Thursday, October 23, 2008

Coldplay Concert: Why being commercial darlings isn't necessarily a bad thing

This week we say the Coldplay concert in Ottawa, and it was incredible.

The band has always been a little special to me, since I initially discovered them during a trip to Italy in 1999. It was a full year before they hit Canadian shores, so I got to look cool by being "the first to know" about them. ;-)

Nonetheless, I was immediately struck by their semblance to another famous British band, Radiohead, who at the time was going off on a fascinating but... err... artistic tangent. Compare "Yellow" (Coldplay, 1999) to "Fake Plastic Trees" (Radiohead, 1995), featuring underfed, sensitive blonde Brit boys falsettoing to mellow music with periodic swells of guitars. Listen for the similar sound between the two.

But from there, Coldplay went more commercial, and Radiohead went more artsy. Radiohead artistically evolved past their old sound, but Coldplay copied that sound and made it more audience/radio-friendly. Coldplay is the Phil Collins to Radiohead's Peter Gabriel.

Now, being the artistic snob that I am, I would normally consider this to be a point entirely in favour of Radiohead. I fully expected Radiohead's concert back in August to thusly be a superior show to Coldplay's. Because, surely, artistic merit of the music is the only important factor to consider in evaluating a concert, right?


Yes, Coldplay has a musical formula, and yes, it's literock pablum, but those boys put on one hell of a show. They told stories, interacted with each other and the audience, and seemed wholly grateful to be there. Basically, their stage presence was a perfect balance between star power and regular-guy-dom. The song choices were ideal, and encouraged audience singalongs. Their encores were ingenious. The lights were spectacular, and even included a song where millions of multicoloured paper butterflies were rained down over the entire audience. My only regret regarding that concert was not going stoned.

The moral of the story is, therefore, that artistic merit of music and enjoyability of a concert are not necessarily linked. While I should have understood this from when I saw Nickelback live (great show, but lukewarm about the music), Coldplay made the point fully sink in. And while I am in no hurry to purchase their next album, you can bet I'll be first in line to get tickets when Coldplay hits Ottawa again.

Who knew? :-)

Friday, October 17, 2008

The All-New, Perfectly Pedestrian Adventures of Helga & Hume

So, after some deliberation, I realized that the title of this blog is a misnomer.

Helga and Hume are no longer having NZ adventures.

We are still having adventures, but more of the run-of-the-mill, life-in-general variety. And while these new adventures are certainly influenced by our fond memories of the Land of the Long White Cloud, our quests are different now. We just moved into our first house, our careers are taking fascinating turns, and we still do lots of fun stuff...

...but the question is, if this is no longer the blog of Helga and Hume's New Zealand adventures, then should there be a blog at all? Can material gained from the familiar, the everyday, and the downright pedestrian truly constitute sufficiently interesting content for a blog?

To be honest, I think the answer is yes -- life can be fascinating in any postal code. So I will keep blogging.

But be warned, if you are looking for current NZ adventures, you are reading the wrong blog. If you want amusing updates and insights, punctuated with the occasional rant, then you are in the right place.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Public Service Announcement

Ok, I'm currently working on a blog post detailing the big updates that have happened in the Helga Hume lives lately. But first, before any more time is lost, I need to make a public announcement for the good of mankind.

Do NOT, I repeat, DO NOT go to see the movie, "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist".

Yes, the trailers looked goofy and cute. But I assure you, the movie was far from it. Allow me to elaborate, for those of you not yet convinced:
  • The humour was gross and sad, as most comic releif was relegated to a drunk friend of Norahs' who does foolish things. Exceptionally foolish things. A "comic highlight" of the movie was when this friend threw up into a Manhattan bus station toilet (of uncertain flush-status before the vomit), fished around in the filth for her gum, then resumed chewing it.
  • The dialogue was stilted, and had no resemblance to the teenage interactions I recall. The artificial insertion of unrelated topics being discussed by unlikely conversants in utterly inappropriate places was the standard. In other words, two teenage girls who dislike each other are NOT going to suddenly bicker about orgasms at a convenience store cash. Trust me, this does not happen.
  • The plot made no sense. For example, two girls are apparently best friends, but when one gets sloppy drunk, the other one trusts a van full of guys she'd never met before to take her drunk, helpless, passed-out friend home. Is that supposed to be an acceptable decision, somehow?!? Moreover, high school aged kids were breezily going into bars at all hours of the night. Having been a high-school aged kid trying to get into bars, I know for a fact that it isn't terribly easy 100% of the time... and that was in Canada, where the legal drinking age is far younger! And why the hell did the gay (male) characters have a ready supply of bras onhand, anyways?
  • A key character was completely miscast. Given the content of the dialogue and details of the plot, Norah was clearly supposed to be fat, and/or not overly attractive. But given that they cast a lovely girl who might be all of a size 10 (the horror!), her character made very little sense. And why not cast a homelier or huskier girl? All you have to do is look at the obesity rates in the US to see that there is no shortage of overweight people... surely one of them was a prettyish young lady with acting ability! Plus, physically, Michael Cera is no prize, yet he obtained the other title role. Surely it would not herald the apocalypse to have a not-so-attractive female lead in a movie, especially when the movie is written for exactly that kind of character...? ugh.

Basically, this is a movie that was trying to be the next "Juno", and failed miserably. Steer clear, you will thank me later.

If you really, really need to watch a romantic comedy about an unattractive young lady dealing with self-esteem, rent "Penelope" instead. In contrast, Penelope is a warm, whimsical movie with a gentle pace, a sweet tone, sparkling characters, and several good belly laughs. Give it a watch!