Blakeson - Writer

Cardiff-based film, theatre and gig reviews, cultural ramblings, whingeing, short films, etc.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Foo Fighters / Howie The Rookie

My ears are still ringing from seeing the Foo Fighters at the Cardiff International Arena a couple of days ago. A wonderful rock’n’roll show.

First on was Serj Tankian from comedy (intentional, I’m convinced) thrashers System Of A Down, with a slightly less frantic and more folk/ethnic fairy-tale-inflected sound. Plus, the band walked on stage wearing top hats, which is almost never a bad sign. Couldn’t catch many of the lyrics, but one of the tunes was on the theme “Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition”, which gives an indication of where he’s coming from. A slightly less Taliban-esque beard than I’d been hoping for as well. Very entertaining, though.

It’s not often that I’ve got it together to catch a massive band at the peak of their powers, with over a decade’s worth of material to choose from, so it was an honour to witness the Foos in action. There were plenty of hits, of course (“All My Life”, “Breakout”, “My Hero”, “Monkey Wrench”, my personal favourite “Everlong”), and the highly charismatic and witty Dave Grohl chatted happily to the audience, and frequently ventured along the specially-built catwalk to commune with his followers. For selected songs, the band were joined by punk legend Pat Smear and hot cellist Jessy Greene, as well as an extra percussionist and keyboardist; and there was another special guest in the royal box – one Joe Calzaghe, which seemed a tad random, but it was good to see him. A good few acoustic numbers too, as well as Taylor Hawkins’ chance to shine on “Cold Day In The Sun”. Not too sure about the return of the epic drum solo, though. As well as the extended stage, another novelty was the band joking with the audience on backstage cameras prior to the inevitable encore which ended with “The Best Of You”. The whole thing was a beautiful experience. Stage presence, the name is Grohl.

The next night, my hearing had recovered sufficiently for me to be able to catch the drift of “Howie The Rookie”, the latest reading as part of Michael Kelligan’s “On The Edge” season at Chapter Arts Centre. This is a cult tale of the Dublin underclass from Mark O’Rowe (the screenwriter of “Intermission”), consisting of two extended monologues focusing on two scummy individuals faultlessly played by Jack Llewelyn and James Ashton. Obviously, it took time to become accustomed to the profane vernacular, but when I did, I found the tragic-comic tales of beatings, unfortunate sexual encounters and untimely deaths highly compulsive.

Having recently had a play rejected by a London theatre company with the criticism that most of the action takes place off-stage, I wonder that monologue-based pieces ever make it in front of an audience. Surely, if there’s enough going on in the writing to inspire imaginative directing and committed performances, enabling audiences to make up their own pictures, that shouldn’t be a problem. And if there isn’t enough going on in the writing, that should be the reason for rejecting it. Or maybe I’m just bitter.


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