Monday, 28 May 2012

5ive Gigs In Reverse : My Costello UK Tour Nights 2&3: London

These two consecutive dates suggested a more shaking up of the setlist than usual and we were not disappointed. After the standard opening rock n roll beginning, the wheel started to spin and for me, only duplicated three songs from the Birmingham main set the week before. Was thrilled to get a pair ofd songs from Imperial Bedroom including a sparky Beyond Belief. After a pair of Johnny Cash covers with amusing anecdote he introduced his brother Ronan's band 'The Bible Code Sundays' as the first special guests of the night.

The band added some pipe and whistle to excellent readings of 'American Without Tears' and 'Little Palaces' and ending with a little instrumental jig n reel. Mr Nieve made my night with his choice of piano song for the night - Shot With His Own Gun which Elvis and he performed superbly. The real surprises came in the encore when '30 Of Foot of Grunt' lead singer and sometime actor Russell Crowe joined the band for 'Trouble' ("one of my ambitions to play an Elvis song with Elvis" quipped Russ, thankfully not in his strange Robin Hood accent) and an ill advised attempt to sing like Cash on 'Folsom Prison Blues'.

                          (Photo by Neil McNab)
the real treat was to see Martin Belmont onstage with EC for the first time in 32 years when he stood in for an ill Steve Nieve. Martin appeared on Elvis' 1981 single 'From A Whisper To a Scream' and, blimey, appearing like a garden gnome, its the other vocalist on that single - Glenn Tilbrook.

                             (Photo by Neil McNab)
The rest of the encore was very much a slightly ragged romp amongst pals with a closing Peace Love & Understanding halted as Steve Nieve appeared above the band playing giant organ (missis). A right rollicking first night.

London, Royal Albert Hall, May 23rd, 2012

I Hope You're Happy Now
Heart Of The City
Mystery Dance
Radio Radio
The Stations Of The Cross/Get Ready
New Lace Sleeves
Beyond Belief
Oliver's Army
Long Honeymoon
Cry Cry Cry
I Still Miss Someone
American Without Tears
Little Palaces
Shot With His Own Gun
Watching The Detectives/Help Me
Everyday I Write The Book
I Want You
A Slow Drag With Josephine
Jimmie Standing In The Rain
Tramp The Dirt Down
Folsom Prison Blues
From A Whisper To A Scream
Pump It Up
Peace, Love And Understanding

I was flying solo the next night and looking forward to different set and guests. Right from the off I wasn't disappointed as the band blasted through 'Lipstick Vogue' and 'You Belong To Me'. No 'Heart Of the City'? Could this be a foreboding?

Jackpots were back in style tonight and I was happy gor get a big slice of, err, "Get Happy" with Falling Down, 5ive Gears, Fidelity & a mighty King Horse quickly followed by a "Time" Jackpot which led to Strict.. \ Man Out Of.. and the popular ditty by 60's hitmakers The Rolling Stones - 'Out Of Time'. Then came tonight's special guest via a fixed spin from Napoleon.

                  (Photo by Gelliant Gutfright)
The greatest singer and songwriter in England - Mr Nick Lowe ambles out to sing 'Poisoned Rose' which features on his new album and does a majestic job. He's gone after that but we know he'll be back. Steve Nieve climbs up to the grand organ for a song from Brutal Youth, an album that has been largely ignored on this tour, and his accompaniment of Elvis on 'Favourite Hour' is my highlight of the tour so far.

(Photo by Gelliant Gutfright)

The encore features a mean and moody 'National Ransom No.9' before Nick returns to run through 'Heart Of The City' and 'Peace Love & Understanding'

Simply marvellous.

London, Royal Albert Hall, May 24th, 2012

Lipstick Vogue
You Belong To Me
Mystery Dance
Radio Radio
This Year's Girl
Spooky Girlfriend
Party Girl
I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down
High Fidelity
Five Gears In Reverse
King Horse
Strict Time
Man Out Of Time
Out Of Time
The Stations Of The Cross/Get Ready
Poisoned Rose
Watching The Detectives/Help Me
Favourite Hour
Deep Dark Truthful Mirror
A Slow Drag With Josephine
Jimmie Standing In The Rain
Tramp The Dirt Down
National Ransom No.9
Oliver's Army
Beyond Belief
Purple Rain
Pump It Up/Day Tripper
Heart Of The City
Peace, Love And Understanding

I'm certain as a lost dog pondering a signpost

Well its been an eventful couple of weeks all told what with more Costello gigs and my new job.

