Monday 23 July 2012


Deep down, I always knew it. I'm just glad he finally admitted it.

"I try to put on the kind of show that the kid in the front row is going to come to and never forget."
-Bruce Springsteen

SOURCE: The New Yorker.

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Wednesday 18 July 2012

My Film Blog

It was a sudden idea. I was on the train, bored. I decided to start a film blog. A place where I could put my passions down on the page. It wouldn't be about me. It had nothing to do with advertising myself, or career advancement. It was just a place to scream about the things I love.

I needed a name for it. It came quickly to my mind; "KID IN THE FRONT ROW!". I loved it. Creativity is always a rush to me, never a slow burn. The idea hits immediately, and I have to act on it. If it's inspiration for a tweet, great! A thought lasts roughly as long as a tweet. But a feature film? The idea is a thunderbolt but the execution can't be done in one sitting. Anyway, the blog name came to me out of nowhere. But surely it was already being used? When I got home, I googled it, I looked around. It was a phrase that had seemingly never been used, even though surely it's a phrase that people use all the time?

It was Blogger or Wordpress. How to decide? I knew nothing, and went with Blogger, probably because I knew nothing. It's mostly been good to me, apart from the fact that the thing you type in the formatting box looks absolutely nothing like what ends up on the website. The hardest part about blogging is making the paragraphs not look like a car wreck.

Today I've been cleaning up old posts -- deleting links that don't work, videos that won't load, and getting rid of spam comments. Seeing all the comments from years gone by was like visiting old friends. Someone called Anna had left comments on 25 different posts -- yet when I clicked through to her link, it didn't exist anymore. Did she delete her blog? Is she still alive? Is she happy?

That's the weird thing about communities such as this. Some of you I see commenting nearly every day, but what do I know about you? And what do you know about me? I'm anonymous! We get so close yet somehow, keep a huge distance.

And I saw names in the comments of people who I've fallen out with. What did we argue about? I have no idea. Looking back, it seems ridiculous; how can anyone have a disagreement over a blog? Life happens here like it happens everywhere else. There are people who are jealous of my blog, and there are blogs I have been jealous of. There are friends I made who used to email and comment all the time; and now they're nowhere to be seen. Did they forget this place? Did I forget them, not give them the attention they deserved?

It's just a blog. Sometimes you feel like you're just writing to yourself. Other times you realise that people come here because it means something to them. That's a powerful thing, it's a responsibility. It's why I care so much. You realise after a while that your blog is as much about you as everything else you do.

I spent most of today checking out the websites and blogs of people who have left comments here over the past three and a half years. There have been over 5000 comments on this blog, so I couldn't get to them all. But 5000!? Wow. Isn't the internet fantastic? So much communication, so many ideas shared.

Looking back at my writing: some of it is inspired! Some of it I would happily delete. But it is what it is; and you just have to keep going and going and writing and writing, because that's what blogging is. Some of you are reading me right now for the first time, some for the hundredth. Some of you are regulars now but some day soon you might not be. I'd like you to stick around but it's out of my control. I'm just glad that, for whatever journey you're on right now; a part of it involves coming here. 

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Tuesday 17 July 2012

Wisdom & Stories from the DANNY DEVITO Masterclass at the THEATRE ROYAL HAYMARKET, LONDON

I had a three hour gap in my schedule today, and didn't know why. Then I got the invite to go see Danny Devito on Haymarket, where I already was. Sometimes you don't need to have everything decided, you need space for the universe to guide you.


He told the famous story about his audition for TAXI. He walked into the room, threw the script down and said, "Who wrote this shit?" There was a moment's silence, and then they all started laughing. He knew he'd get the role.

He says being comfortable going into an audition in 90% of the job. Mastering yourself, so that you can show them a piece of who YOU are. Even though you're a character, you're showing them YOU. When you can do that, then you stand a chance. 

He says you should go in with 'something'. Make a decision about your character.


He finishes his run on London's West End in 'THE SUNSHINE BOYS' this Saturday. Sunday he flies home. Monday he begins shooting the new season of 'IT'S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA'

People don't realise how hard the big actors work. Not just to make it in the industry, but to sustain it.


