I’ve been quite enjoying this playlist that I put together in iTunes recently:
The last two tracks don’t fit quite as well and should probably be rethought, but overall it’s a good, fun 75 odd minutes of music.
On Tuesday night, Tegan and I saw favourite singer, Emilíana Torrini, in concert at the Enmore Theatre in Sydney. This is the second time we have seen her in concert – I blogged about the first time back in November 2005 here and it all but impossible to describe this concert without comparing it to the first.
The concert was brilliant. Amazing. Wonderful. We thoroughly enjoyed it and has such a good time. I can’t remember the last time I had such a big smile on my face during a concert. I almost always enjoy concerts – mainly because I don’t typically see bands I don’t like, at least not recently anyway – but this was something special. Björk was probably the only other performer I have seen in the last few years who has had us dancing quite so much at a concert (read about that one here).
We arrived at the Theatre before the doors opened and stood quite near the middle of the front row. This placed us only about 3 metres from Emilíana and with a great view of the whole stage.
The first support act was a woman named Lovísa Elísabet Sigrúnardottir Lay Low. Unlike the support act the first time we saw Emilíana Torrini, this support act was good and memorable. Like Emilíana she was from Iceland and sounded quite similar, though a little more country. She was quite nervous an stumbled a few times during her set but had some great songs. I’ve already bought one of her albums on iTunes. The other cool thing that we discovered once Emilíana came on was that her guitarist and the other band members who played with her for a couple of songs were actually Emilíana’s band.
Emilíana, though, was incredibly amazing. She was still just as shy when interacting with the audience as the first time we saw her, but was a more confident performer overall.
So, for the comparisons:
We enjoyed the previous concert more, we were sorry to say. This does not indicate that we did not enjoy the concert last night, but it won’t stay stuck in our heads as one of the greatest musical experiences of our lives as did the first one.
The first concert was more intimate – though the Metro Theatre isn’t that much smaller than the Enmore, it actually made a big difference to the feel. Last time around the stage was more compressed and everything felt closer.
This time around she had a bigger band. We can’t quite remember, but think that last time it was just her and a guitarist and one or two others. This time there were up to six people on stage at a time. Mind you, the band were also much better this time – in fact they were amazing. The drummer was particularly good – on several songs (To Be Free was the one we noticed first) he sounded much better than did the drummer on the studio version that we have on CD. He was also notable as the first drummer I have ever seen play cymbals with a violin bow. In several songs he drew a violin bow up over the sides of the cymbals to produce a shimmering sound. This was amazing to watch. He also later did the same with a xylophone in one song, which produced an amazingly interesting sound.
There was also a keyboard player, two guitarists and for some songs another bass player. The bass players deserve a special mention – for several songs the woman who was the support act played bass and on a couple of songs the roadie played bass – it was actually really cool to see such a seamless meld between the support and the main act and to see the band for the entire concert acting as such a tight unit.
The bigger band really suited the songs from Emilíana’s latest album and from her first mainstream album, Love in the Time of Science. These are largely songs with rock or electronic beats and instrumentation and the heavier guitar and drumming really suited these songs. However, in another sense it detracted from the thing that we loved the most from the first time we saw Emilína, and that was her voice. Her voice is amazing – possibly the best I’ve heard from anyone other than an opera/choral singer. In the first concert, with it’s intimate venue and instrumentation and the predominance of beautiful, haunting, emotional songs her voice carried massive power. It stayed with us for days afterwards. This time around she still sang brilliantly, but it did not dominate the rest of the band like it did the first time we saw her.
And that brings me to my next point: this time, Emilíana was happier. That sounds an odd thing to say, but in 2005 she was touring in support of her Fisherman’s Woman album, which is a very sad album, based around themes of loss and mourning. However, her most recent album, Me and Armini, is a much more upbeat album – lots of pop and rock and even some reggae beats. It’s obvious that she is happier in life, which must be a great thing for her. It sounds harsh, but her singing appealed to me more when it was sadder. I think it works like this: there are lots of good rock and pop bands out there. Out of those, there are a decent number who can impart a great vibe and make you feel happy when you experience their music. However, there aren’t many bands who do overwhelming emotion very well. Jeff Buckley was one, and he died way too early. Emilíana Torrini is the only other person I’ve heard who can sing powerful, emotional songs with such energy and force that you truly feel their emotion and want to sympathise with them. She sang some of those songs this time around, but it didn’t carry the same force as in 2005. And on the subject of her voice, it did sound a bit more tired this time – she sounded as though she has been touring for a bit too long in a row and needs a bit of a break. This is understandable, and is the difference between hearing a tour perhaps 6 months or so after the album was released, compared with now about 18 months since the last album was released – and she has been to Australia twice in that time.
I should note that the first time we saw her it was on her first Australian tour, and we would have liked to have seen her on her second Australian tour, but it was a little difficult as Anastasia would have only been a few weeks old at the time.
