Thursday, May 27, 2010

Midweek Musical Muse: Neil Young Solo

Going to a Neil Young concert is similar to buying a new Neil Young album. Unpredictable! You may or may not get what you expect. After attending one of his concerts this week I can say I mostly got what I thought I would get. It rocked OK!

Neil Young has produced nearly 50 albums stretching back to 1966 when he joined Buffalo Springfield and his catalog is wide, varied and unparalleled. Very few other rock ‘n’ roll artists can match him in output and the use of wide-ranging styles. The only one that comes to mind is Bob Dylan.

Young is mainly known for an acoustic folk and country rock, or a hard rock artist with the band Crazy Horse. But he has dabbled in blues, swing, rockabilly, electronic rock, alternative rock and grunge to mention a few.

Most people love music, but a small percentage will travel far and wide and, these days, pay large sums to see specific artists in concert.

My love for live performances developed when I lived for a while in a commune on a small farm in the northwest of Johannesburg, South Africa, when places like Honeydew and Randpark Ridge were still sparsely populated and a place like the White Horse Inn was an out-of-the-way but very cool joint to spend Saturday afternoons listening to one-man bands in the bar.

Palace Theatre entrance. Check on the right who's coming in September.

There is something special about seeing and hearing music in action. Whether it is watching the Bolchoi Orchestra and Ballet Company performing Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, enjoying a casual dinner while being serenaded by Coenie De Villiers in a restaurant in Cape Town, or sitting all dressed up in evening wear at a black tie dinner watching Julio Iglesias cooing in our ears. But it is rock ‘n’ roll concerts that really tickle my fancy and over the years I have been very fortunate to see many legendary artists or bands live. Some highlights include the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, U2, Bruce Springsteen and Led Zeppelin (minus John Bonham). After Wednesday evening I can now add Neil Young to this list.

The Venue

Louisville’s Palace Theatre has been described as the “Jewel of the South” and the “finest theatre in the South”. Built in 1928 the theatre is throwback to another period in time with the ornate stone walls painted in cobalt blue, red and gold and a high vaulted ceiling covered with sculptured faces of historical persons. Inside the theatre it is quite spectacular. Built like a “Spanish courtyard” from the Baroque period, with motifs, arcades, balconies and a cobalt blue imitation nighttime skyline

Louisville Palace Theatre foyer

Louisville Palace Theatre lobby with its sculptured ceiling of historical figures

Inside the theatre with painted nighttime ceiling and many ornate features

The Show

Neil Young started off the evening on the acoustic guitar with the oldies My My Hey Hey, Tell Me Why and Helpless. Thereafter it was electric all the way and he changed instruments as regular as Lady Gaga changed outfits. One of the t-shirts for the Twisted Road Tour summed it up perfectly:

         I said solo…They said acoustic

He launched into a trio of new and unreleased tunes I never heard but very much enjoyed with heavy bass pedal effects, especially Peaceful Valley, before he picked up Ol’ Black, his trusted Gibson Les Paul guitar for Hitch Hiker, Ohio and a few other tunes. Then he switched to the upright piano for Leia, to the pump organ for After The Gold Rush and to the grand piano for I Believe In You. Then it was back to electric for some more oldies like Cinnamon Girl and Cortez The Killer. For the encore he performed another new song Walk With Me. All-in-all a fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable evening. Now Mr. Young, keep on rocking and don't you dare retire next year to draw social security.

Neil Young on stage with wooden Indian decoration as solitary company
(Picture by Tracy Woodward)
If I can level some criticism then it is about the length of the show, or rather how short it was. Only 90 minutes and less than 20 songs. I see on blogs some people are complaining about the ticket cost and at $175 a ticket it was an expensive night out on the town, but both M and I really wanted to see Neil Young live. Cost was never really a consideration. And hey, the place was packed to the rafters, or rather to the blue painted ceiling.

Another check on the Bucket list!

Although several videos about his current tour are already available on Youtube, including some of the new material, I'll leave you with a 1971 classic, one of my favorites and some brilliant acoustic guitar playing.

Pictures: Except where mentioned from Google and yahoo! images.

