Monday, October 31, 2011

True Horror

Watched a programme tonight dealing in part with the kind of low level teasing-cum-bullying that can leave youngsters isolated, vulnerable, alone, depressed. It was hard to take simply because it's so common, so unexceptional. You see it as a teacher sometimes and, awfully, there's precious little you can do about it.

I kept thinking of a girl in the school in which I taught before my current one, who was around eleven, twelve, thirteen when I was there. I didn't actually teach her, but I know that in the time I was there I didn't once see her smile. Never. It was easy to guess there was no reason to.

This kind of thing can make you debilitatingly sad, so it's important not to let that happen. And who knows, she might have risen above it all and been better for it. The resilience you see in the most unlikely places is cause for hope.

The world's too big to throw your arms around it. But that's no excuse for making excuses.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

False Alarm

Came around suddenly circa 0630 to the sound of Noi's alarm. A muddy glance at the trusty watch on the table at the side of my bed and I announce that I've forgotten to set my alarm (for 0605) and I am late. I stagger to the bathroom trying to figure out if I should do the dawn prayer prior to brushing my teeth and showering, in order to make up for lost time. It's not a terrible crisis as I'm not due at work until 0725, but things will still take a bit of figuring. Since I can't think straight I just start brushing my teeth, thinking I'd better get on with something.

Then, four minutes into the brushing, it occurs to me that this is Sunday and all the fuss has been completely unnecessary.

Chastened I go back to Noi and confess my error. She is amused and not amused, and advises me to just do the prayer and shut up. I do so, feeling relieved and stupid in roughly equal measures.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Little Bit Down

For some reason I can't quite get hold of, my reading has been distinctly skittish of late. From maintaining a disciplined approach to having just a couple of books on the go I've been jumping haphazardly from tome to tome with just one big read to hold the whole thing together - and it's Kershaw's biography of der Fuhrer that's been playing that role of late.

Adding to my mild sense of dissatisfaction is the fact that I'm not exactly enjoying Kershaw's magnum opus. Oh, it's a fine work and extremely gripping with some powerful insights. The problem is, I'm finding it casts a bit of a pall on life in general. This is extreme stuff and tends to colour one's views of just about everything. The sense of low-lying anger at the culture that let it all happen is vaguely debilitating - and there's a worrying feeling attendant upon that of being somehow unfair to the participants and over-judgemental. In the same situation would I have done any better?

God, I hope so.

Friday, October 28, 2011

A Question Of Style

A tv presenter chappie who goes by the unlikely name of Gok Wan has become quite a favourite of Noi's. Even as I write she's watching one of the many programmes in which he features on one of the 'lifestyle' channels - How To Look Good Naked. The very title suggests the tele at its most vulgar and pointless, and Gok himself is a sort of high powered fashionista, full of gushing advice about personal style and gushing enthusiasm for the most unlikely garments and accessories (as it seems that the pointless odd bits and pieces that ladies wear or carry are known.)

On paper I should detest the guy, but I find him oddly engaging and really quite likeable. I can actually watch an entire programme without undue irritation. As to why this is the case, I suppose two factors help explain the mystery. First of all he comes across as essentially generous, genuinely liking the very, very ordinary folks he helps dress up and appreciating the most ordinary, unpromising of bodies. (There's nothing in the slightest bit salacious about the Naked programme. It could be family viewing.) Secondly he's very good at what he does, and he does a lot of it with cheap affordable clothing which in itself sends a very important message.

So here am I, going back in the living room to watch the action on the catwalk - something I could never have imagined myself saying a year ago, and which remains deeply uncharacteristic, I hasten to add.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Shelter From The Storm

A wonderful storm engulfed us around 2.40 this afternoon. Enjoyed it hugely. Then thought of the floods in Bangkok and reconsidered. It's my good fortune to be in a place where being engulfed does not involve being engulfed.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


I'm extremely dubious regarding my ability to point anyone in the right direction for listening to classical music. I mention this as Rei asked me something along these lines the other day and I've been thinking about what I might usefully say since then. The problem is that not only am I no expert, I am so lacking in anything close to expertise in this area as to be painfully inadequate.

However, I suppose it is of some relevance and potential helpfulness that I've managed to go from being almost completely unable to apply myself to listening to such music to actually being able to apply myself to reasonably sustained appreciative listening. And it's of interest (to me, anyway) to note that this came about largely after a very intense experience in my middle-twenties.

