Bastille at Ziggo Dome, Wednesday 16 November 2016

Supported by Rationale. Nice stage design with big video and projection screens with cool visuals running throughout the show. Great sound. Tons of excellent merch. Hearing the entire Ziggo Dome chant “eh eh oh eh-oh eh eh oh eh-oh” along to Pompeii was spectacular. Fiona loved the gig. Maybe it’s because I was still recovering from a virus, but for me it felt like just another trip to the Ziggo Dome. I’m feeling a bit burned out on arena concerts.

Set list:

  1. Send Them Off!
  2. Laura Palmer
  3. Warmth
  4. Snakes
  5. Flaws
  6. Oblivion
  7. Lethargy
  8. Things We Lost In The Fire
  9. The Draw
  10. The Currents
  11. Power
  12. Bad Blood
  13. Four Walls (The Ballad Of Perry Smith)
  14. Blame
  15. Of The Night
  16. Fake It
  17. The Weight Of Living, Pt. II
  18. Glory
  19. Good Grief

Encore:

  1. Two Evils
  2. Icarus
  3. Pompeii

Remember. Resist. Persevere.

The wake of the US presidential election felt much more like the aftermath of the Scottish independence referendum to me than the days following the Brexit result. I remembered Robin McAlpine’s article in Bella Caledonia: “Wipe your eyes. On your feet.” It has a lot in common with Jon Schwarz’s piece in The Intercept: “Donald Trump Will Be President. This Is What We Do Next.”

These recent battles between progressive and extremist values are an example of asymmetric warfare. When one side considers science nothing more than ideology, there is no common ground on which to stand. Trump (and the Brexiteers) took a machine gun to a cavalry battle. Fake news is more powerful than real news, because there can be so much more of it, and when it lines up with convictions it can’t be refuted with facts. Search and social media filter bubbles encourage this cozy slide into unchallengeable beliefs, and contribute to a rising mistrust of experts and the reality-based community at a time when we need them more than ever.

The new media ecosystem “means everything is true and nothing is true,” Obama told me later. “An explanation of climate change from a Nobel Prize-winning physicist looks exactly the same on your Facebook page as the denial of climate change by somebody on the Koch brothers’ payroll. And the capacity to disseminate misinformation, wild conspiracy theories, to paint the opposition in wildly negative light without any rebuttal—that has accelerated in ways that much more sharply polarize the electorate and make it very difficult to have a common conversation.” –David Remnick in the New Yorker

In our parliaments, the opposition parties have to decide where they stand on the spectrum of “let’s see how we can work together” to “I will oppose you and everything you stand for.” The former normalizes extremist behaviour. The latter tactic is of limited use in winner-take-all two-party states, and is tainted by the fact that it is a poisonous tactic that drives even more tribalism and extremism. It compromises what we stand for.

We can laugh at the inconsistency, but the contrast is striking. Democrats grumble but abide by the rules; Republicans immediately dial up the rhetoric and denounce their opponents as illegitimate, eventually paralysing their ability to act. That was the admitted strategy of congressional Republicans in the first Obama term: a determined effort to prevent him governing at all. –Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian

In our homes and daily lives, we progressive non-politicians are left despairing over the inaction and in-fighting of representatives we elected to work for us. If they are powerless, what can we do as individuals? A single person can only reduce their carbon footprint by so much. A lone household can’t take in a whole village of refugees.

This is where asymmetric warfare comes into play again. A parliament can only house so many representatives. But we can fill the streets with a million protesters. We can join, fund, and strengthen the organizations that strive for social justice and a livable planet. We can boycott, advocate, and drive commercial decisions. (You don’t see car manufacturers scrapping their electric car projects, do you?) It’s going to take a movement. It’s going to take time. It’s going to take perseverance.

