Ramblings: Spiritualized again...

I should have finished this well over a month ago, but as usual, I started something with the aim to finish it “at some point”. Thankfully it’s not a review of the show that took place on September 10th at Webster Hall, just some ramblings about sharing music with my unborn baby…

Everything I do nowadays has a “We” to it as opposed to just an “I”. For example, I am not just hungry (make that absolutely starving as if I may collapse hungry) in the morning when I wake up; no “We” are hungry and “We” must eat right away. Little Munchie has taken over my life in the most magical of ways and I will never again see myself as a person alone in the world. It’s amazing. Anyway, the point of all this is that I am now sharing absolutely everything in my life with my unborn child, one of the most obvious things being my love for music. I haven’t been to anywhere near as many shows as I would like this year, but that didn’t stop me from looking forward to seeing Spiritualized when one of my dearest friends bought us tickets as soon as they went on sale this year. I didn’t know I was pregnant then, but I did before we went and it felt so good to think that my child was going to witness the live performance of one of my favourite bands before he or she was even born. 

There are some bands or musicians with whom you have a really intense relationship, one that holds you so hard that sometimes you need to take a step back to reevaluate, just to come back loving them even more. That’s my relationship with Spiritualized. I have seen them many a time over the years, at different venues in NYC, been around them with friends in different locations in the city, and have never ceased to be entranced during each performance, tears in my eyes and a smile on my face. There are some bands and musicians you go to see just for the live music, others you prefer to stay away from as they are just better recorded. And then there are those bands that you want all of: recorded, live, live recordings, conversations, everything. That special music that you will never tire of, will bore your children to death with until they, at a certain age, will appreciate your love for them and may even start to love them too. I have a list of bands and musicians that little Munchie is going to have to listen to over and over again and will probably hate for some years (some on this list are actually musicians that my mother had me listen to before I was even born, so I am just continuing a trend over the generations). In any case, Spiritualized is on this list and I am so happy that I was able to experience one of their performances with my unborn child.

"If you feel lonely and the worlds against you, take the long way home, past the scary jesus, and you'll find my door with your name in diamonds, and you'll feel lonely no more" - So Long You Pretty Things  

A list of random Spiritualized-related memories in no special order (just the order in which they come to mind when I am thinking about the band or listening to the music in some form or another): dancing round and round to Come Together with Hannah at Terminal 5 back in 2009; running late to the show at Radio City Music Hall with Meg but not missing anything due to the disco ball falling from the ceiling a few minutes before the band came on stage (and therefore being yet another narrow escape for Jason Pierce); listening to Death Take Your Fiddle with Meg on repeat for days before marching (stumbling?) off to Darkroom for another night of the same non-adventures; playing Broken Heart on repeat for days and days on end to constantly remind myself that my broken heart wasn’t the only one in the world; receiving a signed copy of Sweet Heart Sweet Light in the post out of the blue from a friend in England; the way hearing Stop Your Crying will always bring tears to my eyes, every single time; reconnecting with old and special friends I haven’t seen in a while at a show, and not feeling like anything had really changed over the months of not speaking to each other; dancing with my now-deceased and very, very special cat Luna to Ladies and Gentlemen in its entirety the moment work got too stressful… Music, friendship, memories, connections, love, anger, happiness and pain. Spiritualized embodies all of that and more for me.

Other bands/musicians on this list are of course The Cure, Marianne Faithfull, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Stevie Nicks, Tim Buckley, Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, Nirvana, Leonard Cohen, David Bowie, PJ Harvey… And so on…

