Arty Farty Lovey!

A good Boulevardier, however displaced, still views the arts as the air he breaths, and as such, I’m pleased to report a recent few days full of such activity.

I attended Boy George’s concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall at the Southbank Centre earlier in the year when he trialled some new music. He mentioned that he would be doing some more concerts later in the year once the new album was released, and that is how I found myself at Koko, formally Camden Palace.

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It was a rather cold evening which is expected in November, but still a little disappointing. Dressing for a concert is never easy as there will invariably be queuing outside, but you want to be able to remove outer layers as the auditorium heats up, without either resembling the Michelin man, queuing for the cloakroom or having them all draped over your arm. I settled on punk zip black and white trousers with a half denim half jersey jacket (sleeves are jersey), desert boots and a long woolly scarf. The scarf kept me warm when queuing and could be tied around my midriff once inside the venue. I hope you are impressed with my foresight and practicality! I bumped into a few people I knew in the queue and was able to gossip the wait to enter away.

Once inside I purchased a warming and revitalising large red wine and looked for my friend Tony who was there with his brother. Camden Palace really is an amazing building. It was originally a theatre built in the early 20th century and became a music venue in the late 1970s. It hosted legendary nights by Steve Strange, and Madonna’s first UK gig. My first visit was in the late 1980s when it was a busy and innovative nightclub. We went for a friend’s birthday. The main area which had previously accommodated the theatre stalls was now a vast dance floor. The upper levels containing all the boxes were areas to sit, dance and drink. I am pretty sure there was also a massive inflatable pink pig which hung from the ceiling but this could have been the effects of the large quantities of sherry consumed.

The venue has been overhauled since my first visit but still retains a lot of charm, character and the essence of a theatre. The warm-up band came on and other friends of Tony arrived and I had the chance to meet the lovely, gorgeous and fun Fiona, Monique and Emma. We stayed together for the entire concert and danced, laughed, clapped and whooped at all the appropriate moments.

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Boy George was excellent. His voice has matured and sounds very different to the earlier Culture Club records. I like both. He looked great and oozed style from the stage and peppered his performance with witty (and sometimes slightly bitchy) quips. This is Boy George after all. The new tracks sounded great among the classics such as Church of the Poison Mind, Karma Chameleon, and Bow Down Mister.

The concert was all too soon over and we were on a high. It was a great time for further chat and to catch up with other friends I had seen in the queue earlier.

The following evening I was due to meet Tony again as we had purchased tickets to see Ferret Up The Arts starring Miss Eve Ferret with Hazel O’Connor and a couple of other performance artists. This was held at The Arts Theatre in the West End. After a day’s work I quickly preened and re-quiffed my hair and journeyed to central London to meet Tony for a drink before the show. We tripped down the outside steps to the basement which houses the private members’ Covent Garden Cocktail Club. After being validated at the entrance as worthy patrons we entered the dimly lit, atmospheric bar full with West End trendsetters and Boulevardiers. These however, didn’t look displaced.

Cocktails were two for one on a Monday evening and it would have been rude not to partake. We enjoyed several ‘London Calling’ which were gin, Fino Sherry, bitters with a strip of orange zest for garnish soaked glasses, at a high bistro style table. Even the route to the conveniences was signed by Old Gin Street. It is a secret haven and a great modern speakeasy hidden from tourists in the West End.

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The show was a powerhouse of Eve Ferret’s quirky brilliance. Eve called it a Fabaret and it certainly had her stamp all over it. A mixture of song, dance and anecdote where peignoirs are once again the height of fashion (as long as they’re nylon according to Eve), mange tout are scattered at the audience like confetti, as a life size child doll is passed by Eve to crowd surf. Hazel O’Connor joined Eve on stage for several numbers, which was a real treat. Hazel finished with Will You. Her voice still holds the melancholy tune and it was inspirational to hear her sing it in a smaller venue, having already enjoyed her at Chillfest in the summer. Crazy Horses with Hobby-horses as props was genius.

This is what theatre really should be about – live cabaret steeped in tradition and talent, brought up-to-date. It hits you between the eyes and makes you sing along, laugh out loud and jump from your seat to applaud louder at the end of each number.

We had bumped into a couple of other friends; Jon and Paul, who seemed to have consumed a few more cocktails than Tony and I and we chatted with them in the upstairs bar after the show when all the performers (aside from Hazel who had an early recording session the following day) came to say hello. Eve is as engaging and witty in person as she is on stage a true West End diva. High on the evening, and after another drink, we said our goodbyes and travelled back to our various corners of London totally sated.

So the next day, fortunately not working, I awoke in my cold bedroom, lit a fire and climbed back into bed with a warming, revitalising cup of Assam tea and decadently watched the flames jump as they warmed the room. All Tuesdays should be days for just staying in bed, don’t you think?

