Category: language

Verdena live at Rocca Malatestiana, Cesena – 8th September 2016

verdena1If 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


The shadows and light in Harpa concert hall are stunning.

Preparations and expectations are as much a part of journeys as arrivals but it was a trial to face mundane considerations of what to pack for my short stay in Reykjavík.

Most bloggers, tweeters and travel guides recommend winter wear even when traveling in the summer months. They are not wrong. At this time of year it is light all day but this does not mean there is constant sunshine.

Temperatures rarely exceed 23◦ C and are often much lower. The evenings are cool and it also rains a lot so waterproof clothing is considered essential. Dressing as you would for a typical Autumnal day in Northern England is a good rule of thumb guide. While I was there the temperature was a little chilly at an average of around 17◦ C  (I needed a hat!) but the air feels so good and pure.

Soon after arriving, I experienced a prime example of the pragmatism of the Icelandic people came when I asked a tour guide if I needed rainproof clothing for a day excursion to The Golden Circle. She replied: “If it rains, yes!”


A birds-eye view of Reykjavik

I can’t remember exactly when I began to get obsessed about the idea of going to Iceland but the wealth of amazing music coming from this small country was certainly a major factor. For this reason I has to pinch myself when the co-owner of the apartment I had booked turned out to be named Sigurrós. This is akin to a foreigner visiting Liverpool for the first time and being greeted by a John Lennon.

In just three full days I could only get a fleeting impression of the city. My sole out-of-town experience was confined to a memorable eight-hour excursion (with commentary in English & Scandinavian) to Geysir hot springs, the Gulfoss waterfall and the National Park (the Golden Circle).

Still, I’m happy to say that my spectacles remain as resolutely rose-tinted as they were before my trip. I’d love to return with more time and money to explore the whole island.

So, without further ado, here are some of my impressions :

The Icelanders.
The people are universally kind, friendly and nice. I saw an middle-aged man looking for a CD of local music being helped by a young female shop assistant who patiently explained what Indie music is without a trace of condescension. Continue reading

FRANCESCO DE GREGORI –  live at Nuova Teatro Carisport, Cesena, Italy 8th April 2016

degregoriThis 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.

tickets.jpgThe 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

ON WRITING – A MEMOIR by Stephen King (Hodder & Stoughton, 2000)

Instead of a book, this could easily have been a post on Facebook by his wife Tabby on why Stephen King would never write again.

It was finished as part of the recuperation following horrific injuries King sustained after being hit by a truck while walking near his home.

It takes King an average of three months to write the first draft of a novel. This ‘manual’ was only half finished after 18 months and its completion is a testament to his determination and love of the art and craft of writing. Continue reading

Image based on the top 30 words used in songs based on 1 million recordings.

In this year’s  BBC John Peel lecture, Brian Eno said that one of the failings of modern-day music critics is that they pay too much attention to song lyrics. As part of Roxy Music, Eno played on two of the greatest pop singles of all time – Virginia Plain and Pyjamarama – where the words add to the atmosphere but when considered apart from the music are ,at best, enigmatic, at worst, plain jibberish.

Even when songs do have an obvious meaning or tell a story, they should not be viewed in the same way as poems or works of fiction. This is why the ‘Rock In Translation’ slot of Italy’s Virgin Radio makes for such a torturous listening experience. On this, a woman earnestly reads the translated lyrics to popular tunes as though she were helping to impart some meaningful insight into the human condition. Lines in the vein of “come on baby rock me all night long” are rendered into Italian as though they were some kind of profound comments on the nature of loving relationships. Continue reading

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