Mixed media, Sunday 13 November 2016

Films:

  • Eddie The Eagle: watched this at Mum & Dad’s when I was with them in September. Really nice, feel good film. (Dexter Fletcher directing again – I loved Sunshine on Leith, too)
  • A Walk Among The Tombstones: I hadn’t realized that this was a Matt Scudder film, based on Lawrence Block’s books (which I like). Pretty good downbeat private eye film.
  • Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children: Meh. Atmospheric, but lacklustre performances from everyone involved. It felt very long.
  • The Secret Life of Pets: The trailer has all the good bits.
  • Room: AMAZING
  • Dr. Strange: It was fine, I suppose. It’s a door into the magical aspects of the Marvel universe, but I’ve never been very interested in that part. Narratively and thematically, the film offers nothing new. Visually, Christopher Nolan did all of this in Inception already.

Books & comics:

  • The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver: Very readable account of forecasting and predictions, and the statistics involved. I feel like I should spend more time getting to grips with Bayesian statistics, because my maths and science background was 95% frequentist.
  • Scarlet Witch vol1: Witches’ Road by James Robinson et al. Didn’t really like this. See notes on Dr. Strange above.
  • The Sheriff of Babylon vol 1 by Tom King and Mitch Gerads. Was chatting to the staff at Forbidden Planet in Glasgow, and they recommended this to me because I liked the new Vision story (also written by Tom King). The Sheriff of Babylon is a military detective story set in post-war Baghdad. Very intense, very good.
  • Mockingbird vol 1 – I Can Explain by Chelsea Cain, Kate Niemczyk et al.: Great. Thrilling and funny non-linear narrative around another great female Marvel hero. She-Hulk, Squirrel Girl, Ms. Marvel, Captain Marvel, Silk, Hellcat, Mockingbird – Marvel has a ton of fabulous books on the go right now with women heroes. I hope the cinematic universe catches up.

Did you eat my quinoa, Stark? Because I will hurt you.

A few weeks ago I watched season 6 of The Walking Dead to cheer myself up. It’s been that kind of month. And that was before the US election. Also season 1 of Agent Carter. I wanted to like it more than I actually did.

Music:

I mentioned in a couple of earlier posts that I’ve been listening to quite a bit of The Lumineers and 65daysofstatic. The new album by The Naked And Famous, Simple Forms has also been in heavy rotation. I’ve got a ticket to see them in Utrecht next year. 👍🏽 Deacon Blue’s new disc, Believers hasn’t caught fire for me yet. A Tribe Called Quest’s latest (and final) album, We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service​ sounds promising and worth more listening.

65daysofstatic at Q-Factory, Friday 11 November 2016

According to my last.fm history, I’ve been listening to 65daysofstatic since February 2014, but it feels a lot longer. I got goosebumps when I heard their song “Debutante” show up in one of the early trailers for the game No Man’s Sky, and I was excited to hear that they would be working with Hello Games to produce the score for the game. Not only did they produce a soundtrack, but they also worked with the developers to create procedurally generated music to match the procedurally generated universe of the game. Their new album No Man’s Sky: Music For An Infinite Universe is one of the outputs, and this is what they’re touring with now.

Two words I use to describe their music are “soaring” and “exultant”. I had thought that the best way to listen to their music was on headphones, turned up LOUD, but no. The best way to listen to them is live, with the bass and drums clawing their way through your resonating chest cavity, piercing guitars physically lifting you off the floor, and four guys on stage giving it their all. Their track “Unmake the Wild Light” contains moments where gentle keyboard and guitar patterns gradually build up a frenzy and erupt into dirty, squelchy bass drops. On the recordings they sound amazing, but when you’re standing right in front of a stack of amplifiers and the band all looks up from their instruments and stares defiantly into the audience while the moment crashes around you, the experience is unearthly.

Towards the end of the end of their set, guitarist Joe Shrewsbury talked about Leonard Cohen, who had died the previous night. With tears in his eyes, he said “he was my friend, even though I never met him.” The version of “Radio Protector” they then played seemed to have echoes of “Hallelujah” in it — just a few changes to the piano line here and there to pick up the melody. Or maybe it was my imagination.

