Posts from 1st June 2005

Jun 05

Girls Aloud – Hammersmith Apollo, 28th May 2005

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The first thing to be said – and it almost goes without saying – is that moment for moment this was about five times more entertaining and inspiring than most other gigs I’ve seen. This is surely because I don’t go to pop gigs much. One of the reasons for this is that I am afraid of looking like a sleazy old man – rightly so, on this evidence, though there were plenty of adults including a bunch of rugby lads in front of us who gave us a taste of our own sight-blocking medecine before heading down the front and bopping away to “No Good Advice”.

The second thing to be said is that I’m not going to say much about the actual Girls Aloud performance. Talent In A Previous Life sums it up nicely, as Alan says below – they were excellent, and we all liked Nicola best. The end (except to praise their “The Only Living Girl In New Cross”, an unexpected treat). This post is to discuss the trimmings of the Aloud experience.

Most of the other over-16s stayed in the bar for the support acts: Kute, Triple8 and Cookie. We brought our beers in for the pop fun and applied our highest standards of critical analysis, “Fucking yes! It’s Rainbow!” (see TIAPL again). The support acts get no band or backdrop, nothing but a tape and a big black tarpaulin: to perform in front of a big crowd like this, especially if you’re young, takes guts I’d have thought – Kute looked very vulnerable.

On the other hand all these people have been to stage school since they were 3 I guess.

Anyway I thought plucky Kute were great, and Triple 8 were awful. “You may remember us,” they said ruefully. One of them had the worst crotch-grab technique I’d ever seen: his hand would start boldly at nipple height, plunge down then suddenly veer off course as if checking whether his mobile was still in his pocket. Dutiful screams from a tiny nugget of fanbase masked general indifference. Cookie meanwhile were sort of a Lidl version of Girls Aloud proper, they all looked as if they hated one another (and it turned out they’d already split up once this tour). The support acts all finished with their new singles, in Cookie’s case the chorus of this bears a shocking resemblance to “Ready To Go” by Republica, fair enough as long as nobody makes a habit out of it.

Incidentally, isn’t 15 minutes a great length for a set?

All the support acts did a curious polite thing whereby they admitted that the audience were all really here to see Girls Aloud, you wouldn’t find such servility on the London pub circuit I’m sure. Once Cookie were bundled off the real support act fun could begin with the BLINK TV Girls Aloud special programming. The main features here were cut-and-paste video montages of various icons, so for “I’m Every Woman” you had a parade of Whitney, Madonna, various film stars, Britney, Xtina and so on. You also had Girls Aloud shots cut in occasionally – even into the ones about men! – to test if the audience were paying attention and screaming enough. The reels of men – no pop stars here except for Robbie, all film bods – were the kind of market research money can’t buy. Leonardo – scream. Orlando – MASSIVE SCREAM. Hugh Grant – silence. Al Pacino – stampede to doors.

We also saw the most ILM thing I have ever witnessed – a video of classic rock clips (Zep, Queen, Stones, Clash) cut up and electronically treated to the soundtrack of a sped up helium-vox version of POP MUZIK BY M!!! If anyone from Blink TV ever googles, I am desperate to see this again, thanks.

Outside the gig the merchandise stalls were busy and not cheap – £22 for a T-Shirt, I don’t think so. Mind you I bought a Girls Aloud scarf for a tenner, proper Rollers chic that, it will come in handy at Glastonbury to rally the troops. And that was that, really: a hugely enjoyable night out.

Getting Our Groove Back

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It feels like ages since I’ve posted, and it is ages: I will creak back into life with an MP3, the title track from the Walker Brothers’ 1976 comeback album Lines. Overripe like the best Walker work, Scott on this track oozes weakness and regret. The mid-70s soft pop arrangement may grate on some (not me tho, I love that stuff) but there’s a welcome hint of the eerie in the backing vocals.

The Walker Brothers – “Lines”

Cardiff Sketch – West Ham vs Preston North End Play-Off Final

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“The most expensive game of football in the world” shouted the hyperactive stadium announcer before kick off. Relax the players it did not. West Ham had to win this to sustain a recognisable team. The Guardian went one step further, “if West Ham lose, Matthew Etherington will be sacrificed.” Impending death spurred him down the wing and he crossed for Zamora to scuff the winner. Not much else happened, Nigel Reo-Coker was the best player on the pitch and Tomas Repka achieved a personal milestone by playing 90 minutes without a single act of violence. The game was very similar to last year’s final, but with Preston playing the stage fright role.

At the death, the fourth official held his screen toy up. Seven, it blinked dottily. Christian Dailly looked across and thought he was being substituted. Pardew waved him back. SEVEN MINUTES OF INJURY TIME! We groaned collectively, but Preston looked as if an equaliser was beyond them. Final whistle; pretty bubbles in the air, a whack round the head with an inflatable hammer and time to salute the sixth best team in the Championship.

We veered into a pub. Hammers fans wrapped in flags and drenched in beer were hanging out the window. The bouncer eyed us with disdain. “No smoking” he said. I had a pint of Brains and we loudly promoted the virtues of East London via the medium of song.

We moved on to an Italian restaurant. Some Preston fans sat scrunched around another table and graciously sent champagne across. We raised a glass to the glory of football. “Are you Burnley in disguise?” they sang, waving inflatable ‘cheer sticks’. They attempted to involve the waiter, “which team were you supporting?” “I’m Albanian,” he said, to silence. We bought them wine and said see you next season, without specifying a division.

We jumped in a taxi. The driver was an Iraqi. We apologised for the bombs and that, but he said it was alright. “I had that Charlotte Church in here the other day.” “What’s she like?” we asked. “Nice back,” he said, “but her mate’s really ugly.”