I am a huge Lana fan and bought my ticket for this show in the pre-sale as soon as they were released back in November, even so I’ve never been entirely sure what to expect from it. The videos I have watched of her performing live have varied from straight up good in a ‘normal’ way to idiosyncratic but wonderful to (being polite) endearingly shonky so I had braced myself somewhat for her being charming but possibly hit and miss. She has also often appeared terribly nervous live and I was worried how she would fare playing her first proper tour after previously having played small venues like Oran Mor - and that was *before* they moved it from the mid sized venue I was already slightly concerned about being too big for her to the even bigger SECC.. I was *this* close to not going when it it was first announced because I was completely convinced she would be dwarfed by such a large, characterless venue never mind the kind of transient, usually drunk crowds that always seem more prevalent at arenas..
Let’s just say I’m very, very glad I was talked out of it.
Whether it’s down to her live performances getting better, her being more comfortable playing to ‘her’ crowd, having a really good sound system with her voice way up in the mix or a combination of all of these things she absolutely tamed the venue with no problem at all - and it’s worth pointing out that we were up in the bleachers so it’s not a front-row only perspective.
It definitely helped that the stage had a lovely trptych / boudoir set which along with good lighting and beautiful, thematic backdrop videos playing throughout the show gave a nice visual boost and set an evocative atmosphere, allowing her to concentrate on singing with it to frame her.
However, I was also surprised by how warm her stage presence was and how much she interacted with her fans. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone else sign autographs one-handed whilst singing and still looking totally composed and elegant before! Not to mention her going round the entire front row at the end - but more of that later..
There was also that lovely feeling you get sometimes of watching an artist at that point where they are first realising how successful they are now.
Far from being patchy or disappointing I loved every moment of the show and it flew past too quickly. I will without a doubt go and see her again.
Blow by Blow
Opening / Cola
The moment I saw the cool blue curtains with the silhouettes of palm trees swaying on them I felt I was beamed straight into one of her songs, even more so when they were pulled back to reveal the full set. Palm trees, stone lions, a huge golden triptych style frame, a string quartet and a luxurious golden chandelier.
Only Lana could open a show after a 5 minute, dramatic instrumental build up with the line ‘my pussy tastes like pepsi cola’ and get away with it. Great choice for an opener and within a verse I knew EVERYTHING WOULD BE OK.
Body Electric / Blue Jeans
Body electric had some great backdrops with the Elvis / Marilyn / Jesus lyric as the jumping off point and this was when I realised how well the show was going to use those visual elements too.
Blue Jeans was the first song where you could really hear the audience singing every word and she seemed genuinely quite bowled over by it.
Born To Die
This was the first real show stopper for me and after a slightly nervous looking start (the first line of that song always seems to give her the fear for some reason) blossomed into an absolutely beutiful number.
Carmen is my second least favourite of her songs (Diet Mountain Dew is the first) and I generally skip it but I did enjoy it much more live. Still, there are other songs I would have rather heard.
Just mesmerising and lit, of course, completely in blue. I’m a sucker for a good cover and this was wonderful. She also sung a fabulous bit of Knockin’ on Heaven’s door at one point but I’m having trouble remembering exactly when..
After torturing us by wondering out loud whether to play Gods & Monsters or American she settled on American. Gods & Monsters is my favourite of her songs so I was slightly gutted we didn’t get both (especially when she did Carmen) but American is a big favourite of mine too so the wound was immediately salved. It also eneded with her singing the words ‘like a Glaswegian’ which was.. surreal.
Without You / Young and Beautiful
Both of these were great and Y&B was clearly hugely popular with the crowd. I wasn’t much of a fan of the song when it first came out but it’s grown on me and seeing it live has cemented that.
Ride / Summertime Sadness
The spoken word intro video for Ride was played on the screens giving her a break offstage and setting the mood for arguably her ‘best’ song to date. She always sings this well I’ve noticed and last night was no exception. It’s such a powerful song and I found myself ‘pure greetin’ (as they say in the weedge) through the second half of Ride and most of Summertime Sadness. I do have a tendency to howl at these kind of things so take it with a pinch of salt but I did find her performance in general pretty emotional and moving throughout the night.
Burning Desire / Video Games
The backdrop for Burning Desire was this rather heady, pulsing redness and it was all a bit hot under the collar for three and a half minutes. Video Games was another big singalong moment and oddly joyous for such a melancholic song.