I don’t have a set list for the gig. The names of instrumental tracks don’t tend to stick in my head very well, so although I knew the music, in many cases I couldn’t pin a name on the tracks. I know they started with “Monolith” from the new album, and ended their encore with “Debutante” (which was amazing). “Unmake the Wild Light” was in there, as were “Crash Tactics”, “Retreat! Retreat!”, “Prisms”, and “Supermoon”. (No “Tiger Girl”.)(Setlist.fm doesn’t have a record of the gig yet, either.)

Also, in the same week that I saw my first gig at the HMH, this was my first time at the Q-Factory. Nice little venue, capacity around 300.

The Lumineers at Heineken Music Hall, Monday 7 November 2016

Another Fiona-inspired concert. I got us tickets when they first went on sale earlier in the year, but it wasn’t until after the Passenger gig that I actually listened to The Lumineers at all. I had noticed that the Song Exploder podcast had an episode about their song Ophelia. Fiona and I listened to that while we were stuck in the queue trying to get out of the Arena car park after Passenger, and then we listened to the album Cleopatra on the rest of the way home. It’s really good, and it was stuck in my head for most of the following week when I was over in Glasgow.

This concert was the first time I had been to the Heineken Music Hall. It’s an impressive venue. What struck me most about it was how tall it is. We got ourselves a good spot about ten heads from the stage. From there the stage seemed really wide, but the ceiling was just miles away. Acoustics were great, too. The sound was big and rich, without being overwhelming.

Opening act was Bahamas. While I appreciated the effort, they are more of a cool-down than a warm-up band. Their music is gentle and mellow, and although there were a few songs where they let loose, they didn’t seem to put much effort into getting the audience excited.

The Lumineers themselves were splendid. More earnest and soulful than I usually go for, but undeniably powerful and engaging. Despite being an essentially acoustic band with low-key songs on a huge stage, they really filled the space with their presence. In a call-out to their years as a small band playing tiny venues, they migrated to a secondary stage right in the middle of the crowd for a few songs in the middle of their set. Nice thought, but I’m not sure if it was a particularly useful move – the smaller stage was lower down and less visible.

Set list at Setlist.fm, because although I have listened to Cleopatra quite a bit, I didn’t know enough of their older material to recognize the other songs. Great cover of “Subterranean Homesick Blues”, though.

Passenger at Ziggo Dome, Wednesday 26 October 2016

Solo guitar and voice singer-songwriters aren’t generally my cup of tea, but Fiona was excited that Passenger was playing the Ziggo Dome, so I went along with her. Note to self: trust Fiona’s concert recommendations. He put on a great show. The Netherlands was one of the first countries where his breakthrough hit “Let Her Go” went big, and he clearly has a fondness for the country, as well as a huge following here. The Ziggo Dome holds about 17,000 people, and it was close to capacity. He told us that this was his biggest headline show to date, and the crowd lapped it up. (Apparently he’ll be releasing a DVD of the concert at some point, which is cool.)

On his new album, Young As The Morning, Old As The Sea the song “Beautiful Birds” is a duet with Birdy. He playfully teased the audience with the possibility of her joining him in a duet…but she wasn’t on tour with him, and so he did the number himself. Which meant that when he told the story of opening for Ed Sheeran at the Heineken Music Hall in 2012, the audience was primed for him to tease us again. Only this time he actually brought out Ed Sheeran on stage to sing “Heart’s On Fire” together, and the crowd went crazy. Ed Sheeran has been on a break for the last year or so, and this was the first time he had performed since 2015. It was kinda special.

Set list on Setlist.fm

(No chance of catching any decent photos with the iPhone 5 at that distance, though.)

Passenger
Passenger
Passenger and Ed Sheeran, honest
Passenger and Ed Sheeran, honest

For a much better quality view of the evening, Passenger uploaded video of his encore of “Home” and “Holes”: