Monthly Archive: July 2012

Madonna + Alesso @ NIA Birmingham, 19 July 2012

Review for Birmingham Live! Pictures: Steve Gerrard

So into the city and a torrential downpour as the British summer flatly refuses to appear. And as I arrive at the NIA throngs of excited fans take photos by posters and fan club signs – we’re here to see the self-styled controversial Queen of Pop – Madonna is in town as part of her MDNA tour.

Expectations are high, as a slightly chaotic NIA, listen in to support DJ Alesso, pumping out the rave tunes. The women in the crowd are inundated with samples of Madonna’s Truth or Dare perfume samples as we all walk round to take our seats – Madge is due on at 9.00pm.

The crowd are eager and excited to see their icon. 9.15pm – we’re still waiting. A Mexican wave rolls successfully round the auditorium. Michael Jackson plays through the PA – the crowd are a happy bunch. 9.25pm – we’re still waiting. 9.35pm the huge curtain which has  massive picture of her on it, is pulled unceremoniously down and heaved off stage by several roadies. 9.40pm – we’re STILL waiting. Finally, at 9.45pm, a full three quarters of an hour late, the lights go down, and we’re greeted by 2 monks ringing a bell. An urn is lowered from the rafters, lit up and smoking, it sways across the stage. As acrobatic contemporary dancers contort on pillars, three huge HD plasma screens fill the back of the stage – they divide and in an arched ‘tower’, silhouetted, her Madgeness appears – to huge screams from the crowd and we into ‘Girl Gone Wild.’

The song completes, with Madonna, gun in hand shoots a dancer – and next track – ‘Revolver’ “What’s up Birmingham?” which moves into ‘Gang Bang’ where she progressively shoots a series of dancers –  a streak of blood splatter smacks in HD across the screens. “… Bang bang, shot you dead, shot my lover in the head…”

Now on stage a violinist, we’re into ‘Papa Don’t Preach’ a huge cross backdrop on the plasmas. The track morphs into a gothic drama and into ‘Hung Up’ to which from the depths of the stage appear columns and dancers tightrope walking. Madge joins them, balancing precariously. Now she has guitar in hand, rock chick look, she’s rapping away at the front of the stage to ‘I Don’t Give A *’; an extended V shape, the centre filled with fans, the point in the centre of the auditorium. On screen, duet partner Nicki Minaj joins her….

This was stage 1 of tonight’s proceedings, stage 2 ( breaks to give her time to change), features black and white gravestones on screen, and the contortionist dancers strut their stuff. Intriguing and somewhat painful to watch, the dancers are able to effectively dislocate their shoulders as they warp their arms. Suddenly there’s light – cheerleaders on stage – Madonna in full garb – and we’re into ‘Express Yourself’ pop illustration influenced cartoons grace the screens.  And, even better, as it’s well stuffy and warm in the NIA, someone has remembered to switch on the air conditioning. The song morphs into a drumming rhythm and from between the screens, on foot and from the rafters, a series of toy drummers are rolled out and drum their way through the song. Impressive. “C’mon raise your hands”, as we roll into a drumbeat and ‘Give Me All Your Luvin’.’

Set stops briefly and we get snippets of the hits and classic Madonna imagery on the screens – all to brief – it morphs into ‘Turn Up the Radio.’ “Are you gonna sing along with me?”, she’s back with guitar, “I can’t hear you… louder….” (Well we would, if we knew the words…).

Next section, she’s off, change of clothes again, and back on with her chums Kalakan trio – and sings ‘Open Your Heart’ (with excepts from ‘Sagarra Jo!’) and gets her adoring fans to sing and clap along. “Woohoo” she screams, “Are you havin’ a good time? F*** yeah!” Then a reference to technical difficulties and “What happen to my hotel?” (I’m confused – what hotel, was this an technical onstage glitch that failed to appear – or is this the reason she was 45 minutes late on stage?) “When I make a mistake does that bother you? I’d like to thank my loyal and devoted fans in Birmingham, I see you are not sitting in the little red chairs… write to your congressman (huh?), or whatever it is in this country, to get rid of the f****** red chairs…”  Then a series of questions to which she encourages the audience to respond with “F*** no!” and “A love song to all my fans who have supported me – without you I am nothing…” and she sings ‘Masterpiece’ with Kalakan, while the screens show footage of her recent delve into the world of film direction and Edward and Mrs Simpson.

