La Boheme – Royal Opera House

Saturday 19th December 2009

Going to the opera was a term I was only familar with in the movies. Finally, it was time to experience the world of opera for myself, starting with La Boheme.

I must begin with the fact that I’m not here to give a critical review of the Opera. With almost zero knowledge on the subject, there would be zero point in doing so.

The cold evening began with a glass of mulled wine. The guy selling the wine was also a Forest supporter and was able to provide a quick report on our victory, as I had missed the second half to catch the train, and ultimately, to catch the opera.

The Royal Opera House is an impressive building. Once inside, we took our centrally located seats high up in the amphitheatre. With no idea of the story, I found the start of Act 1 pretty unimpressive and at one point I felt that I could have written a better script. But the problem had probably more to do with the fact I had no real idea what was going on, only later learning that it was the basis of the predicament the students had found themselves in. Nevertheless, the storyline along with the singing performances improved as the opera continued.

My favourite moment of the night was inbetween acts. For a brief second, a friend was unsure whether or not it had finished, when she commented that “it can’t be over as she dies in the end”. To anyone else that comment may not have had the same impact, but for me, it was like the end of the film had been spoilt. Of course, I was probably the only one inside the Royal Opera House who didn’t know the story of La Boheme and one of the few not following the programme notes during the performance. I didn’t say anything, but it felt similar to someone telling you Bruce Willis is a ghost, half way through the The Sixth Sense!

Overall, it was a fantastic experience. I can finally say I’ve had a Night at the Opera. With at least one more booked in a couple of months, who knows I may become an expert before long. Then again, if I’m honest, there is no chance in that happening!

World Championship Darts – Alexandra Palace (n1)

Friday 18th December 2009

Finally, a chance to see Darts right on my doorstop. Well ok it’s less than a 10 minute train journey, so it’s as close to my doorstep as I could ever hope.

It’s the start of crazy weather season and the UK is now covered in snow. But it’s Friday and the opening night of the darts which also includes World Number 1, Phil Taylor on the bill. Unlike the set-up at Wembley, the tables at Alexandra Palace are much closer together.

There was an interesting match-up in the opening game between the inconsistent Wayne Mardle (No. 17) and the German qualifier Jyhan Artut. Mardle failed to show up once again and was completely outclassed by his lower ranked opponent. Artut going through to the next round with an impressive 3-0 victory.

Next came the preliminary match between Denmark’s Per Laarson and Philippine’s Christian Perez. In an interesting encounter, Perez managed to hold out for a 4-3 victory, meaning he’d be back for a 1st round match against Robert Thornton at the end of the night.

The third match of the night was also going to be the match of the night. Both on paper and on the oche, Dennis Priestly (No. 9) vs Kevin McDine was going to be special. The game had it all. Great comebacks, superb outshots and high scoring averages. McDine finally managed to come through this tight affair, with a 3-2 victory.

Now it’s time for the man almost everyone had come to see, Phil Taylor (No. 1). As usual, the noise was deafening as Taylor walked to the stage. In the end, it was a pretty routine affair, winning 3-0 with a 100+ average, which is the minimum we seem to expect from Taylor nowadays.

The final match had Scotland’s Robert Thornton up against Perez who had qualified earlier. In a drab affair, the world No. 16 finally came out on top with a 3-1 victory.

A fun night at the darts and it’s always an honour to see the Darts Master at his sublime best. The rest is just a bonus.

Ricky Gervais – Brighton Centre, Brighton

Monday 14th December 2009

Another chance to see Ricky Gervais’ Science Tour, after the going to the show a couple of months earlier in Oxford.

A short trip from Victoria to Brighton, just in time to catch the support act, Stewart Francis. Unfortunately, I’d missed the Canadian’s performance in Oxford, but I was glad to see him here. His act is largely one-liners (or two liners), and is pretty clever. Rather than Tim Vine at 78rpm, he’s set at 33rpm, which works extremely well for all his gags.

The Brighton Centre had a slightly darker and less warmer feeling than that at the New Theatre, Oxford. The performance, apart from a tiny amount of improvisation, was pretty much identical to the previous show. Once again, Ricky Gervais entered the stage on a segway and into his “I’m famous” routine.

He continued with controversial routines on Amanda Holden, Mental Illness, Rape, Homosexuality, Perversion and so on. The audience were cracking up most of the time, even though there were a number of moments where the content tested the boundaries. No doubt, he crossed the line in some people’s eyes, but that’s what Ricky Gervais likes to do.

Notably, the Science theme was far from evident. It was left to Noah’s Story, reading from one of his books given to him as a child, to provide most of the laughs. Page by page, illustration by illustration, he embarks on a his own comedic review of the story. Commenting on implied conversations between God and Noah marks for a hilarious routine.