I borrowed some recordings, old fashioned lps, mostly of the music of Ralph Vaughan Williams from a friend and suddenly, gloriously understood exactly the appeal of what I was listening to. The excitement of realising there was all this wonderful stuff waiting to be experienced was extraordinarily powerful, such that even at a remove of almost thirty years I can more than remember it, I can taste it, touch it. And once I'd 'got' VW so much else followed naturally, as it were, though perhaps not with quite the same intensity: Holst, Bax, Elgar, Britten (the more obvious Brits); Ravel, Debussy, Messiaen, Sibelius, Ives, Copeland, Gershwin, Bartok. And all these Moderns gave me a kind of access to the past.

So I guess I'd recommend listening pretty much to anything by VW as a starting point for someone looking for the same kind of breakthrough. But I have some reservations about this. Just because it worked for me, I'm not sure that would generally translate into instant understanding for others. In fact, VW seems to me so fundamentally wrapped up with a sense of Englishness that I'm very unsure he would work for anyone beyond those shores. But for anyone who's interested I'd suggest starting with The Lark Ascending and Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis. After that, you'd know.

Another composer who I seemed to 'get' effortlessly was Copeland. Appalachian Spring is a useful test piece. Again, if it works you're in.

In both cases, by the way, I made no real effort at the time to listen. I didn't need to. I think that was important to the experience, though I'm now keen to make sure I actively listen to any kind of music. That's oddly contradictory, but there it is.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


I've been reading Ian Kershaw's biography of Adolf Hitler, the single volume version, and have reached the later part of the 1920's. Struck by the strange nullity of the man - partly a product of his deliberate remoteness, a strategy for fostering the cult of the Fuhrer, but also somehow integral to who he was, or wasn't. As if he lost whatever self he had, possessed by the demons that drove him to his final nowhere world.

Anyone who believes in leaders and leadership, and the following thereof, needs to read this, Kershaw's biography I mean, and think.

Whatever else he knew he'd certainly figured out the mechanisms of projection. The men around him were not all fools, yet somehow they fell for the cheap theatrical tricks.

Never trust a man with an intense gaze and a firm handshake.

Monday, October 24, 2011

In The Crowd

Yesterday's Little India experience was a rich one in many ways, one of those ways being its reminder of just many people it's possible to cram into quite a small area of a city and keep in what seems to be continuous movement. Everyone was going somewhere, very determinedly, but no one appeared to be arriving.

At one point I mentioned to Noi that a good eighty percent of those around us were male, and this alone made the experience rather different than that of the Geylang crowds in Ramadhan. We guessed that the majority of the guys were 'foreign workers', as they are designated, out for bargains and companionship. What I didn't say was that a similarly constituted crowd in the UK would feel threatening. This one felt busy, a little giddy, but fundamentally welcoming.

It was fascinating to look at the little groups hunkered down on empty patches of ground wherever they could find them. Plastic bags of the bits and pieces they'd picked up to mark their territory, plastic cups to drink out of, a bottle or two shared between them Sometimes alcohol, but not necessarily so. Making the best of (not many) things. No one is going to go looking for role models in these places - which is a pity as I reckon you'd probably find more than a few.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Bit Of Luck

Two pieces of good fortune this evening.

One: I am not in Manchester.

Two: I honoured my promise to take the Missus to Serangoon Road for our annual Deepavali experience and so wasn't watching the events of the evening from the Theatre of Dreams. I'll probably be able to watch the replay in a month or so (when we're back on top and all this is behind us.)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Coming Alive

Took our Humanities scholars to see, or rather listen to, the SSO playing Mahler 7 last night. I'd talked to the students in advance of the need to put effort into listening, bearing in mind that for some of them eighty minutes of Mahler at one go might be some seventy-five minutes too many. But it looked as if they felt it was time well spent. It'll be interesting to harvest some frank views next week.

I'd prepared for the event by listening to the Seventh three or four times over the last couple of weeks. I first heard it live as performed by the Halle some twenty-five years ago and hadn't been terribly impressed then. But that was a case of thwarted expectations. Learning that it had two 'nocturnes' I assumed it was going to be ethereally swoony, and it wasn't because it isn't. But I remember thinking it would be well worth listening to it again (and again) just to get hold of what Mahler was up to. And since I've now made the effort (a little late, but never mind) I rather think I have managed to grasp the essence of what's going on here.

