

The impression I'm getting is that they weren't really a dangerous group, they were standing up for what they believed in but from what I've read so far, they weren't planning on taking it to the next level and conducting acts of terrorism. Tom suggested that Anna hadn't had a lot of attention from her father when she was growing up and that she maybe felt she had something to prove to the FBI so she began to encourage these three activists to become a bit more hardcore (but this could just be speculation as Anna said she had a regular upbringing), as in blowing up the Nimbus Dam in Sacramento California as well as some other locations. These guys didn't know how to build bombs but Anna did because the FBI had provided her with fake recipies as part of her cover. Using these recipies would build something that would perhaps spark and smoke but not explode but it would outline the groups intention to make bombs.  These guys didn't even have a car to drive to buy the ingredients but Anna sorted that out as well. It seems Eric had a crush on her and therefore perhaps trusted her more than he should have and went along with her encouragement but it turned out Anna was recording the conversations and even videoing their living space, thus entraping Eric. This is what is called a 'thought crime' (from Orwells 1984) where the thoughts are there but no actions are taken yet and Eric has been sent down for 20 years in solitary confinement. His two friends pleaded guilty to smaller offences and had it easier when they testified against Eric to save their own skin. Isn't entrapment a crime in itself. My interpretation of the story is that Eric was set up but if you read the article in Elle it does suggest in places that he wasn't quite all there (but this is only from what Anna has said).

These are the events as I know them but don't by any means hold me to these as facts. It is a true story one way or another but this is just my interpretation you should come up with yours and decide if you feel Eric should be locked up so watch this song by Tom Gabel and listen to the words because they pretty much tell the story.

Anna is a Stool Pigeon - Tom Gabel

 Once you have watched it you can visit the support Eric website which contains the background info, court documents, letters that Eric has written from the inside and more. I've found it interesting and after hearing Tom Gabel's song and his own explanation of the story as he sees it I couldn't help but feel like Eric was wrongly imprisoned for the better part of his life. Since reading the Elle article I'm not as sure. They definitely took action to make and test bombs and were caught buying the ingredients but I think my argument is that without Anna coaxing them into it they probably wouldn't have aimed for such drastic action.

Please discuss if you wish....