MONTH END PROCESSING FOR MARCH 2014
Movies: Recently, The Belated Birthday Girl and I spent a Saturday night at home, watching a live stream of John Otway playing at the Half Moon Putney. At the time, it seemed like a curiously hi-tech thing for an old geezer like Otway to be doing. But a subsequent viewing of Otway The Movie - a biographical film that its subject is currently carrying around from cinema to cinema for a series of one-night-only screenings - revealed that this has been part of his modus operandi for some time now. Otway was one of the first artists to realise the power of an internet-enabled fanbase: initially getting them to vote Beware Of The Flowers the seventh most popular song lyric of all time, and then using them to co-ordinate the assault on the top ten that was his 2002 single Bunsen Burner. (I'd almost forgotten the row at the time over Woolworths snottily refusing to stock the record: still, as one interviewee points out, they went bust three years later, so fuck 'em.) Sure, the main narrative drive of the movie is a hilarious series of anecdotes about how Otway got his reputation as Rock And Roll's Greatest Failure, but I'm glad that it celebrates the stuff he's good at too. Catch the film on tour as it moves around, or wait for the DVD that he says should be on the way eventually.
Music: One of the highlights of Otway The Movie is some lovely footage from one of his other follies: an overambitious gig at the Royal Albert Hall in 1998, featuring support from loads of his mates and me in the audience. One of those mates was Wilko Johnson, whom I hadn't seen since his heyday with Dr Feelgood: both the late Rob D and I were astonished that without his distinctive haircut he now looked like Brian Eno. I started seeing him live on an irregular basis after that reintroduction, so when he announced his terminal cancer diagnosis last year it hit me pretty hard. But Johnson's refusing to go quietly: in the middle of a final series of concerts that's been going on far longer than his initially estimated lifespan, he's now released an album - Going Back Home - revisiting some of his classic tunes with no less than Roger Daltrey on lead vocals. In a curious reversal of the way it tends to work with classic rockers, Daltrey's lower register is somewhat gravelly these days, but he hits the high notes with almost as much force and clarity as he ever did. Meanwhile, Wilko is still Wilko: "smashing down the boundaries between lead and rhythm guitar in much the same way as he's always done for the last 35 years," as I appear to have said back in 2011. For a record made by a pair of pensioners, one of whom is living under a death sentence, it's got a ludicrous amount of life to it.
Theatre: It's sometimes easier to assume that Daniel Kitson never performs live, ever. Given how quickly his shows sell out, I'm still not quite sure how we came by tickets for Analog.Ue as easily as we did: and now that its run at the National Theatre is over, I'm not sure if there'll ever be another chance for you to see it. Another one of Kitson's storytelling shows, this one - like his earlier Edinburgh hit, It's Always Right Now Until It's Over - interweaves two stories, using physical props to mark out the chapters of each one. In the past, an old man sits down in front of an array of tape recorders to talk about his life. In the present, a young woman has acquired one of the tapes from that session, and has become dangerously obsessed with it. At that level, it's another fine piece of human observation from Kitson, as ever revelling in the tiny details that make life living. But it wasn't until after the performance that The Belated Birthday Girl asked me a question which made me realise I'd missed an entire level of the narrative - a series of throwaway details that reveals where the young woman's obsession eventually takes her. The fact that both interpretations of the story work equally well suggests that this is some sort of genius at work. But as I said, your chances of seeing it again are vanishingly small - as Kitson points out, the staging of his piece has a real-life endgame planned for it, and I'll be fascinated to see if there's any way of discovering how that works out.