Friday, April 02, 2004

The Godfather
The last time James Brown was in town, it was 1977. After a few near misses he finally returned here, to the St James, a suitably funky venue for a very funky guy. After a fine warmup set from longstanding club act Ardijah, Mister Browns current band, the Soul Generals made their entrance, dressed in sharp sky-blue suits. Onstage were two drummers, two bass players, two guitarists, 3 piece horn section, a percussionist and 3 backing singers, introduced by Mister Browns MC Danny Ray as the Bittersweets. Then Danny Ray started the build up for Mister Browns entrance... "Are you ready for the Godfather of soul, Mister Dynamite, the hardest working man in show business?" And so on.

Finally, Mister Brown makes his entrance, casually strolling onstage. What follows is a greatest hits package, which is exactly what you want from a legend like Brown. Even though some of his hits were presented in shortened form, like Please Please Please (including his famous 'stage exit with cape' routine), there was still plenty of funk in evidence. When Brown took things down a notch, like on Its a Man's World, he showed that he still has a hugely soulful voice, giving the song some real grit. He pulled a few dance moves - no splits but hey, the guy's 70! He even threw in a few mic stand tricks, just to show he's still got it.

The crowd was very very white bread - very few kids, very few brown faces. Maybe the high ticket prices put some off going. Still, that didn't make me think twice about buying a ticket.

Some commentators suggested Brown seemed more like a cameo in his own band, letting them take extended solos, and noted that he even passed the mic to one "of his hair-tossing female proteges take centre-stage for an overlong bracket while he conducted the band or held his place behind the keyboards." The cool thing was, even when he wasn't on the mic, he was always in control of the band, via his hand gestures. They followed his lead very closely. And as for the female protege, well she's Ms Tomi Rae, aka the current Mrs James Brown. She is also the woman Brown is currently up on charges for assaulting back in late January. The couple had previously announced their separation, placing an ad in Variety in July 2003 noting it was a "mutual show business decision" to "go their separate ways." The accompanying photo is the couple and their three year old son at DisneyWorld posing with Goofy. Ms Tomi Rae is 33, and looks like a sultry Vamperella character.

Yet there she is on stage, singing a love song to Brown, and clearly they are still a couple; Brown takes her hand and leads her offstage at the end off the show. At a press conference in Melbourne, after his Auckland show, Brown was faced with a question on the domestic violence charge, much to the disapproval of the Brown camp, who had asked for no questions on this (check the mugshot). Brown, who was sitting next to Tomi Rae, asked the journo straight back if she was married.

"You're not? Well then you wouldn't know what I'm talking about anyway," he said. "Ask all the married couples -- they know. You get up on the wrong side of the bed and everything, but we're doing fine." Go figure.

Yes, James Brown the legend came to town. He may not have been like the records of 30 years ago, but back then he had Bootsy Collins, Jabo Starks, Fred Wesley and Maceo Parker playing alongside him - some of the funkiest players on the planet. You got the spectacle, you got the soul, you got the funk - what else is there?

Public Enemy's Chuck D caught James Brown late last year, in Atlanta. "When Mr. Brown took the stage the ATL immediately roared for their Georgia son. The very first cut was 'Make It Funky' signifying that James and the Soul Generals were gonna pull some joints out the bag. Highlights included JB doing two microphone stand tricks that left the crowd stunned as if MIKE JORDAN threw it. Bursts of dance energy came at the crowd and wowed them. At 70 he moved, grooved, and cold sweated us to death... This was JAMES BROWN in his 70s doing it like he did it in the 1970s. No doubt. The double drummers even played high speed funk thru the finale of SEX MACHINE when the venue cut the power, as it's known to do. The point is that it was more turbo energy than cats twice his age using multimedia crutches."
Bummed you missed it?


Choiceness!
Despite all the rumblings, Maori Television has made its entrance into the world, and its pretty darn cool. Try and catch Mitre 10 DIY Marae if you can, Tuesday nights at 7pm. It takes the original shows gimmicky approach - find a DIY disaster and save the poor family involved - and applies it to a different Marae each week. Oddly enough, the outcome is something far removed from the original. Sure, it has the same elements, gardening, landscaping, painting, but it also has the kids cleaning and repainting the old weatherbeaten carved panels. Its like a tele-gimmick reinvented with cultural values. At the start of the show the old Kuia of the Marae are shipped off to the Marae down the road while the DIY team get stuck in. They fix the Marae's kitchen, relocate the chiller, no mean feat as its a monster, off an old truck; and create an awesome entry way to the Marae, a fence of punga that curls at the end like a punga frond. One of the old guys from the Marae said that the DIY team got done in 4 days what they had been trying to do for 30 years. He said there was some Koro and Kuia who he wished could've been there to see it. He said you can hear them , not turning in their graves, they are dancing!
While the Kuia were at the next Marae, they brought in a hair and makeup stylist, to get them makeovers. One of them comes out after having her hair done, and the others go, oh, you look beautiful. And she replies, now all I want is some teeth!
When the Kuia return to the Marae to see the DIY teams handiwork, it starts raining. The Kuia see their Marae, they cry. Its quite moving. And all this from a clever rejig of a worn out concept. Check it out.

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Tread softly.
Yesterday I bought a copy of a book by Michael King to send to my Mum for her birthday. Today I read that Michael King and his wife Maria Jungowska died in a car crash yesterday. My thoughts are with his family. Its such sad news.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Heavy.

Kevin Eastman is the publisher of Heavy Metal magazine - he wrote this on their website, about Martin Emond.

"I dare to call Martin Emond a friend of mine.
I first met him in the early 90's when he brought me the concept of the "White Trash" graphic novel to me through "Tundra UK, and Dave Elliot. Dave had the insight to see Martins work was of the "Best of the Best" and needed to be out there for all of us to embrace. At that time, agreed 100%,funded the project soup to nuts, and have never looked back.
"Marty Fuck" as he liked to be called by his friends, moved to Los Angeles three years ago, and worked out of a studio in the back of "MeltDown Comics" on Sunset Blvd, due to the genius insite of my pal Gastone, the owner of the shop, who loved Marty's talents times ten.
Once week I'd make my trip there for my comic fix, and was always thrilled to go hang out with Marty in his back room studio, and see the latest work of brillance he was chest deep in.
He always had 20 things going on at once, and all of them in true Marty style--all amazing. Marty recently began to work with another close friend of mine, Brice, (The artist who did all of my tattoo's) to start a career in Tattoo's and one of the first he did was on Brice. Brice was the one who called me today (Monday) to tell me Marty had passed away.
Sad, yes I am, pissed, yes I am--Marty was simply one of the most beautiful fucking humans I ever met. Honest, genuine, original, true blue, sincere, a guy that was always quick with a smile and a laugh, and always said what he meant, and meant what he said.
To me the person far out weights the insane talent he had, and if he couldn't even draw a stick figure, you and I, would have loved to have been around him just the same.
Marty, you know how much we already miss you. I hate you for not giving me more time to hang with you, I hate myself for not making more time to hang with you.
Christ--I wish I could turn back the hands of time. You promised to tattoo me, I want that time with you--I can't believe I'm writing this--I miss you, I love you, I am so sad that I can't see you again.
You will be SSSSOOOOOOO FUCKING MISSED.
Kevin


UPDATE
I've scanned the flyer from Martins memorial service, and posted it here. NOTE; images are quite big, so this page may be slow to load.