The critics understandably suggest that Ricky Gervais could do better. Not sure if that’s because it looks too effortless or the fact we simply now expect much more. At the end of the day, it’s a good routine with more than enough laughs. Controversial at times, but extremely funny. Well worth the couple of trips to see him live.

Bill Bailey – O2

Friday 11th December 2009

Bill Bailey is a musician who happens to be rather good at comedy, and his Remakable Guide To The Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall had almost near perfect reviews. I missed that performance, but thankfully I got tickets for the O2 show.

WIth an excellent view just a few rows from the stage, Bill Bailey entered the arena, supported by the BBC Concert Orchestra, accompanied by Academy Award winning conductor Anne Dudley.

It was immediately evident that this was going to be a good night. An educational experience expertly expressed using comedy and music. Many have attempted musical comedy in the past, but few succeed in getting both aspects right. Bill Bailey manages to combine the elements superbly, and in doing so, is able to put together a master class performance.

Bill Bailey covered music from 70s cop shows including Starsky and Hutch and news themes including ITN News. He managed to pull off the Dr Who Theme Tune slowed down as Belgian Jazz and Match of the Day as a Jewish Folk Song. He showed how Bassonists had an urge to play Bee Gees tunes at all times and how Trombones play a part in Cockney music. He even managed a great musical routine with Insect Nation.

The array of musical instruments on show was a pure delight, from the usual suspects like the Guitar and Piano to the hilarious off-the-wall routine utilising the Alpine Bells. The audience was in full admiration of Bill Bailey and there was a great rapour between the two.

Bill Bailey is a genius in his genre. The best advise is to buy it on DVD/Blu-ray, of which I have already done. It’s interesting, fun and remarkably clever. Considering it’s educational too, maybe it should form part of the musical curriculum at schools too!

Eddie Izzard – Wembley Arena

Friday 4th December 2009

It’s almost 10 years since Eddie Izzard’s ground-breaking Circus Tour was recorded live in New York. With him back on tour, it was a great opportunity to see the latest performance live at Wembley Arena.

Over the years Eddie Izzard has performed quality atheist material in high heels to a largely religious audience and also tackled a routine in French to an English-speaking audience. It requires a kind of genius with big balls to pull off either of those feats.

I was really excited about The Stripped Tour, knowing that Eddie Izzard would probably perform routines that other comedians simply wouldn’t touch. The only downside was that our floor seats were so far away, it was impossible to see him on stage. That is until you noticed the amazing portrait styled screens giving you the impression you were following a giant Eddie Izzard.

Eddie Izzard’s biggest problem is that he has too much to say and just doesn’t have the time to say it in. A superb routine on the difficulty of Latin and Caeser’s reaction to being told about Hannibal and his elephants was superb. As he’s performed routines in other languages previously, he decided it was time to tackle the language of dinosaurs. It’s great that he can now perform routines without the need for language at all.

There was so much great material throughout. I loved the amount of times he just happily accepted Apple’s terms and conditions, to the fact computer software download times did not follow any of the laws of physics.

Aside from the astonishing 43 marathons in 51 days, Eddie Izzard is a comedy genius and it was a joy to see him live in action!

Michael McIntyre – O2

Tuesday 17th November 2009

I’m seriously not stalking Michael McIntyre, having seen him already on tour at the Trent FM Arena and Wembley, but the guy puts a smile on face and leaves me no option but to book tickets again!

Once again, a quick song and dance in the British Music Experience Museum was becoming a ritual. Luckily, the Bee Gees vocal failed to record. The again, 4 of us crammed into a small area dancing to ‘Staying Alive’ by The Bee Gees was good fun. This was preceded by 3 of us attempting Happy Monday’s ‘Step On’. That routine for anyone watching looked like 3 escapees from an Institution.

Our floor seats were excellent this time around, with just 3 rows from the stage. And what a difference that makes, especially as binoculars were a requirement during the Wembley show. Michael McIntyre came on stage and immediately ripped into a girl who for some reason or another refused to sit down.

Of course, having seen the show twice already, most of the material was as expected, but still made me laugh. I think it’s the sense of knowing what’s coming and the anticipation that everyone around you will be cracking up in a second or two. He covered the snooker action, morning breath, bullshit wine production, pausing VHS tapes, dragon’s den, anti-wrinkle creams, buying shoes, naked men in changing rooms to name but a few topics.

As the show was nearing Christmas, he performed a superb festive routine that wasn’t part of the previous shows. Once again, Michael McIntyre excelled and having seats up close made the experience even more enjoyable. His original tour was always going to take something special to top it, but this came close and hopefully in 2010, he’ll raise the bar even further.