The first crack in my upward path was last Tuesday when my boss said he wanted a word. I was in good spirits and tbh I thought he was going to offer me a full time contract. Pride comes before a fall etc

He said that he felt that I was struggling, making too many mistakes and not cut out for the role so that was that. We'd talk again in a week but it was pretty much a done deal. I was shell shocked, I hardly took any of it in. It really hit me when I was driving home and I cried my heart out. It was as if all the things that I believed about myself in my darkest moments were true. And in big letters above all was the word FAILURE. I really didn't want to see anyone I knew as I thought they would just see the disappointment I was.

I had a couple of Costello gigs to look forward to in London (see next blog entry) and I did something that I would never have done 6 months ago. I sat down and wrote my boss an email. I had to get these thoughts out of my head, to express myself in a way I had not been able to as I was so overwhelmed.

This is some of what I wrote

---I just thought I would express a few things that I feel I didn't have a chance or was able to say yesterday. As you might have noticed I thought that I was increasingly getting more confident and at ease with the office system and producing the admin material correctly and so our discussion yesterday came as something of a shock. I thought I had ironed out my initial jitters and stumbles, that first Monday was a bit of a blur if I’m honest, and was learning well.

As you can tell, having this job means a lot to me. Just this short trial period has increased my confidence and reinvigorated me. So even, if you decide, that we can go no further I really appreciate the opportunity you have given me. The things that I have learnt and experience gained are invaluable and I only hope that you appreciate that I did what i thought was right at all times. I enjoyed my time with the company these past 6 days and found the work interesting.

I don’t expect a response to this but just wanted you to appreciate some of these things for when we speak next week -----
So that was it.

next morning after the first Costello RAH gig I picked up the phone and it was my Boss asking if I'd like to come back to work. When I got there he asked me if I had written that email which I said I had he said that he admired my commitment and passion and would take me back on til the end of the month as long as I "upped my game", which I had readily admitted I needed to.

Well that day went OK but today i made a couple of stupid, silly mistakes. they weren't big things - a wrong phone number here, a misspelt name there but enough to just rattle my confidence. I felt under pressure from my own perfectionism. So I sat down with my boss toward the end of the day and said that I thought I was wasting his time. We had a chat and he asked if there was anything I'd like to tell him that he could help me with.

So I told him about my panic attacks. I explained a little and it turns out he has a relative who has just completed a doctorate in psychology, he didn't toss me out of the office, or castigate me for not telling him these things at interview. He assured me that the mistakes that I made were little things and that I should just stay calm and be a little more organised. He felt that I had been treading on eggshells and nervous cos I was "on trial". And so as far as he was concerned that was over. he would be offering me a temporary 6 month contact on Thursday.

However we both agreed that I had to be sure that i wanted and could cope with the job. He'd rather I told him tomorrow if I don't want to do it than about a weeks tiem when there won't be time to get someone else in the role.

And I want to do it, I really do, I mean its a job ffs and it could lead to bigger things. He's taking a risk despite everything and giving me the opportunity to prove to myself that I can do this

So thats why I am, a little lost, confused, keen not to let anyone down and in need of advice and \or  a good kick up the arse


Sunday, 20 May 2012

5 Gigs In Reverse: My Costello UK Tour: Night 1 in Birmingham

I've always had this deep sense of resentment and loss in my heart that I was not old or wise enough to see Elvis & the A's 1986 Spinning Songbook tour which took a simple idea that shook up the often dull and predictable live rock gig. No-one has tried it since.

I always promised myself that if Elvis toured it again I would go to as many as I could. So when "The Revolver Tour" started to roll last year I hoped i wouldn't have to make the trip across the pond just to see it. So when he announced UK dates I went for broke (almost) and booked up for five.

