Friday, May 30, 2014

CONCERT: APIA Good Times Tour with Russell Morris, Joe Camilleri, Richard Clapton, and Leo Sayer

A couple of weeks ago I headed to the beautiful Civic Theatre with C and E to see the APIA Good Times Tour.
This was an amazing concert with Russell Morris, Joe Camilleri, Richard Clapton, and Leo Sayer.
I've been a fan of all of them for some time, but never seen Clapton and Sayer, so was thrilled to attend. Each played about 5-6 songs in separate sets before joining forces for a rocking encore.
Morris was first off. I have loved Morris since I can remember, and saw him close to 20 years ago at a local club. He was brilliant, he had been through the ringer and was trying to make a comeback of sorts. Since then he has gone from strength to strength and this superb short set was testament to that. He began with 3 songs off his new blues album, Sharkmouth, which I love. Then he moved into Wings of an Eagle, a stunning, soaring song which showcases the most stunning voice. Next up was The Real Thing, a song so meticulously produced you wonder how it could be replicated on stage and yet if you closed your eyes (as I did) you could be hearing it for the first time on radio way back then. He ended with my personal favourite, Sweet Sweet Love. There are no words for how much I adore this stunning ballad/rock tune and his delivery was perfection. I was in heaven, and he looked like he was too.

Next up was the ever sunny Joe Camilleri. He played a couple of Black Sorrows songs and a few from his new album. Just as I was thinking to myself, this is good, but the songs from the Black Sorrows really need the Bull Sisters, out comes Vika Bull to sing, Never Let Me Go and she blew the roof off. What a magnificent voice she has, and her heart placed firmly outside her body, somewhere between the flower in her hair and the smile on her face - both gigantic! This upped the ante for Joe and what a performance from them both, ending with Chained to the Wheel.

After an intermission, Richard Clapton came out for his set. I somehow keep missing Clapton, how I have no idea as he tours prolifically. He was exactly as I imagined, shortish, jeans, black jeans, those black sunnies, and that wild hair, a no shit attitude and his voice sounding as if he had just cut the record yesterday...timeless is Richard! His set was hit after hit including Deep Water, Girls on the Avenue, Capricorn Dancer and Lucky Country. He was effortlessly cool, with a teeny wink of irony and sounded great.

Seemingly the wild card entry, Leo Sayer was next. I have to say I was most excited about Leo, a huge fan from way back, I could not wait to see if that cute/daggy pop I listened to as a kid could be replicated. And mostly it was, I felt his higher notes were a little shakey at times, but men's voices get richer with age, so that is forgiven. My main issue with Leo was the schtick, there was too much piss farting around between songs, cut that out and we could have had another song. Having said that I had the hugest smile on my face when he was singing. Some of the hits churned out in his set where More Than I Can Say, When I Need You, Dreamin' (he wrote this with Cliff Richard), Thunder in my Heart, and my personal favourite Long Tall Glasses. God I love that song!

Then he was joined on stage by Camilleri, Morris, and Clapton for You Make Me Feel Like Dancing, seeing Clapton singing back up for this was one of the great joys of my life. Then Morris took the lead vocals for Hush, Camilleri for Shape I'm In, and Clapton for I Am An Island (another favourite). Vika Bull joined their superb backing band as backing vocalist for this encore which ended with a crazy rendition of Good Times. And good times it was, the show had gone on for close to 3 hours and we didn't want it to end.

Sunday, May 11, 2014


April began on a bang with the Writers Festival, which was a fabulous long weekend full of all things fun and literary AND I got to be involved in a session.

The rest of the month has been rather sublime and restful. Which I have really needed after a very full and full on year so far. Not complaining, but one does need to recharge the batteries from time to time!

I long lunched with C at Caves Beach Hotel, and attended Bibliotweeps Book Club to discuss Anita's book, Tiddas. And then read up at the beach until I met L at The Towers to see the perfect The Grand Budapest Hotel.

I also went to Fernwood for High Tea with L, B, A & J. It is a beautiful old home at The Junction, where we ate the most delicious delicacies.  I cannot recommend it highly enough.

I had 5.5 days off during the Easter Long Weekend, and mostly napped, ate, read, and caught up on DVDs. It incredibly zen. I did manage a beautician appointment, lunch with J, and a family get together for Easter and my sister's birthday on the Sunday...but that was all.

Before the Anzac day long weekend, L, A, J & I tried the new Napoli Pizza on King Street near The Towers, highly recommend. I haven't had pizza that good since Italy!!

And then some of the family headed down to Woolwich Pier Hotel in Sydney to celebrate the impending birth of my cousin's baby. What a delightful afternoon we had catching up with family and friends, most of whom we toured Italy with.

So a much quieter month, meant I got more reading and DVD watching done and you can read about that here.

And do a little writing about literature: Shakespeare and Project Read.

Also more time to walk and enjoy the fabulous sunsets this time of the year provides.