Music: Nine Inch Nails - Hesitation Marks

Remember back in 1994 when you were screaming along to Head Like A Hole and Closer with your best friends in the park and wondering how one man could make the exact music that displayed the anger and pain that you yourself were feeling at the time? And later on in 1999 when you were singing We’re in This Together from the balcony of your apartment at 3am to the distress of that stupid neighbor who was trying to sleep with his girlfriend in one of the apartments across the street? Seeing this band perform live in 2000 during your first trip to the States, and deepening the love that you already felt was unconditional for this band, and mainly for the man behind (and in front of) it all: Trent Reznor. Sometimes when I read the journals written by my younger self I have to laugh at how many times I declare my love for Trent Reznor and Robert Smith (although I would like to say that my love for both was always equal, I do think that Robert jumps ahead a little, but that’s a whole other story). In any case, this review is not going to be in any way objective, and who cares if it is anyway? I LOVE Nine Inch Nails. Have loved them ever since I first heard Pretty Hate Machine. I don’t write on my blog to be objective – I write about music, books, movies, art that I love, rant about things that really annoy me and ramble on about things that I miss and love and care about. 

“I am whole, I am free” - Everything

I’ve been waiting for the release of a new NIN album since I read a really well written article about Trent Reznor, written by Alec Wilkinson for The New Yorker and published in the December, 17 2012 issue. Imagine my heart jumping when I read that he was planning the release of a new album in 2013! He had previously said that NIN was over (although I had kind of refused to believe that, and just thought he may need a break to work on other projects until it was time to regroup and produce another opus). Hesitation Marks is to be released next week, on September 3rd (although those lucky Australians can already buy it as it was released a week earlier there), but you can already stream it for free on iTunes and hear it for yourself. I never read anyone else’s reviews before reviewing an album myself, especially if it concerns one of my favourite bands, so I cannot say if it has been well received or not. All I can say is that I absolutely LOVE it. I honestly wasn’t as keen on the three albums released after With Teeth in 2005, or maybe just wasn’t in the frame of mind I needed to be to listen to the albums (Year Zero, Ghosts I-IV and The Slip) but for me this one marks a return to the NIN that I adore. REALLY adore.

For those of you looking for another Downward Spiral or even Pretty Hate Machine, Hesitation Marks won’t be what you are looking for. Instead it’s the creation of an evolved NIN, one where Trent is older and more mature. There is less anger, there are less pulsions towards self-destruction and self-hatred, more self-reflection and inner thought, and the music and lyrics portray that. I think Find My Way displays this feeling perfectly, a slow but powerful song, taunting at times but direct in approach: “I’m just trying to find my way”. But then you hear Came Back Haunted or All Time Low and you realize that the album goes back to sounds that made NIN so popular years ago – with a newer edge. And then songs like Satellite and Everything are entirely new and old sounds mixed together to create something completely different, but similar at the same time.  All in all I think that what makes Hesitation Marks so good is that it flows perfectly and is a creation of old and new, of evolution, of hunger and anger, of love and pain, of despair and hope. Basically a brilliant Nine Inch Nails album.

My favourite songs on the album right now are Came Back Haunted, Find My Way, Various Methods of Escape, I Would For You and Everything. But I really think that listening to the album as a whole is the best way to hear how brilliant it actually is.

And don’t worry – the world is still going to end. The last song on the album tells us that. Not everything changes, not even with age. And it feels like the perfect end to a wonderful album.
“A little more, every day, falls apart and slips away. I don't mind, I'm okay, wish it didn't, have to end this way” – While I’m Still Here

NIN - Official Website

Album Review: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Push The Sky Away

Anyone who knows me, or even anyone who doesn’t really know me but reads this blog has to understand how much I absolutely love and adore Nick Cave. Nick Cave the musician, the writer, the actor, the poet, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Grinderman, The Birthday Party… I feel like I have spent most of my life listening to Nick Cave, reading Nick Cave, seeing Nick Cave in concert and so forth. I literally wait for every new album with baited breath, knowing full well that I will never be disappointed. Granted, there are a few albums that I listen to less than others, but I’ve never disliked anything that he and the Bad Seeds have ever produced.

