As the World Falls Down

Today David Bowie no longer walks among us. One of my facebook friends asked – rightly so – whether or not I was really sad about this or is it just people pouring their hearts out because they can? Her timeline feed showed almost nothing else and mine is showing pretty much the same. 

So it made me wonder, what does it mean to me? Does it really affect me? Does it have an impact on my life? 

I’d heard of David Bowie before I saw the movie Labyrinth in 1986 through my parents obviously, but after I saw that, I was hooked. He was the first man I had a major crush on. Jareth, the goblin king, was the epitome of romance to me and I could not understand why Sarah would ever want to go home. Save the bloody baby, sure, but why leave? Sigh. I watched that movie over a hundred times and could quote it by heart from beginning to end at one point. I kid you not.

I mean, could you leave him behind? Sigh

 
I loved them all, wanted to party with the Wild Gang, hug Hoggle, play a game of wits with Sir Didymus and his trusty Ambrosius and be friends with Ludo.

Let’s Dance was one of my favourite albums and yes, I do realise he’d released fourteen albums before that, but these were my teenager years, so obviously very important. 

China Girl – David Bowie

 
I’ve never seen him in concert and that makes me sad. I think it would have been a magical experience. Even now, not in his prime. That chance is gone now. With the release of his former album I had small hopes of him returning to the stage, and alas. 

So I’m left with my memories. Which are good, very good. No, it doesn’t shatter my world and it won’t affect my daily life as I did not know him personally, but it does leave me with a sad feeling. My first crush is no longer here. He was my inspiration when it came to the concept of romance and he will remain being just that. Safe travels, great beautiful man. You’ll be missed by many and loved by even more.

Labyrinth

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Welcome to Bizarro World – Valentine in concert

Last night Robby Valentine performed in my own city and in one of my favourite places, the gorgeous Parktheater. One of the few gems Alphen has left. It was murder parking my car though. Last time it was this crowded was on Kingsday, it was complete madness! Fortunately for me I know the neighbourhood, so time for plan B and ditch my car somewhere nearby.

Like the name implies, Parktheater is a theatre, so it has sitting arrangements. This left me a bit doubtful, as I was in the mood to dance, but I have to say that overall it didn’t bother me.

Robby encouraged the audience to stand up whenever we felt like it and we felt like it quite a lot!

  
This was a doubly whammy so to speak. The first act (staying in theatre character) was Valentine’s own music. Mainly Bizarro World and some songs from Androgenius. For a very long time the third album, simply titled Valentine, was my favourite. I love the cultural mix and the use of instruments on that album, it’s so divers! However, having heard Bizarro World several times now, both on cd and live, I have to conclude I have a new favourite. Do I love each and every song? Well, I certainly have my preferences, but there are no fillers on this album. None. Each song adds something to the album and the build up is well thought of. I’m in love with Trip to the Moon, which he unfortunately didn’t play live, but he did play very close runner-up You’re Tearing Me Down and Black Rain (love that video by the way).

Personal highlight for me was this awesome version of No Turning Back with the V Rock Choir. I understand it must be an organisational nightmare to bring the choir along each and every time, but I really hope they’ll do this more often. It was truly magical. I filmed the last bit. Just from my iPhone, so please excuse the poor sound quality, but at least you’ll have an impression. Click here 

He also did Dear Dad (which always makes me cry, so thanks for that Robert) and I Believe in Music. That song does something to me every time. It’s just so pure. 

The second act was a tribute to Queen. I like Queen, though I wouldn’t consider myself a fan. Having said that, the version of Under Pressure by Robby and Maria Catharina is just magnificent! She raises so much energy each and every time, I often wonder how she’s still standing afterwards.

Both her vocals and that of the lovely Laura are a great asset to the Valentine show. 

Robby is a man of contradictions. He always struggles with his voice, yet he chooses to do almost all vocal arrangements himself. 

Being shy won’t help him on stage either and if you look closely and pay attention, you can see that feeling of awkwardness. Then someone from the audience sings along or shouts something at him and you see that smile. In that moment, he’s at perfect ease on that stage. 

