Thursday, May 07, 2009

Kasabian, Stornoway, and Why UEFA Get It Almost Right

Yesterday my flatmate and I went to the Stornoway gig in the Wilmington Arms, near Farringdon.

Just before 6pm, however (while I was frantically packing away all my worldly belongings for my impending trip to Tanzania), he rang to tell me he'd discovered that Kasabian were going to play a free gig to launch the MOJO Honours List in HMV's flagship store on Oxford Street, at seven o'clock.

It was surprisingly empty when I arrived there with surprising punctuality, and so we stood in a pretty good spot while we caught the end of a set by School of Seven Bells, who sounded pretty good. I couldn't say much more about them because we heard less than one song by them, but I'm sure you could check out their MySpace (which I just did, and I like what I hear).

Kasabian then played a handful of songs, both new and old, whilst looking slightly bemused about the nature of the gig. It's the measure of any band how they sound live, and they certainly didn't disappoint - they were pitch perfect, vocals and instruments, and the harmony between the two front men was staggering.

They play the sort of music I grew up with, and so don't really go out of my way to buy anymore, but they do it so well, it's so accomplished.

So, on to the Wilmington Arms (once we stopped getting lost on the way).

First up, This Is The Kit, a very unassuming looking young lady wearing a stripy tunic, and playing the banjo. I think it's very difficult for a lot of folk musicians, because if they're quite average, they can't make up for it by just playing louder and can easily fade into the background.

This Is The Kit, however, did a very good job of holding my attention, and I listened to the words all the way through. So that must be a recommendation, then.

The second band also put in a pretty good turn. Rue Royale are an English lady and American (or possibly Canadian) gent, and also very folky (I might as well let you in on a little secret now - Stornoway are also folk - there's a theme running here, see).

As my flatmate said, "There's always one person at a gig who looks really geeky, and invariably they turn out to be in the band," and so was the case with the male band member, with his large spectacles and questionable moustache.

Not that that's relevant to the music of course. It's just an interesting observation. And a damn good look.

Rue Royale were good. I'm not sure they were more than that - they kept my feet tapping through their whole gig, but my mind wandered and I thought about other things while they played.

Stornoway, on the other hand, were awesome. And the lead singer knows an awful lot about rats. It says a lot about a band if they still sound great and clear when they unplug their instruments (and microphone) for their last song.

Do check them out on MySpace.


Poor Darren Fletcher.

And at the same time, well done Sir Alex Ferguson. No, not for guiding Manchester United to another European final (although as a born and bred United fan, I'm pleased about that also). I'm referring to his response to Fletcher's controversial red card shortly after the game, which will result in his missing the final through suspension.

Quite calmly, Ferguson accepted the decision was not going to be changed, which was UEFA's stated position (although according to this report, there may yet be hope).

I was impressed. It seems almost routine these days that managers will rant and rave about some decision or other during the game.

Maybe this calm restraint had something to do with the nature of the win against rivals Arsenal, and Evra and Rooney both avoiding picking up yellow cards that could have meant suspensions for them also.

Maybe Fergie's just getting old and tired.

Or maybe it was UEFA's no-appeal policy that made any complaints mute and pointless. I rather like to think this is the case. Maybe an overwillingness to overturn decisions in the modern game feeds into a loss of respect for referees.

So should UEFA look at that decision again? Yes. But they shouldn't look at it as a result of Manchester United appealing. They should look at it as a matter of course because it was a big decision. I don't think teams should be able to appeal, because that encourages a loss of respect.

UEFA need to be able to hold up their hands and admit a mistake every so often. A no-appeals policy doesn't allow them to do this. But I also think a decision should be outrageously wrong for them to overturn it, and I don't think it was all that outrageous.

I do feel so sorry for Fletcher. He was so unlucky to see red. But with Arsenal needing 5 goals to win, did he really need to risk making that challenge? He only just made contact with the ball, at full stretch - the chances were, when he committed to the tackle, he would shortly be off the pitch.

My theory on the no-appeals policy encouraging more respect didn't hold up so well last night, however, after the Chelsea-Barcelona match, following the actions of Droga and Ballack in particular.

I haven't seen the penalty decisions concerned (as I was out gigging). Even if they were right about one of those penalty claims, however, there is no excuse for the abuse hurled at the referee.

No matter how much they might have "deserved" to go through before the late Barcelona equaliser, once they showed unacceptable conduct, they deserved nothing. Drogba and Ballack would do well to familiarise themselves with the following lines from If by Rudyard Kipling:

If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;

you'll be a Man my son!

It was the Chelsea boys who met with disaster last night. No men there as far as I can see.

Unfortunately, Darren Fletcher won't be the only one who's going to miss the Champions League Final - most likely I will too, as I'll be in an African village with no running water or electricity.

Today I have very nearly finished packing up my worldly possessions and stacking them up in the cellar, where my current flatmates have kindly allowed me to store them for three months.

Tomorrow I go to Exmouth for the week. And then I'm off.

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