Sunday, March 31, 2013

The sand at the core of my bones* ...

I just checked on the blog stats and realized that I had gone into an unplanned blog hiatus for a couple of weeks. Partly the reason is that I had a very bad feverish cold after those concerts I wrote about last (I'm probably too old to go out so much) that still has me coughing. Also not much worth reporting happened in the last couple of weeks - at least when you look from the outside. From the inside it is a completely different picture though. 

The process was going on already for a while, but it culminated when I stumbled immensly emotionally shaken after a concert out of the E-Werk in Cologne into the cold exactly as emotionally shaken as I had stumbled out of the same E-Werk into the equal cold twenty years ago. The band was different, the music was different, the effect on me was the same.
Processing what had happened, what this emotional shake up was about, I figured out that I had just rediscovered a part of my soul, of my deepest self that I had abandoned for about a decade. It felt - strange, sweet and painful at the same time and I am still busy to figure out what this all means. 

I know that abandoned is a strong word and it sounds much more negative than I actually mean it. Lots of things happened in the last ten years - wonderful and horrible things. I made a lot of decisions and thankfully I regret practically none of them. Even if they were wrong I gained more (experience, knowledge, wisdom) than I lost. I added people, places, things and songs to my life I cherish so much and would never give up again. But still ... the tides are changing and in a way a new era seems to rise or an old one returns or a new-old one starts all over? 

You know, I think life is a lot like baseball (and with that line I can practically see my lovely friend Eileen laughing out loud and nodding). At a certain moment it is your time to pick up the bat and to take your chance. And once you managed to hit the ball you have only half a wink of an eye time to judge the situation and make your decision to RUN.  You make it to first base. It is a new place. Your surrounding has changed, you check on your team mates possibly on the other bases and the one that picked up the bat after you. You check out the opposing players around you who want nothing more than getting you out before you make it to second base. And then comes your chance again and you RUN. Next base, same procedure. 

Finally you run again, you slide, you stretch, you probably fall and when you look up .... you are right where you started. Homebase. But it is NOT like nothing had happened.  The scoreboard is documenting the change, your team mates are right there to HI5 you, the guys in the other dugout grumble (you can't make everyone happy ... ever), but in the end the loop is closed.
So what is up next?  Well, you get up, you clean the sand from the core of your bones* off your clothes, you consider what the changed situation means to you -  and then you do it all again ...

And this is where I feel I am. I touched homebase, I am figuring out what had just happened and I am getting ready for the next run. Things likely will change. Probably more at my inside than my outside, but who knows?  I'll just take it base by base, because ... 

the land at end of my toes goes on, and on, and on, and on* ... 


* Neither the line about "the sand at the core of my bones" nor the one of about "the land at the end of my toes" is mine, but from the genius mind of Simon Neil of Biffy Clyro.
The lines are (slightly adapted) taken from the song "Sounds Like Balloons" out of the double album "Opposites" by Biffy Clyro.
The lines are also the titles to the two parts of "Opposites". "The Sand at the Core of Our Bones" is the first record that has a retrospective perspective while the theme of "The Land at the End of Our Toes" is an outlook into a mostly promising future.

The two concerts mentioned in my text above were:
The Black Crowes, E-Werk, Cologne,  November 17 1992

Biffy Clyro, E-Werk, Cologne, February 26 2013

And yes, if I ever have my own band I just call them The BCs, because that is obviously how I rock ;) 

The complete lyrics of "Sounds Like Balloons" by Simon Neil / Biffy Clyro:

Ancient Rome, we built that fucker stone by stone
Our fingers bled, our feet were worn
But we stood strong and carried on

Come on in, do you want to touch my bulbous head?

