Aug 1
I am Woman, Hear Me Bore
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Well, we saw Judith Lucy last night at the Sydney Opera House Playhouse. Let me get this out of the way right now – I thought she was awful!

I’ll admit I’ve never been a massive fan, but she’s usually been good for a chuckle whenever I’ve happened to catch her on the radio. But I barely cracked a smile last night. And when I did it was only because I was in the second row and afraid that if I sat stony-faced for 90 minutes she might pick on me. Because – and here’s my biggest gripe about the show – audience participation was a main feature.

I don’t mind the odd bit of audience interaction – heckling latecomers is a nice way to warm up a crowd, for example. But to be constantly talking to people in the audience gets tired pretty quick. After almost every gag she’d ask for a show of hands to see how many people agreed, or canvas people’s opinion. “What did everyone think of the movie Australia?”

And then she spent about 20 minutes discussing the differences between gen-X and gen-Y, a topic which pretty much shits me to tears at the best of times. We’ve heard it all before, Judith, and it’s not even funny! She picked a couple of young people (early 20s) in the front row and asked them a range of quite personal questions about their sex lives, drug intake, and so on. Aren’t we over pubic hair jokes? Honestly.

For someone who considers herself a feminist (she drove this point home several times during the show) Judith is pretty down on herself. We got to hear how upset she was that no Italian men hit on her during a recent European holiday, among a bunch of other “poor me” gags.

I’m certainly no fashionista, but Judith’s low-cut, black strapless dress was a train wreck. And although I feel uncomfortable commenting on someone else’s physical appearance, I’ll do so anyway. Let me just say she looked quite puffy from the second row. I could see the individual hairs on her arms too, which was a little disconcerting. This may be a little out of order, but her hair was pulled back in a way such that her general appearance reminded me of the portrait of Captain Cook they always show you in primary school.

Back to the gags. Or lack of them. Judith’s delivery has always grated with me a little. It just seems so put on. But admittedly most of the audience loved it. All she had to do to elicit screams of laughter was to mention her vagina. (There’s a tip to all aspiring female comedians.) And again, the reliance on getting laughs from hassling members of the audience doesn’t sit well with me. Shouldn’t a comedian – especially one with twenty years’ experience – be able to make you laugh at least once in ninety minutes?

The only buzz I got was when she mentioned that the show was almost over. Ahh, escape! Sweet freedom! She closed by singing (and I use the term loosely – which I suppose is her intention) “Send in the Clowns”, perhaps a last poke at herself. She’s the clown, get it?

However, the night wasn’t a total let-down. When we returned to the car I discovered Australia was 8 for 203. Go England!

Jul 29
Our Lips are Sealed
icon4 Jul 29th, 2009 | icon2 Concerts | icon3Comments Off

So last night Rach and I saw the Flaming Lips at the Hordern Pavilion in Sydney. What a show!

We got there early and nabbed a spot near the stage, in the centre. Even before the support band had started Lips frontman and funmeister Wayne Coyne – resplendent in grey suit and trademark loosened bow tie – could not resist appearing briefly to fire some streamers into the audience. As the support act played Wayne again popped onto the edge of the stage, looking every bit the mad scientist among the smoke and flashing lights.

Now, I’ve been to quite a few big rock shows over the years, and I have never – ever – seen a member of the headline act carry his own equipment on stage, until last night. Lips’ guitarist/keyboardist/drummer and all round musical genius, Steven Drozd, is obviously a hands-on kinda guy, because as soon as the support band wrapped up Steven appeared, lugging his large, orange keyboard rig. Wayne also was busy making sure his many stage props were in working order.

The impression you get from the Flaming Lips is that they are certainly not your typical “big rock act”. And that there’s nothing more natural in the world than to carry your own gear onto the stage, plug it in, test it out, and say “hi” to the audience. It was a delight to watch.

For those who are aware of the Lips’ live performances, you’ll know that at the start of the show Wayne rolls across the audience in a large clear plastic bubble. We were lucky enough to be right underneath as he passed overhead, doing our bit to transport his capsule across the crowd.

Meanwhile the sides of the stage filled with lucky punters dressed as white bunnies and green frogs, who danced around for the duration of the show. An 8-foot high inflatable caterpillar and yellow sun-like blob also made appearances and wobbled away to the beat. And although I didn’t see it, Rach tells me that at one point Wayne was on the shoulders of a large brown bear.

It would be hard not to enjoy a show like the Flaming Lips put on last night. Not only was the music uplifting and joyful, but they are a rockin’ band too – the lighter moments mixed in with some fine guitar crunch. The audience participation continued throughout, with almost every song a sing-along and the crowd showered continuously with streamers, confetti and oversized balloons.

Wayne chattered away between songs, acting as emcee and coordinating all extra-musical activity. This guy is certainly one of a kind, as are the band as a whole. It will be a sad day indeed when these guys stop making music.

Apr 10
A Night at the Opera (House)
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We went to the ballet last night at the Sydney Opera House, in the Opera Theatre, which is the smaller of the two big white, shell-like things. We saw the Australian Ballet performing “Firebird and Other Legends”, although I prefer the title “Ballet for Dummies”. And when it comes to ballet I am a total dunce.

The first performance was Les Sylphides, which is a non-narrative ballet (i.e. it has no story) with music by Chopin. The music was great, but I got a bit bored by the dancing itself. The dancers were dressed in tutus and tights – it looked just like real ballet!

