St Paul’s Pianos With Real Nightingales

Sunday 21 October 2007

For piano, digitally simulated feedback, and two nightingale stops. Section: MP3, 6.54MB. It’s about a man who made the scene, with a half-arsed twittering machine, in a disused shop in Willesden Green. Read the whole sad story.

Looks like someone left the brown M&Ms in the bowl

Friday 19 October 2007

No sooner had I invoked the name of Eddie Van Halen in a comment on my last post about Glenn Branca’s microtonal guitar symphonies, than Sequenza21 posts a YouTube video of Van Halen’s trainwreck rendition of “Jump” at a concert last month:
The backstage sound guy accidentally plays the synth opening at 48K rather than 44.1 causing a 1.5 semitone tonal conflict to occur. Eddie and the crew attempt to roll with the microtonal noise but no… it is not meant to be.

To answer another commenter here, this is what a rock’n’roll Portsmouth Sinfonia sounds like.

Attitude Problem 2: Glenn Branca at the Roundhouse

Thursday 18 October 2007

“Given the laws of probability,” a friend of mine said afterward, “I suppose it was inevitable that any selection of a hundred guitarists would contain at least one wanker. But that guy up in the back row, he was one in a million.”
Glenn Branca was in London making the usual noises he makes, both on-stage and off. First there were his usual interviews where he says “kick ass” a lot and tells you how totally freakin’ loud his music is. The Rambler found links to a couple of them:
“I am the most pretentious person on the face of the Earth,” he declares, “but I’ve always tried to make powerful artistic statements, confronting the audience in what I thought of as a Brechtian way – that idea of the alienation effect.
“My music isn’t for everybody; it’s not pop music by any stretch of the imagination. I’ve always done things that I would like to go and see. I like things that are going to challenge me, things that are going to f*** [sic] with my perception. As it turned out, in New York and elsewhere, I’ve met a hell of a lot more people who are like me.”

It’s Branca’s “Barnum thing”, as one commenter on The Rambler’s site said, adding “the real show is watching people who show up to see if anything is going to happen.”
I showed up at the Roundhouse in Camden, slightly woozy after a few too many Chimay Rouges at the Belgian bar down the road, to see what would happen when Branca presented a performance of his notorious Symphony No.13: Hallucination City for 100 electric guitars. I had two good reasons for doing this (going to the concert, I mean – I don’t need a reason to drink Chimay): despite his macho posturing, I quite enjoy Branca’s music. Sure, it has a few too many flat spots, and the drumming is usually a bit Spinal Tappish but, as I’ve said before, I’m a sucker for microtonal music.
The real appeal of Branca’s music, outside of the visceral thrill of dozens of loud electric guitars hammering away, is his use of the harmonic series. All the guitars are carefully retuned to overtones of a common base frequency. At first, the guitars sound exotically out of tune, until the combination of sonorities causes beautifully pure harmonies to float up over the crashing din, and then the small shifts in pitch create aural hallucinations of one harmony melting into another.
The other good reason I went is for comparison. About fifteen years ago I went to a performance of Rhys Chatham’s piece for 100 electric guitars, An Angel Moves Too Fast To See. (Branca and Chatham seem to have been in a pissing contest over who can get the most microtonally-tuned guitars into one piece: Chatham has since written a piece for 400 guitarists.) It’s the only piece of Chatham’s I’ve heard, and I found it underwhelming: I remember lots of steady-rocking chords that quickly got tedious, interspersed with some interesting passages of glissandi that swept back and forth across the orchestra. There was also the distraction of some of the more extroverted guitarists roped in for the concert – this is where the anecdote at the start comes from. All in all, it felt like the music existed solely for the sake of the idea of having so many guitarists on stage. Other people have told me I should give Chatham another chance.
The first encouraging sign at the Branca gig was that there were only about 80 guitarists on stage, and not 100 as promised. This was good, it suggested the Symphony was about the music, not the logistics. The music was typical of Branca’s work, but thankfully typical of his better work: insistent, pounding rhythms of dense chords that moved from one eerie tonal region to the next, balancing the harmonic complexity with the overall noise and sensation just about enough to keep anything from getting too dull.
The drums were as big and dumb as usual, but the interplay between the conductor and the drummer (who plays without a score) in setting the tempo for the pickup orchestra gave them a purpose not usually obvious on record. All four movements were pretty much fast. Added theatrical interest, besides observing the different guitarists’ behaviours, was provided by Branca himself skulking around backstage, occasionally wandering amongst the instruments to check how things were progressing.
Special mention goes to the guitarist who needed to rush off for a toilet break between movements. Many of us in the audience were feeling for you. This Symphony goes for over an hour and, after those Chimays and a £3.50 pint of Kronenbourg I’d brought into the theatre for succor, as soon as the applause died down I was racing for the nearest toilets. As were half the crowd, who were queuing down the corridor for both the ladies and the mens. Never seen that before.
During that final movement, there was no sight as gladdening as the conductor turning to the final page of the score, nor a sight as heartbreaking as when he then turned back a few pages for a dal segno.
Tom Hughes in The Guardian has written about his experience as one of the volunteer guitarists appearing in the piece (and quickly learning to read music along the way).

