Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Rock Museum in Barcelona

You'd perhaps not immediately put 'rock' and 'Barcelona' into the same sentence. I suspect that Anglo-Saxons would have a hard time naming a single Spanish rock musician; Anglo-Saxons have a hard time naming any rock musician outside of the English-speaking world. 'If it ain't in English, it ain't worth listening to' being the rather narrow-minded feeling. Barcelona would perhaps normally be paired with bull fights, the Nou Camp, Gaudi or San Miguel.

Spanish rock fans are not so culturally or linguistically hidebound, however, and the new museum illustrates this. Somewhat ironically, for Anglo-Saxon visitors, it is situated in the old bull ring, on the 4th floor of the new shopping centre Las Arenas at Plaça d'Espanya.

The museum houses a number of small galleries, some being permanent (inevitably those being Beatles, Stones, Punk and national music sections), while a couple of others are temporary. Queen fittingly in this their 40th year, take centre stage in the largest temporary gallery.

Inevitably perhaps, the range of exhibits is not as extensive as you'd find in the BME at London's O2. I doubt too many rock musicians have donated a chunk of their past here (perhaps they were never asked?). But it has some interesting local exhibits; posters advertising local gigs, local record sleeves and photographs. There's also a session room where local acts give shows, and a 'studio' where visitors can play out their rock dreams on a variety of instruments. Next door to their smallish merchandise outlet is an excellent rock-themed restaurant. Its size, food price and relative simplicity make it an interesting alternative to the Barcelona Hard Rock Cafe (one of the 135 world-wide...).

Add this new attraction to the more established Barcelona rock treat - a street of record and musical instrument shops, situated in the old town, just off La Rampla – and you have a great day out!

The records shops, by the way, are an Aladdin’s cave of delights. The selection of bootleg CDs and old vinyl spread over half a dozen shops is fantastic. Stuff you struggle to find elsewhere, especially the live performance bootlegs. What caught my eye on a recent visit was a new CD boxed package from the Godfather label; Pink Floyd's 1972 Rainbow Theatre appearance. The package consists of 4 discs, poster and facsimile ticket of what was basically the test launch of 'Dark Side of the Moon'. Given the historical importance of this particular performance, it’s probably a must-buy for Floyd fans, even at the hefy 89€ price tag.

And Spanish rock? Worth a listen are Héroes del Silencio. And check out flamenco-rock; a fusion of flamenco with progressive rock. Some of the most well-known examples of this scene from its 1970s heyday are the bands Smash and Crack.

Rock on Barcelona!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Big in Brazil?

Purely by accident, we ran into a film crew from ESPM Brazil outside Abbey Road a couple of weeks back. This resulting clip was aired on their coverage of the Champions League Final (Manchester United v Barcelona). I guess it's a small compensation for the fact that Manyoo were turned over!


If you're reading this in Argentina, keep you eyes open for a show on Canal 13 hosted by Bebe Contepomi featuring an interview with Roger Waters... it may include a little piece about our Pink Floyd Cambridge and London tour as we're taking the crew on a special tour of discovery. We'd love to hear if we make it onto Argentinean TV!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Queen's 'We Will Rock You!' Discount tickets

It's in its 8th year so that must say something about how good it is. I know at least three people who have seen the show above six times! Honestly, I can't review it myself yet as, almost unbelievably, I've yet to see it ...

Anyway, a night at the Dominion theatre is a worthwile complement to one of our London Rock Tours. Not only would you be celebrating Queen's 40th, and 20-years since Freddie' untimely death, but see the theatre where it can be argued that rock fenzy first surfaced in London! In February 1957, Bill Haley travelled to England, the first rock 'n' roll star to tour abroad. He was mobbed when his train arrived in London and there were rabid scenes of fan mania when he performed at the Dominion.

Not much in the Dominion to record this, which is a bit remiss of them, but they do have a great Queen photo exhibition.

We have discount tickets fro tose who want to see the show; £30 for the best seats available, Monday to Thursday. Just ask the guide on your tour or let us know in advance when booking your Rock legends tour.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Does Tap Dance have a place in Rock? Lofgren in High Wycombe

Somewhat self-indulgently perhaps, Keef Richards has heeded Nils Lofgren’s 1973 plea ‘Keith, Please Don’t Go’, though it’s a reminder of how long that eternal survivor Richards has seemed on the edge of self-destruction, even to his adoring peers.

Lofgren is himself another survivor. Patently, he hasn’t gone in for the same rock’n’roll lifestyle as the older Stone. Forty-three years ‘on the road’ and he still bounces around the stage (though the trampoline is long gone) with youth-like flexibility and athleticism. Lofgren looks like he’s the man who invented most of the rock-God guitar poses, arching his back as he sends notes soaring to the roof, roaming the stage like he’s checking territorial boundaries, or hunching over his axe like a demon goblin with fingers flying at impossible speed over the fret.

Though physically diminutive, Lofgren commands the stage like a giant. On this current UK tour he shares it with ‘the band’; the truly excellent Greg Varlotta who accompanies Nils on piano, guitar, trumpet or tap dance when required. Yes, tap dance. Lofgren was always one for the showmanship. Concerts have featured one-handed playing (‘I learned how to drink beer and play at the same time when on my first tour of the UK with Neil Young’, he confides), the occasional bow to Hendrix’s teeth-playing trick, and of course the famed trampoline, graphically immortalised as the front cover of 'Flip'.

He needs no gimmicks to electrify his audience though. They just give a man already in sharp 3D an extra dimension; tongue-in-cheek crowd pleasers. And God forbid the tap element should be considered ‘gimmick’. It was an integral part of the show; Varlotta’s tap rhythm to Lofgren’s powerfully strummed ‘Cry Tough’ was quite extraordinary. Lofgren is a virtuoso musician - and teacher - whether on electric or acoustic guitar, piano, harp (not often you hear the harp in a rock tune …), or executing a tap dance himself, as he did on ‘I Came to Dance’.

On the evidence of the Bruce Springsteen E Street Band T shirts at this High Wycombe gig, there were several fans of the Boss who’d obviously come to see a solo Lofgren out of curiosity. Playing over two hours of his own, rich, back catalogue material, and featuring ‘hits’ like ‘Going Back’, 'Here Comes the Night’ and ‘Back it Up Like Rain’, will have demonstrated that however important to the E Street band, he’s no simple side-man. The entire audience (and nowhere as big as Lofgren deserves) came out on a high, buzzing and giddy with adrenaline.

Overall, the show gets my ‘best of the year’ so far. Unmissable, if you’re reading this before the tour is through. And it’s nice when a musician of Lofgren’s stature comes out to meet fans and sign merchandise after a show. On the way into the venue Lofgren had been cheerily greeted by local character, the street-dwelling ‘Ed the Oracle’. ‘Are you coming to the show?’ asked Lofgren apparently. ‘No; can’t afford it’, sighed Ed. Lofgren reappeared 10 minutes later, personally, with a free ticket –unasked, unexpected and certainly not expecting this random act of generosity to be reported. That’s even nicer.

Forty-three years on it’s perhaps time someone wrote a homage to Lofgren; ‘Nils, please don’t go’ might be appropriate.