Since I'd booked the tickets I'd gone and got myself a proper job and the 1st gig fell on my 2nd day at work. So I was a bit tired as I drove through the wind and rain on the M40 up to the Birmingham Symphony Hall. A truly great venue with excellent sound and I've seen some great Costello shows there

Walking into the hall and seeing that wheel towering over the stage was quite a moment
as the PA played circus muzak version of EC hits and songs from the shows.

At the appointed time on the ticket the lights went down as the band strolled on but with a "He's a fine figure of man and handsome too" the lights were up and we were off for a initial flurry of rock n roll songs - the only part of the  set that was on the map. After a punchy "Radio Radio" EC picked up his cane, donned his top hat and MR NAPOLEON DYNAMITE (he was around waaaayyy before the film) was our host for the night. Its hard to imagine the snarling avenging nerd of 77 being a slightly camp all round entertainer with a fine line in scripted and impromptu patter.

His dancers\assistants for the evening were responsible for bringing people 'from their seats in the stalls to their place in the stars". After their spins the guests could sit in the bar or dance in the go-go cage with one of the nubile young ladies or at one point with EC playing his guitar.

The wheel was very fond of jackpots tonight which meant a string of songs so the show flowed in a way that more spinners choosing individual songs would have broken up. This meant that a couple of spinner were sitting up on the stage for six songs. A couple of punters tested their strength with the 'Hammer Of Songs'

with a ring of the bell meaning a free pick from the wheel.

Personal highlights were, as ever, 'I Want You' with Steve Nieve playing a harpsichord part from the Beatles song of the same name as the stage was drenched in blood red light. The intimacy and claustrophobia of the original recording really came across in this live arrangement.

'Tramp the Dirt Down' is sadly as relevant today as it was when EC first sang it. the bogeyman may have changed but the anger against a heartless and careless government still holds true. The Imposters gave the song a stately weight that an acoustic version would have missed.

Napoleon came and sat across the aisle from me to sing randy Newman's 'I've Been Wrong Before' and I loved the ukulele intro to the encore. I don't think I've heard Steve play 'Shipbuilding' better and Elvis was on top voice all night 

Three hours later with the clock on the wall saying it was quitting time the band had the place on their feet for 'Peace Love & Understanding'.

Can I do it again please, Daddy? Yep on Wednesday night at the Albert Hall.....

Birmingham, England
May 15th, 2012

I Hope You're Happy Now
Heart Of The City
Mystery Dance
Radio Radio


Talking In The Dark

Less Than Zero
Two Little HItlers
My Three Sons
So Like Candy
Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood

This Year's Girl
Party Girl
Girls Talk

Poisoned Rose
Suit Of Lights
All These Strangers

Motel Matches
No Particular Place To Go
I've Been Wrong Before

All This Useless Beauty
Rocking Horse Road
King Horse
I Want You

A Slow Drag With Josephine
Who's The Meanest Girl In Town, Josephine
Jimmie Standing In The Rain
Tramp The Dirt Down
Oliver's Army
Watching The Detectives
Peace, Love And Understanding

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Welcome To the Working Week

"I know it don't thrill ya / I hope it don't kill ya"

Me too, Elvis, me too

Surprisingly I had very little anxiety on my drive over to start my new job last Monday. The sky may have been dark and rain constant but I was more nervously excited than anything else. Am starting a two week trial which I am amazed that I have in the first place.

Mondays in any business are busy busy busy and this day was no exception. In the morning i got to grips with the office computer systems and observed one of my new colleagues taking orders over the phone. My stomach was in a bit of a knot and was still pretty tied up over lunch. In the afternoon I started to take some of those orders over the phone and my brain just went into panic mode. Not panic attack mode but "what the bloody hell am I supposed to be doing?" mode. Somehow I stumbled through the afternoon and when I got home my head was just hammering with all the concentration, frustration and stress. I couldn't see me being able to do this every day. Every time that phone rand my heart went into my mouth and my brain went in neutral

Day 2 and I decided to make a list of the info I needed from customers so I could methodically go through it when answering the phone and not make any errors. I have never been much good with the phone if I'm honest - hate ringing up for things, call centres and the like. Well this was very much in at the deep end, sink or swim time. All my calls up to this point were on speakerphone so my boss could hear what I and the customer were saying in case I got things wrong. He didn't say this but it was clear that was the reason. Unfortunately the shitiness of all "speakerphones" meant I often found it hard to decipher the shrill squawk on the other end of the line. However as the day wore on I got more confident and by days end I was far more relaxed about it all. I even had to chase up some debts at once point and dealt with that very well indeed.