Attitude Problem 1: Haswell and Hecker at Conway Hall

Wednesday 17 October 2007

Last week I saw Pansonic play at Conway Hall, along with Haswell and Hecker performing with a UPIC computer music interface. I’ve been to Conway Hall before and described that strange little venue last year: I hope the all the noise didn’t distract the seminar on “Mindfulness” being held down the hall.
It was the wrong sort of place to hear a Pansonic gig. (I remember someone saying later that there had been a last-minute change of venue after a double-booking elsewhere.) I enjoyed the last time I saw them, but that was at the end of a long night in an overcrowded, smoky, noisy club. This time, everything felt a bit too flat and distant to get a connection with the music. Besides, the main reason I was there was for UPIC, and Haswell and Hecker had played first.
UPIC is among computer music nerds as the revolutionary musical instrument developed by Iannis Xenakis in the 1970s, but opportunities to actually hear music created on it are relatively rare. Haswell and Hecker’s set, with its harsh electronic sounds clashing against each other, accompanied by strobe lights and hyperactive laser beams, forcefully summoned up flashbacks from The Ipcress File. I’m not sure if that was the intention. The way they exploited UPIC’s features was impressive: for all the brutality of the noise they generated, there was a richness of detail in the sound so often lacking in computer music. Even at its most abrasive, the music was kept alive with nuanced shifts in tone.
The light show was a distraction. It had all the bluster of the music, minus all of the charm. The use of laser was reminiscent of Robin Fox’s gigs, but where Fox’s light displays complemented the music, here it quickly became irritating. It felt like H&H lacked confidence in the ability of their music to hold the listener’s attention for extended periods of time, and used the lighting as a diversion. The overall effect was the reverse, making enduring the complete set a chore.
The lighting was one part of what seemed like an attempt at imposing a type of rock attitude to the set. Despite some wonderfully intricate quiet sounds which punctuated the early stages, most of the music fell back onto a deadening reliance on a uniform goes-to-11 volume level. Meanwhile, Haswell kept pulling mildly ridiculous rockstar moves at his console. No amount of heavy-metal posturing can fool anyone into not thinking you’re some nerd hunched over a computer.

Filler by Proxy LV: All together now! “If they can send one Eurodisco group to a war zone, why can’t they send all of them?”

