If there was a list of people who’ve cried at the Saatchi Gallery’s Rolling Stones: Exhibitionism, I’d be on it. The reason it moved me to tears is because, I think, it’s literally impossible to tell the story of The Rolling Stones without a massive injection of poignancy. The exhibition ends by bundling you into a dark room for a 3D airing of (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, taken from the Stones’ 2013 Hyde Park gig. For me, the euphoria of this footage can’t help but go hand-in-hand with a sad, sad sense of time passed and passing.
My favourite part of the exhibition (pictured below) was the quaint revelation that Ronnie Wood artistically records rehearsal song-lists – so we can remember what we’ve played – and in what key! Chronological histories of the band’s tours and albums were displayed in impressive digital loops; homage was paid to the reverent Billy Preston and the many, many other collaborators to have worked with the band; there were guitars, costumes, photographs, never-before-seen footage, intricate tales of stage/logo design, album artwork and documentary-making, plus a replica recording studio and even the chance to mix your own Stones tracks. There was no ‘stone’ left unturned, if you will. We visited on the exhibition’s second day, so it has to be said there were some teething (read: crowd control) problems, but I can only assume these will have been smoothed out.
If you love the Stones, there’s only one thing for it: you’ve gotta go. Just make sure you set aside a couple of hours and, if you’re anything like me, take a tissue.
I spent all weekend listening to David Bowie’s Blackstar, cooing over the black stars that spell out his name and revelling in the much-anticipated brilliance of it all. Then the world woke up on Monday morning to the sadness of his passing – in all its terrible surreality. I snatched a listen to the radio as I was getting dressed. I pumped Hunky Dory through my headphones on the way to work. Anything to feel part of the bigger tapestry. The man in the seat beside me was drinking coffee from a mug. A china mug, on the tube. I laughed inside and thought you maverick and pined for the loss of Bowie.
I remembered how the 14-year-old me had picked her way relentlessly through The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. How Five Years and Strangers When We Meet are the soundtrack to one of my most catalytic friendships. Remembered the euphoria of Nile Rodgers’ Let’s Dance at Glastonbury in 2013. How I’m sure there was a whole summer, even longer ago than all of that, when my brother played nothing but Changes on the stereo, on repeat. Yesterday, everyone was remembering their own Bowie journeys. Yesterday, it was chokingly-poignant to hear his voice and we were all grappling to find the words. For how can you articulate the loss of a thing like Bowie? He was a genius, yes, but genius doesn’t quite seem to fit the gap. It needs something more. Something as colossal as the loss. Something big enough to fill the sky and touch the moon and come tumbling back to earth – shrugging its shoulders, as if nothing had happened. I read somewhere that it’s harder to inspire happiness than melancholy through art – harder still to do it an artistically beautiful way. Bowie did that – and will go on doing that – repeatedly.
Thank you, is all I can think to say. Bowie, I’m so sad you’re gone. I’m sorry you had to know mortality and I’m in awe of your sublime parting note. Our lives are so much the richer for having had you in them. Oh, to capture just one drop of all the ecstasy that swept that afternoon. To paint that love upon a white balloon and fly it from the top-est of all the tops.
Though I love London – and ardently – sometimes I feel like I’m getting it all wrong. Sometimes we’ll wonder where to go for dinner – and minutes, hours, or even days after that, we’ll still be stumped. I deliberate on decisions like this so much precisely because I don’t want to get them wrong. I have a list longer than I could show you with my hands of places I want to go, but in that moment, none of them ever seem to quite fit. Too far away, too busy, too expensive, too niche, too deep-fried. He wants bao buns, I want mac’n’cheese. Sometimes we’ll go somewhere off-list and it’ll be brilliant and after revelling in that for a while, I’ll feel despondent and defeated because it wasn’t on my list at all and how many other brilliant places are there that haven’t made it onto my list, that I might never uncover?
And that’s just the food. The same goes for the music, the art, the comedy, the views. Our city couldn’t be richer in it all and it’s exactly that which makes me feel, all too often, like I’m getting it wrong, looking the wrong way, missing a trick. But every now and then there are the long Sunday afternoons in the pub, where the lights are just right and the rioja just flows. When you step out into the cold to catch a gig and you’re so glad you did. When you glimpse a view by chance and you feel privileged to have done so. And so, below are some of the times we’ve got it right, in this order: Elvis Perkins at Dalston Victora | Sunday afternoons at the The Red Lion, Leytonstone | This Is The Kit at the Scala | reflections on the River Lea | Sunday roasts at the Hackney Plough, Homerton | John Grant at Eventim Apollo.
We nipped to Paris over the weekend, mainly to see Joanna Newsom at the Salle Gaveau, but also because – well, why not? We stayed in South Pigalle (SoPi if you’re in the know), generally lapped up the 20-degree, blue-skied November days and may even have bumped into Steve Coogan in my favourite jazz club. Oh, Paris. May I recommend Buvette for breakfast, Miznon or Holybelly for lunch, and Le Bon Saint Pourçain for dinner. Of course we left with a to-do list longer than the one we arrived with. Always the way/must nip back.
…and then we went to Festival No.6 in Portmeirion. It’s been years since I’ve been to what I’ll hesitantly refer too as a ‘smaller’ festival, and I had the loveliest time getting reacquainted with it. We made friends for life and discovered some sublime new music – both of which tend to evade me when I surrender myself to those hectic few days a year on Worthy Farm (not that I’d change that for the world) – and on top of those accidental perks, we saw Badly Drawn Boy in the woods (who closed with the Stone Roses’ I Wanna Be Adored), made it into two 100-capacity Town Hall sets with the No.6 Ensemble (Gaz Coombes and James, no less), caught Steve Coogan and Chris Gifford in the Central Piazza, watched our beloveds – Belle & Sebastian and King Creosote – headline, and fell in love with the Brythoniaid Choir daily. All that’s left to say is: be seeing you.
I’m never sure how to do this, other than: the Charlatans kicking it off with the best ones. That bit of masking tape letting me know the Albion was on course. Run them jewels (fast). King Creosote’s impromptu stand-ins in the Crow’s Nest making everything okay. Mavis Staples taking us there. Ain’t nobody tired. Singing happy birthday to the Dalai Lama. Belle and Sebastian in the Sunday evening sun. Who are you?
Somehow or other, we found ourselves with tickets to see Blur at the Newhampton Arts Centre in Wolverhampton on Saturday. We were two of what can only be described as a handful of people and it was completely sublime (goes without saying) and I may or may not have gone all teen-fan-girly for a moment or more. The only way I can stop myself from reeling off the setlist right now is by letting you know you can find the setlist here. Okay, I think I’m done. Apart from maybe THIS.