Next section: Masculine and Feminine – mono footage from ‘Justify My Love’ appears large and in HD on the screens, as they split apart – dancers strut in full cross dressing mono designer ‘clothing’ and in a different ‘tower’ she emerges to ‘Vogue.’ For all you know about Madonna and this time in her career – that’s exactly what you get, sexual and slightly erotic dancing as clothes start to come off… through “Candy Shop’, a smidge of ‘Erotica’ and into ‘Human Nature’. During which she strips down from the male clothing to a skimpy bra, and threatens to strip her trousers – a sneaky peak of the top of a G-string, she moons – “Don’t think Birmingham is ready for that?”, the crowd re-act and the trousers are put back in place. On her back is written NO FEAR and at the front of the V stage, just her and a man on a piano, she sings a slow version of ‘Like A Virgin’ rolling around on the floor, clothing just about keeping body parts covered. At the end of the song, she’s roughly tied into a corset by a dancer, the bloke behind me shouts “Don’t hurt her!”

As she disappearing into the floor (the set is full of gizmos and trapdoors), we’re in the final section – the tightrope (plus dancers) re-appears and on the screen is the video for ‘Nobody Knows Me’ – the one that the Far Right has got upset about in France. She’s back on with guitar, bit of trance nation for ‘I’m Addicted’ with a power beat, ‘I’m A Sinner’ gets all George Harrison and Hare Krishna. Then, probably the standout track of the night – with full gospel choir in tow – it’s ‘Like A Prayer’ – the crowd get on down. She asks a fan to sing, who manages it after screaming at their idol.  And finally the bells ring out again, and they finish on ‘Celebration’ the columns on the stage lift them up high above the crowd, and the ‘cast’ wave as the show closes. “Thank you Birmingham.”

Wow. So That was her Madgeness at Birmingham NIA. It’s great that Birmingham have got such a big gig. The positives it was certainly a spectacular show, the screens, graphics, lighting, and stage gizmos were indeed stunning. The dancers were indeed awesome. And Madge is indeed full of energy, matching her dancers step for step. The not so positives, 45 minutes late, 1 hour 40+ set, mostly newer stuff rather than classic Madonna, meant that even some die-hard fans were left saying this wasn’t the best they had seen her. And then we have the ticket prices. Cheap seats at £55 to top whack, jaw droppingly priced £175 (lets not forget the BF etc) and the not so cheap merchandising. I personally have a real issue with such stupendously priced tickets and, as such, I expected far, far more than what we got for tonight’s performance. The gig was very nearly sold out, clearly people were happy to pay that sort of money to see their icon and many, many clearly had a fantastic time.

 

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The Prayer Overture: Act of Contrition

  1. Girl Gone Wild
  2. Revolver
  3. Gang Bang
  4. Papa Don’t Preach
  5. Hung Up
  6. I Don’t Give A *

 

Prophecy (Best friend)

  1. Express Yourself
  2. Give Me All Your Luvin’

 

Turning Up the Hits

  1. Turn Up The Radio
  2. Open Your Heart (with Kalakan excepts from ‘Sagarra jo!’)
  3. Masterpiece (with Kalakan)

 

Masculine / Feminine (Justify My Love)

  1. Vogue
  2. Candy Shop
  3. Human Nature
  4. Like A Virgin

 

Celebration ( Nobody Knows Me)

  1. I’m Addicted
  2. I’m a Sinner
  3. Like  Prayer
  4. Celebration

 

Garbage + The Jezabels @ Wolverhampton Civic, 2nd July 2012

Tonight’s band were ‘manufactured’. Full stop. Polar opposite to the usual mates or friends of friends coming together to form a band – two producers and a sound engineer thought it would be a rather good idea to form a band. Then they found a wee Scottish lass to front it. And while this particular path may not have been the easiest ‘Vow’ blew everyone away; four albums sold over 17 million albums in a decade – and then they disappeared from view. Tonight they’re back; they’re far from rubbish – they are, indeed, Garbage.

Formed nearly 20 years ago, producers Butch Vig (who famously produced Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’, let alone countless others) and Duke Ericson and sound engineer Steve Marker wanted to come from behind production and use their expertise to create a band. After watching a documentary they came across Angelfish’s Shirley Manson and knew she was the girl for them. A multitude of hits later, they went on a sudden hiatus in 2005; it’s took them 8 years to come back out of the woodwork, to release new album ‘Not Your Kind of People’ and come back out on a world tour.