With features wrapped and stretched to death
A tiny nose is all that's left

This is not for your entertainment

The land at the end of our toes goes on and on and on and on

The sand at the core of our bones, it blows on and on and on and on
The land at the end of our toes goes on and on and on and on
The sand at the core of our bones continues on

The basement's gone, it seems they dug up all our land

The world was lowered man by man,
Let's move the sky and not join hands

Ancient Rome, we built that fucker stone by stone

Our fingers bled, our feet were worn
But we stood strong and carried on

This is not for your entertainment

The land at the end of our toes goes on and on and on and on

The sand at the core of our bones, it blows on and on and on and on
The land at the end of our toes goes on and on and on and on
The sand at the core of our bones continues on

Life still sounds like balloons

You chew and you chew and chew
Your teeth crumble to the floor
It's where they lay, it's where they lay
Our past never really dies
I don't think we even try
There's no difference from
Where we wake or where we die

Balloons, balloons, balloons

The land at the end of our toes goes on and on and on and on

The sand at the core of our bones, it blows on and on and on and on
The land at the end of our toes goes on and on and on and on
The sand at the core of our bones continues on

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Save my soul with Rock 'n' Roll - The Killers in Munich

The Killers - clean stage for a clean show

When I arrived at the venue for the night it was clear pretty soon that this all would be several sizes bigger than the other shows in the last couple of weeks. Not only does the Zenith hold with 6000 people the triple amount of the E-Werk in Cologne, but the stage had the size of almost the complete club where The Joy Formidable played.
I also could witness very extended prepwork happening on stage including 3 lightning technicians climbing up to the venue ceiling at each side of the stage. Nevertheless I was there early and had no trouble just walking up to the stage and ended up in the 2nd row surrounded by far traveled hardcore The Killers fans, who looked at me puzzled when I answered the question how many shows I had already seen with "None." But hey ... I like to be front row because I like look the musicians in the face and see the real people playing. Otherwise I can stay home and watch concert DVDs. 

But first of all we of course had to go through the performance of the support band Louis XIV - longterm friends and companions of The Killers. I kind of liked the sound - a pretty heavy bluesy rock driven by guitarist and piano player Brian Karscig, but I totally did not like the "singer" Jason Hill. He did not even really sing - I would call it more "shouting". On the positive side of things The Killers drummer Ronnie Vannucci, my favorite guy for the night, made a guest appearance on stage playing the guitar for a couple of songs and having obviously fun with his friend Brian. 

After Louis XIV the 6000 people at the Zenith got really, really excited for The Killers and as reserved the audience in Munich often is - it wasn't for this night. When the band came on stage after about 40 minutes of soundcheck and stage preperation folks went crazy right from the first note, which was btw the coolest move The Killers did all night:  they started the show with the venue light on so they could see the audience and performed their super hit "Mr. Brightside" as first song of the show.
While everybody was celebrating around me I already cringed a little because the Zenith is not exactly known for its great sound and up there in front of the stage it was especially for the first couple of songs far from ideal. 

Brandon Flowers of The Killers

What followed was a show. A good show, but a show. I often turned around to look at the faces of the people around me and they all smiled and sang along. It seems there were 5999 happy fans - and me.
Probably I was already powered out emotionally after seeing the lovely Friska Viljor and my madly loved Biffy Clyro, but The Killers could not save my soul. They could not even reach it - at all. 

For me it was all too much ... too much technical perfection, too much glamour, too much light show, to much pyrotechnics, too much glitter bombs (not kidding - the glitter even had the flash shape of the band logo!), but by far not enough soul.

To be fair - it was not Brandon Flowers' fault. The frontman worked hard that night. He offered a great performance and made the complete huge stage his own and often went down the steps to the lower part to get in contact with his fans. It was also Brandon Flowers who created the one short special moment for me that allowed for a small second to look behind the shiny facades:
During the very last song Flowers climbed down the stage to shake hands with the front row people, but before he did he stopped right in front of me at the edge of the stage, let fall his bright smile for a second to focus, took a deep breath and then removed his wedding band from his finger carefully storing it away in the pocket of his tight black pants (that man is skinny!) before he switched on his super star appearance again to please the truest of his fans who were streatching out their hands to get hold of him for the wink of an eye. 

Ronnie Vannucci of The Killers
It was also not the fault of drummer Ronnie Vannucci. The man is full of energy and put on a Rock 'n' Roll show how I like it. It was also him who after the main part of the show as well as after the encore one more time went to the microphone to thank the audience. 

But the rest of the band? They looked like technicians doing a job. Nobody really moved, nobody did anything surprising, nobody really smiled for even looked much into the audience. Yes - the performance was pretty much perfect, but it was more like watching a well oiled machine than a real band. 