He says it depends who you're working with. If it's a Neil Simon stage play or a David Mamet screenplay, every comma is essential. Your job is to service to vision.

On 'IT'S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA', improvisation is king. They shoot on three cameras, so if they nail it, they have all the coverage.


I was down in the front row (of course), so got the first audience question. I said, "When you worked with Woody Allen---" and then DeVito snapped to life. Everyone has a Woody Allen story and this is his:

He got 9 pages sent in the post, with a note from Woody. It said "if you like it, keep it and we'll do it. If not, send it back and we'll work together in the future."

He kept it, but didn't talk to anyone else from the production again.

Months later, I think it was again through the post, he had to decide on costume, on a few pairs of shoes and a suit, which he did. 

Then suddenly he got the call. "We're doing the scenes on Tuesday". 

Then he was on set, in the trailer. Woody came and said hello, briefly, then went away.

And Woody only gave Danny one direction during the whole shoot, "bigger." He wanted it bigger, more over the top.

The scene where De Vito has a heart attack, they had to shoot it nine times, just so Woody could nail one of his lines.


A couple of actors mentioned that they're training in the same place he went to back in the 60's. He compared it to kindergarten. He said, "Rely on yourself to filter out the bullshit," because so much of it is bullshit. It's about finding what resonates with you.


A young actress asked the typical question, "how do I get cast? How do I make it in comedy?"

DeVito said to focus on the now. Don't get caught up in thoughts of too far ahead. Focus on THIS audition, THIS short film. He says experience is paramount. 

That's the thing with young actors -- they want to know how to make it, they want to know the shortcuts. DeVito reminded people to just do the work. It was simple yet profound.


He told us about the first time he showed "HOFFA" to Jack Nicholson. It was in the screening room at 20th Century Fox, and it was a film print, so you couldn't pause it. It got towards the big ending and Nicholson turned to DeVito and said "Danny, I really need to pee."

DeVito said "No, you can't miss the ending." 

"But I really have to pee," said Nicholson.

DeVito took him to the back on the screening room and opened the double doors.

He went and fetched a garbage can.

DeVito held the can for Nicholson to pee into while watching the end of the movie. And that's a true story.


The last question was, "do you have shit days?"

"I'm having one right now," he quipped.

He says that life is made up of good and bad, and that you can avoid neither. He compared it to flowing downstream. Sometimes you're flowing along nicely, sometimes you're hitting up against rocks.

Either way, you're still flowing down that river.

Regarding the bad stuff, he said, "embrace it, and then let it go".

Regarding the good stuff, he said: "embrace it, and then let it go."

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Saturday 14 July 2012


Bruce Springsteen was on stage with Paul McCartney, a Beatle! One of those moments you wait all your life for, and 100,000 of us were aware of it.

And then the organisers pulled the plug. The curfew at Hyde Park is 10.30pm, and as Bruce and Paul came to the end of a rousing rendition of "Twist and Shout," at 10.39pm, the sound faded out. They carried on singing, unaware that we were hearing nothing. It was an outrageous end to what, otherwise, was one of the greatest concerts I've ever seen.

It began with just Bruce, his harmonica, and Roy Bittan on the keyboard. They did a stripped down and hauntingly beautiful version of my favourite song, 'Thunder Road', just like how they played it the first time they were played in London, back in 1975. When the night begins with a rare version of your favourite song in the universe, you know you're in for a special night.

I'm on the train home as I write this, and I'm exhausted! I want to write a detailed review but my brain is forgetting all the information. I think it's because I'm satisfied. I'm complete. For one night only, everything is wonderful. The music exists and we're dancing in the dark and everything else is secondary.

John Fogerty was the support act. Not everyone knew who he was, but they paid attention. His distinct voice is a joy to hear-- and I've always wanted to hear 'Fortunate Son' and 'Have You Ever Seen The Rain?' live. He also did 'Bad Moon Rising', 'Pretty Woman' and 'Proud Mary'. Bruce joined him on stage for 'Rockin' All Over The World'. Fogerty was the perfect support act. 

Springsteen's new material isn't his best. The early part of the set was full of more recent tracks; 'Wrecking Ball', 'We Take Care of Our Own', 'Death to My Hometown'; they're not classics but they're good for warming you up, getting you into the zone.

