Monday, October 10, 2011

Concert Day: The Braehead Arena, Glasgow, Scotland (October 9, 2011)

After a couple of relaxing days spent in Glasgow, I wasn’t ready to ruin my inner peace by overly challenging my mind and body. Weather was better than the previous day—a little bit of rain early in the morning and that’s it. Cloudy for the rest of the day.

Spent a couple of hours in Caffe Nero finishing the previous day’s blog post (I now come to realize, once again, how much time and effort are being spent for the purpose of coming up with this pathetic blog): Cloudy Sunday morning, hardly a soul in the streets, let alone at the upper level of the cafe.

Once the post was published, it was already time for lunch. Walking around in this beautiful area of Glasgow’s city centre, I realized that I haven’t yet posted any pictures of it so there you go. This is what Buchanan Street looks like:


(Sorry for this last one; my sister keeps nagging me about having photos of myself taken.)


The next photo shows the entrance to Rogano Restaurant, where I had the pleasure to dine in two nights prior. It’s located in Exchange Place and I recommend it.

A sowing machine, anyone?


And more of this pretty walk:


We were heading to check out the original Willow Tea Rooms location on 217 Sauchiehall Street, which is a long walkway beset on all sides by shops, restaurants and—unfortunately, given Europe’s altogether grim financial status—closed-down businesses. At some point I realized we went way too far: coincidentally enough, there were a few Indian restaurants right there in front of us. Inspecting the menus, we decided to step into one called “Kama Sutra”.


Turned out to be a great pick. Excellent Indian food on the premises, very reasonably priced. Go visit when you’re in Glasgow, and don’t miss the restrooms as they carry some interesting figures in the stalls’ doors. As always, I cherish every opportunity to learn new things.

Walking back east on Sauchiehall Street, I located the Willow Tea Rooms’ sign tucked behind a million of other signs. Stepped in; very impressive decor, laid out in a rather ancient house. This tearoom is larger than the one on Buchanan Street (at least it seems to be).


The Willow’s Darjeeling blend was good for the soul; around me, people were having high tea which was very tempting for me to try (despite being full after the preceding awesome Indian feast) but I have a few days left to spend in the UK so I decided to pass.

An our or so to let the tea soak in, and then back to Sauchiehall Street on my way back to the hotel. Preferred to rest as much as I can, as that was going to be the last night in Glasgow before switching back to rapid travel mode.


Armed with knowledge of how the Buchanan Bus Station works, we left the hotel in time to catch the 6:19pm 747 bus to the Braehead Shopping Center where the arena is located. As I was carrying a camera this time around (for taking pre-show and post-show pictures), I thought it might be a good idea to share some of the visions here.


Now I don’t know why, but this art exhibit freaked me out:

The Buchanan Street Bus Station employs top-of-the-line, enhanced, ground-breaking technology to inform passengers of bus schedules. I couldn’t possibly leave the station without taking a video of it.

High tech in action.

It was Sunday evening, meaning very little traffic in Glasgow and around. After stopping at around 900 stations across the city centre, we left towards the airport (the Braehead Shopping Centre is very close to the airport) and that’s when the driver decided he was going to test the bus’ engine capacity. It was, at times, disturbing to be finding yourself in a large metal pipe cruising at jet speeds through highways that, relatively to what you’re used to (North American roads), are rather narrow.

Got to the shopping arena at about twenty minutes to seven; plenty of time to enjoy the view of this bustling, vivid and wild shopping centre:


(Well, it was Sunday night.)

The arena is located at one edge of the mall, and to get inside, people have to queue up for ticket scanning and bag checking (the arena doesn’t allow outside food & drinks). After picking up the tickets (again, not the tickets we were initially allocated for, but actually slightly better—one row up), went to stand in line—an art that every Canadian is obliged to master since infancy in much the same way that Israelis aren’t.


Fortunately it didn’t take long. Occasionally, a TV crew were interviewing random people who were standing in the line, asking them questions about Bob Dylan’s music. Fortunately, I wasn’t one of the harassed; entered the venue peacefully and went to check on the seats.