Dave Keuning of The Killers
But who really and significantly PISSED ME OFF that night was guitarist (and songwriter) Dave Keuning. Who the f*** that dude thinks he is? The expression in his face was arrogant and bored - and I was very, very close to him all night that I really could closely watch him. He did not crack a smile, he barely looked down to the people directly in front of him, he did not show any passion in the way he played. And does he really think throwing his empty water bottles into the crowd is something nice? Plectrons, set lists, drum sticks - all nice memorabilia, but an empty water bottle a so called rock star drained? Common ... ! 
Funny enough it was Brandon Flowers who pretty much put it in the right words when he introduced Keuning with: "This is not a ghost, this is not a hologram, this is the real Dave Keuning." Thank you, Brandon! If you would not have said this, I would have opted for the ghost. Looking at him made me miss the three great guys of Biffy Clyro badly.

Sorry for the big rant at the end which makes the review sound worse than the concert really was, but if there is something I really do not like then it is when I have the feeling a musician is not appreciating that so many people spent so much money to come to see him play and the love these people are showing for his work with knowing all the lyrics and celebrating the performance. 

The setlits: 

Mr. Brightside
The Way It Was
Smile Like You Mean It
Prize Fighter
Miss Atomic Bomb
Somebody Told Me
Flesh and Bone
For Reasons Unknown
From Here On Out
A Dustland Fairytale
Forever Young
Read My Mind
All These Things That I've Done
Jenny Was a Friend of Mine
When You Were Young
Battle Born

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Save my soul with Rock 'n' Roll - Biffy Clyro in Cologne

Simon Neil of Biffy Clyro - no filter just stage light

WARNING: If you do not want to watch a 39-year-old woman morph back into her own fangirl me anno ca. 1992/1993 then skip this post, because  .... 


But let's start with the beginning that is ... amzingly enough only a few weeks ago and that is because I live under a rock. Music TV is dead, the radio stations in Munich are awful and since I do not have a car I do not listen to radio at all and I am also lacking my own late 90ies me:  the record shop guy, who knows you and your taste in music and recommends you the best new releases - just like I did when I worked behind the record shop counter. I also have to admit that I am too lazy to still read music magazines although I obviously should. That means that I need my family and friends to introduce me to new stuff. It were for example my sister and my brother in law who made me listen to the absolutely wonderful Cold War Kids, who I will miss btw on their short German tour in May because I am on vacation that time - *ARGH*!

But back to Biffy Clyro ... the boys were on the edge of my horizon for quite a long time already. You maybe know that ... you hear something / read about a band and make an inner note to check it out. I did that a couple of times already when I came accross Biffy Clyro and lurked into a couple of songs on youtube, but got distracted for whatever reason every time I did and promised myself to come back later - and forgot it. That changed just lately when my Cologne based friends including Anita, who took me to the first Friska Viljor show, mentioned they got tickets for Biffy Clyro

I thought that now was really the time to finally get back to it. I was at the office and decided for a 5 min music break, plugged in my headset, opened youtube and randomly opended what was showing up at the top - the Wembley Arena live version of "Mountains"


I sat at my desk and got beamed back to my hyperemotional 1992/1993 music fangirl me bathing in sound with my heart aching not sure if it would melt or explode any moment. I think the last time I was so shaken was when I saw the video of  Pearl Jam's "Alive" or The Black Crowes' "Remedy" for the very first time (must be both 1992), which kind of fits because Biffy Clyro are huge Pearl Jam fans themselves and reference in their interviews dozens of other bands I love and used to love. 

Some hours, internet research, cellphone messages and downloads (Paid ones, because I pay for music I love!) later I had over 50 Biffy Clyro songs on my cellphone, a concert and an airplane ticket to Cologne to see the show with my friends. In the meantime (I am still a record collector) I purchased all albums as physical CDs and the number of songs on my cell is up to 130 (some are double - live and studio versions) and I love every single one of them with daily changing favorites. 