In a sense, all the description of the concert I have laid out to this point isn’t actually a fair review of the concert in its own right: all this really does is clarify for me what I liked so much about the first Emilíana Torrini concert I went to. As such, this could just be appended to my first review and treated as an extension of said comments.
In fairness to last night’s concert in its own right: we had such a brilliant time and left feeling massively happy. That’s about the highest compliment we can pay Emilíana for the concert. Our best experiences of anything – concerts, restaurants, events – are ones that make us happy; it’s our litmus test of how great something is. Last night made us really happy – I noticed that as the concert went on I was leaning further and further over the barricade, tapping along to the music and also enjoying watching the various looks on the faces of other people in the front few rows who were also massively enjoying the concert. To me, this emphasises that it was excellent – great songs and a powerful, engaging performance. We will certainly try our hardest to see her again next time she comes to Australia.
One final cool thing: I got a copy of the setlist that the band used – one of the roadies passed me one when the concert was over. There were a few changes at the end of the concert in what they played compared to what the setlist said, the main one being that the setlist would have had them finishing with a cover of The Beatles’s song ‘Dear Prudence’. I would have loved to have seen that, so I found a video of her playing it on YouTube here.
One final not so cool thing: I wish I had taken my camera. When we saw her at The Metro they were checking bags and making people check their cameras in at the cloak room. With that in mind, we decided not to take a camera this time. However, we could easily have taken a camera in and plenty of people in the crowd had them. Had we only known… Tegan did get some cool video of bits of the concert on her iPhone though and one of my sister’s friends, Michelle, was there with a photographer’s pass and has posted some of her photos on Flickr.
Well, we’re in Adelaide Airport on our way back home after 5 days/4 nights in Adelaide. This was our second trip to Adelaide for the Big Day Out music festival – although unlike last year (when we drove), we decided to fly this time around. We stayed in an apartment in the city, only about a block from the Adelaide Central Markets – which suited us perfectly as we strolled down to the markets the first three days we were here to buy top-notch ingredients to cook up back in the apartment that night. We still love the markets here so much – the markets in Canberra are good (and the Italian Deli at the Fyshwick markets is still, on the whole, better than Lucia’s, but I digress…) but the Adelaide Central Markets are just so much better. The food is better quality and cheaper. In Adelaide we paid less for wonderful quality fully organic produce what we paid for normal vegetables in Canberra. It’s really just no competition. However, it was difficult to find really good coffee in Adelaide, so hey – it’s not all perfect. The day leading up to the Big Day Out was a bit stressful when I realised I’d left our tickets at home, but our next door neighbour fetched them and Express Posted them to us, for which we will be eternally in hers and Australia Post’s debt. The Big Day Out was awesome. We had such a great time, and Tegan even managed not to throw up too much (although the same can’t be said for the rest of the trip). We arrived to see Josh Pyke, who was good, but not spectacular. He has a good sound though and singing along with ‘Middle of the Hill’ was a lot of fun. After Josh Pyke we watched the Hilltop Hoods from a distance; they were a lot of fun. From there it was on to The Nightwatchman, who is Tom Morello – the guitarist from Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave.
The Nightwatchman was the surprise hit for us this year at the Big Day Out. The Nightwatchman is Tom Morello, the guitarist from Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave, doing a solo folk-style act. Equal parts Bob Dylan (think solo act with just classical guitar and harmonica) and Billy Bragg (politically activist songs – I kept waiting for a cover of ‘All you Fascists are Bound to Lose’). The set was awesome – probably the top act of the day for us, on the whole. Highlights were the opening song, ‘One Man Revolution’, a cover of ‘Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap’ with the verses changed to be about George W Bush et al, and a finale where he brought Billy Bragg and Anti-Flag on stage and covered ‘Beds are Burning’ (in Tom Morello’s words, an alternative anthem).
After working our way toward the front during The Arcade Fire (who were ok) and Silverchair (surprisingly enjoyable) the next main act we saw was Björk. In a word – amazing. And fun. Sorry, in two words. (Ok, enough Monty Python jokes already). Neither of us are huge Björk fans, but we loved it. Björk is an amazing performer and she put on a wonderful show. I think her set was the most *fun* I’ve had at a concert for a long time. She really mixed it up between her more trance-like songs and ones that really rocked, such as ‘Army of Me’ and ‘I Miss You’. I can’t remember the last time I basically danced during a concert (and that while carrying a whopping big SLR and lens and being only about 10 rows from the front). We even went out today and bought her album Post, which contains the songs we enjoyed the most in her set. We’re going to listen to it on the plane tonight. The brass band she had with her were also very interesting – dressed and acting somewhere between the Polyphonic Spree and a Cirque du Soleil production. I was particularly impressed at the way they kept dancing whenever they weren’t playing.
After Björk we worked our way over to be in the front row, though off to the side of the stage, for Rage Against the Machine – who were the band we were most keen to see.