I reckon Mahler was very conscious of a sense of defeating expectations, and that each movement is an approach to a kind of convention of music that he then deconstructs. So there's lots of parody, but this blurs into genuine expressions of feelings in ways that are destabilising, but fascinatingly so.

Anyway, whatever old Gustav was up to, the SSO did him proud. They really sparkled last night.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Not Overly Comfortable

About half an hour before I was due to set off for prayers the heavens opened and, unfortunately, forgot to close, at least until prayers were over. Thus I found myself making my way across the open car park to get in through the back entrance of the mosque in a considerable downpour. Of course, I had my brolly with me, but with the winds gusting around, this did not afford much protection for my lower legs.

Thus I had to sit in thoroughly sodden trousers, at least for the lower part of the old limbs, throughout the proceedings. Ugh. Fortunately the brolly was still where I left it on the way out, and the rain had abated somewhat by the end of prayers, so the way back to work wasn't quite so bad. And I'd almost dried off for my afternoon meeting. But generally the experience was not to be recommended.

Oddly though, living in a place that has its fair share of sudden storms I can't remember an experience quite as wet and since I survived this one with little more than some unpleasant irritation that's not a bad record all told.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Genuine Experience

You sometimes hear complaints about how the education system here stifles creativity, and very understandable they are, as anyone who's been part of that system will testify, assuming they are ready to be honest about what goes on in many, if not most, if not all, schools here. But the assumption that somehow teenagers' creatvity is stifled is entirely false.

How do I know this? Through direct experience. And today I enjoyed a further twenty-five minutes such experience as I goofed off for that amount of time to make the acquaintance of the work(s) on display of our graduating class from the Visual Arts class. I wished I could have stayed a lot longer than that.

It was striking how the work of each individual in the display had a sort of unitary quality, a sense of growing from concerns genuinely central to that individual. Even now I can remember at least one piece from each student that struck me as genuinely powerful. Above all, it was all so genuine, and you don't get more artful than that.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Not Found Wanting

It occurred to me just now, sharing a massive bowl of the Missus's chicken porridge with my favourite dining partner, the aforementioned chef, that I have reason to envy no man. But they have reason to envy me. And if that sounds hideously complacent, it was meant to.

Thank you, and good night.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Pure Envy

It's fascinating to watch the latest round of protests against the monstrous (but possibly benign) forces of Capitalism played out on the streets of various capitals and the sheets of various media. (Yes, I know 'sheets' doesn't really work here, but I like the rhyme. And notice my attempts at balance with the bit in brackets.) I've been particularly struck by the accusation that the protests are fuelled by envy, especially when this is levelled by commentators such as those on the Fox News Channel who know this for an absolute, undeniable certainty. For how does anyone actually know for sure what the motives of the protesters are? And is it reasonable to assume that all of them are spurred on by exactly the same motivation?

My guess is that those who level the accusation are aware that they themselves are envy-driven individuals and assume that this is a common feature of our fallen human nature. And who's to say they are wrong? Certainly it's not difficult to think of lots of supporting evidence regarding the roots of our motivations. Personally I honestly can't figure out if my envy of their 'success' lies at that the heart of my fairly obvious animus against the kind of bankers who precipitated the latest crisis in our markets.

But even if it is pure envy on my part, and that of all the protesters, I also can't see how this makes any difference regarding what is happening. If envy is a reasonable motive for trying to out-do your fellow man in the marketplace, and as far as I can tell the world of Capital thrives on that notion, why would it somehow undercut people's protests against other people having cornered far too many of the world's resources just because they are envious of them? I suppose the argument then would be for 'good envy' - the type that drives you to work hard and succeed in the marketplace - as opposed to 'bad envy' - the type that leads you to stick a metaphorical bomb under said marketplace. But the problem is that if the marketplace is seen to have failed the vast majority of those in it - and we seem to be looking at a storyline with this worrying ending tacked onto it - then it doesn't seem to matter which species of envy is operational.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Not So Equal

On the way to watch the game yesterday evening we got behind a lorry/van carrying some workers. Not sure if it would have been to or from work at that time. Hope they were on their way home for a rest since conditions on, or rather in, the vehicle couldn't have been conducive to preparing for a stretch of hard labour. (I'm assuming that's what the inmates would have been in for, or returning from, and I don't think I'm wrong.)