James Johnston of Biffy Clyro
The day of the concert I was totally nervous and full anticipation. The live album "Revolutions / Live at Wembley" is amazing and the band if famous for playing fantastic live gigs with 20+ songs. And just for making it even more perfect the location of the show was the wonderful E-Werk in Cologne - the place of our legendary first ever Black Crowes concert and the venue where I had the honor to see David Bowie play a club show (the E-Werk holds about 2000 people only). This place is really connected with some of the best, most important and most intensive music related memories I have. 

The show was sold out and the venue humming of excited people chatting ... and enduring the not so great Norwegian punk rock band that played as support act (thank god only for about 20 minutes). Then it got dark and the roadies where quickly cleaning up the stage from the additional equipment and making the final checks.

A few minutes later without much glamour and tam tam the band entered the stage: Ben sat down behind the drums, Simon picked up his guitar, James took his position (all shirtless as usual) next to tour guitarist Mike Vennart. They launched into "Different People" and the E-Werk went *KABOOOOM* from the first note. The audience knew the songs and really not just the stuff from the popular records "Puzzles", "Only Revolutions" or the singles from the brand new and absolutely wonderful double album "Opposites" but also all the either pretty old or very new tunes. 

I read a couple of reviews which said that the live album "Revolutions / Live at Wembley" is overproduced and the sound too cleaned up, but those people likely never have been at a Biffy Clyro show because the sound is just AWESOME! The guys play together since they were teenagers in Kilmarnock, Scottland and you can hear, feel and see it all the time. These are professional musicians who know each other so well that they communicate wordless and play perfectly together. It's mindblowingly GOOD! 

They played 23 songs in Cologne - old ones and news ones, hard and fast ones and slow and emtional ones, popular ones and some deep form the big repertoire list. They played them all with 100% focus on the music and with their souls on the strings and drum kit. If you look a bit into the lyrics and stories of the songs it is very clear that a lot of them are very personal and that was exactly what you could feel all through the show. 
I will never understand how musicians can stand this level of intensity over months with live show after live show. It cost me about a week (I am not yet 100% down again) to recover from this night and I desperatly hate the black hole such an intense experience leaves in my solarplexus once it is over - and for me it was just one night leant against one of the E-Werk steel pillars. 

What is left to say? Not much, I guess. I know that this was not my last Biffy Clyro show and although I would love to keep seeing them in venues with the maximum size of the E-Werk I wish them all the success they deserve. I know it is hard for some of the long term fans to watch them gettig so big, but I honestly think it is fantastic that a real band, that plays together for years and writes simply beautiful songs can still beat out those horrible, TV casted and after marketing plans designed crap that is flooding the radio stations. 

Oh ... and if you have time check youtube for some interviews - I am MADLY in love with that Scottish accent


The setlist:

Different People

That Golden Rule
Sounds Like Balloons
God & Satan
Living Is a Problem Because Everything Dies
Black Chandelier
Modern Magic Formula
Booooom, Blast & Ruin
Victory Over The Sun
Spanish Radio
There's No Such Thing as a Jaggy Snake
Who's Got a Match?
The Joke's on Us
Many of Horror
The Captain
Stinging Belle

The video that changed my little world for the better. This is HUGE ... usually the Biffy Clyro shows are not that pompous:

My actual favorite song "Opposite" from the new album in a wonderful accoustic version:

Save my soul with Rock 'n' Roll - Friska Viljor in Munich

Joakim & Daniel of Friska Viljor very sucessfully saving my soul

A little more than a year ago - in November 2011 - I stumbled badly prepared at the side of my friend Anita into a show of her favorite band Friska Viljor. I expected a fun show of a Swedish indie rock band I just knew a couple of songs of and went out over two hours later happy, sweaty and teary eyed because it was OVER while I wanted it to last longer and do it ALL AGAIN! You can read all about this first Friska experience here
After that first show I learned that what I caught was a well known "disease" called the "Friska Virus" that infects pretty much everybody who ever walks into one of their shows and turns the fans into far traveling habitual concert addicts. So I was definitely not alone. 

After that first show I told Anita that I felt pretty stupid - and lonely - because I did not know the lyrics of the songs while everybodyelse did and knew I had  to fix this. It turned out that I had enough time to stick to my word because the boys dissapeared for a while from the European stages to have more babies (Daniel's 2nd son and Joakim's 1st daughter were born) and to write a new album that is now released and called "Remember Our Name" (No worries guys, none of us could forget your name!). 

