I don’t know what it is or why but I loved this whole album from the very first listen. This was Blur’s 4th studio album and they’d had some great songs up to day but somehow everything on this one ‘clicked’ to produce an overall great hour of listening pleasure. This disc came out at the height of the Britpop wave of new young bands. With the simultaneous release of the first single from this album; “Country House” and rival Britpop icon’s Oasis’ single; “Roll With It”, the Battle Of Britpop (to see which band claimed the coveted #1 spot on that week’s chart) grabbed headlines all around the world, propelling both bands even further into stardom. In the end, “Country House” (in my opinion a far superior single) grabbed the number one spot ahead of number 2 “Roll With It”. This was the first of a string of great singles released from ”The Great Escape”; “The Universal” (one of my favourite songs…ever), “Stereotypes” and “Charmless Man” all followed “Country House” into the top 10 singles charts. For those singles alone this is a great album and worthy of being on my Top 10.
In no particular order we begin the journey with a soundtrack compilation.
Singles: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack An iconic soundtrack that perfectly captured the sounds of the times. Released in 1992, this compilation includes a who’s who of 90’s indie rockers. The early nineties saw the birth of the ‘grunge’ scene in Seattle and Pacific Northwest. This movie cemented the grunge movement’s place in the history and brought the music to the mainstream. Many of the artists featured on this soundtrack would go on to long term success and gain icon status over the years since; Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam, Chris Cornell & Soundgarden to name a few. Every listen, to every song takes me back to my long-haired, plaid shirt, long-johns over shorts, Doc Martin wearing youth. If you were around in that era, you know what I mean!
Friday night and thanks to a good friend I had two tickets to the Backstreet Boys show so May and I went off to our first show at the newly renamed Rogers Arena (the last event in the venue when named GM Place was Rhianna, see the recap here). There was two opening acts before BSB took the stage, first up Dan Talevski a Canadian YouTube discovery managed by Backstreet Boy’s Howie Dorough, who introduced him to the stage. I admit having to Google him when we saw his name on the bill but then I remember seeing some of his YouTube covers and thinking he was good. For his first ever concert performance and doing all original music you could definitely see there was potential for stardom from this young artist. Being on tour with veteran artists like BSB will help him learn from those who’ve gone through it all already. Although it may seem odd to call them veterans, BSB have been around for 17 years already. After a short 20 minute 4 song set Dan made way for the next act.
Shawn Desman followed on quite quickly with a very upbeat lively 45 minute set that really got the crowd warmed up for the main act. Being on his 3rd album, Shawn has enough familiar songs to get everyone up and dancing to his lively blend of pop/r&b. May and I had a few of those “I forgot he sings this?” moments. The bare stage, just him and 4 dancers, meant all eyes were on him the whole time, I was pleasantly impressed and surprised by his ability to fill the arena with his stage presence. I can really see him headlining and putting on a really good show in a midsize venue.
Now on to the main course…after the two warm up acts the mostly female audience was really ready for the Backstreet Boys. Onto the stage spotlight came a small blond boy of maybe 5 years who, mic in hand, introduced AJ, Howie, Nick and “my dad” …hard to believe there’s a next generation BSB already! As they came onstage, it seems the teenager in the girls still comes out at the mention or glimpse of the Boys (especially for Nick Carter). These are definitely more mature and experiences Boys than they were in their late 90’s heydays and their staging and performance reflect this maturity (and probably the economy as well). Gone were the massive pyrotechnics, elaborate staging and costumes…now it was just 4 men, 4 dancers and a DJ/percussionist. They still have the dance moves and ability to turn the girls (and I’m sure some boys) in the front rows into a screaming wreck with a wink and smile. The huge hits of their early years; Everybody, As Long As You Love Me, Shape Of My Heart, I Want It That Way are hugely welcomed by the audience. So much so that they their more recent, lesser selling singles, are received with an awkward silence from the crowd but they mix the old and new enough to not ‘lose’ the crowd for too long.
You can’t help but sing and bounce to the ‘hits’, they were so ubiquitous in their day everyone knows a BSB song and if you don’t you’re lying. During the 90 minute set there was 4 costume changes that were creatively filled on stage by 4 ‘movie trailers’ featuring each of the boys in place of an actor in a real trailer, to quite humourous affect. Howie replace Paul Walker in “The Fast and The Furious”, AJ replaced Brad Pitt in “Fight Club”, Brian channelled James Marsden from “Enchanted” and Nick filled in for Keanu Reeves in “The Matrix”. As they show began with them walking down a lonely street and onto the stage through the screen it wrapped up with them leaving through the screen and onto their next tour date, leaving a satisfied audience wanting a little bit more. The perfect way to end a show! Well done Backstreet Men!
Andrew Allen – SummerFest at Lonsdale Quay – August 2, 2010
A beautiful, sunny BC Day was a perfect day for an excursion on the SeaBus to Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver to catch Andrew Allen perform. Part of the SummerFest series of free outdoor concerts this was an opportunity to finally see this BC artist we first gained awareness of during the Olympics. Andrew Allen’s song ‘Amazing’ was included nightly during the pyrotechnics show at Robson Square…having gone there nearly every night of the Olympics I got to know the song ‘amazingly’ well. I was quite looking forward to hearing him perform live and see what else he had to offer. Although his performance was broken into two short sets, his witty banter built a good rapport with the audience and this continued between sets as he graciously met with fans (my friend Brian and me, included). The meet and greet also showed it was not just ‘stage persona’, he is a genuinely nice guy who seemed to appreciate all the fans who came to greet him. We unfortunately couldn’t stay until the second half of the set later in the afternoon but I look forward to seeing him next time he returns to Vancouver.