After the first interval we saw Petrushka, which is the story of a puppet who comes to life. (Some people say Disney copied this story when they created Pinocchio, but those people are all dead or in jail.) I really liked Petrushka, because the dancers were in costume, and it had a story. The guy who danced the character of Petrushka was very good indeed. And the music by Stravinsky was great.

In the second interval Rach and I went outside and looked at the harbour, just like actual tourists. Then we went back in and saw the third performance, which was of The Firebird, also by Stravinsky. This was the highlight of the night, with the character of the Firebird danced by the Australian Ballet’s principal artist. She was tops! The story was a bit hard to follow; there is the Firebird, and also a strange lizard creature. The hero comes and releases a girl who is trapped inside a cage made of tree branches. A giant white egg sits at the back of the stage. I think everything turned out all right in the end though.

All in all, we both had a lovely night. We had cheap $28 tickets, so it was definitely a bargain. I also learnt a new word – “loge” – which is a fancy word for a private balcony. (It has a soft “g”, as in “luge”.) We were sitting in Loge A, although it’s far from private and our view was slightly obscured. But I had a good time anyway.

Let me finish by asking the immortal question: what is going on in the front of male ballet dancers’ tights? Why is the “package” of a danseur – or in Italian, ballerino - so large and well-shaped? Is it someone’s job backstage to “sculpt the bulge” (to coin a phrase)?

Some quick research leads me to the following conclusions:

  • all danseurs strenuously deny the use of supplementary padding to increase size, rather it is used for purely aesthetic reasons
  • the (ahem) testicles of the dancer must be tucked up somewhat to avoid being crushed between the legs during certain ballet moves – perhaps this is the origin of the term “Nutcracker”

Nureyev, the most famous bulge of all

Nov 19

I have before me a pile of concert ticket stubs spanning the last 23 years. Flicking through these old tickets now brings back some fond memories, but also makes me realise how much the cost of attending concerts has risen in the past two decades.

The first live band I ever saw was Queen at the Sydney Entertainment Centre on the 28th April 1985. I couldn’t hear for a week after and it cost $22. You could buy a Queen CD for that nowadays. Eric Clapton charged nearly ten times that amount for a decent seat at his 2007 concerts. (It was worth every penny by the way.)

In the interests of science I have plotted ticket prices for the concerts I have attended since 1985. This is only big-name, international artists – your Eltons and Stings and McCartneys and so on.

You’ll notice quite a clear upward trend in prices. You’ll also notice that I appeared to drop from the face of the earth between 1998 and 2004. Not sure what happened there. Perhaps ticket prices for the Sydney Olympics shocked me into submission for several years.

In fact, I can tell you that during those “lost years” I spurned the international “big names” and saw quite a few local bands for often a comparative pittance. Bands such as You Am I – the greatest band in the known universe, and one of the hottest live acts in recent times – tour regularly and always keep prices down. We recently saw them at the Metro Theatre in Sydney for a measly $35. This is what it cost to see David Lee Roth at the Sydney Entertainment Centre in 1988! A ticket to Tim Rogers at the Opera House Studio in 2002 was only 20 bucks!!

So give the superstars the proverbial finger … $150 to see Kylie Minogue? No way! John Mellencamp (with special guest Sheryl Crow) at Acer Arena for $151.25? Fark awf! Leonard Cohen, the senile old git, for $195.80? Get a dog up ya!

By the way, I would provide the raw data for the above graph were it not for my acute embarrassment at some of the artists involved. Has anybody heard of ELO Part II? No? Good. I also had the misfortune of seeing Elton John shortly before he entered rehab and got some new hair. It haunts me still.

Aug 21

Last night Rach and I went to see Paul Weller at the Enmore Theatre. What a fantastic show! The Modfather looks and sounds great for a fifty-year-old, and he still has the pointiest shoes in rock.

We’re both big fans of Paul Weller’s solo records, and he played alot of our favourite songs, which was nice of him. And now that I’ve seen Mr Weller perform “Eton Rifles” and “That’s Entertainment” I suppose my life is complete.

Just before the show was due to start the two seats in front of us were empty, so we were hoping they belonged to a nice dwarf couple who wouldn’t obscure our view. Murphy’s law, however, deemed that the two guys who came and sat down were perhaps the two most annoying prats I have ever sat behind.

The guy who sat in front of me was wearing a trenchcoat, and he had the enormous, rounded collar pulled way up. Imagine sitting behind this guy:

The Count’s friend was a big, burly bastard who sat way forward in his seat, which meant we struggled to see past him. In the more exciting moments, he bobbed around like the sand-filled inflatable punching bag I had when I was a kid.

The balcony at the Enmore is too gently sloped to easily see over the head of the person in front of you, so you need to adjust your line of sight until you can see between the heads of the lower rows. It reminded me of the double-slit experiment you learn about in high school physics. I’ll be sitting downstairs next time.

Other observations/complaints from the night:

  • the bouncer made Rach throw her bottle of water away, the miserable prick
  • the support band Ooh La La were tops!
  • what’s with the strange upstairs bar that looks more like Osama bin Laden’s bunker?
  • what is it that compels people to get up during a show for which they’ve paid almost $100 – and waited more than 20 years! – to go to the bar and pay $7 for a can of VB?
  • Bank’s Thai across the road is dee-lish!