I went out tonight after work, to see one of the shows in this year’s Meltdown festival at the Royal festival Hall which is conveniently located so close to where I work that I could see it clearly if
a) Waterloo Station was not in the way
b) We had any windows
This year’s Meltdown is ‘curated’ by Patti Smith and features a few of the people you might expect – like Television, Richard Hell, Flea and a few people you might not, like Jeff Beck.
It was an interesting night.
A reasonable chunk of the audience (Spizz included) were going to see Carbon/Silicon and had never heard of Rachid Taha. Another sizeable chunk were world music fans who had never heard of Carbon /Silicon, so there was a fair mix of ex-punks and radio 3 listeners.
Going anywhere with Spizz is an experience, as he is a very gregarious and sociable sort, who seems to have friends everywhere… we met up outside the NFT and grabbed a pint from their bar. As we went over to the riverside to drink up we bumped into a huge punk, an acquaintance of Mr S and a fellow Carbon/Silicon fan. Pure coincidence, as he was not even there for the concert, but for a works leaving do.
Then we went inside and took our seats just in time for the show. Our seats were in row O in the upper stalls – quite a way back. When the band started, there were still a lot of empty seats so we slipped out and bagged some seats half a dozen rows forward. Spizz took a photo with a digital camera which has the brightest flash in the world and attracted the attention of a steward who told him photos were not allowed. After another song we jumped forward a bit more, ending up in row B. At this point Spizz decided he wanted another photo, but more of a close-up, so he slipped out and headed toward the front stalls. The steward moved to tell him not to take a snap, but he legged it into the front stalls chased by the steward. I couldn’t see what happened as the mixing desk was in the way, but I saw half the front stalls laughing, cheering, pointing and clapping then Spizz reappeared from the other aisle and slipped back to his new seat. The steward came along and gave him an old-fashioned look, but decided against any evictions.
So what were the band like? Its hard to say for sure, as the sound quality was very poor. (Thats one reason why the RFH is being closed for 18 months for renovations) The guitarist/singer is Mick Jones from the Clash and the rhytm guitarist is Tony James from Generation X, hence the quite large following for a band who have not really released anything yet. A couple of the songs were very reminiscent of Big Audio Dynamite, but all of them were OK as far as I could make out. They do seem to embrace the mp3 ethos and have quite a few tracks/videos available free on their website, and I am told that they actively encourage recording at their concerts. They also have a fairly cool name which is abbreviated to CSI. Which is also cool.
There was a short interval while the stage was cleared for Rachid Taha so we headed out: Spizz to the bar and me outside for a smoke. While I was outside I saw some CSI fans trying to sell their tickets cheaply. I guess they figured they didn’t want to see the main act and would get back whatever they could for them.
When I got back in, Spizz was chatting to an old mate, Nicky Tesco, and his wife. Nicky and his wife were very friendly and, perhaps surprisingly for an ex-punk, was not really there for the Mick Jones band but for Rachid Taha. It turns out he is quite a fanatic about world music and we chatted a bit about Angelique Kidjo, Tinariwen, Mano Negra, and Amadou & Mariam. It turned out that the pair of them had passes for the after-show backstage party, and I could almost hear Spizz’s brain ticking over at this – he is one of life’s born liggers, and its a pleasure and privilege to see him in action…
We went back in just in time for Rachid Taha to come on stage and he rocked! Spizz was there prepared to tolerate it, but I think he got converted. The sound quality was a lot better, which helped. We again did our seat-hopping, after giving it a little time for late-comers to get in, and again ended up in row B. At this point we decided to go and join Nicky over in the side stalls. Our friend, the steward with the camera aversion, was trying to stop people getting into the front stalls after the initial rush to the front to get to what passes for a mosh pit in the RFH, so we headed for the exit, stayed outside the doors for 3 seconds and then slipped to the left as we came back in, heading for the side stalls.
These are funny seats as they are overlooking the side of the stage, and therefore behind the speakers, so it was a lot quieter there, but the view made up for the sound.
Rachid Taha put on a good show, although he missed a few of my favourite songs and didn’t really make enough of Kelna (the one Santana covered on his Supernatural album). Towards the end Patti Smith joined him on stage with a pair of clarinets. I suppose it was one of those special moments for a lot of people, but I could not see the point. It was just pure indulgence as far as I could see, as she sounded like she had never picked up a clarinet in her life. The noise was like our daughter on the recorder, but she kept prancing around and was rarely near enough to a mic for the sound to intrude too much.
For the last song Taha did his cover of Rock The Casbah and was joined for this by Mick Jones. Now that was a lot more of a special moment! Patti Smith was still there tooting away on the other clarinet.
I lost track of the time. Rachid Taha must have played for between 75 and 90 minutes when he finished and it was a quarter to eleven. I figured I should get home as Jayne said she would stay up and fetch me from the station, but I didn’t want to keep her up too late. Spizz was determined to get into the backstage party, and I was sorely tempted but decided to leave him to it.
While I was on the train I texted and found out that he had got in, so I was regretting my choice a bit. It would have been neat to have a photo of me & Rachid Taha for the website… but I was very lucky with train connections and got home quicker than I normally would at 4pm. (Only 45 minutes from when I reached Waterloo station to getting off at Three Bridges) As a bonus, I was home in time to catch Amadou & Mariam on the Jools Holland show.
While it would have been cool to go backstage and possibly meet Patti Smith, Mick Jones, Tony James and Rachid Taha, I still had a good night out, and did get to meet the lead singer of The Members – the man responsible for writing Sound Of The Suburbs – and he turned out to be a charming and fascinating bloke. Actually my experience of meeting ex-punks is that have all been really nice people.
So thats it now, until Live 8 in a couple of weeks, and the Broadfield Community Centre fund-raising barn dance next week. Guess which one I am looking forward to more..