Posts Tagged 'neil halstead'

Unknown Caller.

“Restart and reboot yourself .
You’re free to go.
Ho, ho.
Shout for joy if you get the chance.
Password, you, enter here, right now.

Ho, ho.
You know your name, so punch it in.
Hear me, cease to speak that I may speak.
Shush now.
Ho, ho.
Then don’t move or say a thing”.

From “Unknown Caller” by U2.


There can’t be much of a bigger contrast between the last two gigs I have seen and, yet, both were brilliant.  Prior to last night, the most recent gig I had been to was Neil Halstead at Captain’s rest in Glasgow.  It was one of those particularly intimate gigs as Neil strummed an acoustic guitar and played his brilliant, stripped back, ballads to a basement full of about 20 people all attentive to his every mumble.

I’ve been to literally hundreds of gigs over the years – a majority of them with my long serving gig-going bro’.  Much as we love live music, I don’t often get all that excited before hand. In fact, the Neil Halstead gig mentioned earlier was one of those few recent gigs where I have genuinely been excited.

In stark contrast we were in a crowd of 59,000 who packed out Hampden last night to witness the latest U2 extravaganza.  Whilst any indie loving tike such as I ought to be referencing bands like The XX or some other noteworthy young upstarts, the truth is U2’s catalogue has been a constant presence in most of my coming of age and growing up. 

Whilst many music critics have been quick to liken this phase of U2’s career to the time of the “Pop” album – a period where their latest release has failed to generate the level of record sales usually associated with the biggest band in the world, last night’s set included recitals from the “War”, “Unforgettable Fire”, “Joshua Tree”, “Achtung Baby”, “All You Can’t Leave Behind”, “How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb” and “No Line On The Horizon” eras.  Songs transport me to places, remind me of faces and incidents.

The stage structure was phenomenal.  We were about 4 or 5 metres from the walkway surrounding the stage with a perfect view of Edge and the rest of the group. The 360 degree screens gave a brilliant view of the evening’s proceedings.  It was a far cry from having been at the SECC in 1987 at the Joshua Tree tour, before contact lenses, when I barely saw a thing as we were so far from the stage stuck behind a huge abyss of vacant floor space which surrounded the sound desk. 

Last night may have been less spiritual than being feet from the band at the 2001 Elevation Tour in Manchester when the music came back to life after a decade of relying on huge information overload through the likes of Zoo TV and the lemon.  It was a far better experience than Hampden in 2005.

The set opened with “Breathe” and the tracks from the new album actually stood up well live, although finishing with “Moment Of Surrender” seemed a bit of a strange choice.  The stand out track for me from the new material was “Unknown Caller.”  The crowd really seemed to come alive for “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”, “Vertigo”, “One” and “With Or Without You”.  “Sunday Bloody Sunday” was still used to relevant political effect to highlight the plight in Tehran.  Sadly, the sound system seemed to die during “Walk On” which was being used to raise awareness of the life and present situation affecting Aung San Suu Kyi – rumours that the Burmese had something to do with sabotaging the sound-desk last night are yet to be confirmed.  Desmond Tutu’s address was riveting.  After all these years, the band are still trying to use their position to expose situations and to try to galvanise change.  Many call it naive, but would I have ever joined the likes of Amnesty or Greenpeace had I not devoured the liner notes of the Joshua Tree 22 years ago?

It may not be cool to like U2, but I can’t ever imagine not turning out for one of their tours and I can’t imagine not being affected by it.


A Gentle Heart

“Gentle heart never hurt a soul.
You live in trust and you learn to love.
In silent darkness I hold your hand.
I don’t get much but I get the way she rolls”.

From “A Gentle Heart” by Neil Halstead.


This week we had the good fortune of making the trip across the M8 to see Neil Halstead play at the Captain’s Rest in Glasgow.  Whilst the bar upstairs was crammed full of punters watching Man United get beaten by Barca in the Champions League Final, there was a stark contrast downstairs.  I almost found myself centre stage left as I spilled through the doorway at the bottom of the stairs amidst support act Larch’s set.  The venue is so tiny.  It’s pretty rudimentary and it reminded me of a school disco as I looked around and saw folks lining the walls in the darkness desperately avoiding the space of the dance-floor.

Neil took the stage and played through a couple of tracks acoustically including the ever wonderful and heartbreaking “Martha’s Mantra (For The Pain)” before inviting Adam and Ben up to play the rest of the set.  They played a wide range of songs from “Sleeping On Roads” and “Oh! Mighty Engine” (an album I keep listening to with enormous regularity months after I ought to have grown at least a little tired of it).  He included a choice selection of Mojave 3 numbers including requests from the floor.  “In Love With A View”, “Yer Feet” and “Between The Bars” stick out in my mind.