Saturday 13 October 2007

From The St. Petersburg Times, 9 October:
“Ra-Ra-Rasputin! Russia’s greatest love machine!” These are not exactly the kind of lyrics you might expect the Georgian government to consider appropriate as part of its struggle to win back control of the tiny pro-Russian separatist region of South Ossetia. Nevertheless, informed sources insist that those flamboyant disco-era swingers, Boney M, are on their way to the Georgian-controlled sector of the conflict zone this month.
Boney M will perform in a rural village in volatile South Ossetia. Not a sentence I thought I would ever write, even amid the everyday surrealism of life in the Caucasus. But maybe someone here thought that a sweet blast of “Sunny,” not to mention the deathless “Daddy Cool,” would help convince the separatists that Georgia has the best tunes.
The BBC confirmed today that, as suggested above, Boney M were big in the USSR, and are still popular in the former Soviet nations, and that “Marcia Barrett played a concert in a small frontline village not far from the rebel capital Tskhinvali.”
Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili told the BBC he hoped the music would persuade people to lay down their arms.

The other band members didn’t come because they’re all touring the world in separate groups, each one claiming to be the real Boney M. Presumably, the other Boney M bands are not in Iraq and Darfur right now.

Hopefully, the success of this concert will lead to a touring production of the stage musical visiting rebel-held regions of Georgia.

The New Magic Online Survey: Gene McDaniels vs Susanna Hoffs

Friday 12 October 2007

Click on “Listener Advisory Board” and take the survey yourself! The new survey starts off blah enough (Bangles?) but then builds up to an astonishing climax.
Is Gene McDaniels the most ubiquitous unknown pop star? I’m guessing that 9 out of 10 people you ask won’t know who he is, yet every nostalgia show in the world feels obliged to play at least one of “Tower of Strength”, “Chip Chip”, or “Point of No Return” every day. I’ve only just learned his name now by copying and pasting it from the survey website.
Also, I’d never heard of Toni Arden’s “Padre” before, and the excerpt provided in the survey gives a very misleading impression of what the song is really about. I only know this because I just tuned in to Magic again last night, and – hey! – they played “Padre”.
As on previous occasions, songs with that special ‘Magic’ quality are marked with an asterisk: pick of the bunch here has to be the Ronnie Burns. Once again, all survey songs were marked with at least “like” or better, with one exception (no, not the Bangles).

Living A Lie – Al Martino
Eternal Flame – Bangles
Eleanor Rigby – Beatles
If I Said You Had A Beautiful Body – Bellamy Brothers
From A Window – Billy J Kramer *
The Night Has A Thousand Eyes – Bobby Vee
Jambalaya (On The Bayou) – Carpenters
As Long As I Can See The Light – Creedence Clearwater Revival
The Legend Of Xanadu – Dave Dee, Dozy Beaky Mick & Titch *
Six Days On The Road – Dave Dudley
Mission Bell – Donnie Brooks *
You Make Lovin’ Fun – Fleetwood Mac
Strangers In The Night – Frank Sinatra
Chip Chip – Gene McDaniels
Home Of The Brave – Jody Miller *
China Blue – Julie Anthony *
Since I Fell For You – Kate Ceberano
Rose Garden – Lynn Anderson
It’s Hard To Be Humble – Mac Davis *
And I Love You So – Perry Como *
Somewhere – PJ Proby *
The Last Farewell – Roger Whittaker *
Age Of Consent – Ronnie Burns **
Padre – Toni Arden *
The End – Earl Grant *

“Now that things are so easy, there’s so much to do.” Nono, Tarkovsky, Facility, Impossibility.

Monday 8 October 2007

It must be nearly ten years ago that I took a friend to the abandoned power station in the middle of Melbourne for performace of Luigi Nono’s epic work for violin and tape, La lontananza nostalgica utopica futura. He came away from it exhilarated, saying that it was like the musical equivalent of a film by Tarkovsky.
The last and greatest piece on last Monday’s concert program was Nono’s ‘No hay caminos, hay que caminar’… Andrej Tarkovskij, for seven instrumental groups distributed around the concert hall. Nono described Tarkovsky as “a soul who enlightened me”; both made art that fought against the way modern life dulls one’s perception of the world.
Alison Croggon at Sarsaparilla has recently written beautifully about Tarkovsky, particularly his film Stalker.

