Tag Archives: Auckland

Rocks In The Attic #660: Roger Waters – ‘The Pros And Cons Of Hitchhiking’ (1984)

RITA#660“Mum, you know I can’t drink that wine!”

“Why not?”

“Durr…” (rolls eyes, points to own stomach) “ – PREGNANT!”

Two nights ago, I saw Roger Waters in Auckland on his Us + Them world tour. I’ve seen him in concert before, six years ago in the same venue, performing The Wall (more on that overheard mother-daughter exchange later). That 2012 was a fantastic show, and something I’ll never forget, but you probably had to be a fan of The Wall to truly enjoy it. This current tour is almost a fully dedicated Pink Floyd greatest hits set, and so there was lots to like.

Opening, of course, with Breathe, the set included the lion’s share of Dark Side Of The Moon, a couple of songs from Wish You Were Here – its title track plus Welcome To The Machine – and the more well-known songs from The WallThe Happiest Days Of Our Lives / Another Brick In The Wall parts 2 and 3, played as one continuous piece, and encores of Mother and Comfortably Numb.

What surprised me though was the portion of the set allocated to Animals – the oft-overlooked 1977 Pink Floyd album (overlooked only in relation to its chronological neighbours Wish You Were Here and The Wall). Up to that point, the concert had been your standard, straightforward arena show: one stage, band playing, big screen at the back projecting images alternating between the band playing, and artful, mind-bending imagery.

But as the band kicked into Dogs, a huge structure descended from the roof of the arena. The four chimneys of the Battersea Power Station emerged telescopically next to an in-scale flying pig, while the sides of the power station were projected onto massive screens. The whole piece looked like the front cover of Animals was floating in the middle of Auckland’s Spark Arena (as a sidenote, the former name of the arena – the Vector Arena – was a more fitting name to host Roger, particularly if Clarence Clemons from the E-Street Band was playing saxophone).

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Dogs segued into Pigs (Three Different Ones), and Waters used this as his opportunity to shame Donald Trump. The band donned pig masks and sat around a dining table sipping from champagne flutes, while a selection of Trump’s inane (or should that be insane?) tweets were projected onto the walls of the power station. ‘TRUMP IS A PIG’ eventually appeared inscribed on the screens as the song climaxed.

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I really appreciate that Waters is still (seemingly) a fan of the Animals record. When it was overlooked as one of the Immersion box sets a few years ago, it seemed to lose some of its cachet. Perhaps it was an absence of decent additional material that could have fleshed out such a set, but it just seemed to be a snub for a record that resonates so much with fans as the last true Floyd album (if you follow the theory that The Wall and The Final Cut are just Roger Waters solo albums in everything but name).

The other highlight of the set for me was the inclusion of One Of These Days, the bass-heavy opening song from 1971’s Meddle. I love this song – it’s in my top 5 Floyd tracks – and so when Waters strummed that first heavily-delayed bass note, I let out a squeal of excitement much to the amusement of my wife.

The rest of the show featured everything you’d expect from a Roger Waters show (or a Pink Floyd show for that matter): laser projections, a school choir for Another Brick In The Wall Part 2, a huge inflatable pig flying around the arena (much more manoeuvrable these days thanks to drone technology), and lyrics to die for. If there’s ever been a finer quartet than ‘And you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it’s sinking / Racing around to come up behind you again / The sun is the same in a relative way but you’re older / Shorter of breath and one day closer to death’, I’d really like to know.

My only disappointment was the absence of Shine On You Crazy Diamond – but I presume this was substituted for the Animals suite due to its topicality in terms of world events. Hopefully he’ll return to New Zealand one day and I’ll get to see him play it.

My experience in seeing Roger Waters play live twice now is that he never fails to attract New Zealand’s cream of the bogan crop. When we saw The Wall, I invested in very expensive diamond tickets, just a few rows from the front. We’ll be away from the riff-raff here, I thought. How wrong I was. To my right sat a twenty-something blonde, dressed like a stripper, accompanied by her forty-something mother. They looked so similar – blonde with roots, caked in make-up, stumbling in ridiculously high heels – they could have been sisters. After the older one returned from the bar, forgetting that her daughter was pregnant (she drank the wine regardless), they proceeded to stand-up in their seat, and danced along to the show. Not a huge problem you might say, but the people sat behind them who had shelled out $400 a ticket thought differently. Security was called after they became belligerent and abusive, and they were thrown out.

