I remember being super excited two years ago when I spent a great week-end in London, enjoying the “David Bowie is…” exhibition at the V&A and a Dexys Midnight Runners concert. I must say that although I have been in London for a year now, I still get more or less the same feeling of excitement every week-end when discovering this amazing city with endless treasures. Funny then that without knowing it, I sort of got recently the same kind of week-end as that mentioned above with three great events.
I started on Saturday by visiting an exhibition at the prestigious and beautiful Somerset House, home in particular of the recommended Courtauld Gallery. Actually this exhibition was about…The Jam! Interesting to see how popular culture and tradition mix so well in this city. For those not familiar with The Jam, they were Paul Weller’s first band and probably the most popular in the UK between 1977 and 1982, when their leader decided to stop at the peak of their popularity to go towards new musical adventures. It created a kind of trauma within the British youth at that time but showed as well the spirit of independence Paul Weller has been having for 5 decades now. The exhibition showed a great balance between memorabilia objects (guitars, pictures, clothes,…) and movies of concerts and clips. Funny to see former and current mod fans visiting the exhibition (well I guess I am one of them…) not hiding smiles and enthusiasm but still in well-behaved manners!
Change of place and direction Notting Hill for an early evening session at the beautiful Gate Theatre to watch “Love and Mercy” starring John Cusack. Based on the life of Brian Wilson, leader of the Beach Boys, the film is focused on two periods of his life : first the 1965-1968 years, source of extreme genius…and the start of his mental issues and then the end of the 80’s when he re-entered the life of normal people but at a certain price. I strongly recommend this very moving movie for all those interested in rock’n’roll myths, knowing what one can see on the screen is really close to what actually happened. Good to see for once a movie based on music facts not too Hollywood-driven in its transcription of it all. For you all Beach Boys fans, the scenes in the studio describing the sessions that made “Pet Sounds” and the doomed “Smile” albums are fantastic.
…which brought us now to Sunday when I had a ticket to see live Badly Drawn Boy performing his first LP from 2000 “The Hour of Bewilderbeast“. The show was taking place at the Barbican Hall, situated on the Eastern side of town, in a very modern area stuck between offices and the Shoreditch neighbourhood. Always great to discover new places and theatre halls and that one was particularly amazing and with a great quality of sound. Not sure if this album rings a bell for many of you but this is clearly not the case in the UK where this is one of the classics of the last decade. Crazy of how time flies as to me it was still quite a recent LP and Badly Drawn Boy quite a new singer whereas we are talking about 15 years ago… What makes this LP so astonishing is a mix of modernity and classic songs, as if basically it had been done in the 60’s…or now but by a very strong individual. One can say whatever they want about Damon Gough (his real name) but strong individual he is indeed… Wearing his traditional wool hat (well it was 18 degrees in rainy London so for once the hat might have been justified), he showed his pride and happiness in being celebrated by such an enthusiastic crowd and I must say I spotted a few tears of joy here and there. The band was very subtile as well, being able to slow down and playing beautiful strings while getting noisy and/or funky when needed. BDB, Barbican 2015 setlist was based on songs from his other albums but the first part of the show was where the emotion was. (Re)discover him and start by this LP if you do not know this artist ; the rewards will be immense.