The song itself was fabulous and the perfect closer (there was no encore) being as it is quite uplifting for a Lana song but, for me, one of the most interesting parts of the evening came after she finished singing as she descended to the crowd and made her way, signing autographs and taking photos with, it seemed, every person in the front row while the band played out an instrumental string version of the song. All through this there was this wonderful grainy, black and white footage of it being shown on the screens.
I’m not cynical enough to believe she didn’t genuinely want to give something back to her fans but it was also one of the most effective moments of self mythologising I’ve witnessed. It was like being in a room with living, breathing vintage footage of a Hollywood star disembarking graciously at an airport and I couldn’t help thinking ‘how Lana, how perfect, how good is this going to look on the DVD..’
The crib notes
Don’t expect dance routines and costume changes but do expect to fall truly, madly, deeply in love with Lana.
So.. yes, it’s taken me over a month to sit down and write this review and I’m sure by this point no-one actually cares any more but here we are anyway.. The main reason it’s taken me so long is that although the overriding feeling of the album appealed to me and a few songs were instant I had the distinct suspicion that several of the slower songs would be growers and I wanted to give the album as a whole a chance to percolate before I wrote a review knowing that if I didn’t I would probably completely change my mind about half of it after I had written it.
My initial impressions of the tone of the album were favourable - I really like the way Brett has been using his voice in more recent years. Despite loving the album the more years that have passed since Coming Up the less fond I get of the plastic-glam pitch of the vocals and I don’t think anyone misses the Oasis rasp even if it did work well on a few songs like One Hit To The Body. The sound of the vocals on Bloodsports (and indeed the feel of the album) is closest to Brett’s last solo album Black Rainbows - an album I’m very fond of and has probably increased in my estimation quite a bit since my initial 7/10 review of it. The album as a whole feels full and ballsy but, unusually for suede not petulant. Also, apart from a couple of Brett-by-numbers moments it has continued the trend of his solo albums in having far, far better lyrics than latter day suede and Tears songs.
I also love the way everything sounds SO LOUD. I’m not very techy so I can’t tell you what I mean by that in production terms but everything just seems to BURST OUT of the songs.
The thing that threw me off about the album when I first started listening to it was the very strange way it is divided almost half and half into uptempo and downtempo songs which resulted in me often listening to first half only and ignoring the difficult ‘side 2’.
The lightbulb moment for me was this interview quote:
The album was conceived as a journey from the start to the end of a relationship, taking on all the points in between - suspicion, obsession, infatuation, co-dependency.
The second I read that not only did I think it was kind of a nice idea for an album but the record suddenly made perfect sense and just clicked with me. Now that difficult second half feels like a necessary bookend to the more familiar territory of the pop-rock tracks about emotional infatuation and sexual desire.
On first listen I probably would have given the album a 6/10 tops but I’d say now after getting under it’s skin a bit I’m going to come out with a much higher mark. I’ve really fallen for it and although I think Black Rainbows is probably more consistently satisfying as a whole I’m really happy with this album as if not a ‘comeback’ at least a forage into slightly new territory.
Track by track:
I really liked this song straight away. It has a nice meaty rhythm and a big punchy chorus. It does also, as many have said, have a bit of a stadium rock Simple Minds thing going on.
This was another of my instant favourites. It starts with an even more Simple Minds opening followed by a Coming Up esque ‘oooh oooh’ but the body of the song is like a slightly more macho, aggressive version of some of the Coming Up era rockers wrapped around another big, loud stadium chorus.
It starts and ends with you
I pretty much hated it when it was released but much like The Stars (are out tonight) it works much better for me in the context of the album than elevated to a single. Again like Stars it’s, in my opinion, the weakest track on the album. What is with that? Second-single-itus?
I love the oppressive, moody feel of this song and it builds towards a very satisfying ending although the chorus is a little weak. It seems to be a bit more loved by fans than I think it’s due but it’s a decent enough album track.
For the strangers
I love this song. Swoony and gorgeous.
Swagger. Next single. Fucking love it. Can’t wait to hear it live.
Hit me is really close to being suede-by-numbers but then it does these melodic twists you weren’t expecting.
Sometimes I feel I’ll float away
I swear I’m not being hyperbolic when I say I honestly think this is my favourite suede song since Coming Up, and in honesty is probably better than a good portion of that album.
Let me take you through each stage of the male mistake
And we’ll adopt our natural roles
All the plans were made
In the wooded glade
Where your body was split wide open
And I count to ten
As the race begins
Round your hairpin bends
are very un-suede but somehow still perfectly ‘right’. The guitar towards the end makes *me* feel like I’ll float away. The album would have been worth buying for me if it was just this song repeated twelve times.
