Monday, June 03, 2013

And so begins the great summer of music

That, if I'm very much not mistaken, is the sun in the sky. A long-lost friend offering a warm embrace. And to make things even more agreeable, it has appeared on the stroke of June.

Here in Paris, where until last week, coats, scarves and your own breath was still visible in the cold morning air, the sense of relief is palpable. Waiters once again have the opportunity to ignore even more customers, now that tables are being spread out on the pavements.

The beginning of June contains a more meaningful commencement for WWDBD? -  the start of the summer gig season.

Tonight it's the Stone Roses at La Cigale, one of those delightfully compact, turn-of-the century theatres near the sin spots of Pigalle.

Of course, it will be no Spike Island, and there's a good chance that at least one of the Roses will fail to turn up, such is the delicacy of their reunification. I doubt, that would bother tonight's crowd, as long as whatever band Ian Brown gathers together plays though the Roses' incredible two album.

The Roses never really took in France, so La Cigale will, tonight, have a distinctly British, beered-up, football ground vibe to it. Fellow expats - mainly in or approaching middle age - will be primate-dancing alongside Eurostar-hopping Brits amazed they can see the band up closer than they would in arenas across the Channel.

And then Tuesday it's the musical phenomenon of the last 24 months. No, not an evening of Gangnam Style, but Rodriguez, the 'Chicano Dylan', who disappeared in 1971 after releasing just two albums, only to be tracked down to his rundown Detroit home by two South African musos with a filmmaker in tow.

The resulting film, Searching For Sugarman, was one of the most moving and uplifting films I've seen in many a year. Discovering the enchanting re-released Rodriguez albums (and hopefully filling his criminally deprived coffers) has introduced me to a songwriting talent whose talent , both of his original time and relevant now. 

Whether or not Sixto Rodriguez can carry it off in the enormous shed that is the Zenith in Paris remains to be seen. But as an opportunity to commune with the nearest pop has got to the actual Second Coming, Tuesday should be an event to remember.

Two weeks hence and my first ever live experience of the band Smash Hits referred to always as "Ver Mode" - Depeche Mode, playing  the vast Stade de France.

The last gig I saw there was the Black Eyed Peas. Viewed from a corporate box over what would be, in its normal use, the half-way line, they could have actually been peas, such was distance to the stage. There is a law of diminishing returns when it comes to stadium concerts: when you find yourself staring up at the video screens more than looking at the small and indistinguishable figures on stage, you probably should have stayed at home.

The Peas, as I recall, were only visible from my box thanks to them wearing stage costumes illuminated by LED lights. I doubt that Bruce Springsteen will need such gimmicks to be seen at the same venue when he plays there on June 29.

He is The Boss for a very good reason: this is what he does. His concerts are four-hour marathons, celebrations of fist-pumping, denim-clad blue collar rock. He invented the modern stadium rock experience, despite what U2 might claim. Such venues take a rare talent to truly make them fill out, but my expectations are high for a long evening of the sound of working class New Jersey brought to a mixed used stadium on the northern outskirts of Paris.

Facebook/Bruce Springsteen/Jo Lopez
Into July and the live experiences continue with The Who, continuing the current penchant for bands to tour entire albums by bringing Quadrophenia in its entirety to the Palais de Bercy.

Written as a rock opera in the first place, it was almost designed to fill cavernous venues like this, although whether Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend can, even at their tender years, still give it the maximum R'n'B remains to be seen.

Anyone expecting the fireworks of The 'Orrible 'Oo's heydays is clearly mad, but after seeing them last year at the Paralympics closing ceremony, I'm going to be blissfully accepting of all but the most disastrous of performances. It's The Who after all. So shut up.
Nowhere near as deafening will be Hugh Laurie, who brings his affectionate and highly proficient take on jazz-tinged New Orleans blues to the Grand Rex theatre in Paris in July.

With two excellent albums under his belt - Let Them Talk and Didn't It Rain - he has already demonstrated just how accomplished a blues performer is on a previous tour. This is not actor indulging himself, but an authentic take on the live sounds that pour out of Bourbon Street bars any given night of the week, which should sound just as foot-stomping in the environs of a classic old Parisian theatre.

Over the last few years I've enjoyed some great evenings in Montreux's Stravinski Auditorium, the principal venue of the annual Jazz Festival. Solomon Burke, BB King, Jimmy Cliff, Noel Gallagher, Booker T & The MGs, Van Morrison, Naturally 7, The Crusaders and, probably, one of the best gigs I've ever experienced - Lenny Kravitz in a sweaty July night of rock and funk.

This year the festival will be without its charismatic founder, Claude Nobs, but it will go some way to make up for his tragic absence by featuring Prince on the weekend of July 13. While London's Hyde Park will be rocking to the Rolling Stones, What Would David Bowie Do? will be in the Stavinski Auditorium for the pocket-sized legend to deliver, what I hope will be a very special evening indeed - especially if it is anywhere near as good as his performance during The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame all-star tribute to George Harrison in 2008. Possibly one of the greatest solo guitar performances I've ever seen.

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