Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Gary Numan in Auckland (21 May 2011)

I have a list of musicians, the idea being that once I have seen them all play in New Zealand, I'll be ready to die. It is a slightly worrying list in that there is only one musician to go (Tom Waits). If it had ever entered my mind that Gary Numan might tour, he'd have been on the list. I still remember the impact he had on me with Are Friends Electric? The combination of a barely moving Gary, the electronic sounds of the synthesizers and the lack of any sort of rock and roll feel came as an extreme novelty (I think my musical diet consisted largely of Dire Straights, Pink Floyd and the Motels at that stage, with the only "edgy" song being Ian Dury's Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick).

So when I heard that he was coming, it was a no-brainer: I bought a ticket as soon as I could. I flew up to Auckland the night before, made a fruitless journey to much touted pizza place Epolitos (who ever heard of a pizza shop selling out, before 8:00 on a Friday night?), spent the day wandering around coffee and food places and finally it was game on.

I was a bit disappointed that I didn't have my camera - I was worried I wouldn't be allowed it, but others were there, snapping away. Mind you, it might have proven to be a distraction. I was also a bit disappointed that it was an all seated venue, but the music had hardly started and people were leaving their seats. By the end of the show, the spaces around the seats were packed with happy dancing people, right up to the back wall. Me: I'd scooted forward early, and was right against the stage.

There was one slightly confusing aspect: Gary was here to play the Pleasure Principle in full. Its not my favourite of his albums (Replicas is), but still that was the game plan. So why were people calling out for other random songs? Mind you, he did play an equal number of songs after he'd finished playing the album. Thanks to the magic of the internet, here is his setlist:
Gary Numan Setlist The Edge, Auckland, New Zealand, The Pleasure Principle 2011
Edit this setlist | More Gary Numan setlists

Some of those songs in the second half were completely unfamiliar to me, and a bit of energy leaked out of the show, but on the whole it was a fantastic experience. The thing that really got me was Gary himself: as I said, when he first emerged, it was as a rather robotic presence, and a lot of white makeup was involved:
If he was wearing any in Auckland, it was not noticeable. And the robot thing? Completely gone! He looked like he was thoroughly enjoying himself on stage, and gave a very physical performance. Here he is at his Adelaide show:
Doesn't show his broad smile but when you're stealing images from the internet, beggars can't be choosers. For more images, there are plenty on this fan page.
All in all, it was a brilliant night which I polished off with a dose of Korean Fried Chicken and roast duck before the long walk back to my hotel in Parnell.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Another Year, by Mike Leigh

There was quite a lot of bemused laughter from the audience as this movie come to an end, with the camera taking a long, lingering shot of Mary (Lesley Manville). Maybe I joined the dots in an odd way, but it made perfect sense to finish with Mary, as the movie seemed to be her story. After all, the movie started with an otherwise random character, Janet, complaining of sleeplessness and being told by Geri (Ruth Sheen) that insomnia is not a disease, just a symptom. By the end of the movie, its Mary who can't sleep. I bet Geri, Tom (Jim Broadbent) and their son, Joe (Oliver Maltman) have no problems - in fact, there are several scenes where Tom and Geri are nice and cosy in their bed.
In some quarters, they might be called smug marrieds

and Mary is their less fortunate friend.

As I watched her, I was thinking of Poppy in Happy Go Lucky. Poppy is young, attractive, continuously cheerful in a way that is more than a front. Mary is older, still attractive
but for her it is harder to maintain the appearance of happiness. She works hard at it, and so comes across as a bit over the top and ditzy. Love, even friendship, has proven elusive for her but she has been lucky to have her good friends, Tom and Geri. She's a constant visitor to their house, has a bit to drink, stays over but ultimately there's only so much you can hope for from friends. When it becomes clear that she's interested in starting something with Joe, the shutters start to go down. When Joe finds a girlfriend, Katie (Karina Fernandez), Mary has a lot of trouble processing it and there's quite a split. The movie traverses the four seasons and they seem keyed to her mood, finishing in the winter of her despondency.

I felt for Mary: although its natural for people to put their family first, it hurts to live one's life knowing that there is no-one for whom you are the person who will be put first and its hard to maintain the hope or illusion that anyone ever will: she's lonely Manville is reported as saying that loneliness is a base ingredient in Mary's life). That was her predicament and, really, there was nothing particularly wrong about Mary that she should have to live through it. If the edge could have been taken off her hunger, who knows how she might have been? She was still able to keep things together much better than Tom's old mate Ken (Peter Wight) and lacked the anger of Tom's nephew Carl (Martin Savage). She was even able to prod taciturn old Ronnie (David Bradley) into opening up, just a little. She does try independence, even gets a car (bought it from a pair of brothers, one had a gold tooth, insisted on cash) but it doesn't go very well - essentially the car is a pile of crap and she ends up selling it to a wreckers for 20 quid. Gloriously, she spends the proceeds on a bottle of champagne and drinks the lot.

Not saying that she and Joe should have got together: she's known him since he was a wee boy thanks to being Geri's workmate and Katie did seem to be a great fit - the humour between her and Joe's family showed how good a fit she was. Nor am I saying that they should have done more for Mary, as their kindness wasn't actually doing her all that much good, it possibly diverted her from working harder at meeting people. Mind you, Mike Leigh himself has said that the film is about the issue, "which is when you are generous to somebody and they overstep the mark, where do you draw the line?" What does he know?

The acting was superb, as in all Mike Leigh movies I've seen. This is a bit surprising actually: Lesley Manville has now been in seven of his movies, been in loads of TV and theatrical productions (which I'm sure she will have done well) and yet looks like she was born to play the part of Mary.