What are you not telling me?
The song on the album most reminiscent of Brett solo. Paranoid and slightly bitter, the turning point of the album into the second half.
Melodically reminiscent of some of the more downbeat coming up era b-sides but there are some instrumentation flourishes that call to mind Dog Man Star slowies like Wild Ones.
I’m in the odd minority of suede fans that really likes A New Morning (I’m not sure even the band are that keen) but I love this song because it’s like the best of the slow songs on ANM like Untitled.. or When the Rain Falls but just so much darker and tougher. The end feels almost positive, I think? But it’s quite ambiguous.
It’s an odd album with the last three songs being a tough ride if you’re not in the mood but persistence pays off and there are treasures to be found.
8.5 / 10
Ok, so I’ve got this idea for a new tumblr blog that I want to do but I need a little input to get it started.
Basically I’m obsessed with the idea that everything in pop culture is connected so what I want to do is in each post show the connection between to disparate people, objects, moments or whatever and then connect each post to the next too. I think it would be a lot more fun if some or all of the items were submitted by other people like a challenge so what I’m looking for is some suggestions to get the ball rolling :D
In terms of what I define as pop culture - that can include things outside of ‘pop’ but generally speaking within the realms of arts, entertainment, celebrity and consumer culture. That said, do your worst ;)
It should be fun and a bit silly but hopefully kind of interesting too..
You can reply to this post or submit here:
Is anyone else finding the new edit screen an absolute nightmare to use? :(
Here I am not quite dying
My body left to rot in a hollow tree
Its branches throwing shadows on the gallows for me
And the next day
And the next
And another day
It’s been noted elsewhere that anyone expecting an elegiac album of mournful slowies after the red herring release of ‘Where are we now’ was in for a surprise. The Next Day is an album positively drenched in the death rattle but it’s not the melancholic last hurrah of an ageing rocker eyeballing his future, it’s something far darker and more complex than that.
Lyrically at least The Next Day is easily Bowie’s bleakest album to date. He has often dealt with similar themes - suicide, death, murder, apocalypse even - but mostly in a glamourised, romanticised or pithy way. There are moments such as The Motel or Slip Away that are somber and intense but I’m not sure he has before produced a body of lyrics with such unrelenting harshness. There are flashes of wit and humour but you only need to compare something like the swooningly tragic Rock & Roll Suicide to the sheer venom of You Feel So Lonely You Could Die to feel the shift. Even the two popiest sounding songs on the album (I’d Rather Be High and Valentine’s Day) contain lyrics like:
I stumble to the graveyard and I lay down by my parents, whisper ‘Just remember duckies everybody gets got’
It’s in his tiny face
It’s in his scrawny hand
It’s in his icy heart
It’s tempting with any artist, especially one as shifting and enigmatic as Bowie to try and read biographical confession into song lyrics and certainly with Where Are We Now that seemed all to easy to do - the notion of a sad, elderly David ‘just walking the dead’ around Berlin seemed both plausible and poignant - but realigned within the context of the album it takes on a whole new flavour. With it’s cast of characters ranging from 17 year old soldiers to dying aged despots this is an album firmly written in the second person. Sure, like any art it must ultimately say something about the artist but transparent autobiography it certainly isn’t. This is nothing new for Bowie of course - his transparently autobiographical moments are scarce and many of those that I assumed to be such melted into storytelling for me on closer inspection. He wears many masks and he has always worn them well.
Musically the album is closest in the Bowie canon to the other jagged edges of his career - Scary Monsters, Outside, Earthling, the darker recesses of Heroes and Heathen - only the second single The Stars (are out tonight) recalls Reality and is, perversely, my least favourite track on the album.
Despite the fact I have literally not stopped playing it since it came out it’s taken me until now to tackle a review because there is just so much to digest, and I still feel like I’m only just scratching the surface. This will be an album I listen to for a long time to come. Bravo Mr Bowie.
Finally here’s my track by track for anyone who wants it:
The Next Day
Listen to the whores he tells her
He fashions paper sculptures of them
Then drags them to the river‘s bank in the cart
Their soggy paper bodies wash ashore in the dark
A stomping, beastly little introduction to the album where the words ‘the next day’ turn out to sound more like a threat than any kind of hopeful forward thinking that the album title might have suggested. The bit where he shrills ‘They scream my name aloud down into the well below’ puts a shiver down my spine.