In the meantime, his incredibly catchy current single Loving You Tonight is getting lots radio play and available of itunes as are his other recordings. Check him out! You’ll like it!
The day started out under cloudy skies as the masses, some 600,000+ strong, gathered in Vancouver’s West End. Even before the parade began the camaraderie and revelry was evident in the large diverse crowd. Sitting with my friends from gayvancouver.net I was wedged in beside a lovely older lady, a recent retiree to Vancouver, who, with her partner, was very excited to celebrate her first Pride Parade. On the other side of me were two happy little girls, excitedly blowing on their whistles and cheering loudly when the parade came by. As the parade began with the traditional ride by the ‘Dykes on Bikes’, like clockwork the skies began to clear and the sun emerged to brighten and warm the afternoon.
As the weather got hotter so did the parade participants…both literally and figuratively! The crowd was treated to over 100 spectacular floats and entries covering the whole spectrum of the community: corporate entries from banks and retailers, LGBT sports organizations and support groups marched alongside elected officials of most political parties who were followed up by nightclubs and restaurants. Costumes ranged from simple shorts & tees to elaborate drag queens/kings to bikini clad go-go dancers. The main 2010 Pride theme of Liberate was evident in many of the floats and groups as everyone aimed to get their particular message across, whether political, educational or just plain fun. And judging from the crowd…they had fun. After nearly 3 hours the parade wound down but the party didn’t. People headed to the Sunset Beach Pride festival to continue the festivities into the evening….and organizers probably began thinking about next year…will you be there?
Drake – The Centre for Performing Arts in Vancouver – July 26, 2010
On what would regularly be a quite Tuesday night, May, David and I were able to head to The Centre to catch hip hop phenom Drake wrap up his “Away From Home” Canadian tour here in Vancouver. May & I went a bit early to check out the opening acts; DJ Charlie Brown, P. Reign and Francis & The Lights. Sometimes you ‘find’ a gem when you watch the support, this was not one of those times.
While DJ Charlie Brown was putting down a good set and trying to work the crowd into some excitement, there was just too many empty seats and people still coming and going from their seats to really get any momentum. He spun solo for a few songs then introduced P. Reign, the self-described “best unsigned rapper
in Canada”. At least he has the giant ego of a rap star…too bad he didn’t have the goods to back it up! (that’s just my opinion…the legion of front row 16 year olds seemed to be into what he was putting out) After about a 20 minute set from P. Reign and a very quit stage turnover,
on came New York based Francis & The Lights, who said very little to the audience, just performed a handful of very radio friendly pop-rock songs to a stoic audience and then left with hardly any fanfare. Sadly I they were an odd match to be on this bill and it did them a disservice, in a small club venue with the appropriate audience they would be a good show…possibly. It didn’t matter because in no time the audience was back in a frenzied state as the lights dimmed and anticipation built for the headliner, Drake.
It was worth the wait! We were super impressed with his stage presence, for a relatively young, new artist he commanded the stage like some of the veterans that he has worked with: Little Wayne, Kayne West, Jay-z to name a few. His acting skills (he appeared on Degrassi: The Next Generation for 8 seasons) really help him create the persona and build the rapport with the audience. Non more so than when he brought a young lady from the crowd up to the stage to ‘seduce’ during a slow jam (but being a responsible Canadian artist of the YouTube generation, he did preface it with a warning about what she might experience: groping, licking, kissing, etc plus verified her age, 26) If all the guys didn’t want to be like him and the girls didn’t want to get with him before this moment, this definitely won them over…he has the swagger that makes a star. Besides all the persona and bravado, the main product – his music – was excellent! Drake can rap with the best of them but he also has an outstanding singing voice (as heard on ‘Find Your Love’). As the evening wrapped up, Drake brought the house lights up and really interacted directly with some of the audience members, pointing out individual women and men, commenting on their ‘fineness’ or what they were wearing. This really brought the bond between artist and audience to a new level…the crowd ate it up! So, after a rocky beginning, the night ended on a surprisingly good high from an artist I would definitely recommend to see again.
Last minute tickets to a sold out show are always a bonus even more so when it turns out to be a great show! I must admit I have probably heard more buzz about MGMT than actually have listened to them. I missed them the last time they stopped in Vancouver so was really happy when my friend David called with the opportunity to catch this show. The mostly college/university crowd seemed to be really really happy to see them as well. The energy from the audience really kept the mood of the room on a high, as the band fed them a stream of poppy dance-rock sounds from the albums, Oracle Spectacular and Congratulations. The frenzied energy peaked with singles like Time To Pretend and Kids, the band really seemed to feed off of the energy too and were as bouncy and boisterous as the fans. A great vibe! It would have been a perfect crowd except for those few excessively inebriated student types with really bad concert etiquette (sadly mostly female) who pushed their way through the crowd, to dance all over and into anyone nearby usually with a drink in hand…then look at you like it’s your fault they spilled on themselves. Hopefully they’ll ‘adapt’ as they attend a few more concerts and ease off on the binge drinking (and thus endth my ‘old dude’ rant) If you get the chance to see MGMT, especially in a small club, do it, they’re a fun night!