February 18th, 2013 has been outlined in red on my calendar ever since the release date of the 15th studio album, Push the Sky Away was published. My Christmas gift from my brother last year was a pre-order of the limited edition deluxe version of the album (that I hope will arrive tomorrow). I had already previewed the album when it was streaming on NPR Radio last week, but I spent this morning in bed listening to it and taking notes, not wanting to leave the universe that the Bad Seeds had yet again created for me. Listening to this album brings me right back to the same emotions and feelings I had when I first listened to No More Shall We Part back in 2001 (emotions that I still feel every time I listen to it). Happiness, sadness, laughter, pain, intensity, lightness, heartbreak, love; an emotional turmoil that doesn’t leave you until well after the album is over, one that you want to revisit as many times as possible.

If you watch the short making of video that comes with the album download you learn that for this album the band took a different direction than they were used to taking. Instead of creating the songs in the usual Bad Seeds manner, this time Nick Cave would write the lyrics without any type of chords or music in mind, and would bring them to the band to create songs with. On the first listen you can tell that the make-up and creation process was a lot different, and there is an element of surprise (good surprise), but then it feels normal, like an organic process in the band, a new era in the Bad Seeds life, one that works excellently. This is yet another reason why I love this band so much – they never use what has always worked for them in the past and continue along the same route in order to sell records. Instead they surprise themselves and their audience and never give up on enhancing their creation process and the quality of their art. That said, the album may sound different, but it definitely still has that Bad Seeds sound that I love so much.

Every Bad Seeds album has its own underlying theme and Push The Sky Away is no different. A lot of the stories that each song is composed of are based in Brighton (which also happens to be where Nick Cave resides nowadays). I can conjure up images of the seaside in the winter and summer, grey skies and bright sun, and via the recurring water metaphors that can be found in most songs I feel both at peace but also thrown around and churned up by rising swells.  At first glance the entire album sounds stripped down, especially if compared to the previous release, Dig, Lazurus, Dig!!!, but that is quite deceptive. Each song is a story backed by intricate string loops, bass lines, drum beats and background vocals. I feel that at times Warren Ellis creates an element of fear with his strings, but other times the sounds are comforting and warm, at times creating a dissonance with the lyrics, at other times matching the mood entirely.

“The past is the past and it’s here to stay” – We Real Cool

I have no favourite song as of right now, I am still letting the entire album create its permanent imprint on my brain and heart, but a few stand out after the first few listens. Jubilee Street exists in every town and city and everyone can relate to the lyrics and to the sadness the music evokes. The video is stunning too, dark and blurry and probing. 

“You wave and wave with wide lovely eyes, Distant waves and waves of distant love, You wave and say goodbye” Wide Lovely Eyes

Often I feel like I am sitting in a room with Nick Cave and all of the Bad Seeds, and a few other people, drinking wine, smoking cigarettes and listening to him tell us about the dream he had last night, embellishing it with metaphors and images of water, of human nature, of death and decay and ultimately of beauty. Higgs Boson Blues seems to encapsulate the entire feeling of the album in words. The song creates a web of folklore, word play, gloomy, gory stories punctured through-out with mentions of culture, pop culture, history, religion and anti-religion. I love how this song just builds up and makes you feel uncomfortable but completely at ease at the same time. 

“Rainy days always make me sad”  - Higgs Boson Blues

The final song on the album, Push The Sky Away resonates with hope within despair, an image of survival . This song makes me cry, just because it’s so true: “You've got to just, Keep on pushing, Keep on pushing, Push the sky away”. It’s the perfect ending to the album, lifting you up with the beautifully eerie violin sounds, and leaving you feeling elated and ready to take on another day. 

There are really no other words that can evoke the beauty of this entire album, the only way to really experience it is to listen to it and let it take you wherever you need it to take you. My love for Nick Cave will never dwindle, especially as he continues to make me feel this way through his music, and never fails to do anything else. I know I am not alone in thinking this… An ongoing inspiration in my life.

Music: Bat For Lashes - The Haunted Man

I literally have about 20 different stories and poems that I have started writing but haven’t finished yet, and woke up this morning with the intent on at least finishing one thing before I have to open the bar… But of course I got sidetracked yet again when I noticed a friend post something about going to a Bat For Lashes show in England tonight… Which lead me to immediately think that if she was doing a tour then she must have released a new album. Ten minutes later I had downloaded The Haunted Man on my phone and went up to the roof to listen to it with my tea and cigarette.

