Archive for July, 2007
There were a number of factors that made the show less cool than it could have been:
AsiaWorld-Arena is just too damn big
It was if the band were playing at the front of a large indoor football field, with the standing area half-empty and only half the grandstands occupied. There were a lot of people at the concert but this extra-roominess made it seem under-attended, consequently making it difficult to get enveloped by the sound and carried away with the atmosphere.
The band lacked spark
A searing performance of ‘Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me’ notwithstanding, from what I saw of the show the band members were lacklustre in their movements on stage and refrained from any interaction with the crowd. The music was polished, sometimes brilliant, but as a friend remarked, it was a bit much like watching a TV show at times. I’m sure it would have been more of an experience for the folks standing near the stage, though.
Three hours is too long for a show
I find it tough to sit in one place for three hours, regardless of what’s going on. The Cure certainly has the material to sustain a show of such length, but I’d prefer they put on an intense and engrossing performance of shorter length that leaves you begging for more. Mind you, I had to leave the show 45 mins early because of work stuff, so I missed the crescendo and the two encores.
I don’t know if they were ushers, per se, or security people, but the cocks with the torches wouldn’t let us change our (crappy, but free) seats, despite a preponderance of utterly empty ones in much better position below us. And it wasn’t just us. These guys seemed intent on sucking the fun out of the show for as many people as possible.
Having said all that…
The band was tight, the songs were solid and Smith still sounded great, despite his advancing years. The Cure mixed the big hits with some lesser known (well, I didn’t know them) numbers. They were suitably brooding, haunting, upbeat, and dancey by turns, and a great number of Cure fans were seen to be having a most excellent time.
Tonight at the Fringe, three bands from Beijing played to a good crowd on the eve of the Cure gig. That gig is significant in this case because it’s the reason these bands were here in the first place. They were here for the ‘Beijing Explosion’ — the first Beijing music party in Hong Kong for 13 years.
Due to stuffed capsicum curry at the Spicy Island on Lamma, I was an hour late to the show, which meant I missed a Filipino band that was brought in as late cover for the exciting Re-TROS, who, like, laptop artists Sulumi and Dead J, couldn’t get over the border because of visa problems.
I wrote about this gig for the South China Morning Post, and even going by the MySpace profiles and promo bios I thought Re-TROS would be the best, New Pants (above) would be stellar, Hedgehog could be promising (it turns out they also have a pint-sized, dynamo drummer), and PK14 would be the weakest. And so it proved.
Hedgehog were delightfully tight and tunefully shouty; New Pants started slow but displayed range and versatility, with each member of the band trying his hand at different instruments for songs dancing from punk to noise pop — their Korgist/bassist/robotic-singer was funktastic, especially in his spaghetti-strap wife-beater (which he wore underneath a tight-buttoned-heavily-starched white shirt); and PK14 was droney, self-indulgent and even played an uninvited encore. Most of the time they weren’t terrible, but it was a big mistake to have them on last.
Verdict? Two bands leagues ahead of what Hong Kong has to offer, and another that falls well back in the pack of what passes for rock here in the SAR.
Hedgehog — tight, fun, and a petite drummer who wields her sticks as if they were hot pokers.
Here is a transcript of the bulk of my recent interview with Robert Smith, which led to stories in the South China Morning Post (under a pseudonym) and the New Zealand Herald. It’s close to 3,000 words, so I’ve put most of it after the jump. I’ve interjected throughout the interview with notes or questions, to put his quotes in context.
It was 4:15am in England when Robert Smith called from a London studio, where he was working on the Cure’s 13th album. Smith is a nocturnal creature, usually starting work at 2pm and heading to bed around 5am.
“I’m trying to wrap up the new album before we set off on our trip around the world. It’s looking a bit bleak at the moment because it’s a strangely evolving project that we’re involved in and it’s a huge, sprawling mass of songs. There’s like more than 30 songs and I’m trying to put them all together, which I’ve been postponing for as long as I can. It’s proving to be much harder than I thought. It’s good fun, it’s interesting. We’ve been re-recording stuff and I’ve been re-singing stuff…
I wanted it to be a 26-track double album from the moment we started making it, but I’ve kept it kind of quiet. I think what will happen is there’ll be a single album, and a double album — I think I’ll have a limited edition double album that I’ll do, and there’ll be a single album for the less hard-core fans…
It’s just taken up so much time to get the whole thing to work together.
Today my first story for CNN.com went online. It’s about the pirated Olympics merchandise that has been on sale in Hong Kong’s street markets, and the associated crackdown — which proves China’s and Hong Kong’s authorities can stifle piracy, in pockets, if they want to.
But that’s the thing.
Piracy is a massive industry in China and at the moment it is helping, rather than hurting, the economy. Of course, they won’t tolerate the embarrassment of having Olympics merchandise ripped off — but that also conveniently provides them with a chance to show how vigilant they are about intellectual property rights. Whether or not that vigilance will extend to foreign brands is another question.
The story was published as part of a just-launched special report on the countdown to the 2008 Beijing Games.
The New Zealand Herald published the Kiwified version of my Robert Smith story last Thursday, and nobody told me.