'My City of Ruins' was a stand out. Part hymn, part celebration, part ode to Clarence Clemons, it resonated deeply. Bruce spoke about the people who are with us and the people who are no longer around. He was talking about Clarence and Danny Federici, but he was also talking about every member of the audience who was missing someone special. That's what people don't get about Springsteen gigs, how personal they are. They cut through to your core.

But I don't want it to sound depressing -- the gig was one big party. In years gone by, his gigs could be hard work if you weren't a die hard, it was like he wanted to nail the perfect setlist. Now he's fulfilling his own promise: he wants to nail the perfect house party.

He plays the hits. He plays the rarities that only 9 fans know about. He does covers. He does whatever it takes to bring it home. He went through a period of never playing 'Born in the USA', but tonight he went for it, and it was anthemic. And I know it's not meant to be, I know what the song is really about; but you can't help but feel the joy of screaming "I was born, in the USA!"

'Born to Run' was a highlight, but then it always is. There were other highlights, but my brain is struggling to recall the details. Great gigs aren't about the details, they're about the feelings.

Talking of feelings, I'm fucking pissed about them cutting the sound. BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN WAS SINGING WITH A BEATLE! Seriously, is 10.39pm too late for a rock concert in the middle of a large field? Were the rich residents in their soundproof apartments a little unsettled? Were the pigeons lodging complaints? What the fuck? A Beatle is singing. 100,000 people are in their element. 

When Bruce introduced the guest, I thought I heard it wrong. "McCartney!?" It was him. Now, I wouldn't pay to see a McCartney gig. His voice is gone, and he makes 'Hey Jude' go on for about 9 hours. But to have him as a surprise guest: incredible. They dived straight into "I Saw Her Standing There". That was my favourite Beatles song when I was a teenager (when I was first getting into them).

So what else to say about the gig? I have to tell you about Jake Clemons, filling his Uncle's shoes on saxophone --- a remarkable talent, and you can see how much it means to him. Wonderful.

I also felt, in many ways, that the E Street Band felt unusually muted tonight. I only spotted Patti Scialfa on stage during one of the songs -- in recent years she's been a lot more present. And the unmistakable sound of Roy Bittan didn't sound as upfront and dominant as usual. Maybe it was just the sound levels (we were in the middle a hundred thousand people, many many many rows from the front). And the setlist didn't really feel like an E Street setlist -- maybe because the show was packed full of guest appearances (Tom Morello, John Fogerty, and of course, McCartney). I'm not complaining, it was a fantastic gig. Just didn't feel that unmistakable E Street Band sound as much as I usually do at their gigs.

To summarise; a fantastic night. The Boss was on fire! He was in a great mood, full of age-defying-energy, and his voice soared. This is rock n' roll at it's greatest. The E Street Band, as always, is changing; yet Springsteen manages to constantly evolve - wherever we are a year or five from now, Bruce will be there to show us how to get through it. 

*Correction. Patti Scialfa wasn't there. I was seeing things. That happens sometimes. I also thought I spotted Elvis during 'Badlands', but thought best not to mention it. 

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Friday 13 July 2012

When An Artist MEANS IT!

You can just tell. There's nothing like it.

Some artists go a whole career without really meaning it.

Look at this performance of Van Morrison's 'Into The Mystic' by Glen Hansard and Marketa Iglova.

It's good, right from the beginning. But just wait till you get to 1min 30; they come ALIVE! And the rest of the performance is transcendent. You're watching two people caught up in LIFE, and their love, and their craft, and the audience. It's everything! And look at the moment on 2mins 22seconds, don't you just love that!

I was watching the documentary about them a few days back, 'The Swell Season'; and Glen talks about how when he was in the band The Frames, he'd write in a certain way --- and it wasn't until he wrote with Marketa, that he really allowed himself to be romantic, to really let that side of himself out. And now look at him; he's at the peak of his career, and he's found his creative soulmate, and potentially his soulmate soulmate too. Just look at them perform together! You can't help but get a buzz out of it. It's life, right THERE!

Just look at the concentration. Look at the little tiny almost imperceptible shifts in their faces, in their voices. Feel the chill when they sing together from 1min 6secs. They're SO in the moment. I love music. 

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