Twenty minutes passed quickly—somehow, the entire experience seemed to be calmer than the previous night’s. 7:30pm and the band took the stage.

So apparently this tour is getting better. Dublin’s concert was great, the first Glasgow concert was slightly off but this one took the tour back to the positive curve.

Without getting myself into the meaningless & pointless argument with respect to Mark’s role in this double-headed tour, it seems to me that, the band’s knowledge that they are being followed by another act (Bob Dylan’s) makes them quite open to try new things and experiment—Mark, perhaps surprisingly, included. These days, Mark is extremely dynamic on the stage, in a way I can’t recall witnessing too frequently in the past.

Set-list wise, there have been a few developments. This time, two Dire Straits songs were played and we got a new addition to the set—another track from the upcoming album. We’ll get to those later.

Corned Beef City is the name of the first unreleased song that was played in all three concerts so far. The entire song consists of three chords (C, F, G), with the C chord dominates about 99% of it. Fast rocking song with playful slide work on the Danelectro. During the instrumental period, Jim Cox demonstrated what he’s made of by hammering some impressive rock n’ roll piano for about 40 second.

Hill Farmer’s Blues followed, with the performance being really all about Mark as he was performing the entire solo hardly moving his feet, appearing to be completely disconnected from anything and anyone around him. Periods like that tend to yield impressive solos and last night’s was no exception.

At the later part of the show—before the customary Marbletown—instruments have once again been distributed amongst band members in a layout that I wasn’t familiar with. Mark went on to inform the audience that the upcoming song has never been played live before, which prompted me to sort through the entire Knopfler catalogue in my head to see which song can be played with this unfamiliar instruments’ layout. The song started playing before my slow brain was done, and for the first ten seconds, I was still trying to match the song to anything I might have heard before.

I have failed. It ended up being another track from the upcoming album.

I’m thinking about how to describe this tune (its name wasn’t provided). Melody wise, this is a romantic, minor-key, soft, soothing tune. Its closest “relative” from Get Lucky would be Hard Shoulder, although this new tune is slightly prettier.

Lyrics-wise, I’m definitely not sure. Where I was seated, sound was rather poor so attempting to guess Knopfler’s lyrics when he’s almost whispering is quite senseless. The word “Ship” has been mentioned a few times, as well as the phrase “Haul Away” along with a few hints for some sort of a farewell song; then again, Mark is a master of words so it’s highly possible that what I interpreted as a farewell song isn’t a farewell song at all.

Mark plays the National Style-O guitar on this one, but his part (at least in this performance) was almost altogether shadowed by brilliant flute work by Mike McGoldrick who gave a wonderful solo.

Summarizing by what I know about the upcoming album, expectations are certainly high. There is definitely something to look forward to.

Marbletown (according to Mark, “a song about sleeping rough; sleeping in a graveyard, which is probably the best place to sleep—nobody’s going to wake you up”) followed, a seemingly longer than usual performance with a twist at the end as Mark decided to kill the Martin with a series of hard G5 strums towards the end.

Last night, as well as in the first Glasgow concert, Mark announced to the world that this song he was going to play “has never been played in this tune before”. The song was Brothers in Arms; when played, it was still played at G♯m but Mark’s guitar was tuned down half a tone, so he could play it with as Am—possibly to experiment with new ways to improvise, specifically at the lower end of the fret board. The same cyan-coloured Gibson Les Paul was used, which doesn’t quite fit the song (sound-wise) but who am I to criticize.

Altogether a splendid show: 11 songs played wonderfully, lights went on and the band left the stage.

I wasn’t going to stay for Bob Dylan’s act, for a variety of reasons (such as the extreme loudness of the setup); here’s a picture, however, showing Bob Dylan’s stage being set up.


As I was looking at the stage being set up, a nice chap approached me. He introduced himself but, himself being Scottish and myself being an English-Second-Language, I couldn’t understand a word he was saying so I didn’t get his name. He went on to mention that he saw me in this arena the day before, then asking how many shows I went to and how many am I planning on attending.

