Monday, 13 July 2009


Got back yesterday from two days in Manchester. We stayed at Sachas Hotel (part of Britannia chain), and the city-centre location put many things of interest in easy walking distance. Saw live-action cartoon Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen, which is everything you might expect from Michael Bay’s sequel to Transformers but seeing this film at Odeon IMAX was a cinema experience (premier seating, £11), anyway. There’s no denying Transformers 2 provided visually–stunning sci-fi action, with plenty of epic battles, military hardware, and weapons of mass destruction... yet the benefits of watching this on such a giant screen has confirmed my view that Bay’s recent films have almost nothing to offer – except for spectacular CGI. Take away the widescreen spectacle and the film's genre appeal, even for brainless thrills, dials back to nearly zero.

On Saturday morning, I walked around the city centre, and all along Deansgate to visit the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI), which has interactive displays and galleries including exhibits charting Manchester residents’ varied contributions of technological progress to Britain, and the world... I found the adjacent Air & Space Hall of special interest for its helicopter stand, a tandem-rotor Bristol 192 Belvedere.

Main event was The Eagles at MEN Arena (last UK venue of a 100+ date world tour), where the band’s line-up included the core of front-man Glenn Frey, drummer Don Henley, guitarist extraordinaire Joe Walsh, and bassist Timothy B. Schmit (Don Felder was fired in 2001), plus a spare guitar player, other keyboards man, a violinist, and trumpet and saxophones players. The concert started promptly at 7.30 - just as we found our seats. They played many old classics (surprisingly, Hotel California was included in their first set) but recent double-album Long Road Out Of Eden (the band’s first new recording for 28 years!) was quite heavily promoted. Very pleased to report they also played Joe Walsh’s amusingly cockeyed view of fame and fortune, Life’s Been Good (cue head-cam antics), followed by Don Henley’s barbed critique of media celebrity, Dirty Laundry. Lighting arrays, background images (retro and contemporary), artfully composed movies, and a pair of video screens ensured there was always plenty of visual streams to admire, in addition to the dark-suited players on stage. I have always liked the Eagles for the lyrically romantic nostalgia of their Californian pop-rock blend, but also for the brooding melancholy of their darker and often sagely-critical worldviews. The show embraced a variety of moods and musical styles, from country ballads to heavy rock.

I don’t have a complete set-list, but songs included: opener How Long, Guilty Of The Crime, Witchy Woman, Lyin’ Eyes, In The City, and The Long Run, before a break. The band returned for a brief sit-down session with No More Walks In The Woods (a cappella), and No More Cloudy Days, before continuing with other familiar material including (my favourite Eagles' song) Take It To The Limit – introduced as "the credit card song," new album centrepiece Long Road Out Of Eden (a lengthy yet brilliant dissection of modern times’ woes and wonders), One Of These Nights, Funk #49 (a psychedelic improvisation?), Life In The Fast Lane, Take It Easy, and closer Desperado. With five guitarists, two drummers, and a four-man horn and string section, the band produced a slick and super-sized sound of excellent technical quality making this one of the most polished and sharpest performances of arena style rock that I can remember. Despite the £85 ticket, this really was a great show that surpassed all expectations and was certainly worth the money.

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