10 April 2007

Barenaked Ladies - Brighton, 5th April 2007

Barenaked Ladies

Watching the Barenaked Ladies at Brighton Dome on Thursday was possibly the most fun I've had in front of a live band.

I can't remember the exact set list; a combination of excitement, ignorance and a touch of alcohol puts that a little out of reach. But I recall rolling in from the bar as they were getting stuck into The Old Apartment to wild applause. They then took us through a healthy collection of great tunes. Pinch Me, The King of Bedside Manor, Intermittently and Some Fantastic stick in my memory, along with some songs new to me, like Sound of Your Voice, which will probably see me adding more BNL to my iTunes over coming days.

They spoke entertainingly of their brief time in Brighton. Ed and Steven made it clear that share Brightonians' mixed feeling of wonder and distaste when they survey our seaside delights - particularly our tacky pier with its eyebrow-raising rides - "Like the ones at Disneyworld but with all the fun stuff removed" observed Ed. A rap followed, describing the way that Ed endulged in Palace Pier's 'Super Booster' ride while Steven let his doubts get the better of him. (As it turns out, Steven's anxiety was well-founded)

I first heard the Barenaked Ladies on the radio some time around 1992. If I Had $100000 instantly grabbed by attention. Music that was warm, affectionate and fun without being sloppy or obvious. That appeal, and of course, the implausible name, stuck in my head and I duly went out and bought Gordon, the BNL's first proper album. I liked Gordon so much I bought the next album, Maybe You Should Drive. Then, for some reason, I forgot about them.

Several years later, a friend tried to re-awaken my interest in the Barenaked Ladies and sent me a mini-disc compilation of their best stuff to date. Living at the time in a rural greek village with a limited selection of music, I'd say it did the trick for those few months. And last Thursday night, when I heard songs like Some Fantastic for the first time in around four years, I was taken right back to an echoey marble-floored room in Greece, where the Barenaked Ladies were delivered to me through a tiny Sony minidisc player and a pair of miniature speakers.

These days, the Barenaked Ladies are very much into technology and the internet. Their website is awash with videos, downloads, fan links and general nonsense. Steven has a fairly entertaining blog. On Thursday they were even offering for sale USB sticks containing the music of the whole concert, just as soon as they'd played the final chord. I'm waiting for Thursday's gig to appear on their download site so I can relive the fun of the other night.

Oh and Meg, thanks for that minidisc.


05 April 2007

Vehicle Watch - "25"


There seem to be more and more of these stickers appearing in car windows. They are based on a simple premise: that most car theft is perpetrated by those under the age of 25. With this in mind, anyone over that age may place a distinctive '25' sticker in their window in the hope that the police will stop the car if if appears to have a young driver at the wheel, deducing it to be stolen.

It's hard to object to the simple logical approach of this scheme, and I hope it's playing its part in reducing car theft and associated dangerous driving.

But something doesn't feel right.

What are we being told? Car thieves are young people, right? So young people are car thieves? Are we taking too much refuge in the idea that we know best the kind of people likely cause trouble?

How long before we place other stickers on our clothes, houses and handbags? Why stop at age? Why not produce stickers that specify gender, skin colour or accent?

I'm not about to object to anything that makes our roads safer, but I do wonder if these stickers say a lot about our assumptions about young people.

Not to mention our assumption that under-25-year-olds are incapable of removing window stickers...

03 April 2007

Nike Cycling: Not Doing It Anymore

It looks like Nike's relationship with the sport of cycling may be coming to an end. BikeBiz have announced the end of Nike's tie-up with Trek, the largest bike company in the US, with whom they market their cycling clothing and shoes. Nike say that this does not necessarily mark the end of their involvement with the sport, but with all but handful of Nike Cycling employees laid off, it's not looking promising.

Over recent years, Nike has had a refreshing presence in a market more used to traditional European brands. Their sponsorship of Lance Armstrong has been a powerful force in cycling marketing. When, in 1996, Armstrong was diagnosed with cancer he was released from his professional contract with Cofidis. With a life-threatening illness and no medical insurance, Armstrong's sponsors at Nike, along with Oakley and Giro, agreed to cover all his medical expenses.

The man who looked like his life would soon be over not only survived, but went on to win the Tour de France an unprecedented seven consecutive times, capturing the world's imagination with his survival story. It seems that Nike's investment paid off. Many times over.

But now, following his retirement in 2005, Lance Armstrong's status as a sports personality is fading away. And with him goes Nike's unique hold on cycling.

Nike Cycling was Lance Armstrong. The whole brand was built on one man. Now his career is over, maybe Nike have realised that their presence within the world of cycling needs to be drastically scaled down. Or even ended.

Still, it was a partnership which worked well. Check out this advert - one of several Nike made with Armstrong. Truly inspirational and beautifully put together. It would take the most cynical cyclist not to feel any emotion during the following one minute and 33 seconds.

Click here to see a larger version

Thanks to Andy for reminding me of this great advert. You know I'm going to have to buy that road bike now, don't you?