This time around, we were sat in the cheap seats with a group of drunken bogans sat behind us. Before the show started, one of them kicked a full tray of drinks over, with the resulting liquids spilling under our seats. They apologised, and it wasn’t too much of a problem, so fair enough. The guy sat directly behind me then thought it was acceptable to put his feet up onto the top of my chair, which I just sat back on, his toes digging into my back, until he got the message and stopped.  Then during the show, one of the males spat his drink out, laughing at something one of his companions had said. My wife took the brunt of it to the side of her face, while a lady in front of her stood up and turned around to give him an absolute bollocking. As I was debating whether to notify security – I wasn’t too sure what had happened, or whether it was accidental or a malicious act – one of their party returned from the bar and passed my wife and I a whiskey and coke each to apologise.

I appreciated this greatly – but the exchange did take me by surprise and as a result I missed Roger singing my favourite lines from Wish You Were Here: ‘Did you exchange a walk-on part in the war / For a lead role in a cage?’

Oh well, maybe next time (and I hope there will be a next time)..

I don’t know The Pros And Cons Of Hitchhiking too well, despite having heard it a number of times. I really need to listen to it more – and probably through headphones so I can pick up on all the little nuances and snippets of dialogue. It’s an album that’s crying out for an accompanying film (like Alan Parker’s 1982 film of The Wall), and while such a project was initially mooted, nothing has emerged in the subsequent 35 years.

Hit: 5:01 am (The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking, Part 10)

Hidden Gem: 4:47 am (The Remains of Our Love)

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Rocks In The Attic #644: Ocean Colour Scene – ‘Moseley Shoals’ (1996)

RITA#644When you go and see a band that you haven’t seen since your youth, there’s a brief moment when you have to suspend disbelief. The group walking out on stage are twenty years older than when you last saw them. Hairlines may have receded slightly, waistlines may have expanded slightly. But in general, you can recognise them as older, wiser versions of the young men (or ladies) you knew from your teenage years.

When Ocean Colour Scene walked out on stage last week at Auckland’s Powerstation, I recognised guitarist Steve Craddock immediately. Still of slight build, his receding hairline further illuminating his light-bulb head was the only sign of aging. I recognised the drummer – Oscar Harrison – too. The bass player had changed into a completely different person though.

Where’s the singer, I thought, as one of the big, burly roadies walked up to the mic just as Craddock ripped into The Riverboat Song. “I see double, up ahead…” the man spat into the mic. He sounded enough like Simon Fowler, but it couldn’t be him. I’ve let my subscription to the Ocean Colour Scene monthly newsletter lapse a long time ago, but maybe Fowler died and they got this guy in from one of their tribute bands, like how INXS replaced Michael Hutchence.

He did sound like Simon Fowler though, this guy. He might look like a butcher, but he had exactly the same soulful voice I remembered from Moseley Shoals. I resisted the urge to get my phone out to check if he had the same face as the young man I remembered from twenty years ago.

By the time The Riverboat Song had finished, to a long, sustained round of applause, I was convinced it was actually him. I felt slightly ashamed for thinking any different, but I was just taken aback at how different he looked. In the ‘90s I remember him being a lithe, Jagger-esque frontman. But in the space of twenty years, as a friend pointed out, he had gone the way of Van Morrison.

RITA#644fA couple of songs in, Fowler announced he was gay – “I used to be quite camp when I was younger, I prefer to call myself gay now” – something you don’t usually hear at a gig. A brave move, I thought, considering the ignorant, numbskull mindset of your average Britpop fan. As might be expected, a drunken idiot behind me made a homophobic comment.