Friska Viljor's Thobias Eidevald 
Buuuuut ... a new album means a new tour and here we go! A concert in Munich was announced well fitting into my rocking February and of course Anita came over from Cologne to see the boys rockin' the South of Germany again.

And what I should tell you? IT WAS SO MUCH FUN! AGAIN!

There might be bands with more complex lyrics explaining you the world, there might be bands with a more sophisticated sound piercing your ears, but you will barely find a band that is so much fun to watch, sing along and party with. And you will also have trouble finding a band that has so much fun playing live.

The perfect moment of this show was when Daniel and Joakim were alone on stage with a guitar and the cute little pink keyboard (see picture on top) and changed the set list spontaneously to play "My Thing" - a song they had not praticed and played live for a while. They started a couple of times, stopped, tried again, laughed, launched into fun versions playing around with tuning and speed before they more or less made it through the song. With almost every other band you would have thought "What the ... ????" but when Friska Viljor do something like that it is all charming and fun and special and you just want to hug them for being like they are and tell them to never ever change. 

The audience in Munich had a bit of a slow start with the new songs and when I  - now all word-perfect fangirl - was singing along my favorite song "Useless" I missed the enthusiam of the Augsburg audience from 2011 a lot, but that changed in the 2nd half of the show when they played all the popular fun songs including the wonderful "Appregio" with some of the best lines ever put into a song:

"Let's do something out of the ordinary!

Let's do it good, and do it now
Doors are open for us to storm them all
Without a care for whats inside
I'm gonna meet you out tonight."

If you ever sit alone at home wondering if you should do something crazy or not and your heart fights your ratio - that is the song you need! 

The final song was of course the EPIC "Shotgun Sister" and I am sharing the video here with Daniel and Joakim playing the song in the middle of the crowd in front of the stage. As you can see and hear - there were LOTS of happy people severly infected with the "Friska Virus" :)

And here you have the original set list taken off the stage just missing the mentioned "My Thing" and "Shotgun Sister" at the end:

Save my soul with Rock 'n' Roll - Gibonni in Munich

Gibonni at his first concert in Munich in 15 years

And now to something completely different. While most of the concert reviews in this series are about all kinds of rock bands mostly from the so called indie or alternative sector this one is about my favorite Croatian artist - Zlatan Stipišić Gibonni!

While I have seen Gibonni already several times in all kind of locations from Wuppertal to Zagreb to Pula to Primošten (to name only a few) he never came to Munich once in the ten years I am now attending Croatian events. You can imagine that a Gibonni show right here at home was very, very high on my wish list and so I was more than happy when the announcement finally came: Gibonni would play his first show in Munich in 15 years! 

How to explain why Gibonni is so great to somebody who may not be into Croatian music? First of all the niveau of his music is on a different (higher) level than of most of the other artists from Croatia (except some of the really good klapa choirs, but that is a different type of music). In the past he already attracted several amazing international artists to work with him like Manu Katché, Tony Levin or the critically acclaimed Macedonian jazz guitarist Vlatko Stefanovski.
The lyrics of his songs are powerful and full of poetry. His music connects traditional Dalmatian music with modern style jazzy pop and rock

There are rumors that Gibonni considers to record an album in English and I totally support this idea, because he has the format to make Croatian music accessible and enjoyable for the rest of the world like no other, but to make this step it is necessary to have at least some repertoire in English instead of just Croatian (Dalmatian), because this absolutely beautiful language sounds too strange for many people who never heard it before. It will be just a real challange to find somebody who is able to work with him on the lyrics to bring his amazing spirit into the new language. Croatian and English could not work more differently. What sounds and feels in Croatian wonderful, highly and honestly emotional and poetic sounds translated into English or German just cheesy and overdone. 

The concert in Munich was - like all Gibonni concerts I enjoyed before from huge to small (Sportski Dom in Zagreb with 15000 people to a 500 people club) - amazing. He was in a very good mood, the sound was awesome and he had his audience within in minutes all dancing and singing along.
In the second half of  the show a friend was staying next to me and pulled my attention for a moment away from the stage to the rest of the audience when she said: "Look at the faces of all these people!" I did and saw what she meant - everybody's eyes were fixed on the stage - fascinated, smiling, happy.  THIS is the special power of Gibonni. He reaches out to the hearts of the people with his music like barely somebody else. 