An intimate gig it certainly was.  Do artists get discouraged when hardly anyone turns out to hear them pour out their souls and observations on life?  Just like Neil’s gig at King Tuts last September I will cherish this as a beautiful evening in the presence of an individual whose songs I have carried around as a soundtrack to parts of my life for 12 years or so. 

Ever affable, it was nice to manage to talk with him for a few moments upon leaving – just to say “thanks” and ask how the tour had been going and talk briefly of Cornwall.  Then and again, if you read this you’ll see that there is much common ground…

Thanks again, Neil – hope to see you again soon.

Little Twig

“Your bicycle makes trouble for us all.
Got no brakes.
You got the shakes.
And little boys, well, they drop their toys
When you fly past..yes they do…”

From “Little Twig” by Neil Halstead.


Read this interesting article in the paper over the weekend.  

This quote caught my attention, “cycling is proven to get safer the more people do it. For instance, a 91% increase in cycle use on London’s main roads between 2001 and 2008 was accompanied by a 33% reduction in cyclist casualties over roughly the same period”.

I also read the following whilst preparing our small group this week, “The massive middle class of the world, numbering some three billion people, travels by bus and bicycle.  Mile for mile, bikes are cheaper than any other vehicle, costing around $100 in most of the Third World and requiring no fuel.  They are also the most efficient form of transportation ever invented and, where not endangered by polluted air and traffic, provide their riders with healthy exercise.”

On yer bike.

Queen Bee

So, I recently asked what single song would always make your playlist and why?  You can link to that particular post inspired by John Peel here.  My own response is posted here.

The thing I love about music, is that I am always coming across stuff I’ve not heard before.  Some of it will resonate with me throughout the seasons of life and other songs just tarry for a while or mark a certain time or place…

So what’s got heaviest rotation on your mp3/CD/turntable/boom-box these days?

For me, it’s “Queen Bee” by Neil Halstead.  It can’t help but put me in a good mood and the attached video makes me want to make music with friends and freewheel down a hill on a bike without a care in the world…enjoy by clicking the arrow below.

Sometimes The Wheels

Today I bought a new notepad to scribble in.  There’s something nice about having a notepad.  A place to de-clutter my head.  A place to record my thoughts, prayers, hopes and fears.  I find it helpful to write things down and then to be able to revisit them years later and recognise how I really felt at a point in time.  It removes my rose-tinted spectacles at times.  Sometimes things seem clearer when written down.  I like to carry a notebook to jot things down in – observations, doodles, snapshots of everyday life.

I think it’s those sorts of things that I appreciate in books and films and music.  The attention to detail in the small and, seemingly, ordinary things of often uneventful days – even if those days and situations are far removed from my own.  It’s the ingredient that makes observational humour or stand up comedians so funny at times.  There’s something funny about a lot of sad things.  It’s the magnet that draws me to the signs of life I find in the stuff around me.

I discovered a new song this week.  It made me smile because I recognise so much of the world around me in its light-heartedness and its deeper truths.

Boy on the pavement, he’s looking the picture

He looks like the eighties.  Oh why did it happen to me?

Twice in a lifetime now.  Twice in a lifetime, Lord

Spent my teenage years tryna not look like

Somebody like him.  What can you do?

Shoulder-pads and belts.  Morten Harket in tights

Oh, I’m sorry – they’re jeans.  How dya get them on?

  Will they ever come off?  Will they ever come off?


Sometimes the wheels fall off

Sometimes you can’t get up

Sometimes I just sit and think and I don’t talk much

Sometimes the world moves fast

Sometimes you can’t keep up

Sometimes I just sit and think, but I don’t think much

From “Sometimes The Wheels” by Neil Halstead.

In Love With A View

“So I stood at the station

A plan and a pocket of poems

Heroically tragic, bearded and blind with obsession”

From “In Love With A View” by Mojave 3

Maybe it’s the wanderlust in the imagery.  Maybe it’s the fact that I have long found it easiest to view life as a journey.  Maybe it’s my yearning to keep pressing forward, to experience new things and to grow.  Maybe it’s all of those things and more that render the above lyrics some of my favourites to have been penned.  Something in me rises everytime I hear that breezy,, line delivered. 

Last night I was fortunate enough to catch Neil Halstead of Mojave 3 playing an acoustic show in King Tuts.  He was down to earth and engaging and we were treated to a rendition of “In Love With a View”.  It cheers my spirit to experience gigs by artists whose songs I have carried around in my music collection, heart and very being for years.

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"The priest in the booth had a photographic memory for all he had heard. He took all of my sins and he wrote a pocket novel called "The State That I'm In"". From "The State I Am In" by Belle and Sebastian
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