Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Old Rockers

Well it’s true we are getting on a bit, but perhaps rockers is a bit of an exaggeration.   We both enjoy a range of music including rock, The Better Half, having been an Elvis Presley fan for most of her life and a Meatloaf fan for half her life, is not unfamiliar with rock, whilst I have a wide range of musical likes too, from Mike Oldfield to The Killers.   We are not regular concert goers but have had our moments and amongst other shows, we have been to a Pink Floyd tribute concert and more recently we went to the Genesis Turn it on Again concert at Twickenham.

 Genesis Turn it on Again at the Twickenham football ground

 On Monday we went to London to see The Trans-Siberian Orchestra perform at the Hammersmith Apollo.   The train we used to go to London was due into our station at 15.29 but did not arrive.   We did not want to catch another train because our tickets were concessions and had to be used on the specified train or pay an excess fare.  So we waited and waited, watching other trains arrive and leave without us, wondering if we would have to board a later train and pay the difference just so that we could get there in time. We had allowed ourselves enough time to travel and dine before the show so it was not yet urgent and that option would be a last resort.
Eventually our train did turn up at 15.50 and we were whisked off to London amongst the mobile phone conversations and frantic texting that seems to be de rigour for train passengers today.   

The Trans-Siberian Orchestra are not well known in the UK and are a kind of cross between heavy metal and a Symphony orchestra and have a range of shows that often feature a Christmas theme.
This was their only appearance in the UK, so we decided we could not miss the opportunity to see them live.
 What we went to see was Beethoven’s Last Night.  This is a fantasy composed by Paul O’Neill.  It is set on the night in 1827 when Beethoven died. The story supposes that he has just completed his tenth symphony and on the point of death is tempted in various ways by the Mephistopheles, who claims to own Beethoven’s soul. 

This is performed with a narrator telling the story and a mix of Beethoven’s music and heavy rock and songs, accompanied by a modern rock style light show.   Maybe not everyone’s cup of tea but I like their sound and have been hooked on their versions of well known music.   To check out one of their songs, follow this link.
Most shows nowadays find it hard to keep out cameras, because they could never stop everyone and remove their mobile phones, so they allow compact cameras in and I have been able to snap a few pictures. The one above having captured some of the light show effects.

Most modern rock concerts have excessively loud music, well above the safe levels of sound that would be allowed in any work environment.  Having knocked about in the electronics industry for many years and in the process worked in music studios and indirectly worked for one or two rock bands, I knew that if you go into any real music shop that sells modern instruments, you can always get professional earplugs there.  Not the great big ear defenders that look like overlarge headphones, but small discrete things that sit inside your ear.  These defend them from excess decibels but allow speech and music to pass through clearly at reduced volume.  Many professionals working in the live music industry use them because they would soon go deaf otherwise.  We always take these whenever we go to a concert now because we value our hearing.  It is actually much more comfortable listening at a reasonable sound level, even if the seat and floor are vibrating noticeably from the unreasonably huge sound that people seem to think is required at a live venue.

The only two shows that we have been to recently where we did not need to use the ear defenders were Phantom of the Opera and Stomp.
No doubt most people have heard of the Phantom, but in case you have never heard of Stomp, it is a fabulous show, where all the sounds are produced acoustically on all sorts of domestic equipment and the performers perform with such a huge amount of energy it is really exhilarating.   I thoroughly recommend it.

In terms of high sound levels, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra are no exception but with our earplugs inserted, looking a bit like a pair of deaf oldies, both with some kind of hearing aid, we were able to enjoy the concert knowing our hearing was safe and we were not going to go away with a headache.
The show was brilliant and very well done and at the end, the TSO went on to do a medley of other music from their repertoire and some other well-known songs.  We left a little before the end of the show, because we had to be back at Paddington station in time to catch the very last train home, so we missed the finale, which was a pity but not a disaster.

Another snapshot of the show
We took a taxi to Paddington station and the taxi driver conversationally asked us where home was. On discovering our final destination, he rather disturbingly pointed out that there were now three high profile murderers in custody who had been taxi drivers, the most recent murder and taxi driver suspect being in our home town.  However, he did not take us to a quiet side street and murder us but took us to the station, so we made the train with a comfortable amount of minutes to spare and did not have to fork out for accommodation. 
Whilst the trip out had been delayed by a train mysteriously held up just outside the station, the trip home was quiet and uneventful. 
I have one question about First Great Western trains, who on earth decided that the seats should have a pink plastic thing on them that looks like a giant ear stolen from Mr Potato head?

I have for some while been considering buying a new mobile, as my ancient one is starting to crack and the camera does not work any more.  So I have been looking at what is on offer.  I have eliminated most smart phones because you cannot use them in bright sunlight, and since many of them have no physical keypad, this means you can only use voice dial and so if it is sunny you cannot call someone you have not programmed in already.   I thought the blackberry may be a nice compromise and had been looking at it since it has a physical qwerty keyboard which allows it to be used for texting, emails and of course as a telephone, even in bright sunlight. 
At Reading a young lady got on the train and sat in front of us.  We were behind her but the gap in the seats allowed me to see that she took out a blackberry and for the rest of the trip was chatting to several friends on Facebook, I think.  Both her thumbs were flying over the keypad at about the best speed that I can type using the fingers on two hands.  Great I thought, this could be the phone for me, but I suddenly realised that the text it was using was tiny. Being the gentleman that I am, I had not been attempting to read what she was typing, but even if I had I would not have been able to read it. It was using about a six point font and I would have difficulty reading this even if I was holding it up to my nose, so the Blackberry seems to be eliminated too.
Oh well, perhaps I will just get a phone that just makes phone calls with a proper keypad and no gps, no apps and no internet, how boring. 


  1. As a bit of an old rocker myself (I'm being treated to a Paul Rodgers concert for my birthday in a couple of weeks) I can relate to this. Specially the bit about going deaf from the volume. Several real old rockers (Roger Daltrey comes to mind) are actually deaf now because they've been in front of huge speakers all their working lives.

    I THINK you can change the text size on a Blackberry. I have several tech-obsessed friends whose lives seem to be contained inside a small plastic box with a screen on the front. I could ask one of them, if it would help.....

  2. I'm so glad that you had such a lovely time, Snafu, even if the getting there was frustrating. I haven't seen TSO, but I thought Stomp was amazing.

    What is the purpose of that pink thing on the train? I've never seen one before. x

  3. Sounds like you had an exciting evening, Snafu.

    I think I could use a pair of those ear defenders. DOTH and I went to the Home and Garden Show today, and some of the entertainment was enough to shatter the sound barrier -- and our ear drums!

  4. I'm still here. I'm a Simon and Garfunkel fan myself. But I have seen STOMP on TV a good number of years ago. I thought they were really good. The fact that I remember their name is testament to that, because I have never seen them since.

  5. Thanks for dropping by my blog regularly while I've been away. It's much appreciated!

  6. You got me at the train having a giant ear that looks like it belongs to Mr Potato Head. Laughed out loud at that comment!

    The Trans-Siberian Orchestra sound fantastic! Nothing wrong at all with being an old rocker. I plan to be one myself. :)

  7. Jayne, Thanks for popping by, like your choice of books. My favourite illustrated children's books are the Church Mice series written and illustrated by Graham Oakley.