They were loud. Very loud.
This was the loudest gig I’ve ever heard – and that’s saying something. It turned out that we were standing directly in front of a massive speaker stack. The first kicks of the bass drum nearly made us fall over. I was still recovering my hearing two days later. The mix was so loud that the lead singer’s vice sounded high pitched and it was somewhat difficult to make out some of the lyrics. But, it was awesome.
They kicked off the set with ‘Testify’ before going into ‘Bulls on Parade’. We loved every moment of it.
During ‘Bulls on Parade’ Tom Morello moved to the front and stood on top of a foldback speaker for the guitar solo. It was amazing to watch – he’s such a great guitarist and it was really impressive to see the way he moved his left hand all over the fret board while working the killswitch with his right hand in that solo. It’s a fun song to play in Guitar Hero 3 (during The Nightwatchman’s set he quipped about being digitised in that game) and it was even more amazing seeing it in real life.
Of course, they finished their set with ‘Killing in the Name’ and of course the crowd went absolutely crazy for that. About what you’d expect really – but still great to be there and be a part of it.
The last days of the trip were spent meandering around Adelaide. We also went to Glenelg for a swim at its very average beach, had a very good iced chocolate at a new-ish chocolate shop called Bracegirdles House of Fine Chocolate (thanks again to Beccci for the tip), drank good tea at the T-Bar, had lunch and read books in the Botanic Gardens today, and discovered a very funky wine bar called La Boheme (most people there were dressed up in retro fashions). Nothing else interesting to say about that stuff, really.
Here’s a hint. If you’re flying to a different city (e.g. Adelaide) to see a concert for which you have non-replaceable tickets (e.g. to the Big Day Out) – don’t leave them in your briefcase in Canberra.However, if you do leave them in your briefcase, I recommend realising at least a day before the concert and having lovely next door neighbours with a key to your place who will go and find them and express post them to you.
They’re so much fun! In Tegan’s words, they’re a foodie’s heaven. The fruit and vegetables there were so good and quite cheap. For example, some of the best looking vine-ripened tomatoes we’ve ever seen were only $4.99 a kilo, and really good-looking bananas were only $1.99 a kilo – a very unusual sight of late. The fish shop was quite good and reasonably priced, there’s a shop that sells nothing but mushrooms, there was a very good cheese shop, good coffee, excellent delicatessens, a good camera shop (in a food market?! very odd, but fun, nonetheless), a little Russian food shop – well, I could go on…
We went there twice on Saturday – once in the morning and then came back about 45 minutes before they closed. The end of day rush was quite an experience: all the sellers trying to offload their remaining produce so we snapped up some real bargains. The markets always had quite a bustle about them, but at closing time there was such frenetic energy – it was great! We still want to go back and rent a house in Adelaide for a couple of weeks and just go to the markets every couple of days for fresh produce and cook for ourselves (and whichever friends we can convince to come with us).
2. The Barossa Valley
Not so much in Adelaide itself, but it’s just out of town. We bought some great olive oils from Truro, which is just at the edge of the Barossa – but of course, the main thing is the wine. We went to three vineyards there:
3. The Big Day Out
Of course, this is why we went to Adelaide this time (we couldn’t make it to an East Coast show this year). What was good about going in Adelaide, compared to Sydney, was that the lesser number of people meant that it was easier to get close to the front.
Muse, Little Birdy and the Violent Femmes were particular highlights – we had such a good time there and took a few photos we’re quite proud of.
4. the greedy goose
We wanted to have one nice dinner out and this place was only a few blocks from our hotel. We didn’t realise when we went in that it was the winning restaurant of My Restaurant Rules season 2, but don’t hold that against it. The staff were friendly, the food was delicious, the service was excellent. We were very glad that we skipped the tasting menu (degustation) because the main dish of pan-fried duck breast with duck confit, which wasn’t on the tasting menu, was our pick of the night. The dessert was also quite unusual – it involved a whole tomato, poached with cardamon and sugar, served chilled with vanilla bean ice-cream. The maître d’ was also very nice and gave us each a complimentary glass of the fortified wine they had matched to this dish on the tasting menu; and since we only ordered one dessert to share, it was even more unusual to be given a glass of wine each. I’m not normally a fan of desserts, but this one was very, very tasty.
5. Dublin pale ale
This was a house beer at the Dublin Hotel in Glenelg. Neither Tegan nor I are typically fans of this style of beer, but it was quite good and very refreshing on such a hot day. The menu at the hotel also looked very good – but we left that for next time.
And then there’s things I’m indifferent about, such as Glenelg beach: really, why do people rave about it? It’s boring and not a particularly nice beach – kind of like Brighton le Sands in Botany Bay in Sydney. I guess people in Adelaide like it because it’s all they’ve got.
All in all on the trip, we did about 26 hours of driving, just short of 2500km with an average fuel consumption of about 9.5L per 100km.