Valentine has a very loyal fanbase who follow him around the country and even beyond. This album could broaden his fanbase though, I really believe that. You hear Muse, Placebo, Queen, but all combined, which makes it that unique sound of Valentine. That sound is not bizarro at all, it’s magical and it kicks ass! 

photo by Peter Boogaard

 

Placebo blues – Ramblings of a modern druidess

What exactly is Placebo blues? Well, it certainly doesn’t involve Placebo making a blues album (now that would be something!) and I’m not talking about some fake blues either.

No. Lately I’ve been in a bit of a slump when it comes to my favourite band. I’ve always liked Placebo’s music, but it wasn’t until Battle for the Sun that they changed my life. Their lyircs provided me with so much inspiration, I wrote an entire book. Then came Loud Like Love and I was just ecstatic. My second book had enough fuel to go on, though I’m still in the process of writing that one. It’s still Placebo, but instead of just embracing the dark, they now also embraced the light. It made me happy.
Then Steve Forrest left the band. At first, after the initial shock, I thought it wouldn’t be so bad. And to be expected, really, when you think about it. Steve is young, talented. It was only a matter of time he spread his wings and took off on his own. By the way, his new Planes album Hotfoot, is absolutely awesome! A real must have.
But I can’t help but wonder if it’s a coincidence that my book took form only after the release of Battle of the Sun or if it had something to do with the energy, those three combined, created. Brian and Stefan seemed…. happier. I’m sure there were vexations and the urge to stuff each other behind the wallpaper, but in general… Yes, they seemed happy.
So my Placebo blues comes from a feeling of uncertainty. Uncertainty about how the new album is going to sound. Uncertainty whether or not they’re going to perform in The Netherlands (so far a big no) and a slightly bad taste in my mouth about the break-up. They’re being very professional about it. All members, Steve included and the management. Not a peep and only well wishes for Steve’s solo career. But I’m not an idiot. The UK tour was just around the corner and it would have been the perfect moment to say his goodbyes, symbolically hand over the drum sticks to the new drummer and have a smashing farewell party in London. It did not go like this. So something happened. Something not right. And it is not my place, nor should it be my concern, to make presumptions about what happened. But it leaves me feeling blue, just a bit.
Funnily enough I think Steve is going to make it just fine. Planes is a great band with a solid sound. I do wonder, however, if Stefan and Brian will continue on for long. Stefan is busy with his own projects. Brian released a lyric book and was quite clear about a few songs on Loud Like Love being his own, before putting them through the Placebo roller-coaster. So things are shifting. What it will hold for the future? I can only guess.
I hope to hear many, many more songs. Brian is still and will always be my muze. His lyrics will be there forever. But Placebo during the Battle for the Sun and Loud Like Love era? That was just pure light, full-colour, the hills are alive with the sounds of Placebo. I wonder if they will still have that. I hope so. They need of bit of Light. And their own personal sunshine has left the building.

Ramblings of a modern druidess…. Valentine in Concert!

Saturday night I drove to Capelle aan den IJssel for the official kick-off of the Bizarro World Tour, coincidentally also the name of Valentine’s new album. People were standing in line to get inside, anxious to hear and see him live on stage.

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I think all people who attended had a great time. If you haven’t bought the new album yet and you like the sound of Muse, Placebo and Within Temptation with a twist, this might be something for you. I’m especially fond of You’re Tearing Me Down. It has a movie-like quality to it and it would do great featuring as a soundtrack, in my humble opinion.

I already had the digital copy, but I made sure to get a ‘real’ one, to stand alongside the rest of the collection.

The crowd went even more crazy as Rob Winter made his first guest appearance and you could see and hear Valentine hadn’t forgotten his earlier albums. We heard The Magic Breeze, No Turning Back and the concert ended with a – if you ask me – much cooler version of his greatest hit Over and Over Again.