Perhaps Craddock looked the same because he’s been in regular employment, another friend suggested, with the implication that Fowler has spent the intervening years reminiscing about TFI Friday over a box of Jaffa Cakes. But Ocean Colour Scene haven’t been out of work – they’ve been releasing studio albums regularly since the ‘90s, averaging one every three years up to 2013’s Painting. Admittedly they haven’t bothered the charts since their Britpop heyday, so it’s hardly a surprise that they feel like returning heroes.

RITA#644gWhat a great show the band put on, once I was sure of who I was watching. Starting their set with The Riverboat Song? What a banger! And what balls! A lesser band would have saved it to their encore (in fact, I was hoping they would have played it a second time at the end of the show). Oasis and Blur may have been the kings of Britpop, but this single is as strong as anything those bands produced in their prime.

They played through most of Moseley Shoals – a record I have very fond memories of, from University – plus a handful of songs from third album Marchin’ Already. There wasn’t too much I didn’t recognise, so I’m guessing they had wisely avoided much of the material from those post-1990s records.

One of my favourite Britpop-era singles, the bonkers Hundred Mile High City, was wheeled out towards the end of their set, before they encored with The Day We Caught The Train. I used to love this band. I still do.

Hit: The Riverboat Song

Hidden Gem: 40 Past Midnight

Rocks In The Attic #488: Iron Maiden – ‘Killers’ (1981)

RITA#488I saw Maiden in Auckland a few weekends ago. They’re one of the big metal bands I still haven’t seen so I thought I’d put on a black t-shirt and head along. I’ve never been a huge fan of them; they’re a little too much in the realm of puberty and double-denim for me. They did put on a good show though.

Maiden were always a source of ridicule when I was growing up because they were the only band that would actually wear their own band t-shirts on stage. I think it’s pretty sweet for bands to wear other bands’ t-shirts when they’re on stage, you know, as a sign of respect; but to wear your own band’s t-shirt just reeks of narcissism. Surely they wouldn’t still be doing this, I thought as I headed to the arena; but sure enough there was Janick Gers strutting around the stage in a dirty, black Iron Maiden t-shirt. Just him though; damn, I was hoping for a higher score than one out of six. One of the other guitarists Dave Murray usually wears them too, but not on this night.

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The other ridiculous thing about the band, and their contemporaries, is the name of their sub-genre of heavy metal – N.W.O.B.H.M. A ridiculous acronym, standing for New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, this was coined by Sounds journalist Geoff Barton to describe the punkier, more uptempo metal bands that rose to prominence as the ‘70s turned into the ‘80s.

I didn’t really know what to expect from their set-list, but I hardly knew any of the songs – and that’s even with listening to the Best Of The Beast compilation once a year or so since it was released. They rolled out The Trooper, Number Of The Beast and Fear Of The Dark, but there was no Run To The Hills, no Two Minutes To Midnight and no Bring Your Daughter To The Slaughter, their only number one single. Maybe they’re just one of those bands who don’t like to play their hits.

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Fear Of The Dark
is a great song though – my favourite Maiden song by a mile, ever since I saw a video of them paying the sing at Donington in 1992. I was pleased to hear the audience sing along to all the instrumental parts too, just like on the Donington video.

They’re a funny-looking bunch of blokes though, aren’t they? First you have Bruce Dickinson, the literal pilot of the band and recent cancer survivor. The rest of the band weren’t really aware that the ‘80s had ended, all dressed up in their skin-tight studded leather trousers and sneakers, but Bruce was there in cargo pants and a hoodie. Then there’s Steve Harris, the metaphorical pilot of the band, in his long shorts pogoing up and down on the bass.

The band have three lead guitarists – Dave Murray, Janick Gers and Adrian Smith – a bit of a cheat, I think, when most bands of their ilk can get by fine with just two. Murray looks like a melted version of Joni Mitchell, Gers just looks happy to be there, playing the guitar in his Iron Maiden t-shirt, and Smith is really the only one who looks to be dressed in a decade other than the ‘80s, wearing a fashion scarf around his neck, and a bandana around his forehead. Okay, the bandana is very ‘80s, but somehow it made him look a hell of a lot more modern than the rest of the band.