Stalker’s beauty is woven out of its limitations, its finitudes. When I watch a Tarkovsky film, I am always aware of the literalness of his medium; he is never doing anything more than making a film. Out of his refusal to aggrandise his medium he forges a profound poetic.

Croggon writes that Stalker is a film about faith: it articulates faith, but does not attempt to explain its meaning or its purpose. The Stalker is a guide, who offers the hope to others of realising their desires, but he cannot fulfil these hopes for himself.

Meanwhile, Daniel Wolf at Renewable Music has also been writing about Luigi Nono, in particular his late string quartet Fragmente – Stille, An Diotima:
… each attempt to write something meaningful about the quartet has failed, and I’m not sure whether my failure lies in my inability to get closer to a work whose distance to my own musical culture is great, or in a more fundamental doubt about the work as a technical and musical achievement.

Wolf has problems with this piece: it seems hermetic and obscure. Worse still, Nono’s material seems thin, facile; is he using hermeticism as a cloak for a lack of musical substance?
This is something I hadn’t considered before, but if it is an issue then it strikes me as being of a piece with the other distinctive aspects of Nono’s late music. Nono’s music had always been about struggle, most obviously in the many works dealing with political and social struggle. In his late works the struggle becomes internalised, a matter of personal and spiritual wrestling. The quotation “No hay caminos, hay que caminar” is invoked in several of Nono’s titles from this period. It comes from a graffito he found on the wall of a Spanish monastery; loosely translated, it means “There is no way, yet we must go” – a sort of variant of “I can’t go on, I’ll go on.”
The struggle is not just metaphysical, it is also a testing of Nono’s musical ideas and technique. Morton Feldman (who provided the quote for this post’s title) liked to complain that one of the many problems with composers is that they liked to make everything seem so easy: there is always the compulsion to make the music, even at its most anguished, seem to have emerged unmediated from the abstract, unscarred and unruffled. In other words, glib. It’s an important theme in writing and painting, but music pretends it doesn’t exist.
Nono’s music confronts this smoothing banality of technique with denuded musical material, isolated, halting phrases, inarticulate gestures, made from habit and apparently empty of meaning. In the same way, Tarkovsky in Stalker guides his limpid camera over industrial waste and other detritus. “Out of his refusal to aggrandise his medium he forges a profound poetic.”
This method shows itself most clearly in La lontananza nostalgica utopica futura, with its taped part built up out of sounds produced by violinist Gidon Kremer in the studio. Set adrift by Nono without any music, Kremer was left flailing, confusedly making tentative, awkward, disconnected noises; his mutterings, dropped objects, and extraneous studio sounds intrude on the soundscape. When writing the solo part, Nono kept Kremer waiting until the morning of the premiere for the complete score, semi-legibly scrawled in biro. Composer and musician each stripped of language and technique, forced to make sense of what was left.
It’s a world that offers glimpses of an unsettling beauty that flourishes beyond human desires and yet can provide a home for the unsayable, unattainable longing that reaches beyond the confines of the self.

Repeatedly, in the score for Fragmente – Stille, An Diotima, the musicians are confronted by a fragment from Hölderlin, inscribed above the music, silently chiding them: “…but you cannot know that…”

He’s sick, but he still takes a plastic cup of cheap red wine into a Nono concert

Friday 5 October 2007

I’ve only been to one Proms concert, to hear Berio’s Coro, a piece so overwhelming it couldn’t be swamped by the Albert Hall’s notorious acoustics. I was sat behind a row of BBC employees whose sole remark upon the music was that it wasn’t a bad effort for a commie.
Perhaps this back row brigade of insiders is the target audience for the protracted music festival “Luigi Nono: Fragments of Venice“. The lifelong Red has been slowly regaining the attention he deserves since his death in 1989; for a while he was pigeonholed amongst the B-team of post-WWII serialists, distinguished by his explosive temperament and expressive vocal writing, usually for revolutionary texts that had not aged well (“UNCLE SAM WANTS ‘YOU’ NIGGER. Join the best paid army of negro mercenaries in the world! Support White Power, take a trip to Vietnam and win a medal!”*)
There is talk (and there are talks) about Nono’s politics and how it shaped his music in the program, but not too much of the music itself. Apart from a few notable exceptions (particularly a performance of A floresta e jovem e cheja de vida) the series focusses on Nono’s late works, less overtly political and more spiritual in nature.
I don’t know exactly why this is bugging me so much. These late works include many of his greatest pieces, his most haunting and mysterious music. Usually I can’t stand art that tries to sell a message. In part, I think it’s because of the faux-edginess of the program: at Monday’s concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall there were university students “responding live to the music by literally writing on the (foyer) walls”. That last bit was written on the back of a blank postcard us punters were handed as we entered, upon which we were invited to doodle and affix with blu-tac upon approved sectors of the foyer walls. I’ll spare you the five paragraphs of ranting I had written on the triteness of this gesture, “inspired by Nono’s ideas of protest through art.”
Also, I think I’m mildly annoyed at how many avant-garde composers are now gaining prominence under false premise of being some sort of proto-“Holy Minimalist”, like highbrow New Age music, all wafty spirituality and hushed tones of reverence. Besides obvious choices like Part, Gorecki, and Tavener, less tractable composers like Cage and even Webern are now getting gentle, mellow recordings of works that were once rightly considered prickly and demanding. Late Nono, with its pauses, long durations, and sense of ritual, seems to be the latest candidate for being co-opted by this movement.
Luckily, Nono’s spirit and soundworld is combative enough to resist this type of treatment, but I still wish there were some of the earlier, more confronting pieces on the program, like the monstrous, jawdropping Como una ola de fuerza y luz, which I’m sure spooked not one, but two of my housemates into moving out after they came home when day when I was playing it a little too loud.
I’m due down the pub, so no time to write about the concert now. Sorry, maybe next time!

* From Contrappunto dialettico alla mente (1968). The text is taken from a “pamphlet distributed by the Harlem Progressive Social Club”.

What’s on top of the pile?

Thursday 27 September 2007

Brian Eno, The Drop
The sound of someone starting to believe the critics who say his ideas are more interesting than his music.
Dave Graney and the Coral Snakes, The Soft ‘n’ Sexy Sound
I’m compiling a list of albums I love to bits but cannot be bothered going out of my way to find out about anything else by the same artist. So far I’ve got Highway 61 Revisited and this.

(Last time on the pile.)

Filler by Proxy LIV: Actually James, you’d be surprised how often it works if you just tell it to them straight.

Tuesday 25 September 2007

The Guardian is a newspaper which occasionally lapses into worryingly consistent periods of self-parody (like in the opinion pages over the past month or two) but how can you not love a widely circulated, national morning paper which publishes items like this review of James Blunt’s new album:
Elsewhere, songs ruminate about celebrity, among them the deeply peculiar Annie, on which the titular heroine’s failure to achieve fame is bemoaned -“Did it all come tumbling down?” – and Blunt, gallant to the last, offers her the opportunity to fellate him as a kind of consolation prize: “Will you go down on me?” More bizarre still, he offers her the opportunity to fellate him in the kind of voice normally associated with the terminally ill asking a doctor how long they’ve got left: tremulous, replete with pregnant pauses, suggestive of brimming eyes, etc. The overall effect is so bizarre that it overshadows anything Blunt may have to say about the fickle nature of fame. You come away convinced that the song’s underlying message is: give me a blow job or I’ll cry.