But that’s not what I want to highlight. Yes. The concert was a great experience, but sometimes artists have to deal with a lot of unfortunate events. Earlier this week Valentine damaged his left hand, severely bruising two of his fingers. I thought for sure the concert would be cancelled. It was not. On the actual day he lost his voice, almost completely. And this is what I want to highlight. I’m pretty sure that what he really wanted to do is bang his head against the wall or perhaps have a good cry. I certainly would have wanted to. Instead he talked to the audience, apologizing for his bad voice and with the aid of the beautiful Maria Catharina and backing vocalist Laura pitching in whenever it was needed, the concert lost none of its energy.

He even took the time to talk to some of his fans and I watched it all from a distance, my respect rising with the minute. Sometimes a concert has to be cancelled, there’s no shame in that. However, I think it shows great professionalism and a lot of love for your fans, to uphold your end of the deal, when you also could have chosen a different route.

This album is titled Bizarro World, but maybe his next should be titled Perfect World, because he’s certainly striving for it himself. Want to see him live? You’re next chance will be on Valentine’s Day (easy to remember, I should say) in Estrado, Harderwijk.

Ramblings of a modern druidess – Brian…

I neglect to retrieve my mail. It happens. Quite often actually. So it wasn’t until today, on a Sunday no less, that I discovered the long awaited book had arrived. Selected, by Brian Molko aka my muse.

First surprise was the size, I thought it would be bigger, but it’s the same size as my other little poetry books and it oozes the same vibe. I like it. Granted, after a first quick glance I was a bit disappointed to discover it’s just the lyrics, except for the introduction, which is just lovely. No explanations what the lyrics are about, why it is special to him or when/where it was written.

But then I realized, that is not fair of me. Not fair at all. Placebo rarely publishes full lyrics. Of course there are many fan sites who have taken up this task with a passionate and fanatic gleam in their eyes, but even they get it wrong. And quite regularly, if my muse is to be believed. So he’s setting the record straight. And without the aid of the music, the words come through more clearly, they are stripped naked, as is he, for all the world to see. It must have been quite a nerve-wracking experience to actually go through with this.

Maybe you’ll think me mad as a snake, but I already started to make it my own by adding notes and words of my own, highlighting some parts, words that give me new ideas for my book and reading lyrics of songs I never really liked. Suddenly they have an entirely new meaning. How refreshing!

There was an option to have it signed. I did not take it. Don’t get me wrong, if you ordered a signed copy, more power to you, but it just didn’t appeal to me. I did sign my own book for him, as well as for Stefan and Steve, but that was different. Their music inspired The Elemental, so naturally they deserved to have a personalized copy.

If our paths cross and the moment is right, I might ask him to sign it. But if it’s not in the cards, it’s not. For now, I’m perfectly content to snuggle up next to the fire, with my coffee in one hand, Selected in the other. Thank you Bee, for giving the perfect Yule gift xxx

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Ramblings of a modern druidess – A Tribute to Valentine

Saturday night I went to a concert. No, not Placebo. Either they’re still in Ibiza or back in London, but they had no gig on Saturday night. Not that I was aware of anyway.

No, I went to see Robby Valentine. I first met Valentine back in the nineties when he scored a top 10 hit with the single ‘Over and Over Again’. Lovely song, but to be honest, it doesn’t even reach my personal top 10. It’s a good ballad, don’t get me wrong, but in my humble opinion, doesn’t even begin to show the abilities of this talented multi-instrumentalist.

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Saturday he didn’t perform his own work, but a tribute to Queen. As a young boy, he, like so many of us, was mesmerized by the magic that was Freddy Mercury and you can still hear the influences of that band in his own music. A regular invited guest to the Dutch Queen convention, he performed Queen songs many, many times, but never with an entire band. Not in Holland, certainly not in the UK. This year will be the second time Valentine will perform at the UK Queen Convention in Prestatyn, but it’s the first time he will perform with his entire band. And I already got to see the show. In CAPSLOC, run by my own dear friend, Desiree. I think everybody had a really good time, judging by the happy faces of the crowd and even the man himself seemed relatively relaxed. Well, by Valentine standards, in any case.