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Rounding out the sextext is drummer Nicko McBrain, a man so frightening he looks like he could share the dressing room with Eddie, the band’s ghoulish mascot. Check out his name – McBrain! Crikey – I would not want to run into him in a dark alley.

Killers was album number two for Maiden, and their last with original vocalist Paul Di’Anno. The band don’t sound complete without Bruce Dickinson’s high-pitched wail and the record sounds strange as a result. Dickinson’s vocals were a point of difference for the band after this album, and Di’Anno’s vocals – in the same register as a lot of other metal singers – just don’t have that same sort of appeal.

I did like the years in the ‘90s between Bruce Dickinson leaving and re-joining the band. They got Wolfsbane singer Blaze Bayley in on vocals. Now if you’ve heard that thing about your porn name being the name of your first pet and your Mother’s maiden name, then Blaze Bayley – albeit with a difference in spelling – is mine. Wow – a porn career, and a bit of moonlighting singing for Iron Maiden too!

Hit: Purgatory

Hidden Gem: Genghis Khan

Rocks In The Attic #435: Freddie King – ‘Getting Ready…’ (1971)

RITA#435A few weekends ago it was the bi-annual record collector’s fair in Auckland. I really look forward to these events, held six months apart in March and October – they’re like Christmas Day for me, only without the turkey, Queen’s speech or unwanted socks and jumpers as gifts. In fact, they’re probably my favourite days of the year – one just as summer is about to start and one just as summer is about to finish.

I always go along with a budget in mind – $100 or so – but I’ll take more with me as a safety net. You never know if you’ll come across something autographed by a band you love when you’ve only got $5 left in your pocket. That would be a horrible situation to be in. I’d have to grab it and do a runner.

This year, I very quickly spent $100 – and just kept on going. I usually pick up albums for around $5 each, and usually end up spending so much just to capitalise on the opportunity – knowing that the same albums would cost me upwards of $15 or $20 each at Real Groovy in the same condition. I ended up spending upwards of $200 – budget well and truly blown. But I averaged around $6 per record – for thirty eight records in total, so I came home well and truly happy.

The thing that made me the happiest was my final purchase. I knew I had exceeded the $200 mark, so I was just about to leave when I had a look at just one more stall (don’t addicts always talk about ‘just having one more’?).

There it was – a nice copy of Freddie King’s Getting Ready… from 1971, an album I had been looking for for quite some time. Last year, while doing some research for my failed / unwanted 33 1/3 book submission, I came across an old interview with Aerosmith’s Joe Perry. He mentioned that in preparing to write and record their 1989 album Pump, he had been listening to a lot of blues records from his youth – one of which, Freddie King’s Going Down had really reminded him of the music that used to get him up in the morning, before he replaced music with drugs.

I found the album digitally easy enough, but a vinyl copy remained elusive. Until I saw it at the fair. My heart stopped for a moment when I first saw it, but then I looked at the price. A full $15. This was not only more than I had paid for everything else in my bag at that point, but it completely made a joke of the $100 budget I had set myself. Fuck it, I thought. I had been looking for the record so long, what difference does another $15 make when I’ve already gone 100% over my budget.

I’m so glad I have this in my collection. Joe’s right too – Going Down is one of the most upbeat blues stompers you’re likely ever to hear. It could almost be the rootsy precursor to Supergrass’ Alright – sunny, effervescent, truly uplifting blues.

Hit: Going Down

Hidden Gem: Walking By Myself

Rocks In The Attic #422: Bob Dylan – ‘Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid (O.S.T.)’ (1973)

RITA#422When I bought this record, a few years ago at the Auckland record collectors fair, the stall owner thanked me for my purchase by coming around to my side of the counter, leaning into me with the stale breath of the previous night’s beers and giving me a quick burst of Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door, air-guitar and all.

My knowledge of Dylan after the ‘60s is very limited. I know about the big albums – but in terms of everything else, there seems to be so much chaff among the wheat that it’s almost a minefield, like the musical equivalent of trying to separate the good Woody Allen films from the bad ones.