You’ve got to learn to hold your tongue
This ain’t the moon this is burnin’ sun
Slinky and sexy with some lovely sax. Reminiscent of songs like Sweet Thing, Candidate and John, I’m only dancing this was an instant favourite for me. It seemed immediately like it had been in my life forever. An old friend seen in a new light.
The Stars (Are Out Tonight)
We will never be rid of these stars
But I hope they live forever
Musically this is the only track I feel is a little weak, although that’s comparative and I certainly enjoy it a lot more within the album than as a single. It has some great vocal moments and a fabulous video too.
Love Is Lost
It’s the darkest hour, you’re twenty two
The voice of youth, the hour of dread
The darkest hour and your voice is new
Love is lost, lost is love
Your country’s new
Your friends are new
Your house and even your eyes are new
Your maid is new and your accent too
But your fear is as old as the world
This song is just, I’m not sure what to say.. perfect? A brooding, gothic suicide note that breaks unexpectedly and confusingly into a seemingly uplifting middle eight before turning back in on itself as though that moment were an hallucination - a false promise leading towards a foolish act. ‘Oh, what have you done? Oh, what have you done?’
Where Are We Now?
Had to get the train from Potsdamer Platz
You never knew that I could do that
Someone who was once far too important to simply take the train finds himself now shuffling the streets of Germany. Maybe Mr Bowie, maybe not.
Valentine told me how he’d feel
If all the world were under his heel
There is little affection from the author for the characters that inhabit The Next Day and the would-be tyrant depicted in Valentine’s Day is no exception. I can’t help picturing a small man on the verge of a nervous breakdown, perhaps a little like Michael Douglas in Falling Down, about to finally let us all know exactly what he has to say.
If You Can See Me
Now you could say I’ve got a gift of sorts
A fear of rear windows and swinging doors
A love of violence a dread of sighs
If you can see me I can see you
If you can see me I can see you
The song on the album most reminiscent of the best bits of Earthling. This one kind of gives me the willies. In a good way.
I’d Rather Be High
The Thames was black, the tower dark
I flew to Cairo, find my regiment
City’s full of generals
And generals full of shit
This was one of the first songs to click with me and I still can’t listen to it once through without hitting replay at the end. Deceptively perky sounding with lines like ‘I’d rather smoke and phone my ex, be pleading for some teenage sex’ jumping out on first listen. I’ve seen it interpreted as a kind of looking-back-on-being-young song when on closer listen it’s nothing of the sort.
Boss of Me
You look at me and you weep for the free blue sky
Not a skip track by any means but the only song I haven’t quite connected with yet. A decent album track but nothing as arresting as the rest of the album tracks.
Dancing Out in Space
Something like religion
Dancing face to face
Something like a drowning
Dancing out in space
The only song that teeters close to something glammy and a little silly sounding. A small oasis of fun, albeit abstract and slightly cryptic fun.
How Does the Grass Grow
There’s a graveyard by the station where the girls wear nylon skirts
I love this song. Not just because it has a chorus that goes ‘Blood blood blood’ followed by a backing ‘la la la’ that sounds almost exactly like that bit in Gremlins 2 where they get melted while singing New York, New York and doing the conga. Not just because of that, but it’s definitely got a lot to do with it.
(You Will) Set the World on Fire
From Bitter End to Gaslight
Baez leaves the stage
Ok so, the fact that the opening chords totally remind me of the Beverly Hills 90210 theme tune is my problem and mine alone. Other than that it’s the sole song with a more conventional Bowie/Fame motif. A pep-talk-come-warning for the promise of success in the vein of Opportunities by The Pet Shop Boys via Eno’s Baby’s on Fire.
You Feel So Lonely You Could Die
I can see you as a corpse hanging from a beam
I could read you like a book
I can feel you falling
I hear you moaning in your room
Oh, see if I care
Oh, please, please make it soon
A claustrophobically dark vignette wishing loneliness and death on a malevolent and unlikeable soul - with swooning Spectorish backing vocals. Nasty stuff. In the best possible way.
My father ran the prison
But I am a seer, I am a liar
Another instant favourite, Heat is a clear nod to Bowie’s long-time musical bedfellow Scott Walker with shades of Outside and Heathen mixed in. A somber and downbeat ending that leaves you feeling both satisfied and bewildered.
And I tell myself, I don’t know who I am
And I tell myself, I don’t know who I am