JUST AN OBSERVATION
Friday 10th February
The big news in Edinburgh this week is undoubtedly the arrival of Her Royal Madgesty the former Lady Madonna on July 21st for a gig at Murrayfield Stadium. The excitement amongst the Twitterati was palpable eclipsed only by the faint odour of fresh paint which undoubtedly follows her around and has already found a way of getting up my nose. Although I am not a huge fan of Madonna-there have been moments when I have adored her but they are a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away around the time of ‘Into the Groove’- I appreciate immensely how hard she must have worked to stay at the top of her game for nearly thirty years in an industry fixated on youth and the next big thing. There have also been some zeitgeist defining singles along the way- Material Girl, Like a Prayer, Express Yourself, Vogue, Ray of Light and most recently the heavily Abba sampled Hung Up- as well as a few fashion moments although none ever had the visual effect of her initial image of tousled hair, fingerless gloves, numerous bangles and thrift store chic. It was at this juncture in which she consolidated her stardom with a look that felt very much her own whereas subsequent image changes always felt a little too much like the work of a team of stylists.
The image has always gone hand in hand with the music-on many occasions overshadowed it- but her eternal popularity is probably down to a clever and knowledgeable use of collaborators most of whom will have been glad of her patronage. Most have benefited from her seal of approval and not only financially-though this can’t have hurt- but also artistically. If just one person was inspired by William Orbit’s –large-contribution to her Ray of Light opus to investigate his former works, especially the dance/ambient classic Strange Cargo 3, then it was job done concerning her role as a vessel for discovering other works more artistically important than her own. Likewise Goldfrapp probably received a lot of attention for their Supernature album after she ripped it off wholesale for her own Confessions on a Dancefloor but it also provided the origins of the rather cruel though very amusing putdown reference, Oldflapps.
It is this need to constantly refer to herself po-facedly as ‘an artist’ which has really grated about Madonna in my view over the last ten to fifteen years. Certainly a certain amount of artistry is involved in keeping the younger pups from snapping at her heels and she admittedly has regarded them all dismissively-whilst also publicly supporting them- from her imperious position. Only Lady Gaga has actually rattled her cage and managed to elicit a few snide putdowns but I doubt that she poses any long-term threat and the catty remarks are probably more down to a fifty something year old feeling a little concerned whether she can continue competing in this arena. Madonna has the savvy to bow out while she is still at the top and let no young whippersnapper ever dare forget that.
As to her gig at Murrayfield I can report I will most definitely, probably, not be attending. Actually I have seen her live before-around the same time I saw Michael Jackson who she outperformed and Prince who outclassed both of them by a country mile- but this is not the reason I will not be attending it is just the thought of stadium gigs fills me with a shudder as they are little more than a corporate juggernaut rolling into town. The thought of spending up to £100-at least- to feel special alongside 20,000 other people does not satisfy any criteria as to having a good time for me these days. For many I feel it is more a case of having been there and the sense of occasion and I can wholeheartedly appreciate that and I have always preferred seeing live music in a contained indoor environment where the atmosphere does not vaporise into the night sky.
Saying this I did attend Arcade Fire at Edinburgh Castle last year and it was an amazing gig. I was in the Royal Box with all the others who were guest listed and as if to confirm what I was saying about the sense of occasion most of those in my immediate vicinity seemed to be there to congratulate each other for actually being there rather than any love of the music on display. There is also the unquestionable question of rain-it is July in Edinburgh after all- and I am simply too old and vain to run the risk of standing outside in the midst of a downpour. I am sure however it will be a great gig as Madonna is unquestionably a great show person who goes all out to make sure her audience leaves satisfied.
Elsewhere this weekend there is Hot Mess at The Wee Red Bar and Jacques Lucont at what will sadly be one of the last Fridays at Cabaret Voltaire. Edinburgh band du jour, Her Royal Highness, are also playing this weekend at 3rd Door in Lothian Road and should be a good gig to catch them at before stardom beckons.
At the cinema the excellent Martha Marcy May Marlene –a future cult classic- and Polanski’s slickly paced social satire Carnage are joined by David Cronenberg’s Freud versus Jung drama, A Dangerous Method, featuring the ubiquitous Michael Fassbender and Keira Knightley.
Here to kick the weekend off is Mark Lanegan’s storming Ode to Sad Disco-best track of 2012 so far- from what is shaping up to be one of the albums of the year Blues Funeral.