Maxwell – O2 Academy Brixton

Friday 13th November 2010

A last minute invitation to see Maxwell at the O2 Academy in Brixton was one I couldn’t pass up.

report to follow…


The Stylistics – O2 Indigo

Tuesday 10th November 2009

The Stylistics in concert was to prove a major emotional test. The London date coincided with my late mother’s birthday and when I was a baby, one of their songs had to be played repeatedly for me to fall asleep.

Arriving early, we had time to visit the British Music Experience Museum. There is no doubt you can have loads of fun in there, especially with the musical instruments, the singing and the dancing. However, the idea to attempt to dance to Madonna’s ‘Vogue’ was a massive miscalculation. Seconds into the routine, it was obvious this dance was impossible. So it made sense to have another go, this time choosing ‘One Step Beyond’ by Madness. This routine was far easier and probably just as hilarious to do.

With time flying by, we headed off to the O2 Indigo and of course the VIP bar upstairs with those tasty Mojitos. Finally managed to leave the bar for the arrival of The Stylistics on stage. With so many hit tunes behind them, they were just rolling them out.

The Stylistics had the audience singing and dancing to Can’t Give You Anything (But My Love); I’m Stone In Love With You; Peek-A-Boo; Stop, Look, Listen (To Your Heart); Betcha By Golly, Wow; Na Na Is The Saddest Word; Break Up To Make Up; You Are Everything; and one of my favourites and best known, You Make Me Feel Brand New.

Considering The Stylistics are no longer touring with the original line-up, the band is definitely a joy to watch and listen to. Once again, it was another fantastic night. In a way, it was probably a good thing they didn’t sing ‘Let’s Put It All Together’ as I probably would have found it all a bit too much. Best left to the memory ‘as the tune that put me to sleep as a baby’.

Roachford – Jazz Cafe

Thursday 5th November 2009

Once I heard Roachford was on tour and armed with the memory of a few songs, from an album recorded more than 20 years ago, I booked tickets for his concert.

I’d arranged to meet a mate outside the Jazz Cafe. For one reason or another, he got the dates wrong. Finally, I managed to track him down. Whilst waiting for him to arrive, I enjoyed the tasty beef terayaki in the Japanese restaurant next door.

The Jazz Cafe was packed inside, eagerly awaiting Roachford to appear. Once on stage, first impressions was that he hadn’t aged at all. He still looked well into his prime. Without following Roachford’s career, it almost felt like listening to a new live album. And to be fair, I really enjoyed it. A mixture of rock tunes and ballads entertained the crowd.

I couldn’t help feeling most of the crowd were waiting for one or two hit songs from his early days and after 90 minutes or so, he performed a superb rendition of Cuddly Toy. It was definitely worth the wait. Whilst Roachford may no longer be a regular in the charts, he can still produce quality music. I had loads of fun and got to hear one of my favourite songs from the late 80s sang live.

Palace 1-1 Forest – Selhurst Park

Saturday 24th October 2009

Forest’s season is going from strength to strength and have won their last 5 games in the Championship. A tough away game at Crystal Palace was the next task as Forest aim to keep climbing up the table.

It wasn’t that long ago since Forest were hovering around the relegation zone, but thankfully my Forest shirt arrived in the morning of the match at home to Derby and we’ve not looked back since. In fact, I didn’t wear it at home to Blackpool and that is the only time we have been beaten in the last 9 league games.

Sadly, our seats had a large column in front of us and some dangerous scaffolding above our heads, so it wasn’t the most comfortable of viewing areas. Luckily though it was a bright sunny day and both sides looked like they were up for an attacking game. However, after 40 minutes, Darren Ambrose scored a delightful free-kick to give Palace a 1 nil lead.

Just before the stroke of half-time, Paul Anderson was elbowed in the face by Palace defender Clint Hill, which sparked a brawl involving players and staff from both sides. The incident was right in front of the dugouts and you could tell from the reaction of the Forest bench that it was pretty serious. Nevertheless, I never expected the tannoy to come on, with what sounded like a commentator on Radio Palace telling Billy Davies to sit down and stop getting involved. I’ve never heard anything like it, and by the bemused reaction of the large Forest following, nor did they.

Forest came out fighting, well not literally, in the second half and were rewarded by a goal from David McGoldrick 3 mins after the break. The game could have been won by either side but in the end a share of the spoils was probably a fair result.

Whilst finding the ground from the station was pretty simple, the opposite can be said on the way back. No idea how, but for some reason, one wrong turn and lack of football shirts meant it took an extra hour to find the station. In any case, a crowd of 15692 had a nice day out in the autumn sunshine. Even the cheerleaders as half-time entertainment managed to bring some nostalgia back to football or is that a recent idea?