25 October 2016

Bill Bailey - Larks in Transit

Michael Fowler Centre, 24 October 2016
Bill Bailey - Larks in Transit
Michael Fowler Centre
24 October 2016

It's only two years since Bill Bailey performed in Wellington, and this time he's filling the Michael Fowler Centre twice over, which only goes to show that the star of many wonderful TV programmes that are largely ignored by networks here has a massive and eager audience in New Zealand. If anything, Larks in Transit felt like a more coherent and all-around entertaining show than his last, Limboland, while exhibiting the tried and tested structure. Parodic musical silliness, self-deprecating anecdotes and helpless rants at the unfairness of the world are Bailey's forte, and he excels in all of them. 

This show featured a strong selection of signature musical outings, variations on themes he's covered often before but still highly entertaining: death metal covers of Abba's Dancing Queen, crowd participation to build a sampled orchestral opus, effortless diversions into Beethoven's Für Elise as a bridging device, and propulsive Irish mandolin reels to celebrate Celtic rock excess. In poking fun at himself, Bailey set high standards with a hilarious and hopefully exaggerated tale of meeting rock idol Paul McCartney backstage after a gig and the encounter proceeding from awkward to borderline disastrous; Bailey is adept at the physical comedy, becoming a convincingly twitching, gurning wreck of a fanboy. And as for ranting, Bailey has plenty to decry in the shambolic politics of Brexit Britain ('that calamitous act of self-harm'), mis-governed, directionless and awash in social media flamewars. Cheerful stuff, but Bailey always steers towards absurdity rather than helpless angst - ultimately, he'll always be an optimist. Here's hoping he continues to return to this far corner of the world.

See also:
Comedy: Bill Bailey - Limboland, 2 November 2014
Comedy: Bill Bailey - Qualmpeddler, 29 September 2012
Interview: Kim Hill with Bill Bailey, 22 October 2016

16 October 2016

'Whether or not I pay income tax is none of the government's business'

The good citizens of Pawnee, Indiana (in local government sitcom Parks & Recreation) express their firmly held and not-at-all-contradictory views in public forums, displaying the majesty of an informed electorate.

'What am I going to do with my kids all day - keep them in my house? Where I live?'

13 October 2016

Don & Shayne

Don McGlashan & Shayne Carter
Paramount Theatre
13 October 2016

Tonight's musical outing was an experienced pair of frontmen teaming up together on stage for the first time. Don McGlashan (Blam Blam Blam, Front Lawn, Mutton Birds) and Shayne Carter (Straitjacket Fits, Dimmer, Adults) have both moved into solo work in recent years, but decided to tour together as a two-man show. The structural conceit is that each selects the songs from the other's back catalogue for the two to play, so Carter chooses McGlashan's and vice versa. This is an interesting notion and meant that several of the songs selected had never been performed live. For dedicated fans this would be an intriguing prospect, and personally it was tremendous to hear McGlashan perform Envy of Angels and White Valiant, as selected by Carter.

However, the downfall of the experiment was that McGlashan's songbook has plenty of more crowd-pleasing material that would have enabled them to mach shau, as the Beatles were ordered in the Kaiserkeller. Carter generally avoided 'the hits' and favoured the more esoteric, experimental side of McGlashan's material. Still, this meant we were able to listen to the classic Don't Fight It Marsha, It's Bigger Than Both Of Us from the Blams. The tunes alternated between McGlashan's melodic and keenly observational pop songs, and Carter's buzzing, Velvets-influenced indie chords. I'm less familiar with Carter's work, particularly outside the Fits, so I was hearing many of the songs for the first time. Mostly they impressed, even in the two-piece arrangements. There was also a low-key, easy stage banter from Carter in particular, which was welcome. A good night out for fans of New Zealand music.

08 October 2016

Lucius Caecilius Iucundus

An 11 minute video reconstruction of the interior of the sumptuous merchant house of the banker Lucius Caecilius Iucundus, by Lund University archaeologists. (Via SciNews)
House of Caecilius Iucundus from Sci-News.com on Vimeo.

See also:
BlogRoman machines, 16 September 2013
Blog96 hours in the Eternal City, 16 October 2010
Blog: Napoli, 3 April 2008

02 October 2016

Botanical Gardens

Frankie Boyle on America's most important decision

I think this is not so much an election and more of a competition to find the second worst person in the world.  It's maybe the most important decision in 50 years, maybe since the war, and I don't know about you, but anytime there's a really important decision I often think, 'I hope no Americans are involved in taking this decision.  I hope no-one from a country that made seven Fast & the Furious movies... I hope no-one that finds James Corden funny is involved in this decision'.

- Frankie Boyle, News Quiz, BBC Radio 4, 30 September 2016

See also:
Comedy: Boyle on Trump, 7 June 2016
Comedy: The economics of the Fringe, 16 August 2012
BlogMock the Week, 20 February 2010

01 October 2016

Paris chose to be self-centred

Writer Vincent Cronin, on pre-World War 2 Paris' predisposition to misread the diplomatic climate of Europe:

'Parisians occupied themselves fully with their own concerns, notably the production of beauty, art, wit and entertainment. The energy that might have been directed abroad was turned inwards. Paris, in short, chose to be self-centred. And this apparently succeeded, for why else would many of the discerning from all over Europe come to live and work in the city of light?

So absorbed were they by their own dazzling achievements that Parisians rarely travelled abroad. According to a shrewd Belgian observer, Charles d'Ydewalle, 'they treat all Europe other than Germany as part of France': an attitude that becomes less puzzling when we recall that in many countries the intelligentsia spoke French.

'We must learn to escape from ourselves,' Pierre Vienot had pleaded in 1931, 'understand things that are different from us.' His plea fell on deaf ears. Everything was referred to France, even at the expense of the facts: the Joliot-Curies were given sole credit for having unveiled the atom's secret, no mention being made of the great pioneer Rutherford, while in a very different field Josephine Baker of St Louis had been accorded a new birthplace, the French West Indies, and French parents. Even those shaping foreign policy, such as Herriot, Leger and Blum, clung to a static, French-centred concept of this or that foreign country, instead of revising their attitudes in face of a dynamic, fast-changing reality that took less and less account of France'.

- Vincent Cronin, Paris: City of Light, London, 1994, p.302

See also:
BlogGondry at the Pompidou, 22 March 2011
Blog: Le Bourget Air & Space Museum, 18 March 2011
BlogCity of lights, 20 April 2009