One of those random “stuff” type posts

My horrible phlegm-filled lurgy is now finally subsiding, even though my throat is still raw and I keep coughing randomly. At least I no longer sound like a cross between Davros and Barry White, and was able to laugh at last night’s Mock the Week without actually killing myself. (Frankie Boyle’s Inuit Robot Butler was absolute genius).

Janet is off work today, and is happily ensconced on her PC playing Spore, which (despite annoyingly refusing to let her interact with any of the online content) is generally pleasing her in being a combination of every game style she’s ever liked, with the added bonus that she gets to design weird alien life and evolve it.

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, which turned out to be unexpectedly not-a-big-pile-of-crap, is back for a second season on 8th September. I might never have started watching this if I hadn’t been asked to review it, and seen a couple of other people praising it, but I’m really glad I did. It’s smarter than it has any right to be, and it neatly picks up on everything I liked about T2 while ditching everything I disliked about T3. Lena Headey is suitably obsessive and bad-ass as Sarah Connor, plus it has Summer Glau as a deeply unnerving ‘good’ Terminator, as showcased by this here poster (click for a bigger version).

Ben Folds Five are re-uniting for one night only to play “The Unauthorised Biography of Reinhold Messner” in its entirety. When we saw Ben Folds ‘solo’ back in June he was playing with two other musicians who were for all practical purposes indistinguishable from the remaining two members of Ben Folds Five (to a philistine like myself — I’m sure their friends and families see an important difference) so I’m sure this will be a breeze for Ben. This seems to be part of a MySpace “Front to Back” live album initiative.

Folds’s new album Way to Normal is out on 30th Sept. He played quite a few songs from it when we saw him live, and generally it sounds quite up-tempo; less acoustic and melancholy than Songs for Silverman. More of an early-BFF sound, in fact.

Snubs, stubs and subs

The Wire star hits out at Emmys. Sergeant Ellis Carver thinks the Emmys are ignoring his show, and rightly so. I still can’t believe that The Wire has never won an Emmy. It does at least have a single nomination this year: Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series for its final episode. Maybe that means it’ll get the ‘lifetime achievement’ sympathy vote.

Fresh from last month’s Ben Folds gig, we now have tickets to see Counting Crows supported by Ben Folds in December. This is good. Counting Crows‘ latest has some strong return-to-form stuff on it but has left me a bit cold overall. Nonetheless the combination of Crows and Folds is pretty much a slam-dunk. Folds has a new album Way to Normal out on 30th September which sounds a good deal more up tempo than anything he’s done since the first couple of Ben Folds Five albums.

Hot on the heels of The Dark Knight (spoilery review here) there are preview screenings of Hellboy 2: The Golden Army on 5th August, so we have tickets to see that too. This is double plus good. My Cineworld Unlimited membership is a process by which I willingly allow Cineworld cinemas to scam £12 from me every month in return for me not going to the cinema. To add insult to injury, even though I only found out about the screenings through their Unlimited newsletter, my membership doesn’t let me book advance tickets. So I’ve paid for the tickets. I really should cancel that membership…

The trailers for Hellboy 2 look a bit mediocre but I sense there’s a good film hiding behind the crappy marketing. Plus I like the comics and really enjoyed the first flick and Janet is a sucker for dark mythological faerie types, so really the film is pandering to us shamelessly.

Ben Folds live

On Tuesday we went to see Ben Folds at the Carling Academy in Newcastle, which is pretty much identical to the Carling Academy in London if you moved it 300 miles nearer the North Pole.

The support act was a man called Corn Mo, playing solo without his band. This was one of the most complete WTF experiences I’ve had at a live gig. While I can see that in some hard-to-pin-down way his songs share a certain sense of deadpan irony with Ben Folds, he was just…bizarre. He spoke like the breathless Open University guy from The Fast Show, looked like Bill Bailey, sang like Freddie Mercury, and played an absurd set of observational songs accompanied by an accordion or an organ. To finish he sang along to a CD of one of his band’s tracks, which had a far more overtly rock/metal flavour and so ended up sounding like a Darkness song. The audience appeared to love him. We felt like Derren Brown had secretly set the entire thing up to mess with our minds.

Mercifully Ben Folds then rescued us. Songs played included (not in this order): Underground, Kate, Battle of Who Could Care Less, Narcolepsy, Army, Lullaby, Annie Waits, Zak and Sara, Gone, Rockin’ the Suburbs, All You Can Eat, You To Thank, Jesusland, Landed. He also played several others from the upcoming album due out in September, which some YouTube research reveals to be probably: Errant Dog, Free Coffee, Kylie from Connecticut, Hiroshima(?) and one with the line “If there’s a god out there he’s laughing at us and our football team”. The new ones sounded good, insofar as you can tell from one listen at a concert. Free Coffee was particularly good.

Oh, and there was a song about Newcastle, its “weird-ass” white footbridge, eating a dodgy meal and not being understood when ordering beer. I assume this was written specially for the evening but it was so slick it was pretty hard to tell!

We were standing a little way back on the raised floor behind the sound desk, where the view was great but the actual vocals seemed a little boomy at first. Since he kicked off with a song I didn’t know it took me a little while to get into the gig. Maybe I was still reeling from Corn Mo. However as things progressed and Ben’s piano playing became ever more virtuoso (his hands were just a blur at several points) I started having a really good time. He had an organ by his side which he would often play with his right hand while his left stayed on the piano. For other “effects” he dropped bits of metal and shakers onto the piano strings.

Ben wasn’t particularly talkative and what he did gabble into the mike wasn’t always that easy to catch, but the sheer energy of the songs came through well. He was supported by a drummer and base player in a “Ben Folds Five” arrangement making for some extremely faithful renditions of his early material. Their backing harmonies were fantastic, and they delivered “hand me my nose ring / show me the mosh pit” from Underground with aplomb.

The show ended with Not the Same, for which Ben got the audience to do the aaaaahAAAAAH bits in a three-part harmony, then started conducting the audience with his hands. Hugely good fun. The audience were singing along throughout the evening and generally very appreciative (although there was a distracting amount of loud chatter from the back of the room in some of the quieter songs).

Good fun.