Seen Live: Chris de Burgh

Way back in 2001, at The Night of the Proms in Rotterdam, I was waiting for Meat Loaf. He was headlining, so we got to see Tony Martin of ABC, Adiemus, John “Music was my first love” Miles, surprise act K-otic and Chris de Burgh first. De Burgh started with that godawful song about dancing with some lady in a red dress, and while I can’t recall much else of his set, I really, really liked “Don’t Pay the Ferryman.” Eighties pop-rock drenched in synths, I can get behind that. Not that I was planning to follow up on that, though.

Fast forward to 2016. The Missus saw a different NotP show in 2001 (we hadn’t even met yet), and missed out on seeing Chris de Burgh live ever since. So when she found he was coming over for a show in the magnificent Carré theater in Amsterdam, we got tickets. Row three, right on the center aisle.

Fast forward to April 29, 2017. After some strolling through Amsterdam, some book shopping and diner, we made it to our seats. It wasn’t until well into the second set that mr. De Burgh played a song I recognized. That one about dancing with a lady in a red dress. He made his way through the theater, dancing with every woman in red he could find. After that, a sanctioned stage rush, and more songs I knew. Toto’s “Africa” (on account of having recorded it before), “Don’t Pay the Ferryman” in all its glory, and “High on Emotion” (which I surely have heard on the radio without knowing who was behind it).

Despite my limited knowledge of the man’s work, I had a great time. As I said: synth-drenched eighties pop-rock, I can get behind that. He has a great band, and at times, they were quite heavy. There were a few songs where, with a bit of distortion on the guitars and a slightly different arrangement, you could imagine an eighties hair metal band getting away with it.

But the best thing of the whole evening? Seeing how much fun The Missus was having.

Seen live
Chris de Burgh & Band, “A Better World Live” at Koninklijk Theater Carré, Amsterdam on April 29, 2017
Chris de Burgh: Vocals, guitar, piano / Neil Taylor: Guitars, vocals / Dave Levy: Bass, vocals / Nigel Hopkins: Keyboards, vocals / Philipp Groyssboeck: Drums, percussion

Set list (Spotify)
Full Band:Bethlehem / Chain of Command / Lonely Sky / Missing You / Spanish Train / Ship to Shore / A Spaceman Came Travelling / Once in a Lifetime / Homeland / Cry No More / The Revolution / Light a Fire / The Open Door // Acoustic: Oh My Brave Hearts / Heart and Soul / Moonlight and Vodka / Chris de Burg solo: Sailing Away / Suddenly Love / The Head and the Heart / Where Peaceful Waters Flow / Full Band: The Hands of Man / Waiting for the Hurricane / All for Love / Borderline / The Lady in Red / Africa (Toto cover) / The Spirit of Man / Don’t Pay the Ferryman / High on Emotion // Patricia the Stripper / Go Where Your Heart Believes

First Lines: Born to Run

It is taking me way too long to formulate some coherent thoughts on Bruce Springsteen’s auto-biography, Born to Run. And that is probably because I am still not sure what to make of it. Is it the definite, tell-all, hold-nothing-back account of Springsteen’s rise to Bossness? No. Is a fun read? In all its rambling, chronologically challenged, adjective pumping, stream of consciousness flowing, self-reflecting, over several albums glossin’ and CAPS LOCK ROCKING glory, well, laws yes, it is a fun read.

Well, there are quite a few chapters with him philosophizing on the nature Man and Woman and Family and The Big Concerns of Life, and those I did not enjoy as much as the parts about how Springsteen gets to be Springsteen. When he talks about making music, about how the art is made, that is when it lifts off. When he talked about Clarence, you feel the love. When he talks about the Super Bowl halftime show, you feel the excitement. You could take shots at the writing style and get away with it, but it reads like he speaks.

Born to Run is, I guess, about as close as we are going to get to Springsteen. And while I would not have minded more insights into his writing and songs — I am way more invested in the music than in the man — it was a good, fun read.

Obligatory Boss Time: Land of Hope and Dreams / Born to Run (March Madness Music Festival 2014, Reunion Park, Dallas, TX, 6 April 2014)
Book read
Bruce Springsteen — Born to Run
First line
I am ten years old and I know every crack, bone and crevice in the crumbling sidewalk running up and down Randolph Street, my street.

Seen Live: a balladeer

The 24th a balladeer gig I saw was in my brother’s living room. It was the smallest crowd I have been part of yet. Myself included, there were just fourteen people there. And yet, the concept of shutting up in such an intimate setting didn’t occur to some of them.

A funny thing happened: I was surprised to find myself tearing up over the first verse of “Robin II” and the line I’m not the boy I used to be in “Superman Can’t Move His Legs”. And while I have heard these songs a gazillion times before and don’t mind a good cry every now and then — somehow, I am not as emotionally stable as I used to be — but that hadn’t happened before.

a balladeer – Robin II (live at Blokhuis, NPO Radio 2)
Seen live
a balladeer in a living room in Rotterdam on April 7, 2017
Set list (on Spotify)
Wishes, Horses / A Little Rain Has Never Hurt No One / Plan B / Robin II / Oh, California / A Wolf at the Door / 10 Things to Win You Over // All I Wanted / My “I’m Sorry” Song to You / Swim With Sam / Mary Had a Secret / When a Law’s Been Broken / Superman Can’t Move His Legs / Trust Fall / Incompatible // Jolene (Dolly Parton cover)

Paul O’Neill

Paul O’Neill, songwriter and producer for Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Savatage, has died. And even through I have bitched a bit here and there about TSO swallowing up my first-ever favorite band, this blows. O’Neill helped make Savatage what they were (theatrical, symphonical, over-the-top-rock-opera-metal awesomeness), he co-wrote all music and wrote most of the words, and he introduced me to the glorious counterpart vocal madness in a few of my favorite songs. At 61, he definitely had more music in him. Hopefully TSO can and will carry on.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra (with Paul O’Neill) — Sleep/Help! (live at the Heineken Music Hall in Amsterdam on March 26, 2011)

I’ve also compiled a Spotify playlist with my favorite Savatage/TSO tunes.

First Lines: Explaining Chtulhu to Grandma and Other Stories

Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma and Other Stories is a collection of short stories and flash fiction by Alex Shvartsman, editor of the Unidentified Funny Objects anthologies. It came to me as part of the UFO5 Kickstarter, and having read the titular story online already, I looked forward to diving in.

Like the UFO series, Shvartman’s own collection is filled with humorous stories, ranging from sci-fi space opera to time-travel funny business to fairy tale re-imaginings to more or less straight fantasy and everything in between. The quality is high throughout, and I can’t really give favorites, but the two tales poking fun at religion (“Bedtime Story on Christmas Eve, 1,000,000 AD”, which is an irreverent Christmas tale told to androidy beings in a faraway future is absolutely delightful: Jesus loved presents and parties very much. And so humans gave each other many presents, and somebody named Carol sang holiday hymns in her honor, and everyone was happy.; and “Manna from Heaven”) got a more than light chuckle out of me.

And then there was one story — “You Bet” — which reminded me of a concept that has been running through my head for a long time: Somewhere in the multi-verse there exists a bar where the archetypal, cardboard characters of bad fiction gather to blow off steam. Now that I know this story is out there, I can finally let that go.

Book read
Alex Shvartsman — Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma and Other Stories
First Line
I just made the deal of the year and I couldn’t wait to tell to tell grandma.