You can compare it to the version I wrote for the South China Morning Post to see what sneaky tricks I pulled to localise the content. Actually, though, I have easily enough material from the interview to write probably another two stories on Smith that would be completely fresh. But I don’t have that sort of time or energy just now. Instead, I’ll post the bulk of the interview transcript here very soon.
The Smith interview should be a rarity: he told me it was only the second interview he’d done this year, and that he told his label he wouldn’t be doing any interviews for this tour and album. He did, however, give at least one interview to Billboard, and another to Singapore’s Today newspaper. Those stories, as well as shamelessly republished versions of my stories, can be read at this Cure fansite (do a lot of scrolling).
Let’s say, for entertainment’s sake, Facebook is going to be the next Microsoft, or the next Google. Let’s forget about the fact that, with 50 million fewer monthly visits, it’s not even close to being the next MySpace, and that 23-year-old Mark Zuckerberg is embroiled in what could turn out to be a steaming pile of legal crap over potential copyright infringements after he very much appeared to rip off the ConnectU idea he was paid to help execute. Let’s put that aside and agree with uber-blogger Robert Scoble that Facebook is worth all the geek love it’s getting right now and that a rumoured price-tag of US$6 billion or an IPO aren’t to be scoffed at.
And then let’s ask why.
I mean, what is it about Facebook that you couldn’t live without?
So it now offers a much-lauded platform for third-party developers to ply their applications. Good for the developers — it’s an instant user-base of potentially millions, and a great way to generate exposure and, possibly, a lot of cash. But, really, as far as the end-user goes, it’s so far, so shitty. Now I can see what songs people are currently listening to, and I can buy them on-the-spot. Or I can find out what they think of films they’ve recently seen. Or, if I really gave a shit, I can find out where some of the lucky, and gloating, bastards have travelled. Or, I can get a ‘fortune cookie’ that dispenses algorithmically-determined wisdoms on a daily basis, enlightening me none and crowding up what I’m proudly nurturing as a minimalist space.
Some of that’s fun. But I can live without it.
What else about Facebook? The poke? The poke is about the most useless thing ever invented. So I click a button that results in a auto-generated message being sent to a friend. It means nothing, it results in nothing, and it engenders feelings of nothingness.
I can live without that.
Facebook email? What’s the point of sending a friend an email that then triggers an email sent to an actual email account where said friend can click on a link that leads to the original email? That’s two more steps than necessary and further fragmentation of my online communications that I can live without.
The wall? Short, impersonal messages that have to be so benign that they can safely be read by all my listed ‘friends’? Someone point me to the good in that.
Now, the shared photos and the tagging is something I like, and it’s a great way to see what friends have been up to. I also love being able to re-connect with old friends, who, while once happy enough to drop correspondence for a long period of non-contact, are all-of-a-sudden gung-ho for communicating through the novelty of Facebook. That’ll wear off.
I can also live without the increasing blurring of the line between my personal friends and my professional contacts that Facebook is facilitating. The word “friends” in this case is wafty to say the least. And don’t let me forget to add that Facebook’s ads — which have abysmal click-through-rates — represent the worst kind of internet ads: ones that aren’t contextual or relevant but are ugly.
For the time-being I still like Facebook. It’s still a novelty. The photos are great. I’ll hang around for a while just to see my friend-count go up (in tandem with my ego), and to see what the next big moves are. But if someone were to tell me tomorrow that I have to close my account immediately, I wouldn’t be sad for long.
On the other hand, if someone were to take search away from me, or my Google Maps, or Google News, or YouTube, or… well… the internet wouldn’t quite be the internet, would it? And I couldn’t live without that.
Today my story based on my interview with Robert Smith was published in the South China Morning Post. I’m not sure if that link works for non-subscribers, but no doubt it’ll appear on a fan-site soon. I’ll post a link here if I notice one pop up.
Another version of my Smith story should be published in the New Zealand Herald within the next couple of weeks. I’ll post the link here when it goes online — thankfully, the Herald has the good sense to make its site free and open.
In the meantime, while I’m supposed to be working I’m being distracted by a hopeless addiction to the Flight of the Conchords. If you don’t know who these guys are, or you haven’t seen their new HBO series, you must watch this and seek out more. You can thank me later.
It’s amazing what can happen when you get out of bed on a Sunday morning.
Who would have thought the question of suits could engender so much passion — not least in me?
The running argument I’ve been having with people in the comments section of my last post and at Peter Shankman’s blog (I’m cranking up the nerd levels to Orange Alert) have been fun, but tiring. Some people have said things that have made me change my perspective very slightly — but only in the context of what is ‘realistic’ in today’s business environments — and others have reinforced my arguments, either consciously or inadvertently. In most cases, I’m swimming against the current, which is fine by me — I’m not going to sacrifice my arguments just because they run counter to the ‘accepted’ thinking.
In any case, I’ve invested so much energy in the topic that I think I’ll now start a campaign against the suit. I’ll consider it my contribution to addressing climate change. Here are some slogan ideas, to be printed on t-shirts (copyright):
- We canned the corset — let’s screw the suit
- You look stupid in a suit so why the fuck are you wearing it?
- Can you see my outlines in this?
- No suit suits me
- Yes, your ass looks fat in that suit
- I went to Shenzhen and all I came back with was this lousy suit