Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Elton John - To Russia...With Elton

In 1979, Elton John found himself in a strange place in his career: he had largely stopped touring, he had made some odd forays into disco, and his records weren't getting as much traction. Moreover, he was sober, and newly out of the closet - both of which caused a change in both the delivery, and the public perception of, his persona. It was in this climate that he decided to tour the USSR.

While the only explanation given fro the choice of venue is that they "wanted to play in places they had never played", it can't really be stated enough how amazing it is to see a star of John's magnitude behind the iron curtain and loving every minute of it. The tour was a simple one, with Elton and his percussionist Ray Cooper. As a result, it was oddly reminiscent of his earliest 1970 shows as a piano-drum-bass trio. And, as is often the case with John, his solo performance is just as (if not more) incendiary than his full band show.

Luckily for his fans, the tour had a documentary filmmaker along for the ride, and the result is a 74 minute concert film that is among the best ever produced. It features fantastic performances, cultural insight of the 1970's cold war climate, and fascinating back stage glimpses. In short, everything a concert film should be, and the entire thing is on YouTube. If you're a fan of Elton, and you haven't checked out this film (embed above), now is the time. You won't be sorry.

(And, if that's not enough to satisfy you, then follow up with this Live In Australia video. Not quite as much of a "film", but the performances are equally wonderful, and feature the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Blur Deliver Two New Songs, And They're Awesome

The past few years have been on-again, off-again on the Blur front. 2009 saw the band reunite for a series of "comeback" shows, but little more than that in terms of follow up. Then 2010 saw the release of "Fool's Day" for Record Store Day, the band's first new material in seven years. Finally, 2012 saw the band committing to a performance at the London Olympics, and hinting at new material. And yet, all the while, Damon Albarn simultaneously was confirming or denying the band's continued existence, depending what media source you chose to believe.

Well, now little of that matters, because the day has arrived: the band has dropped two new singles (videos with lyrics above) entitled "Under The Westway" and "The Puritan", and if you're even a little bit of a Blur loyalist, you will not be disappointed. The first track is a classic Blur ballad, along the lines of "The Universal", but incorporating some of the scratchy guitar sounds the band discovered on 13. The second song is even more "classic" Blur in its feel, recalling the bouncy brit-pop of the band's earliest days on Modern Life Is Rubbish.

All of this confirms what fans have known all along: that the band are more than able to create amazing new work, and that it's a bit of a travesty that they've been silent for so long. Seeing them play the two tracks live (still streamable here) was a dream come true, and their chemistry is undeniable. Given that, we can't wait to see them perform at the Olympics, but moreover, we can only hope and pray that the experience will push them to at least take one last stab at creating another brilliant record.