Inmates is the right word. We were able to see three or four of the guys gazing out of two smallish windows/openings covered with bars at the bottom end of the closed-in covering of the van. Caged. I asked Noi whether she thought they had a fan in there but she thought this unlikely. We looked for signs of decent ventilation as we came alongside the vehicle. There weren't any.

My guess is that none of the guys on-board would have thought there was anything to really complain about. They'll consider themselves fortunate to have found work here. So that makes it okay to treat people like animals, I suppose. Nothing exceptionable here.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


Just back from watching the Big Game over at Moghan's with a highly excited crowd of highly excitable supporters of both sets of reds. I'd forgotten how much fun the beautiful game can be. And how much you can age over ninety minutes.

And just what did Giggsy think he was doing in that wall? If I had a kid in a school team who got himself out of the way of the ball in that manner I'd roast him.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Simply Educational

Today I was listening to a radio station here which goes by the name of Symphony FM. It's a sort of Singaporean Radio 3, I suppose, playing what might broadly be termed classical music. Its existence clearly represents a golden opportunity to educate the youth of the nation, well those few likely to be interested, and folks like myself who know a little and would like to find out more, in such music.

The fact that it fails to do so almost wilfully astonishes me. Simple point: wouldn't you think it would be useful to let listeners know what it is that they've just been listening to? The name of the composer? The opus number, movement, that sort of thing? With a spectacular indifference to such niceties whoever's in charge as a matter of course just plays a few jumbled pieces back-to-back, unannounced, and follows them with a couple of adverts for the station itself.

I was particularly narked today when I recognised a movement as being one I knew from my listening at home but couldn't pin down the actual composer. I thought at first it was from a Mozart piano concerto, but then there was no piano. So it then seemed more likely to me to be something from a Beethoven symphony, a slow movement, yet it sounded more Mozartian, but I was inclined to rule this out as I don't own that much Mozart outside of the piano concerti, and I knew I owned it and had played it recently (in the last year or so, I mean.)

Now I know I sound incredibly dim in that last paragraph, not knowing something that should be obvious to me. But that's my point. I am incredibly dim in these matters and would like to have my dimness illuminated, and learn something. But with this radio station that just doesn't happen. Incidentally, I found it fascinating that what I was listening to seemed to me to be extraordinarily beautiful, yet despite knowing it well I was aware I had never recognised its beauty before. One of the benefits of being as obtuse as I am regarding music is that you get moments like that.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Well Documented

Felt a strong sense of relief today at the arrival of a new passport from the UK. My old one hadn't expired, I'd simply run out of pages, almost, and since I'm off to Beijing in early November, accompanying a class on an educational tour (whatever that is), and it's possible the Chinese authorities will require a full page for a visa, I thought I'd better get something with the necessary room. The problem is though that due to cost-cutting exercises on behalf of Her Majesty's government as it manifests itself abroad, you can no longer renew your passport over here.

It felt strange sending off the old one to Hong Kong (why the new one then had to come back from the UK remains a mystery to me) and being passport-less for a month. No impulse visits to Malaysia, as a result. A sense of not being quite complete.

And now I have a new number to remember: a sort of bureaucratic rebirth. Certainly the old man in the picture looks nothing like me.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Not Funny

Saw someone described in today's paper as a writer and humourist. It must be incredibly difficult to go through life with people expecting you to be funny, especially if you're not. Of course most of us are funny, but this is for the most part unintentional.

I was trying to think of someone who was genuinely funny, professionally so, without obviously trying. Tommy Cooper came to mind. And from what I can gather he was in many ways a dreadful man. But perhaps that follows?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Just Moaning

The Missus is sniffling and complaining of a sore throat. This she picked up from yours truly, who's been going through the tissues at a rate of knots since Saturday morning, after a sleepless Friday night spent contemplating just how unpleasantly sore a throat can get. In addition, my right arm is incredibly sore and aching from the top of the shoulder down, with my right thumb sort of all tingly in a numb kind of way. And I've got a stretch of final essays to mark to make sure my charges are up to scratch for their examination papers - and since it was marking their in-house examination papers that triggered the problem, I'm not looking forward to that at all. In fact, just typing this will cost me dear for the next few minutes.

Apart from that, everything's fine. Thanks for asking.