I’ve loved Bat For Lashes (Natasha Khan) ever since she released her amazing first album Fur and Gold. She’s wonderfully talented and her music always takes me somewhere else. Sometimes to another planet, sometimes to a dream world that her words create and mesh with my own visions, and sometimes somewhere further into my head. I especially love walking around New York on a grey day and listening to Two Suns, forgetting that I am myself and pretending that I too have an alter-ego called Pearl that is living in my body. I still listen to Siren Song on repeat on bad days when I want everything and everyone to go away. I saw her live a few years ago, at Webster Hall by myself and it was a wonderful experience. Natasha commands the whole room with her voice and stage presence – I definitely want to see her again when she comes back here.

On a first listen The Haunted Man is in the same vein as the previous albums, a little more mature, but still the same ethereal feeling, the one that takes you elsewhere. Sadness, happiness, love and more love. It’s actually difficult to explain how brilliant she is unless you actually know what her music and lyrics sound like, because then you will understand exactly what I am trying to describe. A part-Siouxsie blended with a Kate Bush with a side of PJ Harvey and an air of Stevie Nicks (who all happen to be some of my absolute favourite female artists), but also with her own originality that keeps her standing out. She plays all of her own instruments, is a beautiful writer and I feel that The Haunted Man showcases the latter even more than the previous two albums. I am particularly obsessed with the first single, Laura, right now – it weirdly goes with the last short story I wrote a couple of weeks ago, about one of those people everyone should always have in their life. I love it when strange coincidences like that happen… The other song I keep listening to right now is The Haunted Man“I couldn’t sleep last night…” Those are the two songs that immediately stood out to me, but there are some other gems on the album too. Actually the album on a whole just sounded amazing.

I have a feeling I am going to be listening to this album for the next month.

From Laura:
When your smile is so wide and your heels are so high
You can't cry
Put your glad rags on and let's sing along
To that lonely song

Music: Mylène Farmer

I moved to France in the early summer of 1991, flying from the flat suburbia of Apeldoorn in The Netherlands to the small city of Grenoble, nestled in the valley in the Alps and surrounded by three different mountain ranges (the Vercors, the Chartreuse and the Belledonne). For the first couple of months, while we were looking for a home to rent, we lived in a small unit in a temporary housing building in the suburb of Meylan. Our days were spent getting used to the heat, playing outside in the grass until late in the evening, taking French lessons  and watching French TV in the morning. To our absolute delight there was a whole channel on network TV that seemed to play only music, M6, a bit like MTV but for the French population. There were some weird songs and videos (like the one with the dancing mummy that I used to reenact for my sister, and finally just found online), some terrible ones, some American and/or British ones that I recognised and one that I couldn't get enough of, not only the song itself (even though I could hardly understand a word of it), but also the video, which appealed to my romantic-I live in the land of 19th century literature-13-year old self.

Even though the Mylène Farmer song Désenchantée was actually high in the charts that summer, I am pretty sure the first Mylène Farmer video I saw was for the song Pourvu qu'elles soient douces, a Barry Lyndonesque recreation set in the 18th century. I could however, be completely wrong, because my research tells me that it was censored for TV as it contained nudity and sex. It would have been edited anyway, because the full-length version is about 20 minutes long, and would have never been shown during regular TV hours. So it is possible I am right. I just know that a few of her videos were on regular play during that summer, the two above, and Libertine. The Pourvu qu'elles soient douces video is actually a sequel of the Libertine video, in which Mylène plays the same character (named Libertine). You can pretty much imagine what a young woman named Libertine would get up to amongst a group of debaucherous characters in 18th century France.

