Saturday 9 June 2012

Andrew Bird vs Olympic Torch

After debating what to do on a Friday night in Glasgow I plumped for the Andrew Bird gig at the Old Fruitmarket. Momus appearing at the CCA also appealed to me, but I had seen Andrew Bird a few years ago at the short lived "Indian Summer" festival in Victoria Park and have been buying his music ever since, so was keen to see him performing from the excellent new album, Break It Yourself. There were plenty of other options too - the Olympic Torch evening party in George Square or even the first matches of Euro2012. I decided there'd be plenty of football to see over the next couple of weeks, and sent my children along to George Square with granny and grandad.

My son had got tickets for the Coca-Cola/ Panasonic/ Samsung/ Bank of Scotland Olympic Torch evening show in George Square. However I thought I'd take in Andrew Bird rather than Eliza Doolittle, Emili Sande, generalfiasco and "Bigg Taj" welcoming in that ancient symbol of the Olympic Games as the torch arrives in Glasgow on its way around the country. Luckily the Glasgow weather didn't manage to extinguish the flame and stayed dry. My 12 year old's summary of the George Square show - "the choice of food was pretty rubbish, Emili Sande's first two songs were rubbish but her next two were actually really good, the Provost was boring but it was great when the torch arrived and it was right beside us." They also brought home a fine collection of the sponsors tat. As the Olympic relay was devised in Nazi Germany for the 1936 Olympics and their torch made by the Krupp armaments company, I guess it is vaguely appropriate that the symbolism is now subservient to the corporate sponsors.

Topically enough the Olympic Flame is meant to symbolise the fire that Prometheus stole from the Greek gods to give to man. I had seen the film of that name the other night, and have to say that it felt like I sat through a 2 hour version of the trailer (which is infuriatingly full of terrible spoilers), the whole film a trailer for the next film of what is obviously planned as an ongoing franchise of a money-making machine. All the loose ends just cry out "Now come and see the prequel-sequel". Frustrating. It is best if viewed as a brand new sci-fi film, and just enjoyed as such as there are some good set pieces and Noomi Rapace is always watchable.

Famous whistling musicians

  1. Roger Whittaker
  2. Bryan Ferry in Jealous Guy
  3. Otis Redding in Dock of the Bay
  4. Andrew Bird
  5., that's about it

Andrew Bird is a multi-instrumentalist/singer/songwriter-type who plays the violin beautifully, whilst singing, whistling and clapping along. Although one woman in the audience had brought her knitting along with her it wasn't all beard-strokers and was a pretty mixed crowd. His opening instrumental piece showed his virtuoso violin playing, and unique style. Whilst plucking and playing he can make it sound like a ukulele, a balalaika or bouzouki and Celtic or Cajun by turns. His trademark rotating gramophone speakers give a thrummimg background to some pieces whilst distracting me by narrowly avoiding smacking the head of a toy monkey each spin. Bird himself looks like David Tennant and Jeremey Hardy's missing sibling and his modest and quiet style means that songs often quietly fade away. Most of the set was from his current album but some old pieces are played with gumption such as "Effigy" and "Tables & Chairs". He tackled the fact he put his self-confessed "noisiest" song "Eyeoneye" in the middle, rather than at the end by following it up with a quirky rendition of Kermit the frog's "It Ain't Easy Being Green". His best section was when he played some "old style" stuff and Handsome Family songs around one microphone with fellow band members accompanying on acoustic guitar. This was well received, Glasgow audiences revealing their barely concealed affection for bluegrass and C&W music, and as a result he played again like this for one encore, which brought the audience to their feet and they demanded a further encore. The band deserve a mention too, excellent guitar and bass playing and a drummer appropriately looking like a Southern gas-pump attendant who should be spitting tobacco into his scraggy beard.

As everyone else at home had seen the Olympic Torch by now (my three children in George Square last night, and my wife when she was stuck in traffic coming home last night as the road was closed for it passing by her) I felt obliged to get up early this Saturday morning as it was again passing 100 yards from my front door. It is easy to be cynical in these days with so much corporate hustling of these events but I've always liked the Olympics and am looking forward to it this summer. I've got my tickets for the Mens football at Hampden and think Japan vs Spain will be a decent spectacle as Spain usually take it seriously and my kids will have their Japan strips on and flags out. I was strategically positioned at the car park above Waitrose at the top of Byres Road as I'd been warned that if you await the torch roadside it does rather whizz past you.
That was a good tip from my neighbour who'd stood on Byres Road last night to watch it on its first pass and I was able to take in the sponsors cavalcade before the torch arrived, and the torchbearer changeover took place just below me. Whilst she was waiting for it to arrive it was nice to see the next runner so clearly excited, as spectators took turns to get their photo taken with her and her torch.

Torchbearer handover on Byres Road
and onward with the Olympic Torch

There are more of my snaps of this momentous occasion here :- My Flickr feed


  1. Whistling Musicians,
    5. Peter Bjorn and John - Young Folks
    6. Scorpions - Wind of change (sorry about that one)

    1. Damn you. I've now got that bloody Scorpions song stuck in my head.

    2. June 16th - Flo Rida with a song called "Whistle" is top of the charts. SEE! I knew there was a gap in the market for whistle-y songs.


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