Despite a late night out - see upcoming gig post - I was feeling quite bright and keen on Day 3 and from then on it went fairly well. A few errors here and there but the learning curve was getting less steep. I had worked out my ways of dealing with my lack of product knowledge by keeping details close at hand and not letting customers rush and confuse me.

All in all my first week was a success. I think I impressed on my boss that I knew what I was doing, can adapt and learn quickly and cope with the pressure. At weeks end I did a bit of work on the website and the opportunity to help build and develop that arm of the business I find intriguing and exciting.

And my anxiety. Well it never really reared its ugly head. I guess I very rarely had time to stop and think as I was so busy but even when I had a job last year both to and from work I sometimes had really bad attacks. This time, nothing so far

On my day off I visited a lovely old bloke as part of my voluntary work and I discovered that his phone had been dead for three days due to a local fault. I noticed that he was wearing a pendant alarm and discovered that this naturally runs via the phone. Therefore if he had fallen in the past three days then the button and alarm would not have worked. I checked online and found that BT had the job as "completed by 5pm next Tuesday". A quick call to BT and within 90 mins the phone was fixed and they checked his alarm was working too.

The thing is that I was so much more confident, organised and relaxed dealing with that situation. This week of a proper paid and responsible job has already started to change the way I deal with things.

I hope that I do well this week and sign a full contract. This could be where it starts to get good. .

Saturday, 5 May 2012

I was looking for a job and then I found a job....

and heaven knows, that was one weird day

So yesterday i was awoken by a Tardis landing. Not unusual as that happens when my phone rings. Through my dozy head I let it go to voicemail. Then my proper land-line rang so I reached out a claw and answered.

It was some bloke asking about a job vacancy I had applied for and eventually could I come in for an interview at 3pm. I  mumbled yes and then hung up. My body wanted more sleep but my brain was asking "which of the many jobs that you threw a CV at 11pm last night was that?". Found the details and after first thinking I'd applied for something the other side of London I started worrying and had a look at the company website.

Now interviews are a strange thing. I've not done many and I have a pretty high strike rate of late (two for three if you're wondering) but they rarely worry me in the way that regular life does. I think its because I see job interviews as playing  a part. I feel that you are acting the role of "the ideal candidate" so the person being judged is not you but the version of you that you're trying to present.

This one I was fairly shaken by, I suppose cos I wasn't mentally prepared for it. But I put on some appropriately soothing music (Gillian Welch) and drove to my doom. The interview was quite tough, I was asked some questions that weren't that easy to answer without some hands on info but I blustered through them and tried to put how I could do the job. I walked out thinking I had done okay but no idea if I had said the right things

I was due in London in the evening for a meet up with friends so I stopped at the motorway services to change. And of course to get some chocolate to steady my jangled nerves. Whilst I was trying to decide - went for a couple of Twirls in the end - and my mobile went. It was the bloke I had just spent an hour being interrogated by. "Blimey" I thought, "that was quick. They've decided against me already". But I was bloody shocked to hear him saying I had the job.

So yesterday within 7 hours I was informed of a job interview, had said interview and got a job that they guy had been interviewing for all week. I was the last one and got it. The evening out in London was bloody marvellous as usual but I was still a bit shell-shocked if I was honest.

Now if you've been following this blog then you'll know that less than 5 months ago i was pretty down as low as I've been for a long while. So to get from there to here is nothing short of a bloody miracle in my eyes. Now I'm only on a 2 week trial and it could all crumble but right now- its been a  helluva boost.
So I would like to thank all my friends in the online and meat world for supporting me so doggedly particularly of late. I would not be where I am today without you. Just a kind text\mail\message can make all the difference on the good and bad days. Its really been a transforming time and its not over yet.

Now if anyone has any advice on Internet ,marketing, let me have it!