I fell in love with the videos. They were mini movies, shocking, beautiful, something straight out of one of the novels I was so obsessed with. It wasn't until a while later that I also fell in love with the music, because I needed to understand the lyrics before I could really appreciate the songs. So dark and intriguing. It was pop music mixed with something a lot darker and artsy, with a voice both fragile and strong at the same time. Over the years I spent in France Mylène Farmer became one of my favourite contemporary French artists. I would forget about her for a while, to fall right back in love with her again, always because of the amazing videos that she put out every time she released a new album.
After dropping out of high school in 1995 I was working as a chambermaid at the Hotel Ibis in the centre of Grenoble and at the time M6 pretty much played the video for California on a loop. In the video Mylène plays both a rich woman with her lover and a street hooker in California. She witnesses her double being threatened on the streets of LA (her double is then murdered in the video), so goes back there, dressed as a prostitute herself to avenge her double's death by murdering her double's pimp. There was something about the song, the many puns in the lyrics and the beauty of the video that kept me dreaming that there was something more out there for me, even while I was cleaning someone's mess up just so that someone else could make their own mess in the same spot.

The next year Mylène went on one of her extremely rare, but extravagant, tours, and a double live disc of her show at Bercy (Live à Bercy) was released. That year I listened to it over and over and over again, the most poignant part probably being when her voice breaks during Rêver and she stops singing, just for the crowd to sing the song for her until she regains control. I know her voice breaks a lot during the show, and that she has a hard time hitting all the high notes, but there is something so human and heartbreaking about that, especially when you understand the lyrics properly. OK, I was going through a hard time back then, so it helped to listen to songs that were just as sad as the way I felt, and were a great counter to everything else I listened to on a loop (everything being The Cure).
There were many nights that my best friend during the late 90's and early 2000's, Maud, and I would roam the streets of Grenoble at night, drinking wine from the bottle and singing "Je je suis libertine, je suis une catin", to the most probable horror of anyone trying to sleep. I think we thought we were being daring and annoying at the same time. Actually, we were. All the time. Other times we would sing Sans contrefaçon to the statue of Berlioz on the Place Victor Hugo. I'm sure he enjoyed it immensely. Je t'aime mélancolie was another favourite, not that that should surprise anyone. We would run around dressed in suits and ties and Doc Martens with dark ribbons in our hair, a bottle of wine in one hand, a cigarette in the other. Cendres de lune...

In 1999 Mylène released the song Je te rends ton amour, a single off her (then) new album, and it immediately caused a huge scandal as the video depicted a church, blood, naked woman, the devil and a crucifixion pose. Super goth, super controversial and immediately banned on most TV channels. When it was released as a video single Maud and I made sure we were able to purchase one. It's still one of my favourite Mylène songs to this day. After that album I kind of lost touch with Mylène, especially because she didn't release anything for ages after that, and also because I left France and came to the States. I did try to find her 2005 album, but it was impossible to purchase in the States, so I gave up. I'm sure that with the help Spotify I can now discover her new songs, like or dislike them, and listen to the old songs I used to love so much again. It's strange, she's one of those artists that I adore, I love her image, her videos, her words, but I don't love every single one of her songs. There are some amazing ones, and others that just don't really do much for me. She's one of those artists that I could make my own "best of" playlist and just listen to that (although it could end up being pretty long). I think it's mainly the whole image, the long-standing artistic partnership with Laurent Boutonnat and the magic they create together, the wonderful videos, the darkness, the melancholy, the beauty and ultimately her reluctance to share her life with the Press, and her desire to remain as private as possible. All I really know about her is the image that she has portrayed through her music over the years.

Additional information on the artist HERE
Also - disregard the subtitles on the video of Je te rends ton amour above - they are terrible.