Monday, October 10, 2011


Caught a little bit of Nowhere Boy in the mid-afternoon, a movie about the boyhood of John Lennon. I read some good reviews of it back in England in December, but had thought there wasn't much chance of it surfacing over here. The bit I saw validated the positive reviews - strong evocation of the period and a great performance from the young man in the lead. Not trying to do an imitation but getting something of the essence of the great man and not-so-pleasant youth, the two being inseparable. (Useful for teachers to watch the film, if only for that reason.)

Later the evening (Sky) news gave quite a bit of coverage to the wedding of Sir Paul. It was almost impossible to close the gap between our remarkably youthful looking elder statesman of rock 'n' roll and his incarnation as a teenager, already getting the measure of young Johnny. But let's be happy the world has provided room for both of them - the two Pauls, that is.

As for the fact that John and Paul came together in the long lost world of Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields, well that goes into territory beyond any normal sense of mere thankfulness.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Talent In Excess

There's a lovely free little download available from the good people at DGM Live. It's the acoustic guitar bit that Robert Fripp played for Cirkus from Lizard - incidentally the first Crimson album I ever owned, and the strangest Crimson album of all, which explains a lot. I always loved the bits of the acoustic you could actually hear on Cirkus, but a fair amount was lost in the incredibly rich mix for the track.

Now hearing the whole thing in its pure naked glory three things come to mind. Firstly, confirmation of Mr Fripp's brilliant technique on any guitar. Secondly, confirmation of his genius for composing stunning parts for guitar. Finally, confirmation of his genius for composition in general bearing in mind how the guitar bit fits into the complex whole.

Cirkus also has one of my favourite Pete Sinfield lyrics, by the way, making it close to a Crimso fave - one of my top five. Remarkably the Islands line-up did a fine job of playing it live, proving just how underestimated they were.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Violent Ends

It may have been a mistake for me to push to the end of Flannery O'Connor's The Violent Bear It Away on a day when I've not felt at all well. The distress generated by the novel didn't help me feel better. Are stories meant to make us feel this way? The question is irrelevant - O'Connor's fiction seems full of necessary, intense truths that burn away anything we have protecting us.

I suppose it's my knowledge of the fact she wrote out of illness and suffering that's informing these judgements, if my confused responses can be dignified by such a term. She seems to go beyond such tenets of criticism anyway - the uncanny confrontation between the rationalist Rayber and the strange preacher child in Chapter 5 goes into territory that just hasn't been mapped.

So often with her work I find myself thinking I really don't get this at all, but it's just impossible to put down.

Friday, October 7, 2011

More Than Merely Padding

In a brief conversation with a younger colleague last week I found myself asking him about the usefulness of the iPad he carried around with him. Other than using it as an e-reader (which he didn't, not really), what was it good for? Eyes glinting he told me it meant he could, Stay connected. When I informed him that I spend a good deal effort ensuring I am disconnected I felt quite sad to witness the emotional disturbance such an heretical notion obviously evoked. So at that point in time I found myself not quite so keen to acquire one of these devices. (Not that I've managed to achieve actual keenness as yet - more of a mild interest.)

However, in recent days I've found myself that little bit keener. First of all as a result of the deployment of said device at Wednesday night's concert. The idea of making all sorts of strange noises with one appeals. And secondly finding out that Tom Phillips's masterpiece A Humument is going to be available through a special 'app' (as I believe they are known) come November. Double Yowza!

(I'd suggest any reader who doesn't know what A Humument is should click on the link I've so thoughtfully provided, to witness something transformatory in the truest sense of that word.)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

In Tune

I wasn't wrong yesterday when I predicted I would enjoy the evening of birdsong ahead. If anything I underestimated just how deeply satisfying it would prove to be. The performers, for the most part students from the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory, went well beyond the merely proficient and there were more than a few moments of deep joy. Just about the full twenty-three minutes of VW's Flos Campi answered to that description. Oh, and there was quite a bit of fun too.

Dr Casteels obviously saw the concert as being of an educational nature. The programme notes were a model of information delivered with enthusiasm and his spoken introductions were illuminating throughout. And his own pieces, three of them across the evening, sat well alongside the masters he'd selected. They were, all three, very modern in a sense that some might find pejorative, but appeals to me. Engaging enough on the surface to make up for the challenges they presented. Not a lot in the way of good tunes, but you can't have everything and they offered plenty in the way of other diversions - not least, fascinating sonorities.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


Tonight we're off to the concert hall, the Singapore Conference Hall, to enjoy a conference with the birds. It's a concert featuring pieces based on birdsong actually, with three of my faves in there: Ravel, VW and Messiaen. The main composer of the evening, however, is one Robert Casteels, who teaches at the local Yong Siew Toh Conservatory, if I'm not mistaken. Part 2 is all done on iPads so we're in for something very new it would seem.