Saturday, May 10, 2014


Books I've been reading
Still not quite back on track reading, but getting there.
Humans of New York by Brandon Stanton. This is a beautiful book of photography, and the subject matter is everyday humans snapped on the streets of New York. Except most humans in New York are not quite everyday humans. This started it's life as a blog and it is fascinating. I love portrait photography and this is definitely worth having a look at.
Italian Ways by Tim Park. I was really looking forward to this read. My understanding was that it was about traveling between, Milan, Verona, and surrounds by rail. And as I have visited these places and indeed some by rail, I was ready for a walk down memory lane. But this book it more about the Italian railways, the specifics of the trains, and the Italian bureaucracy. More for train spotters and lovers of intricate minutiae.
9/11 and the Art of Happiness by Simon Kennedy. Simon's mother was on the plane that crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11. Simon, an Australian, tells the story about his loss and his battles with happiness in the decade since. It is a 9/11 story, a potted memoir of himself and his mother, and how he struggled to stay on top of things generally and as a comedian in those years after. It was a fascinating story, part memoir, part self help, but more just a story about an ordinary bloke beginning his stand up career with great tragedy.
Dior Impressions: the Inspiration and Influence of Impressionism at the House of Dior by Florence Muller. This was just perfection. Stunning photographs of Dior creations and prints of Impressionistic paintings and the similarities. Dior was very much influenced by the Impressionism paintings, and simply put this beautiful books shows you how, in words and more importantly in photos.
Film in Five Seconds: over 150 Great Movie Moments - in moments by Matteo Civaschi and Gianmarco Milesi. This was pure fun, small cartoons with key characters and props that describe a movie and you have to guess which. I did very well, and yeah it was a very quick read!
Fortunately the Milk by Neil Gaiman. This is Neil's latest book for young readers, 5-8 year olds I would reckon. Dad endures the most terrific and terrifying adventure on the way to the shop to get the milk. Witty, scary, adventurous, and most of all fun. Great illustrations too, is there anything this man cannot do!?!
The Birdwatcher by William McInnes. This book started off really good, set in Melbourne, the main character lives alone, keeps to himself, and is a bird watcher. But also a watcher generally, so his observations of life, around him, at work, and on trams was interesting, witty, and compelling. He gets a call from a friend in Far North Queensland who sees a rare bird, and heads up to check it out. And that is when the story lost it for me, it was really predictable, slow paced (which normally I do not mind) and basically a run of the mill romance story. Just not for me I guess.
Simple Dreams: a Musical Memoir by Linda Ronstadt. A long time fan of Linda, I was eager to delve into her world and not so eager to leave. What a wonderful and fascinating life she has led. It begins with her life in Mexico, growing up on a farm, the hardships, but the love and music. You can see where her strength in character and love for music was built. In fact I would say, in built! It goes through all the various periods, country, rock star, Nelson Riddle, Opera, Stage, and movies. What a star, and somehow forgotten and under rated these days. What I loved most about this was it was purely business, she writes in great detail the musicality of these periods, the people she worked with, and the opportunities she took. But she never stooped to trashy gossip, and given the huge cast of stars she has worked with, she certainly could have resorted to that. She didn't go much into loves, affairs, or indeed deeply personal information. She also writes beautifully, and you feel like you are there in the studio with her. Definitely for fans of music generally.
DVDs I've been watching
American Pickers  - S6 I think, I do love this show about Mike and Frank and their love of Americana, motorcycles, and antiques. The places they go and the junk people accumulate never fail to amaze and amuse me.
What's in a name - This was a quirky little French film, that part irritated me and part made me laugh out loud. It revolves around a small group of friends, all meeting for dinner at one of their apartments. One couple are expecting and prior to his wife arriving, the husband reveals the name of the baby to the horror of their friends. From this crazy tale, secrets are unraveled, betrayals are found out, and will the group remain friends and make it though the evening?
The Imposter - this documentary about a family who is reunited with their lost son and brother after him being missing for years is compelling. You are shown from beginning the man is indeed NOT their son, yet they believe he is. The story is hard to describe without giving too much more away, but certainly a good example of where truth is stranger than fiction. This had me totally glued to the screen, and there was much to be learnt and indeed much more to learn. Highly recommend, but be warned, it will play with your mind a bit!
Greetings from Tim Buckley -  as soon as I heard about this film I knew it would be a bust, and it was! Yet I watched it anyway. Loosely based on Jeff's involvement in a tribute to his father just before he became a star himself. The premise is fascinating, and some aspects weren't too bad, but ultimately it took itself way too seriously and no one could ever be Tim or Jeff, too powerful to be able to pull off.
Game of Thrones S3 - Finally caught this season up and how brilliant it was. I loved, loved, loved the Red Wedding, of course it would have had more impact on me had I not known it was coming, but I guess that happens when you don't have cable! I still adore Tyrion, worshop Khaleesi, believe good things are in the future for both Arya and Brienne.
The Newsroom S2 - S2 was just as good as S1, if not better. I loved the ups and downs and particularly the storyline for Alison Pill's Maggie.
Incendies - A French/Canadian film. On their mothers death her children, twins, learn they have a brother, and their father, supposedly dead, is alive. She asks the twins to find them and so begins an extraordinary journey to the middle east to find the truth. Stunning and heart wrenching. A absolute must watch, I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Blancanieves - Inspired by Snow White, this black and white silent film from Spain was only made in 2012. Stunningly shot with a flamenco feel, and bullfighters and carnivals and the like this is unlike anything I have ever seen. Sensual and seductive, old-fashioned and sweet. Perfect soundtrack. A must see.
Dexter final season - I've had this to watch for a while, but had heard such bad things about the ending I couldn't bring myself to watch. I have loved Michael C. Hall from Six Feet Under and just love him even more as Dexter, so much so I am always on Dexter's side. This is odd I know and I like to say it's because Hall is such an amazing and sympathetic actor, not because there is something wrong with me, lol! The second to last season had me a little unnerved as it would appear Dexter would be found out, this didn't sit well with me, but I know he cannot remain elusive forever...or could he. Without giving too much away I loved the plot line involving the stunning Charlotte Rampling, but got annoyed when they brought her son into the plot, this was a bit too soap opera-y for me. I was not at all happy with how things ended for Deb, and actually loved how things were going for Dexter, until the very last scene and I felt very cheated. Sigh.
Grammys/Beatles - This was a special tribute concert by The Grammys and a whole range of acts for the anniversary of The Beatles coming to America. I loved pretty much all of it. I thought Annie Lennox's performance with Dave Stewart was divine, Dave Grohl knocked it out of the park as always, and of course Paul and Ringo playing at the end also great. There were some misses, Beatles' songs will always do that to some, not as easy as they sound. All up it was very much worth watching.
Music I've been listening to
Robyn Hitchcock - Live in London, fabulous
Manic Street Preachers - Rewind the film, catchy as always
Sting - The Last Ship. Whilst lovely to listen to, I feel Sting takes himself way too seriously these days, what happened to his joy?
Simon and Garfunkel - my work listening, keeps my calm when doing things that make me...un-calm.
Neil Finn - new album, Dizzy Heights, I really love this, and the more I listen to it the more I love it even more.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Behind the Scenes of The Gallery

