Home Tags Posts tagged with "London"

London

I popped back to London for a day, from Cambridge on my way to Cannes, to make a must-do stop at the V & A Museum for their Pink Floyd exhibition, wonderfully titled Their Mortal Remains. It opened on Saturday, and will run until the end of October. 
Let me start by saying that there are many things I do not know about Pink Floyd. But I know enough to know Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Nick Mason, Richard Wright – and of course, Syd Barrett – are the stuff legends are made of: audacious, strong-willed, visionary musicians, who are responsible for some of the most impressive songs ever written. As a child of the 80s, and growing up in South Africa, I never had the chance to see them live, and only ever really knew of the band on records my parents owned.
So, going in, there was much I stood to learn from the exhibition – and Their Mortal Remains does them so much justice.
It outlines the band’s collective trajectory – with a section dedicated to founding frontman, the late Barrett, before mental illness caused him to leave the band. Each album is given careful consideration, with large sections for albums like The Dark Side of the Moon, Animals, The Wall and The Endless River.  And all the while, song snippets and interviews play over the Sennheiser headphones you are given upon entering.
The beauty of this exhibition is relayed in the words of Storm Thorgerson, one of the graphic designers who was so important in the visual representation of the band, that’s written next to a blown up image still from the Learning to Fly music video.
“We often stage these things for real and don’t do them [on] a computer because the reality has its own attributes. What you see is what you get. If you were to do it as a drawing or an illustration, or on the computer, it would always remain a fantasy, not the real thing. And it’s really fun to do the real thing, let me tell you.”
Well, let me tell you how much fun it is to see the “things” that make up Pink Floyd “for real.” The poster for their first show at the UFO, the handwritten lyrics for Another Brick in The Wall, and hilarious rider notes calling for a key to lock away all their food and drink while they were performing – indeed all of these are fun to see. But even more so to stand in front of the animatronic puppets, based on Gerard Scarfe drawings, used in their massive stage shows and feel them tower above you. To see the original clipping from the newspaper about the day a pig flew over Battersea Power Station, down to Kent, scaring the cows on a farm there. Or beds stuck to the ceiling and walls, used to recreate the music video for The Endless River. Or a 3-D rendering of the famous Dark Side cover art. Or a life-size replica of The Division Bell cover, with the two faces, I’ve come to now learn, representing the absence of members Barrett and Waters, in a later-era of Pink.
All of this is superb, a real treat, to be sure, but actually, upon walking into the last room of the exhibition, I found my most jaw-dropping experience of the band in reality, so to speak. A multi-camera, multi-angle, guitar/drums/bass/voice enveloping, wall-to-wall rendition of my favourite song, and one of music history’s best guitar solos, Comfortably Numb, performed in all its glory. 
I came away from this exhibition, not only with a greater sense of appreciation for the band itself, but for Thorgerson and Hipgnosis, the duo he formed with Aubrey Powell, that gave Pink, among so many things, their iconic Dark Side of the Moon cover. And I came away, more in love than ever, with the epic beauty of this thing called music.
The exhibition is on until the end of October, so if you find yourself in London, do yourself a favour and go!

One of my favourite ever quotes is Keith Richards describing Mick Jagger as “a mixture of James Brown and Maria Callas” (said while talking to NPR’s Terri Gross in 2010), and it’s a phrase that stuck with me after venturing into the Stones exhibition that’s come to NYC from their hometown of London. Exhibitionism doesn’t just center on the iconic frontman, to be sure, but it does bring together many of the complements he embodies and imbues in the band – the flamboyance and the artistry, the masculine and the feminine, the low brow swirled in with the high.
It’s no wonder they made up a new word for this display: from the moment they ditched the dogtooth suits, the Stones have always been showboats and nothing less than this kind of spectacle would have done. I missed seeing Exhibitionism in London when I was there briefly this past Summer, where it must have had such great resonance, given their roots. But thanks to a re-creation of the apartment Mick, Keith and Brian Jones shared in Chelsea in the early ’60s, I could at least feel like I was there. 
And smell like it too! The one-roomed apartment, where many of the early songs were written, is one of my favourite parts of the exhibit. Recreated by text and anecdote only, as no pictures of it existed, it made me think of the defunct CBGBs bathroom that the Met recreated for its Punk: From Chaos to Couture exhibition. Instead of graffiti-strewn walls and blocked toilets, these rooms had the stench of copious cigarette butts and old broken egg shells that wafted in from the kitchen. At least, it seemed real enough to want to turn my nose away and focus more on the record-player in the next room with Muddy Waters and Chuck Berry LPs next to it. 

“Mediocrity is the enemy” – the Stones.

Other favourite parts include the miniature models of the band’s various set designs, from Voodoo Lounge to Bridges to Babylon – tours that never came close to my home country South Africa, and Keith’s little mini-diaries in which he kept detailed notes of rehearsals and sessions (never expected him to be so meticulous). Hearing Martin Scorsese commenting on the films made about the Stones, before talking about his own, Shine A Light, is another highlight.
My jaw dropped at the sight of all the incredible fashion brought together in one room – from a rhinestone-covered flicking-tongued vest to all the custom Heidi Slimane pieces. Then it dropped even further at seeing the guitars in one room. The Les Pauls! The Fender Stratocasters! The detail and personality within their bodies – art to be studied up close, albeit behind very expensive glass walls, as voices of the band play overhead, telling stories of the instruments. 
“That’s the fun of it,” reads a quote from Keith on one of the walls. “Trying to find the sound you’re hearing in your head until it matches that or you get as close to it as possible.” Over 5 decades of the Stones doing that has yielded this experience right here. And if you’re in New York, you wouldn’t want to miss it!
Exhibitionism is on at Industria until March 2017, and then moves to Sydney.

 

Snow White and the Huntsman, The Avengers

 
Charlize Theron is having a great year, but her Snow White and the Huntsman co-star Chris Hemsworth is having one fantastic month so far.

On the back of The Avengers, in which he stars as the hammer-wielding Thor, scoring the best opening of all time, the actor’s wife Elsa Pataky just gave birth to their little girl, India. I spoke to him at Arundel Castle just a day before the baby’s birth, and two days before the news came yesterday that The Avengers has gone on to join the $1 billion club, 19 days after it opened in the US. Hemsworth told me that the film’s success at the box office has been phenomenal, and “a huge relief”, but the best part for him is that people are enjoying the movie. “People are liking it, and there were such good reviews for it. That’s a far bigger pay-off than the box-office numbers,” he said.