Fire Fighting

Cher her around your mates

On Saturday night two diametrically opposed musical worlds collided in the Mancunian sky, yet only one created fireworks: at 9.16pm, Canadian 7-piece band Arcade Fire strode confidently onstage at Manchester Central, whilst millions upon millions of members of the (formerly great) British public sat in their living rooms across the country watched Malvern’s finest pikey, Cher Lloyd, get eliminated from the X-Factor final. As one got Ready to Start, the other got ready to return to her spotty, skinny, tracksuit-clad estate, fearing a return to performing degrading sex acts on older boys in bus stops. Perhaps.

Now, before anyone gets the wrong idea, this is not a review of the gig, or the 4-hour, two day, drag-on-a-thon of the televised finale. One or other (or maybe both) may well make your day or turn you right off, but they could not be further apart in their ideals or manifestos. The X-Factor is entertainment with music at its core, apparently, yet it is so invasive of most channels of media, and therefore our popular culture, that it eliminates one of music’s greatest attributes: escapism. The yawning contradiction of the entire show is that the viewing public cling on to reality television to escape from their everyday reality lives, yet the franchise is now so enormous that it pervades every pore of reality and punctures the daydream balloon with an x-shaped tattoo needle. When the British government had to bail out our Irish friends – not including that potato-bothering child-worrier Louis Walsh – the following day no fewer than four of the largest UK tabloid newspapers had X-Factor related stories as the main headline. Is it really that important? Will a generation have to think about emigrating or finding work in another country, or lose their jobs or homes because Katie ‘Hatey’ Weasel has just been voted out and shagged the dance crew all week, whilst tweeting about how misunderstood she is?

Meanwhile, on the other-worldly stage, there was music that entertained because of it’s drama and theatre: I have never seen a band have so much fun playing such ‘serious’ music. It was utterly contagious. From beginning to end, the sheer power and musicality of the band, changing instruments between songs like a cricket team changing ends between overs, performing their own crafted and layered songs, could not have been further from the marketing universe where the karaoke soap opera was being conducted by The Emperor: Simon Cowell would like everyone to think that he invented the very essence of the Christmas Number One, if not actually Christmas itself (move over Jesus, you’ve got competition – just make sure it doesn’t go to a deciding vote, or Louis might find it too hard to call, Dermott, and send it to deadlock and let the public decide…). On top of this humongous annual beast that he has created, he is also guilty of creating an outside broadcast from Essex, presented by the social experiment that is Stacey Soloman – a woman that has a face the size of a mouse, with the teeth of a donkey fighting to get past her lips, that also sang in the X-Factor final a couple of years ago. Whilst trying to be heard over the screaming wails of a few hundred inmates, a woman provided her own televised flip-top mental breakdown by displaying a pizza which had created the face of the soon-to-be crowned ‘winner’ Matt Cardle in toppings, like a deep-pan Shroud of Basildon. The show does have some benefits for the music industry, in that it creates energy in the charts, and sales at a time when the industry is on it’s financial knees. Also, The Emperor has chosen a song by the honest and likeable chaps of Biffy Clyro as the single and inevitbale chart-topper. Hopefully more people will seek out the original (and better) version, and line their Scottish pockets twice, which might go some way to compensating them for being song-raped by BMG this Christmas.

Shroud of Basildon

There were breakdowns of a much more emotional and enjoyable nature occurring in Manchester. The band were so professional yet cool, that many believers were losing their inhibitions and rendering themselves utterly uncool in hand-clapping, noise-making, ooh-ing and aah-ing, as thousands of arrhythmic thirty-somethings conducted the Montreal band from the floor. Unconscious of the exhibition that one was making of oneself, nursing my solitary pint from my solitary vantage point, I became aware that I was being avoided by younger and more, er, inebriated members of the improvised choir. After a few minutes of trying to work out why – other than the obvious tool I was making of myself in the name of ‘dancing’ – the manifestation of my generational ageing became apparent: a pair of jeans, a Specials t-shirt, short hair and carrying my jacket, I realized I must have looked like plain-clothes policemen looked like to me when I was younger – they were always on their own, near the middle, dancing out of time, stood out a mile, were well worth avoiding, and represented everything I hated. Perhaps I should complete the circle and audition for next years X-Factor.



  1. Dan Collard · December 16, 2010

    don’t give in mate…….eventually we’ll all be so ‘out’ that we’ll be ‘in’ again….patience my friend

  2. Toni · December 19, 2010

    ooooh yeah or get a uniform…….. 😉

  3. Cara · December 21, 2010

    i don’t know how i quite managed to miss the X tractor’s 107 week long traffic jam? I’m quite pleased with myself!

    as for the odd man at a gig, it could have been worse…. you could have been wearing a manics tee?!

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