Support tonight is from Australian alternative rockers The Jezabels. Big down under, they’ve also received airplay in the States, predominantly through US college radio. With female lead Hayley Mary on vocals they’re pretty rocky, Cranberries-esque in sound; the songs are indie rock epics. Clearly enjoying their journey round the UK, they are supporting Garbage across their UK dates.

Garbage are playing just four dates in the UK as part of their ‘Not You Kind of People’ world tour – Wolves Civic is, quite surprising, just about half full.  At 9am they appear starting up with ‘Supervixen’.  Next up, sweetly, sweetly then in your face – ‘I Think I’m Paranoid’. Manson commands the stage, most the blokes in the audience drool, she’s strutting and posing – this is very much HER domain. We sing along. It’s the classics where she takes total control; for ‘Queer’ the immaculate stage lighting tonight, a white beacon of light shines directly onto her – you get that classic Garbage Manson imagery.

‘Stupid Girl’ commences with a dance beat similar to Donna’ Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’ and slowly morphs into full-on rock version. Finally Manson speaks: “Good to see you all Wolverhampton! It’s been more than eight years!” She chats while she changes shoes: “it’s party time….” Then asks the audience “So, while we’ve been away, have you been good? Been to school?…. University?… Got a job?…..Found a girl?… Found a boy?…… Argued?…. Got back together?…. We did all of the above and some darker stuff… This goes out to all the Garbage fans….thank you for sticking with us!” and we’re back into the tracks: ‘Why Do You Love Me’ and ‘Control’ the later, with industrial rock boomerang feel. The audience rise to the poppy hit ‘Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go!)’ – Manson: “Absolutely beautiful to watch you all change and grow … as you watch us… we are watching you!”

Then we get new track ‘Blood for Poppies’ followed by ‘Special’ which morphs, albeit briefly, into ‘Talk of the Town’.  Mason complains the fan keeping her cool is useless “…put on shopping list for tomorrow…” and we get some more of their new tracks before the uber-hits of ‘Push It’ and the classic ‘Vow.’

Off and back on for the encore, we get a rising orgasmic introduction to each band member from Mason, who goes on to do the same for the road crew. “Shirley, Shirley, Shirley…” chant the crowd. “All present and correct…” To the audience: “Are you here? You as quiet as little church mice… I can make a bigger noise than you….” Then to new tracks ‘Automatic Systematic Habit’, title track ‘Not You Kind of People’ completed with the aptly titled ‘Only Happy When it Rains’ – another stand out track of the night.

Garbage are hugely professional – the lads rock out, the music in perfect sync. Manson is IN CHARGE of the stage – she has a hugely iconic stage presence  – “slightly scary” as one person said to me, tonight her vocals were all well on song. Few women in rock can command a stage like she can. A shout out also has to go to the lighting guy – lots of comments on how good and clear it was – stage lit to perfection.

Garbage tend to scoot between genres, from the grunge power tracks of ‘Vow’, through to their more pop hits – on a couple of tracks Manson raps, which is just a tad odd. Some songs are stronger than others: it is the grunge indie industrial rock where they show their true power.  For this new album Garbage are doing it all by themselves – no record label in tow. Tracks are getting airtime – and the album is getting mixed reviews from a range of people I’ve spoken to. However, Garbage LIVE are well wortha punt seeing – they certainly deserved more than a half full Civic Hall tonight. And as this was the second in the four UK dates if you haven’t seen them – don’t know when the next chance will be – given their recent 8 year gap.

But given the crazy British Summer we’re currently experiencing, there was more than one happy fan that walked away singing…. “I’m Only Happy When It Rains…”

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Setlist:

  1. Supervixen
  2. I Think I’m Paranoid
  3. Shut Your Mouth
  4. Metal Heart
  5. Queer
  6. Stupid Girl
  7. Why Do You Love Me
  8. Control
  9. #1 Crush
  10. Cheery Lips (Go Baby Go!)
  11. Blood for Poppies
  12. Special
  13. Trick is to Keep Breathing
  14. Battle In Me
  15. Big Bright World
  16. Bad Boyfriend
  17. Push It
  18. Vow

Encore:

  1. Automatic Systematic Habit
  2. Not Your Kind of People
  3. Only Happy When It Rains

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Listening:

Garbage [1995]

Version 2.0 [1998]

Beautiful Garbage [2001]

Bleed Like Me [2005]

Not Your Kind of People [2012]