It was all nice until he mentioned that my bank account must be very well padded in order to afford something like this, asking (almost explicitly) what’s my bank account figure like.

I am sorry to shatter so many dreams at once but please, do understand, that when I’m asked questions about my bank account, it’s hard for me to answer—mainly because I don’t remember the exact figures (and I wouldn’t want to mislead anyone), but also because I have more than one account. I have around 10 of them. So unless you point your question to a specific account, and remind me a few of its latest transactions, I can’t—despite my immense willing to—provide such information.


The next bus leaving towards Glasgow’s city centre was due in 30 minutes so we stayed around for Dylan’s show—“around” meaning about 10 meters outside the arena. Even at the very end of the arena (where this last shot above was taken), the loudness was unbearable (one couple left after 10 minutes, with the lady claiming that “she just can’t take it anymore”) so I don’t even want to think what it would be sounding like while being seated where I was.

Bus arrived at 9:45pm. Boarded it.

—“Two single tickets to Glasgow please.”


… I thought to myself… what?

—”Excuse me?”


Whenever I’m in a bus, and new passengers come on board, I tend to get annoyed when the entire payment process takes more than 5 seconds, keeping me away from my destination longer than they should. How hard can it be to board a bus, pay, get the ticket and get the heck out of there?

Well, yesterday, I was one of them. I don’t know how many words exist in the Merriam-Webster English dictionary; I’m not claiming to know of the majority of them but that, I’m telling you, that was a tricky one. My brain had to work full speed for about 10 seconds to figure out that the question being asked was “Where to?”.

Dear God in heaven. Scottish accent is known to be very hard to comprehend, not just for North Americans but also for English and Irish people.

Left the area at around 10:45pm, quick bus ride back to the city centre. Excellent pizza at DiMaggio’s, celebrating Jeroen’s departure back to The Netherlands—for the next week, I am all by myself—then back to the hotel.

Signing off this post while on board the train from Glasgow to Manchester. As I booked my train tickets well in advance, I got them for very cheap and, apparently, when you do so, you tend to get free First Class upgrades (during the last tour, I was using train-passes which give you First Class access everywhere. For this year’s tour, financially-speaking, individual tickets made more sense). Looking through the window I see the beautiful greens of Scotland, definitely a pleasant sight.

Drinks and food are served for free here in First TransPennine Express’ First Class cabin; I’ll have my tea now.



Colin Miller said...

Isaac - I was (am?) the nice chap who tried to chat to you between sets, the 2nd night in Glasgow. I met you in Glasgow and Newcastle on the GL tour and maybe before. On the way to the bar I see a face i recognise - he's not at it again i thought? Yep, every show on the tour. My comment about bank balances was only meant to say that youre in a fortunate position to be able to do so. Perhaps it got lost in translation (i didnt know English wasnt your first language) but in any event, i do apologise for any offence.

Isaac Shabtay said...

Hey Colin, no worries mate. It's just that I happened to have gone through quite a few finance-related questioning last tour that it became a major pain. I'm much on the private side when it comes to that. I will admit though, that yes, I am fortunate to be able to do this; I certainly am not, however, taking it for granted.

Was good seeing you yesterday. See you again soon, I hope.


Colin Miller said...

I suppose i was surprised to see you (maybe I shouldnt have been) so wasnt thinking and it just came out the wrong way. I should know better. Ive been to Canada at least a dozen times and even the English speakers have trouble understanding me! What i should have said was that the hotels, travel, tickets etc must add up a lot over the entire tour (and over several tours) and your lucky to be able to do it. I would like to see more of MK on tour but this tour is double the price for half the time...ill leave it till the next album tour where no doubt ill bump into you again. I like Guys website and meant to follow yours on the last tour but never got round to it, but this time ill be able to follow Guy, Richard and yourself! So, thanks for that and best of luck with the rest of the tour...