1. Helen Chadwick retrospective, Barbican Gallery, London. Despite a somewhat confusing layout (but hey, this is the Barbican that we’re talking about), a fine exhibition, which reminds you of where a lot of the Saatchi YBA Sensation Generation
nicked their ideas from derived their inspiration. We particularly enjoyed the Piss Flowers and the pool of bubbling chocolate.
2. Brancusi retrospective, Tate Modern. An intelligently conceived, thoughtfully sequenced and commendably thorough exhibition; we learnt a lot. The only works I didn’t care for were the roughly hewn giant wooden pieces; the rest were uniformly sublime.
3. El Greco, National Gallery. Ugh! Hated it, hated it, hated it. Aesthetically hideous (nasty colours, ugly compositions), technically hopeless (tiny heads, mis-proportioned bodies, ridiculous expressions), and spiritually bankrupt (lurid visions of purgatory and hell, expressly designed to terrify the masses, mingled with hagiographic portraits of the most mighty figures in the all-powerful Catholic church; the all-pervading stink of oppression). And don’t even get me started on the honking, elbow-barging, upper middle class Culture Set that crowded round each painting, noisily explaining the bleeding obvious to each other, as if they hadn’t just read it all straight from the catalogue.
Bonus points for giving Jesus an improbably enormous bulge under his robes, in the series of paintings where he overturns the tables of the money changers. (Me to K: “Check out Christ’s cock!“) Such are the (cough) lengths to which El Greco was prepared to go. (He wasn’t just the Son Of God; his dunda was this big!)
4. Violent Femmes, Rescue Rooms. Deceptively simple, good-natured folksy tunes, played with precision and spirit, to a crowd who sang along with almost every word. Enormously enjoyable.
5. John Martyn, Royal Concert Hall. Desperately disappointing, especially in comparison to his outstanding performance in Newark from about three years ago. Much of the problem lay with the over-sized, sparsely attended venue; Martyn and his three-piece band just didn’t know how to fill it, lacking both intimacy and a sense of occasion. Large helpings of dull jazzy noodling: too polite, too tasteful, too Demonstration CD In Hi Fi Shop. Martyn’s vocals slurred and unintelligible, to the point of self-parody. Songs mushed into each other, all on the one level, making it impossible to maintain concentration. We left in the interval.
6. Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind. Many have praised it; we, on the other hand, were distinctly underwhelmed. (In fact, K walked out halfway through, muttering seditiously about “f***ing American adolescents”.) Pseudy, hollow, faux-experimental; a big-bucks Hollywood attempt at a “cult” movie (see also the similarly underwhelming Donnie Darko). The whimsical implausibility of the plot (held together at times by some decidedly creaky devices) was matched only by the creaky implausibility of the central relationship (Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet, annoying in equal measure). Beck’s low-key acoustic re-working of The Korgis’ Everybody’s Gotta Learn Some Time was the best part of the film; expect it to be a carefully marketed “overwhelming public demand” sleeper hit before the end of the year. (Hmm. Low-key acoustic re-workings of 1980s synth-pop hits. Where have we seen that before?)
7. Dogs Die In Hot Cars, Nottingham Cabaret. Clean cut, polite-looking suburban types, playing dinky, well-crafted, sweetly melodic power-pop to a similarly polite-looking audience. Call me a grouchy old rocker, but it just didn’t feel right. Not like a “proper” gig at all. No edge, no passion, no thrill. We preferred the two support acts: Nic Armstrong (twisted, wonky 70s pub-rock with 60s influences) and Headway (energised and cohesive; potentially massive).
8. Cesaria Evora, Leicester De Montfort Hall. A static, undemonstrative performer she might be – but nevertheless, the tender, honeyed, quietly seductive tones of the “barefoot diva” couldn’t fail to thrill. Bonus points for the sit-down fag break halfway through the set, and for waving her fag packet above her head in gleeful anticipation as she left the stage at the end of the show.
9. K’s 45th birthday meal. As of last night, we have a new favourite restaurant in Nottingham. However, since a large part of its appeal lies in its status as a well-kept secret, mostly patronised by a loyal set of regulars, I am loathe to name it. Maybe I’ll just link to it instead. Yes, that’s much more discreet.
10. The holiday is booked. We’re off to Peru!