Verdena live at Rocca Malatestiana, Cesena – 8th September 2016
If I had been hipper to the local music scene when I arrived in Italy over 20 years ago I would have been able to follow Verdena from their inception as Nirvana wannabes to the distinctive individuals I witnessed at this stunning open air concert.
My belated appreciation of this excellent band from Bergamo is a good motive for shaking the complacent attitude that goes with smug slogan T-shirt slogans like : ‘I may be old but I got to see all the cool bands’.
I have my daughter to thank for ‘discovering’ this cool band existing right now playing songs from current releases not running through a familiar back catalogue from way back when. Continue reading
EMINENT HIPSTERS by Donald Fagen (Vintage Books, 2014)
This book is a good antidote to clichéd rock memoirs suggesting life on the road is one extended party. Here there’s no sex, some prescription drugs and a bit of AOR.
The second part takes the form of a 2012 tour diary based on concerts across America performed with Michael ‘Doobie Brother’ McDonald and Boz Scaggs as The Dukes of September Rhythm Review.
It was written mostly to relieve the monotony of playing a series of gigs in mostly sub-par venues to aging punters and staying in soulless hotels.
Fagen coins the term Acute Tour Disorder (ATD) to describe the state of anxiety, paranoia, depression and physical discomfort he experiences. You have to wonder why he keeps going and he asks himself this same question at regular intervals. Continue reading
FRANCESCO DE GREGORI – live at Nuova Teatro Carisport, Cesena, Italy 8th April 2016
This concert is part of the ‘Amore e Furto’ (Love and Theft) tour – a reference to the subtitle of the ‘De Gregori Canta Bob Dylan’ album released in 2015.
Needless to say, a fair proportion of the show is devoted to songs from this record which does such a valuable public service to Italians, particularly those who know Dylan only on the basis of a few of his ‘greatest hits’. The translations were obviously a labour of love and do an exemplary job of conveying the quirky poetry and socio-political thrust of Dylan’s language.
The varied choice of covers are drawn from the full range of Dylan’s career, evidence of the 65-year-old Italian singer-songwriter’s long-standing adoration of ‘His Bobness’. (Evidenced by the fact that he has also shared the bill with Dylan on a number of occasions).
De Gregori wisely steers clear of the more obvious selections so, for instance, there’s no ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ or ‘Knocking On Heaven’s Door’. Inspired versions of Desolation Row (Via Della Povertà) and Not Dark Yet (Non è Buoi Ancora) reflect the inspirations of beat language and the contemplations of mortality just as effectively. Continue reading
RABBIT, RUN by John Updike (Penguin Books, First published, 1971)
Powerful works of fiction are not dependent on the nobility or likability of the characters.
Two of my favorite fictional creationd are Dostoyevsky’s Raskolnikov from Crime And Punishment and Mervyn Peake’s Steerpike from the Gormenghast trilogy. Each are prime examples of men behaving badly motivated by a bitter and twisted ambition. Their ruthless and murderous actions are deplorable but they are both fascinatingly complex characters.
Harry ‘Rabbit’ Angstrom is in a wholly different kettle of fish. There is nothing endearing about him and the very banality of his failings mean that he barely qualifies as an anti-hero. He is not a killer, nor does he crave power but his selfishness, random lustfulness and frustration are ugly traits that infect the lives around him.
A one time basketball star, he is unable to come to terms with a humdrum life with a dead-end job and a dismal marriage. He wants out but has nowhere to run.
Updike’s cynical depiction of the human condition is so absolute that we are pitched into the mire of Rabbit’s squallid affairs without a moral compass. We are not required to condone or condemn his actions nor to sympathize when he hits rock bottom to the point that : “He feels underwater, caught in chains of transparent slime, ghosts of the urgent ejaculations he has spat into the mild bodies of women”. Continue reading