His partner in crime, professionally as well as personally, Maria Catharina, as she is known by her stage name, is a gift sent from Heaven. They compliment each other perfectly. I swear, that woman probably doesn’t even need a microphone to be heard by the crowd. She is outgoing, feisty and playing with the audience. He is mysterious, brooding and probably had dibs on Star Trek’s teleport device, because one second he’s behind the piano, you blink and he’s center stage, singing and playing guitar.

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If you’re a Queen fan and you want to hear those songs performed by someone who really gets it and loves them just as much as you do, I highly recommend you order yourself a ticket for the 27th of September before they run out completely.

If, after reading all this, your memory hard drive is working again and you think; “Yeah, Valentine, I remember him, that was some solid music!” Then you should definitely come to CAPSLOC in December where he will officially start the Bizarro World Tour , named after his new album.

I, for one, can’t wait to hear his own music. It’s not Queen, but I have to say, after seeing him perform live again, it is a Kind of Magic.

Ramblings of a modern druidess

Today I decided to answer one question that has been asked quite a few times and can’t be answered with just a few words. So especially for Susan from California, Carlos from Brazil, Petra and Kimberley from the Netherlands and Meg and Caroline from England (god, I hope I didn’t forget anyone. If so, my humble apologies!), today the answer to the question:

“How did Placebo become the inspiration for The Elemental and what do they mean to you?”

Well, as some of you may have found out already through my website www.the-elemental.co.uk it began at Pinkpop 2009. Placebo were headlining and the weather was lovely. When they began to play, the sky started to turn a pinkish purple, it was really pretty. Brian said the next song came to him in a dream, while they were on a tourbus. I think his exact words were “I bullshit you not” 😉 And they started to play Come Undone. The beginning has an almost dreamlike quality and looking to the sky, images floated before my eyes and I was in another world for a couple of minutes. I don’t think I heard a single word Brian sang of that song. That came later.

I think, looking back, those were the first seeds of The Elemental. The images were of a group of friends based in London. Years later I dreamed the same images and that moment at Pinkpop came rushing back to me. That’s when I decided to change my life and become a writer. As I started to write the outlines of The Elemental, I listened to Battle for the Sun. I did that for weeks and weeks, driving my family and friends, not to mention our dog, completely insane. I swear, whenever Miss Ginger hears Placebo, she raises her head, gives a big sigh and looks at me accusingly. I think she likes them secretly though, because whenever I have a live performance on, she wants to watch it as well.

Anyway, that’s how they became my great motivator and inspiration for things in the book. Not just the lyrics, but Battle for the Sun has a great mood-changing vibe to it, musically. Which created great scenes in the book.

The final editing was done when Loud Like Love was just released (which I love, by the way, I don’t care what the critics say) and that’s how Scene of the Crime got a special mention at the end of the book. I actually rewrote one of the last scenes because of that song.

As for the what do they mean to me part. I think it’s fair to say, a lot. To me, they are The Healer, The Anchor and The Sun. You figure out who is who 😉 I see them, maybe Brian in particular through his lyrics, as a sort of muse, who inspire me to write books, so that’s pretty important.

I used to work in the music industry and while I loved many things about that world, it happened just a bit too often that a band I liked, were, well… complete arses, to be frank. That didn’t matter much professionally, but I did notice me liking a band, has a lot to do with how they present themselves to the world as well. And once I had worked with them, I stopped buying their music. I just couldn’t listen to it anymore without thinking ‘you’re a complete diva’ or ‘what an arrogant arse’. It spoiled my listening experience, so I just stopped listening to them.

So that’s why I’m a bit wary of actually getting to know Placebo. Real life is always different and I’m realistic enough to realize Brian most of all, isn’t actually the epitomy of an easy-going, sociable person. So I think it’s safer to admire their qualities from a distance, if you will. That way I won’t be let down and they can remain my source of inspiration. In short, they are too important for that.

Otherwise there might not be a book two and three and we can’t have that, now can we? 😉

Well, I hope this answer was to your satisfaction. Looking forward to answer your questions on Valentine’s Day. You can tweet them to me or comment here on my blog. You can also post them on my facebook page. Be sure to mention your name and the country you live in, so I get it right and thanks for all the support so far. Love you guys!

Until next week peeps!

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