Dear Gibo, please never again stay away from Munich for 15 years. Come back soon - we loved having you here so much!

The video is from the "Zagrebački Mirakul" in February 2003 in Zagreb. I was at the show and it was one of the best and most moving concerts in my life - and I was at quite some shows of all kind of artists. "Libar" is also one of my favorite songs of all times. Look out for the wonderful Manu Katché smiling at the drums!  

Save my soul with Rock 'n' Roll - The Joy Formidable in Munich

The Joy Formidable - pic from the promo kit at

A while ago some friends and I decided that we were lacking music in our lifes and decided to try to pick a show at least every couple of weeks and see some bands - some we know and like as well as some new ones. The budget limit is around 20 EUR and the action needs to take place at a well accessible club in Munich. 

The show of The Joy Formidable met both requirements and after a short check on youtube and a positive review of their new album "Wolf's Law" found at VISIONS we decided to go. 

I always find it a bit strange to go to a show where I only know one or two songs of the headlining band, but on the other hand there is no better way to make me a real fan than with a good live show (see Friska Viljor). 

The Joy Formidable are originally from North Wales and is set up as a trio with Ritzy Bryan (lead vocals, guitar), Rhydian Dafydd (bass, backing vocals) and Matt Thomas (drums). Matt was my absolute favorite - that man can play the drums and he is a big part of the enormous NOISE and fun those three people can create. Just wow! 

While I think it is very impressive and rare enough that a tiny lady like Ritzy is the frontwoman and guitar player of an indie rock band, I have in general my trouble with female singers. I know that it is really not fair, but female voices barely get me and I had the same problem with Ritzy. She is for sure great and I can totally see why the fans of the band love her, but .... not my piece of cake. Sorry for that ;(

The highlight of the show was definitely the final part. While the whole concert was pretty powerful and mostly on the harder side of indie rock (much appreciated), the whole band seemed towards the end to shift up a gear or two ... faster, louder, wilder - better. The audience - and especially the first few rows packed with the real fans of the band - flipped out totally and really loved it. We in the back stood speechless and impressed by this erruption. Really cool stuff. 

All together it was an enjoyable night with a pretty good band - not exactly 100% mine, but definitely better than much I have seen in the last couple of years. 

This is the video of the single "This Ladder Is Ours", which I really liked - you also get an impression why Matt Thomas was my man of  the night:

Save my soul with Rock 'n' Roll

Simon Neil of Biffy Clyro saving my soul in Cologne

February is a difficult month for me. I am slowly coming out of the long dark tunnel that Christmas means to me in the need of leisure time, fresh air, the urge to move and feel my body and the sun warming my bones.  Just ... I live in the wrong part of the world for all this. Here in Germany February usually is the month winter peaks with ice cold days and even colder nights and at least here in Bavaria lots of snow. This year was especially hard because it was reportedly the darkest winter in decades. The sun was practically never seen and that turned out to be REALLY depressing.

Although (or maybe because) I am born in winter times (Christmas day) I am a child of the sun and always suffered from some fall / winter depressions. Although it may sound funny to you, but hockey really helped so far. When you become a hockey fan than fall does not only mean a painfully fading out summer but also training camp and finally the start of a new season. Except .... when there is no season like this fall when the NHL was on lockout and hockey did not return before the new year. And when the season finally kicked off we were looking at 48 games in 99 days, which means PLENTY of week day games I cannot watch due to the time difference. 

You get the picture ... this winter in particular was dark and long for me and I was in severe need of something that would cheer me up and that was a good old friend of mine called .... Rock 'n' Roll! 

I went to see more live shows in the short month of February than in the past six months together and one more (The Killers) is still to come.

The Killers play on Tuesday this week. For Wednesday the forecast has sunshine and 13°C, which means SPRING - perfect timing. 

Seen now "Save my soul with Rock 'n' Roll" featuring:
Please be aware that all pictures in these postings if not stated differently are my own. If you want to reuse, please ask.