Music: Ren Harvieu

Just last week I was complaining that I didn't feel like I had been inspired by music by new musicians anymore, and that I was just sticking with all my favourites. Granted, I have a lot of favourites, many of whom continue to release albums, so I am never short of new music to listen to. Just new musicians/bands/singers etc. I've been thinking about it all week since my last music-related post... You know, that feeling of listening to a song and immediately feeling a dozen different emotions at once, and then getting all excited about discovering a new, brilliant album that you will listen to over and over and over again, and subsequently force everyone else to listen to. I remember when that happened to me with Karen Elson a couple of years ago. I literally fell in love with her album on the first listen, listened to it over and over again for weeks, and was really excited when I got to see her play a show to a small crowd at the Studio at Webster Hall. I've been waiting for her to release some new material for a while, and noticed that there was a new video announced on her Facebook page... A duet with woman called Ren Harvieu.

So I watched the video (and loved the song of course), and then started looking up who this Ren Harvieu with this beautiful voice was. It appears that she is British, has an album coming out on May 7th, had an accident last year that should have left her paralyzed but that she managed to recover from and has an amazing voice. I have such a soft spot for strong female voices and characters, especially ones who send chills down my spine when they sing, with or without musical instruments accompanying them. You just have to listen to her over of my love Roy Orbison's Crying (see below) to see what I mean... Stunning. I couldn't stop listening to her and tried to find anything online that I could play via Spotify or download and put on my ipod... Nothing available in the US unfortunately... It doesn't even look like you can buy the album on iTunes here when it comes out... So I am going to continue to watch videos on youtube until some nice soul who lives in England sends me her album.

YAY I am so excited to have finally found a musician to be excited about again! And my lovely friend Charlie just told me that she would send me the album when it comes out, so now I am over the moon. Cue jumping up and down and looking like an idiot ;)
Have a listen and a look below...

Official website
Ren Harvieu Facebook

Music: Jacques Brel

"Moi je t'offrirai des perles de pluie venues de pays où il ne pleut pas"

It’s not a secret that I spent a lot of my life in France, as I moved there at an early age and grew up there, only moving away when I was well into my 20’s. It will always be the country I first and foremost call home, before England (although it has been a struggle to choose between the two at times). One of my favourite things on earth is literally sitting en terrasse with a café and a cigarette, watching the world go by, or with my head buried in a book or writing in my journal. I dream and think in French as much as I do in English and miss it so much at times that I feel like moving back (until I remind myself why I love New York so much and why I have made this city my home). I grew up surrounded by French music, even before we moved to France I already knew of and listened to some of the classic French singers, such as Gainsbourg, Edith Piaf, France Gall, Juliette Gréco, but when I moved to France I discovered the infamous Belgian singer/songwriter Jacques Brel.And fell completely in love.

You can read a pretty informative biography over on Wikipedia, as I am not going to use this space to rehash it (and wouldn’t be able to do such a good job seeing as I am very bad at paraphrasing content that has already been written… Probably a remnant of the excellent French education I received growing up). I just mainly want to say how much I love Jacques Brel. That voice, full of emotion and power, those beautiful lyrics… Multi-talented and so creative, he not only released 13 full-length studio albums and toured extensively for years, he also appeared as an actor in several films, directed others and adapted, translated, directed and played in a musical. I’m so happy that he recognized what an amazing array of talents he had and made the most of them, leaving us with so many wonderful songs and movies and soundtracks. I also have a secret crush on his Belgian accent, which is deeper and harsher than the French accent (those of you who speak French will probably laugh at this because everyone usually dislikes the Belgian French accent).

I wish I had been alive to see one of his wonderful performances. Sadly he died a few months after I was born, leaving me to just imagine what it was like. He wrote some of the most beautiful and heart-breaking love songs of all time. Enjoy.

The Kills 10 Year Anniversary show - Terminal 5 NYC, 02/11/2012

I LOVE The Kills. I don't think I have missed one of their shows in NYC over the past 5 years, and I honestly think that they just get better and better with every album and every tour. It makes me so happy that they have become SO big over the past few years, selling out Terminal 5 and playing to a super diverse crowd. So many super excited teenagers in the front rows that were singing along to every single word, and little Allison Mosshart lookalikes with their wigs and happy smiles. I love that the kids love them as much as the adults - so much better than idolising any of that manufactured crap playing everywhere. From my spot just above the stage I could see so many happy faces, and this just made the show even better for me.