Last year I decided to join Newcastle Art Gallery Society. For a small fee, you get discounts on selected gallery shows etc, and invites to interesting events amongst other things. Plus it made me feel like I was somehow helping an institution I loved and believed in, at their time of need. I grew up with this gallery, trips into The Civic with my grandparents was always thrilling when I was younger. We would go to the ballet at The Civic Theatre, visit Him and Her at the library, wander in the park and watch the fountain, and of course go to The Art Gallery. As I got old I still did all those things and incorporated visits to my beloved Cooks Hill Books, Darby Street, and surrounds.  
New members are lucky enough to be invited to a behind the scenes tour, and I took up the offer today. I met a few others at the entrance of the gallery and we were joined by Prue, who was to be a powerhouse of love and information about the gallery. We went through secret doors to the left of the building and were inside the beast. I was thrilled beyond imagination.
I wished I had taken notes and had the guts to ask to take photos, but I simply didn't think of the first and it seemed wrong to ask the later. We met staff and wandered about both levels of the gallery, led and informed by Prue. We heard the history of the gallery, built in 1977 and opened by Queen Elizabeth. It must have been the most remarkable thing. I did wonder if my grandmother or even I was there, I must find out. My grandmother adored the royals, so surely we had to be there?

And it is a great building, a great space, but the collection is vast, and there is simply nowhere near enough room to showcase this I was about to find out. Most galleries and museums never have all or indeed even half their collection out on display at a time, which seems a shame, but to continually evolve and develop a worthy collection, displaying everything is impossible. But when you see the depths of how much they do not display at Newcastle, you can see how desperately they need more space. I don't want to go into the travesty of why this isn't happening here, that isn't just another blog or two but a very long book/essay/saga that the most devastating story in the world doesn't seem to match.
And so we got to look at some of the vaults, large hanging spaces with a few inches between, and each rack pulled out to expose multitudes of art on both sides. We got to see a few racks and the most fabulous pieces within. And then we got to see their special vault, this includes the big pieces. These are pieces that should be on display permanently. One rack was pulled out and there within 20cm of my eye was The Strapper by William Dobell! I gasped and tears came to my eyes. Of course I had seen it before, but to see such a magnificent piece hidden away like that made me realise how utterly shameful the gallery has been treated. Of course beyond that rack was another favourite, Whiteley's Summer at Carcoar. There are no words.

We also got a glimpse of the ceramics room, the gallery has the largest collection of ceramics in the Southern Hemisphere. All those items stored in lovely boxes with photos of the item on the outside. And as a Librarian I was thrilled to see the multitude of folders containing catalogued information on each piece in the collection...the folders of provenance. 

I don't know what is going to happen to my beloved gallery next, hopefully something positive. But please go and visit it regularly, appreciate it, and love it.