Work in progress: Sketch for “A”-16

Monday 24 September 2007

For years now, I’ve been making electronic music which can be performed live, without using computers, synthesisers, samples, or preset sequencers. This generally involves setting up a table full of guitar effects pedals bought at pawn shops or cadged off friends, all connected with a rat’s maze of cables, to produce feedback loops. It’s inconvenient, but it’s fun when it works.
This type of feedback system, made without using anything designed to actually produce sound by itself, is often called the “no-input mixer”. Sketch for “A”-16 is a new piece I’m working on, my first attempt to make a piece for a no-output mixer.
The fundamental premise for the piece is a principle used by David Tudor in some of his compositions: that many electronic audio components have jacks that can be used for either input or output. I’ve used this aspect in my recent live electronic works, but Sketch for “A”-16 is the first piece I’ve made which is entirely based upon this property. It can only work if the inputs for each circuit are simultaneously working as outputs.
I’ve uploaded some examples of how the work’s going so far. They’re more of a proof of concept than a finished composition, but still work quite nicely as music, each with its own mood and sense of form. What you hear in these tracks is the combination of two simple bi-directional feedback loops. Future versions of this piece will use a greater number of components, to produce a greater and more subtle variety of sounds.
1. Sketch for “A”-16, take 1 (part 1) (3’48”, 2.97 MB, mp3)
2. Sketch for “A”-16, take 2 (16’15”, 12.95 MB, mp3)
3. Sketch for “A”-16, take 1 (part 2) (8’05”, 5.73 MB, mp3)
There is no editing, overdubbing, mixing or other post-production of any kind on these three pieces. Each was recorded directly to hard drive, with all sounds produced by analogue electronic feedback loops, created with closed circuits of effects boxes and an 8-input mixer.

(More about Sketch for “A”-16 and other music.)

The New New Magic Online Survey

Thursday 20 September 2007

If you’ve taken the Magic Listener Advisory Group survey as I suggested, you might want to go back and take it again. The preliminary questions are all the same, but they’ve updated the list of songs to give you something completely different. Better still, this time they’ve thoughtfully uploaded audio samples of each song in case you don’t recognise the title.
Once again, its a clever mix of solid gold classics and the unexpected esoteric: highlights include “Chattanooga Choo Choo” by Harpers Bizarre (which I have’t heard Magic play, although they do seem to like band’s cover of “Anything Goes” an awful lot), Vicki Lawrence’s “He Did With Me”, the “wrong” Gibb brother, the non-ironic-quotes-wrong version of “Jolene” (Olivia Newton-John?), some Freddy Fender, Johnny Crawford’s “Petite Chanson”, back-to-back versions of “Puppy Love” for your analysis and comparison (Paul Anka and Little Donnie Osmond*)… and if Magic has to pick a Supremes hit, well, it has to be “The Happening”.
As with the last time, there’s also one song so odious that it must be given the thumbs-down, and it’s not the Kevin Johnson track.

* Yes, that’s how they list him on the survey.

I suppose this is the world’s way of telling me I should buy my own turntable

Wednesday 19 September 2007

This was supposed to be a post recommending you go look at the videos posted to Youtube by a guy or girl called Spoonfedcornbread. SFCB had a strong, clear vision: point the camera at the record player turntable, put on an old single, drop the needle, and watch the record go round while the music played. Eight hundred and fifty times.
If you’ve ever played lots of little pieces of vinyl in succession I don’t need to tell you what a beguiling experience this can be, listening to the music while the record spins and the tone arm gradually draws in towards the centre. In a way it emphasised the little self-contained world the 7-inch single created. SFCB’s virtual recreation of this phenomenon was strikingly vicarious.
The music was good too, being a collection of over 800 singles from the late 50s to the early 70s – all A-sides, from what I could see. There was a Magic-like variety, ranging from R&B to easy listening, from the more obvious Beatles and Stones to people like Keith (a Magic favourite), or Liz Damon’s Orient Express.
Sadly, Spoonfedcornbread’s account has been suspended by the forces sworn to make the world a meaner, sadder place; but not before some 20,000 people got to watch and hear “Some Velvet Morning” whirling round – more than twice the number of viewings of the second-most popular video.
In the meantime, try Office Naps for your old 7-inch fix. Sadly, no streaming video of the records going round. Yet.