Anyway, as always they delivered a fantastic performance, adding 4 drummers to about half of the songs on the setlist, all dressed up as old-school gangsters and lit up through the drumkits. The beats sounded fucking amazing, a super powerful sound. I can still feel it resonating through my body. On top of playing many of my favourites, they also did a great rendition of Patsy Cline's Crazy, stripped down, with just Jamie Hince and Allison Mosshart sitting at the front of the stage, singing and playing for the crowd of fans. Awesome. Seriously awesome.

Can't wait to see them again, and see them go through 10 more years of awesomeness!

Thanks Kerry <3

MTV also streamed the concert live HERE
The Kills official website HERE

Music: Leonard Cohen - Old Ideas

I’m a little delayed on writing this one. I’ve listened to it many times since it began streaming on NPR, and then when it was released on January 31st. One of my most anticipated albums for months, I feel like the music world has been blessed with both excellent new releases by both Tom Waits (Bad As Me late last year) and now Old Ideas by Leonard Cohen.

The lyrics of Going Home, “Going home without my sorrow, going home sometime tomorrow, going home to where it's better than before” are just so simply beautiful. Take off everything that weighs you down and disguises you and walk free towards home, wherever home may be. Death? Maybe. Another world or life? Maybe.

I grew up on Leonard Cohen, quite literally. I inherited all of the old vinyls from my father, stepfather and mother (now in my lovely brother’s care), and have turned to his music and lyrical poetry so many times in my life that I don’t think I could even remember why. Famous Blue Raincoat and Chelsea Hotel #2 conjure up images of sad, rainy and grey days in New York City, walking up Park Ave from the subway, trying to rid myself of the constant heartache I was feeling at the time. Everybody Knows remind me of a trip back from Bodega Bay with my brother, the song starting minutes after we had both told each other stories that neither had managed to tell each other before. Dark roads, unknown secrets and Leonard’s soothing voice keeping us going towards the next destination. First We Take Manhattan takes me back to England in the 80’s, in our old flat by the churchyard, not knowing why certain events had happened and how I was ever going to forget or forgive them from happening. I could go on for hours…

I have seen Leonard Cohen perform just once in my life, and it will still remain the best show I have ever been to. Radio City Music Hall in May 2009. Over 3 hours of an absolutely amazing performance. This is all I could say on my blog back then, and I think I will keep it at that right now:

“Leonard Cohen was amazing - I am still in awe of him and his performance on Saturday night. I really can't describe the feeling of seeing someone you have pretty much admired and adored all of you life, performing in front of you. So I am not even going to try. I will keep the jumble of superlatives stuck in my head and leave it up to you to imagine.
Leonard Cohen. On stage. Yes.”

So, Old Ideas. Another wonderful collection of Leonard’s poems and music, not that I expected anything less. His voice alone has the tendency to reduce me to automatic tears when I hear it, and surround me with memories, despair and much hope, and this album does exactly that. Although low-key in sound, it is never simple, on the contrary it is full of metaphors for death, God, spirituality, love, despair and hope. Somehow it feels like an end to something, not as much the end of life, but maybe a final chapter in a life, the emphasis being on the article “a”. The background singers sound like angels, and the occasional use of an organ and the simple guitar sounds bring calm and serenity to the words that go from bleak to self-deprecating to even happy at times. Ten beautiful songs that each tell a story in the usual Cohen style. Just listen to it and dream – I know you won’t be disappointed.