Monday, May 24, 2010

What's Up For Gordon Brown?

The axe in British politics is like the executioner’s chop during the reign of Henry VIII, swift and brutal. In recent weeks we have seen this happened again tp Dr. Gordon Brown. Within 30 minutes he moved from the highest office in the land and a chance to survive as Prime Minister of a coalition to a commoner when the Liberal Democrats decided they rather want to work with David Cameron's Conservatives than with the Labour Party.

The Conservative newspaper, The Sun, never known for its high ethics in diplomacy and never shy for publicity, showed how ruthless the British press can be by running an article with a headline like this.

But what happens to ex-British Prime Ministers? In the USA, recent Republican Presidents wrote their memoirs and fade away. Ronald Reagan retired to California, George H Bush, #41, retired to spend his time between Houston, TX and his beach house in Maine and jump out of airplanes of course, and George W Bush, #43, retired to Dallas and is seldom heard off…so far...let’s hope it continue. Democrat Presidents went on to have active roles after office. Jimmy Carter became more active, and more loved, after office than when in office. He was extremely active as election observer all over the world, and charity work in many part of Africa. Bill Clinton is still going strong and has hardly left the spotlight since leaving office, being active in his foundation and being the UN ambassador for Haiti.

Gordon Brown left 10 Downing Street for his North Queensferry Home in Fife. Not too shabby.

It is not much different for British Prime Ministers. A true mixed bag. Recent Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair finds it hard to retire. He had aspirations to become the first European President, but in the end pulled out when the job description was watered down to a barely-something job. He is still very active as a Middle East peace envoy, does lectures and gives advice to investment bankers, and organizes faith-based organizations.

[Basically a nice high-paid jet-set life.]

The last Conservative PM John Major retired quietly to devote his life to his first love, cricket. His predecessor Margaret Thatcher found it harder to leave the political arena and tried for some time to direct the Conservative Party from the backseat before becoming a Baroness and taking up a seat in the House of Lords.

And although David Cameron's London home looks like a normal, average English row house, he, and his wife comes from very wealthy families.

So what’s up for Gordon Brown? At 59, he will stay on as a Member of Parliament for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath in Scotland, but I hardly think he will want to listen to local complaints the whole day.

[Probably call them bigots.]

The Cameron's country home in Oxforshire. During the recent expense claims scandal in Britian it was announced that Dave Cameron claimed $21,000 per year from the government for mortgage payments, while he is worth an estimated $20-30 million.

Will Brown become a sulking backbencher like Edward Heath? (Heath became the “longest sulk” after he lost his party’s leadership to Margaret Thatcher.) Brown was a former university rector at Edinburgh so he can return to education and he did play a major role in world economics for 10 years as Chancellor of the Exchequer and 5 years before that as Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer. A top position in world economics or finance is not ruled out, although he did say he does not want to work in the business world. But it will not be the first time he said he will not do something and turn around and do exactly what he said he won’t. (He said before becoming Prime Minister that he will not use Chequers, the country estate for British PMs, for weekend retreats, and then shortly after becoming PM he started to use it extensively for the very purpose.)

[Once a politician always a politician.]

David Cameron's first cabinet. For a politician that sold himself as progressive I was rather surprised to see so few women in his cabinet. A paltry 4 out of 30 members.
[The more things change the more they stay the same]

Heading image: Executioner's axe in the London Tower

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Pictorials From Around The World left me/but I never left you - John Lennon, Mother.

Event: A Supporter from the Ivory Coast before their match against Ghana during the Afican Nations Cup.
Location: Angola.
Picture by: Reuters

 They say in the East they will move anything on two wheels.
Two guys, a cell phone and a live & kicking water buffalo going to the "market"

Location: Vietnam.
Picture by: Mark Armstrong from Wales

If you follow me obediently I won't have to use this noose

Event: Emperor penguins following a researcher on sea ice
Location: McMurdo Sound, Antarctica
Picture: James Pinchin of Barnstaple, Devon, England

Oh Really! An interesting concept for men.

Location: Interstate 95 in Florida, USA
Picture by: Peter Hoyles
Just a minute boys! Hang on! I really don't like water and prefer trees.