On Friday evening he stood around on the bank of the Thames for an hour. Then he went to the pub.

Sunday 16 September 2007

I went to see/hear Alvin Curran’s Maritime Rites on the river out front of Tate Modern, expecting to be slightly underwhelmed. I was either a real enthusiast or a slow learner, so it took me at least five years of regularly going to to events like this which combine:
  • public, outdoor locations
  • spatialised performances
  • amateur scratch orchestras
  • composition mixed with improvisation, and
  • acoustic instruments and electronics
are more likely than not to be pretty bad. After it had finished I wondered if it was my lowered expectations that made me like it so much.
The piece made use of the brass section of the London Symphony Orchestra on a stage on the bank, Curran himself on piano with a group of improvisers on a barge in the middle of the Thames, and an orchestra of volunteers assembled along the Millennium Bridge. These first two ensembles were heavily amplified to carry across the water, also effectively drowning out the musicians on the bridge and any surrounding ambient sounds, which was supposed to be one of the features of the music. Mind you, any distinctive sounds made by the Thames around Waterloo get lost in the regular city noise.
Yes, the music tended to ramble, but it did so in a nicely discursive way, apparently getting caught up in one piece of shtick after another, from freeform antiphonal honking back and forth across the river, to passages of Handel pastiche, to long sax solos by Evan Parker out on the barge, disrupted by confusing outbursts of digital DJing.
More than the arrangement of musicians around the river, the most interesting spatial aspect of the music was the way the sound would echo, with only some sounds and frequencies travelling along the water, bouncing off the distant buildings in unpredictable ways. All the way through the live music was ghosted by transformed shadows of sound hovering in different parts of the air amongst the evening commuters, joggers, tourists, and drinkers on the riverbank while the sun set.

The two halves of my brain are at war with each other!

Sunday 2 September 2007

Not so long ago I described the sight of the reopened Millennium Dome at night from my house. Very unexpectedly, I have now been inside the Dome. Even less expectedly, it was to see one of those Prince gigs I mentioned. Yet even less expectedly again, I got in for free. Most unexpectedly of all, I was in one of the corporate boxes.
My lovely girlfriend had scammed two tickets from her work, which holds a corporate box at the Dome to shmooze valued clients. “That all sounds perfectly awesome,” you’re thinking, and you would be right if it weren’t for one little thing. I like Prince enough to enjoy listening to his stuff, but not enough to lift a finger to hear any more of it, and the whole thing happened at short notice, just when I was in a fairly severe bout of depression. This made me probably the only person in the crowd heading out to the Dome with a sense of nameless dread.
This emotional disconnect between feeling pointlessly terrible and being at an exciting concert was compounded by another contradiction. I’m prejudiced against big arena shows in the first place, but there’s nothing quite so un-rock’n’roll as being at a rock gig seated in a beige lounge suite with a champagne flute in one hand and a plate of spicy chicken wings in the other. Please don’t think I’m complaining about being waited on at a free concert, it’s just that it’s a little weird. Like in those sci-fi movies where the astronauts land on a strange planet and the aliens are a little too nice to them, it puts you on your guard.
Each corporate suite holds about a dozen people, so the girl and I didn’t have the place to ourselves. Luckily there were only a couple of valued clients in the room – most of the others were co-workers who had also scammed tickets – but that was enough to deter me from trying to gee myself up by getting quickly hammered and screaming “Hello peasants!” or “Play Sexy Motherfucker!” over the balcony. Worse still, I couldn’t get lost in a crowd and indulgently mope somewhere without being conspicuous.
At least I could agree with everyone else in the room about something (most of whom were enthusiastic young things who weren’t even born when Prince was having his first hits): in a classic “playing with the box the toy came in” moment, we all thought the coolest part of the night was the way the lighting crew had to spend the entire evening hanging ten metres above the stage, suspended by cables from the roof, to operate the spotlights.