I haven’t seen the film that this record soundtracks. Coming to a cultural backwater like New Zealand has severely limited my chances of being able to see the film on television or though a friend, so I’m going to need to seek it out through other channels. As I approach the end of my thirties, there’s still a heap of older films I still need to see; only last night I was watching Peter Bogdanovich in The Sopranos and I realised I haven’t seen any of Bogdanovich’s own films. Well, I’ve seen Mask – everybody has seen Mask as the BBC used to play it with alarming regularity – but I haven’t seen any of his other films like The Last Picture Show or What’s Up Doc?, despite reading so much about Bogdanovich and seeing him critique other directors such as Hitchcock and Truffaut. My knowledge of Truffaut films is similarly limited, and ashamedly the only thing I know him from is his appearance in Spielberg’s Close Encounters Of The Third Kind.

I was speaking to a friend at work the other day and the subject of youthful ignorance came up – the fact that young people today are just so blind, not only to cultural matters, but also in terms of current events and even historical events. I wonder if the rise of technology and social media has had a negative effect on the ability for young people to see the importance of understanding about anything other than themselves. I’ve heard Spike Lee say similar things about young African American kids, but it’s a universal problem – an epidemic of the twenty first century.

Yes, I’m starting to sound very much like an old man. But I ain’t knockin’ on heaven’s door just yet!

Hit: Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door

Hidden Gem: Main Title Theme (Billy)

Rocks In The Attic #193: The Rolling Stones – ‘Voodoo Lounge’ (1994)

RITA#193As a late-career album (their 20th British studio album, and 22nd American studio album), this should be pretty bad. In fact, it’s relatively inoffensive.

Voodoo Lounge came out when I used to watch MTV religiously, so the lead single from the album, Love Is Strong, really makes me think of the great video where the band – now minus Bill Wyman – are slow-mo giants playing their instruments whilst walking through a cityscape. Looking back, the video just reminds me of The Goodies’ giant cats roving through a miniature London.

I’m not sure where the fashion for overly long albums started. I guess somewhere along the way somebody decided that more content on an album is better for the fans, or a bigger selling point perhaps. Voodoo Lounge clocks in at just over an hour, which is far too long for what is considered a single album.

I never got to see the Stones play live, and it looks increasingly unlikely given their age, and my location in the world, that I’ll get to see them. I really regret this, but I seem to remember ticket prices on this tour and the following Bridges To Babylon tour were astronomical. I should have paid to see them in Germany, supported by AC/DC no less, on the A Bigger Bang tour.

Despite it being unlikely to see them play in New Zealand, there is one thing that might make them come here. Keith Richards’ brain surgery (after falling out of a coconut tree in 2006) was performed in Auckland, so maybe he’ll come back to thank the doctors and surgeons who saved his life. Hopefully he’ll avoid climbing coconut trees in the future, as the band will cease to exist without him.

Perhaps it’s a good thing I never got to see them. I recently saw them on TV playing their 50th anniversary concerts and they sounded terrible. I think they can hit magic from time to time in the studio, but they don’t seem to be able to cut it live.

Hit: Love Is Strong

Hidden Gem: Brand New Car

Rocks In The Attic #110: Wilson Pickett – ‘Wilson Pickett In Philadephia’ (1970)

Rocks In The Attic #110: Wilson Pickett - ‘Wilson Pickett In Philadephia’ (1970)I found this in the sale racks at Real Groovy in Auckland. I figured it must be a relatively decent release as the record was brand new – indicating that it was a reissue – so I quickly surmised that the general bad taste of New Zealand record buyers had left it languishing in the ‘New Items’ racks for so long that the staff decided to put it in the sale racks. I held onto it until I got it out of the shop – and what a find!

This album represents Pickett’s first recording outside of the Deep South, and away from the familiarity of Memphis and Muscle Shoals. It has a slightly grittier and funkier sound than his earlier work, but it’s nicely held together by the studio band and producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff.

Hit: Help The Needy

Hidden Gem: Get Me Back On Time, Engine Number 9 (Part 1)