Event: An orangutan near the village of Bukit Lawang in Sumatra being moved back to the forest from a rehabilitation centre. Sometimes orangutans who have been set free are caught sneaking back to the centre in search of human food.
Location: Sumatra
Picture by: Pete Andrew from Wirral, Merseyside, UK.

This is so applicable for the northern hemisphere winter of 2009/2010 when the weather was very unpredicable.

Location:  Eastbourne
Picture by: David Lees

 Alexandra Hotel: 5 star accommodation, newly renovated just in time for the Soccer World Cup in South Africa.

Location: Alexandra Township near Johannesburg, South Africa

Nearby attractions include an open air barber shop and a streetside games room for dominoes.

Location: Alexandra Township near Johannesburg, South Africa

While visiting South Africa please make time to experience the local version of a poolside BBQ.

Location: Somewhere in South Africa (certainly not everywhere)

And finally

The poster says it all!

Location: Bequia, Caribbean
Picture by: Alex Michaelis

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Mean Streets of South Africa

I don't want to be cynical or break the country down (there are enough blogs doing that on a daily basis), but it is stories like these from Australia's Channel 7 that makes you wonder how successful the FIFA World Cup in South Africa will be from a gaining-in-foreign-currency point of view. I can imagine that many who watch stories like these will not be traveling to South Africa.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

SuperSport Super Disdainful’s weekly’s Super Wrap is probably one of the most read rugby blog posts, especially among South African expatriates. The reason is simple: It is from a South African point of view. One can read the same stuff on or or .nz, but The Wrap has always been good and, in my mind, always fair and balanced. This week’s comments though totally rubbed me up the wrong way and it seems a few others too:

Apologies to our overseas readers - the video rights only extend through Africa.
To the ex-pats - you should have stayed here...

I completely understand the issue about copyrights and that SuperSport can only show the videos in Africa and the unavailability of the videos has never been an issue to me. But to make a statement like that about the ex-pats???? Come on, you have always been better than that...

For emigrants like me, I rather live without your videos than to live in a constant state of criminal and racial war. Thank you but no thank you. But for the thousands of South Africans living and working temporary abroad, who are also ex-pats, that sentence was a smack in the face.

To the Gavin Rich’s and Brendan Nel’s of this world (it seems they are the main writers these days at SuperSport): Get out of your “laer” mentality and embrace the fact that we are all living in a big global village these days. People are living and working all over the world without denouncing their culture. And secondly, based on the comments below, make sure with your technical team that your website actually functions as advertised. To say you have videos and then it doesn’t actually works inside South Africa or your copyright area is pathetic. It seems that both the Super Wrap writers and the website personnel are getting sloppy and down right derogatory and disdainful.

Here are a few comments copied from Super Wrap about that dreaded statement.

• by Freddy May 5, 2010 07:47 GMT

Anybody else have the error message when viewing videos on SuperSports site: Cannot access the resource file?
And it''s not like I''m accessing from overseas, I''m in JHB? What should I do?

• by Neef Mytros May 5, 2010 08:08 GMT

Ag nee wraggies. Hey Supersport! Get off your arses and get the video rights. I bet 60% of your readership are based overseas. And we can''t follow the games on TV like the locals. And your sanctimonious tone is not appreciated either. It''s not as if we ever had a choice.

• by VIC May 5, 2010 09:12 GMT

Hey supersport the only people living in SA that look at this web site either have nothing to do or dont have M-Net. Its us ex pats that use this the most wake up and have a shot if the coffee doesnt work.

Now look after your ex pat support base

• by Michael May 5, 2010 09:56 GMT

Supersport stop jerking around and let us ex-pats working in Afghanistan on contract work also see the video''s!

• by @Supersport May 5, 2010 11:35 GMT

@ Supersport - Why are you guys scratching where it does not itch? Sitting in P.E. and cannot view the videos.

You guys seriously need new Web administrators. Obviously your new idea was not tested!
Govt incompetence now filtering down to the private sector! Sigh!!!

Notes: SuperSport logo is used courtesy of