TNW

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Trampling on Blankets

Saturday 6th July and it was time to start the day which would end with 70s and 80s legends aplenty. More on that later, as there was the morning to deal with first.

I was woken abruptly by the postman buzzing at 8.45am, but at least the Richard Ward shampoo and conditioner had finally arrived! (read Celeb Hair Blog for further information).

To spin or not to spin? A quick check in the mirror and last night’s hair had almost survived. Some rearranging and lots of hairspray and I would not need to redo it! Spinning was more likely in this eventuality.

My iPhone told me that the temperature was going to hit 28 degrees! Fabulous!

Spin was tough as usual but as always peppered with the instructor, Kathy’s wit and insults making it fun, funny and  good! And it was her last class for a couple of weeks with imminent holidays, so  very glad I went!

Home, Daft Punk on, and time to start getting ready. Shower completed, but outfit not yet defined. Hmmm I might be delayed. After streaming through the racks in my wardrobes several times I settled upon an All Saints white T shirt with explosive clouds on the front and denim shorts.

Facebook was starting to warm up and various other old friends and school friends were coming out of the woodwork to confirm they were attending the festival. This could be a mini school reunion.

Finally ready, and time to head to Wisteria Lane in Berkhamsted (aptly nicknamed as two good friends live next door to each other) for a pre Chilfest chill, where my good friends were waiting and preparing a sumptuous mid afternoon buffet and endless jugs of Pimms. The sun beat down upon us as we listened to oodles of 80s music.

It was almost disappointing to leave this perfect England garden afternoon and haul our sunkissed bodies to Pendley Meadow. We were not allowed picnics or to bring in alcohol, so reliving our naughty school days, we entered with our Evian bottles emptied of their intended contents and filled to the brim with vodka. This foresight would indeed serve us well, but more on that later.

We arrived at 6.30pm for a 7pm start and there was a buzz in the air. I had my small green manbag which was dutifully searched. The attendant asked if I had alcohol in there and when I answered in the negative, he said ‘Why not!’ and laughed. We found a good spot just over halfway back and laid out our non matching picnic blankets to create a patchwork effect. Diet coke was purchased from the ice cream van with the purpose of mixing with the vodka, but there was a problem. The queues for the actual bars for those wanting beer and wine were humungous. People were reporting having to queue for 30 minutes plus. The situation worsened and patrons were queuing for upwards of an hour and a half! Several members of our party headed to the pub, and others to Tesco to get some drink. That was disappointing but the show must go on, and we had flowing vodka to keep us sated.

A good friend Luisa was there with her husband and brother and I headed down for a ‘hello’ and catch up. She was quite near the front. I had a wry smile as this was no Glastonbury, and picnic blankets were set out with deck chairs aplenty. Territories marked out with side glances at anyone who came close to the corners, but it was all good spirited. I think it was indicative of the average  attendees age!

We then saw another good school friend Jo, who despite having tremendous health problems was there in her deck chair enjoying the sun with her friend Lu. Irrespective of the weather Jo has a very enviable sunny disposition.

First on stage (although I had been performing since arriving) was Hazel O’Connor who looked great in a coral dress, and treated us to her yet strong voice and blasted her old hits, the highlight of which was Will You.

Next came Carol Decker . We headed down towards the front for a close up and sing along once the first few chords of Heart and Soul hit our ears. This was followed by a beautiful rendition of China in Your Hand.

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We were getting more and more into the spirit as the vodka also took greater hold over us.

We headed back out of the crowd. I hunted down another friend Chele (pronounced Che (as in the South American dictator) and lay), who had been without her husband for over an hour while he queued for a drink! We found him and chatted for 15 minutes or so during which time Midge Ure started his set but the queue only progressed about 4 feet! We took a couple of photos and one massive plus was that one of Che’s friend’s mistook me for ‘someone from the telly’. I guess I have that star appeal!  I then left my hopeful friends in the queue, again grateful for the foresight of the vodka stash, and went back to the picnic blankets. Midge Ure was singing Dancing with Tears in their Eyes, and I had a flashback to the haunting video of a nuclear holocaust, as families headed home to die together. Nostalgia filled the fields.

Howard Jones was next on stage. Another friend Iain and I headed down towards the front again as Howard churned out the old hits, putting a new dance spin on a couple and demonstrating his ability with electronic music. Iain and I agreed, in an older kind of way ‘Modern electronic doesn’t have a patch on this!’. Howard’s voice was pretty unchanged but he did look like a little old man, maybe even hobbit-esque as he moved around the stage, with hair nowhere near as impressive as his 80s heights.

We reassembled as a group and headed into the crowds for some Rick Astley and Tony Hadley, the vodka taking its hold on pretty much all of us.

The party didn’t end there, and we walked to local friend’s home for an after party. The bar flowed freer, we pumped up our jam and danced until a little after 2am.

Suffice to say Sunday was a much quieter affair!

TNW