The Rolling Stones are a Shambles

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The Rolling Stones are a shambles. Keith can hardly stand up. He’s never been a good timekeeper. Ronnie can’t play lead guitar to save his life. The bass player who replaced Bill Wyman sounds like he wandered into the wrong gig by mistake. Mick doesn’t sing in tune. Not only that but he barely communicates with the audience. If you’re lucky you’ll get “Allo London” and “Keith sings this one!” and “Night thanks” in a two hour show.

Van Morrison and Neil Young don’t even say hello. They just glare at the rest of the band, sing then walk off.

Bryan Ferry plays every song too fast.

John Grant uses autotune on his vocals at concerts so they all sound factory perfect.

The sound system for Garbage at the Brixton Academy was so crap that all the great low end that their records are famous for were mush. And Shirley Manson, whom every man there has fantasised over for her enigmatic hard line cool gushed like a fifteen year old “it’s so wonderful to be here. Hello dad”

My favourite shows in the last two years? Easy

  1. Neil Young and Crazy Horse
  2. Garbage at Brixton
  3. Van Morrison
  4. John Grant at the Apollo
  5. The Stones at the 02
  6. Bryan Ferry at the Albert Hall

I hate musicals. The fake emotion. The clumsy speaking songs. The corny dance routines. The ticket prices.

Best night out at the theatre this year? Billy Elliot the musical by far.

I went to the Festival Hall this week to witness a friend singing Haydn’s Creation. Trafalgar Orchestra and Bach Choir.

The orchestra were a complete shambles. The strings were weedy and rushed. The brass was so far ahead they were almost in the previous bar half the time. The conductor appeared to have lost control within ten minutes and was herding cats the rest of the time. As for the choir? The trebles and altos were very good. The tenors were weak as every tenor section in every amateur tenor choir outside of Russia are weak. Mournful and flat.

The soloists were amusing apart from the screeching soprano – as usual you couldn’t understand a word she sang and she wobbled and warbled as though she was tied to a spin dryer [younger readers ask mum what a spin dryer was].

The Requiem is a truly great masterpiece of the late 18th century. Enjoying it with 2,000 other people is how it was intended. Not sitting alone in front of speakers. You don’t get a hard on that way.

I loved it.

Quincy Jones, the great US producer of Thriller said to me ‘how can you work with the singers you work with? They all sing out of tune’.

It’s hard to just stand there and tell Quincy he’s talking bollocks. Especially when he isn’t talking bolloks. Most of the singers I worked with and work with sing out of tune…and I don’t put a gizmo on them to tune the vocals afterwards.

But here are a few other singers who never sang in tune but who kind of did ok Quincy: Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Lou Reed, Mick Jagger, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, John Lennon, Bryan Ferry, Tom Waits, Roger Waters, Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton.

And just think how good they all were at a live show.

What’s all this rambling about? It’s about music not being perfect. It’s about musicians and artists being human; being flawed; it’s about the great truth that only the mediocre are always at their best…and it’s about the great truth that even a so so live music show is better than records, better than sitting at home, better than sex [well, better than sex with me anyway].

I was thinking this morning about how the Sade band … er … banned me from going backstage after gigs. I used to wander into the dressing room within 5 minutes “Smooth Operator was too fast again; we need to extend the end of Hang On To Your Love, Your Love Is King sounds boring and you can’t hear the horns … “and so on. That’s me all over. My daughter said to me many years ago “dad, it’s a good job you can’t see people’s faces half the time you know.”What I clearly forgot to say was the truth of the matter “fantastic guys I really really enjoyed that show. Loved did the audience. Brilliant.well done”

I haven’t learned anything. This week at The Requiem my friend came to the seat straight after. Maybe if she’d said “did you enjoy yourself Robin?” I’d have said the right things…but I fear she said something like “what did you think?” clearly fatal. I told her what I thought. I got a lift home. That was kind. I sat in silence reflecting on how little I’ve learned, while my friend and the other occupants of the car talked of other things, trying to forget the forensic deconstruction and destruction I had performed on their hard night’s work. HO hum.

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