To be honest at this exact point in time I'd rather not be going. Sitting at home relaxing (and getting a little bit of work done, to take off the heat tomorrow) is quite an attractive option. And I knew this would be the case when I bought the tickets. I also knew that once parked in the hall with my ears being opened I would be glad I made the effort. Hope I'm right!

More on this anon.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

(Not) The Last Mall

We spent the late afternoon familiarising ourselves with the new mall at Clementi. (Actually I don't think it's all that new, but that's how Noi refers to it. New to us, I suppose.) This has the supreme virtue amongst malls of appearing to be exactly the same as all the others. It's extremely comforting I find to always be surrounded by the same shops, from which I wish to buy precisely nothing. (Honourable exception: a cup of tea with a little something.) I worry that one day I'll discover some interesting shops in a mall and have to do some genuine thinking.

The newer malls here, by the way, generally have no bookshops or CD stores - except for a place called Popular which is to the world of books what the Tea Party is to consensual, sane politics in the US of A.

I'm old enough, of course, to remember a world without malls. In fact, I distinctly remember the excitement, when I was a little lad, of something called a supermarket being about to open just down the road, proving modernity had arrived. Which, sadly, it had.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Hard Times

To some degree living in this Far Place means I have been shielded from the grimmer aspects of economic decline. The bad news is, of course, that this may only prove to be a very limited degree. Mind you that's a selfish way of looking at bad news - for some that news has already arrived.

The good news is that hard times have been and gone in the past. The bad news is that they're really hard. I was put in mind of this the other day listening to Springsteen's rendition of Hard Times (Come Again No More), originally composed in the nineteenth century, by a man who knew more than his fair share of them.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Getting Settled

I was moaning the other day about my lack of faithfulness to particular books at the moment, and I'm afraid my skittishness shows little sign of abating. However, I did manage to finish Richard Dawkins's The Greatest Show on Earth today and feel somewhat richer in my understanding of the nature of life for doing so. I thought I might put aside the Collected Works of Flannery O'Connor for a while, having completed the short stories in her first published collection, but then found myself hooked on her second novel, The Violent Bear It Away, so it looks as if this will constitute my main reading in the way of fiction for a week or so, assuming I can keep my nose out of those modern fairy tales I bought the other day, which I can't.

The two sort of problematic tomes which have mysteriously infiltrated my official reading have been Jean Aitchison's The Articulate Mammal, picked up from the library, and Equals by Adam Phillips, which was left lying around on a table in the staffroom where colleagues dump items they don't want for recycling. I've been reading both sort of without meaning to. And these have been supplemented by the last two issues of The New York Review of Books which can be picked up a lot cheaper at Holland Village than other places.

So my promise is to complete all the above before straying again. And part of me, a very knowing bit, is already saying, Fat chance.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Boss Time

Back in December I resisted buying the double DVD set of Springsteen & the E Street Band live at Hyde Park. This took quite some resisting as the opening number was a cover of Strummer's London Calling and the thought of Bruce doing The Clash was a mighty powerful one. I suppose what strengthened my resistance was the thought that I already had plenty of Springsteen live on CD and DVD and a show from 2009 that wouldn't even involve Danny Federici (RIP) was going to be a tired re-hash of past glories.

What a mistake! Having finally purchased the set on my recent sortie to HMV I can confidently assert that you simply can't have enough of Springsteen live. I had quite forgotten just how dramatically different a set-list from the king of New Jersey can be from night to night, never mind tour to tour. And this one is full of stuff I've never heard done live before, and not just the stuff from the recent albums, though Workin' On A Dream, Outlaw Pete and Radio Nowhere are all outstanding. But then everything's outstanding so the word hardly has a meaning in this context.

What I think really came as a surprise was how much the obvious age of the band worked in its favour. These guys look like they are beyond caring for anything other than the joy of what they are doing, so that an air of celebration pervades the whole concert from the first notes onward. But this goes way beyond the default nostalgia mode favoured by some of their peers. Paradoxically the oldest material seemed, if anything, to work best with Rosalita sounding younger, more dangerous and funnier than I've ever heard it before.

Talk about ageing disgracefully - a model for us all, not to go gently.