Leonard Cohen Official Website

Leonard Cohen on Facebook

“You know it really is a pity, the way you treat me now; I know you can't forgive me but forgive me, anyhow. The ending got so ugly, I even heard you say, "You never ever loved me but could you love me anyway?" I dreamed about you, baby, you were wearin' half your dress I know you have to hate me but could you hate me less? I've used up all my chances and you'll never take me back But there ain't no harm in askin', "Could you cut me one more slice?” from Anyhow

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - June 2001 concert review

Just because I will never ever feel jaded when it comes to music, as long as bands and musicians like this still exist... I wrote this the day after I saw Nick Cave at the Transbordeur in Lyon in 2001, and 11 years on it's still one of the best shows I have ever been to. So here is what I wrote in my diary back in 2001, the day after the show:

Saturday 9th June 2001 - Grenoble, France
I saw the best concert I'd ever been to last night: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Strangely enough I didn't feel as hysterically excited as I did before the Cure concert last year, it was all more calm. Maud and I were the first people to arrive at the Transbordeur (in Lyon), and as we were sitting in the carpark, smoking cigarettes and reading I saw Nick Cave go by... He is as absolutely gorgeous in the flesh as he is in pictures and on the screen. The man is everything: character, humour, uncharacteristic gorgeousness - anyway, he really is just this whole image. First it started with his music (this mini obsession I have with him) - when I was younger Louise used to listen to him all the time and I used to pretend to hate it, and then suddenly I fell in love, and now I can't go a day without listening to him. Anyway, it's a whole: the music, the person, the lyrics... Anyway, where was I?
The doors to the hall were opened around 7pm, and Maud and myself didn't even think of grabbing first row places, we ended up going up the steps, middle back, where we had a great view and we could sit down, and we weren't far from the front at all. The support band was not that good, well I didn't like it anyway. Australian band lacking in many things, especially atmosphere.

And then Nick Cave. It's undescribable really. The band started off with Do You Love Me? (great way to start!), and continued on, with many songs from the last album (at the time was No More Shall We Part), beautiful songs, especially the one I had difficulty containing my tears to, Hallelujah, others like Red Right Hand, The Mercy Seat, Henry, Into My Arms and many more. Nick Cave was wonderful, he's still full of energy, of anger, of pain... So were the Bad Seeds, although I found Blixa to have a little less energy than the rest, maybe he's always like that. Anyway, the audience was great, except for the idiot stagediver, you couldn't hear anyone during the slower songs, total respect, followed by thundering applause and cries.
When they left the stage the first time the whole audience was so heated up, front to back, that everyone felt as one big clap and stamp of the foot. They came back twice, two encores.

Excellent, fabulous, enchanting, too short, but it would never have been long enough. I want to see it again and again and again and again... I feel some kind of sense of fulfillment though, I saw Nick Cave and it was brilliant, even better than I could have expected, and I will see him again in a few years. That voice... So powerful and beautiful. To be honest, they are even better live than on album, and that is extremely difficult. They are all so together on stage. I can't explain all the emotions I felt during the concert, but it's all there and here, in my head and in my heart.

After the concert was the slight problem of getting home. Now Maud and I usually have a total lack of organisation going on, it's like we will organise the logistics of doing something and getting there, and the rest will work itself out. I love it. So we really didn't know how to get back to Grenoble (note: Grenoble is about 100km through the mountains from Lyon). We had the train timetable and saw that the last thing back to Grenoble was a bus from the Part Dieu station. We had 20 minutes to get there. We tried to hitch a ride and thankfully a nice couple dropped us off right in front of the station. We ran around looking for the buses, found where they were and looked for ours. Not there. Ten minutes later I looked at the timetable again and realised that it was only valid from June 10th onwards. That bus didn't even exist yet!!! Thankfully there was a train to Grenoble at twenty past midnight so we drank cappuccinos waiting for it and sang Henry Lee and Do You Love Me? on the train. I tell you we were lucky because otherwise we would have been hanging around in Lyon until 6am!!! Not that we really cared we were on such an emotional high.
Anyway, I have my literature exam on Monday, my last exam this year, so I had better go and finish reading Macbeth again. I hope the exam will be with Mme Blattes and that it will be on The French Lieutenant's Woman... I can't wait for it to be over at last.

Thank God for the pure existence of Nick Cave.

Note: The official live DVD released for this tour was actually the footage of this show in Lyon. Another note: I have seen Nick Cave many a time since then and he is always amazing.