The Universe. Some scratches of Beryllium. Diving. The Navel of the Galaxies. Maybe god. Maybe the void. Maybe you. Maybe it's just cryptical

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Tori in Luxembourg: Smells Like Teen Spirit

Place: den Atelier, Luxembourg
Mood: Ecstatic
Song: Smells Like Teen Spirit * Tori Amos

Tori at the Meet and Greet

September 18. That’s a date to remember. My first Tori show in a year, my first with the band, my first time to Luxembourg, and most importantly, my annual vacation!

Sylvain and I in the agonizing wait

After a rough start with a hectic day at work and a long night flight with kids crying on the plane, I arrived to Luxembourg.

12 years for this!

I thought I’d go to the venue, which was very close to the hotel I was in (thanks Rami!), to exchange my electronic ticket. But the Nazis at den Atelier did not want anyone to go in before 8. Seeing there was no one there, I left.

Tori and Sylvain :-)

My wonderful friend Sylvain made a surprise visit from France and I knew at that moment that it would be a fine day. I went with him to Dranouter to attend that special gig in 2008 and I was so glad he came. Next we went to the venue again and that’s where I met some lovely people: Shirin (ChasingTornados), Rachel (ViolentIndigo), Lenore (lenoreva), Marla, Deborah and Mr. Steven. So we waited all afternoon unsuccessfully hoping Tori would show up. And then just when Sylvain and I decided to grab something to eat, Rachel sends an emergency SMS telling me the meet and greet would happen. So we rush to the venue and there she was! All beautiful!

It was my first time meeting Tori in more than 12 years of listening to her music. I was delighted. Shirin pushes me to the front and Tori comes to me and says “hello, how are you today?” I was like “today”? Did we speak yesterday? So I said I come from Beirut, Lebanon, my name is Rabih and this is my first time meeting you in more than 12 years. She was like OH! Anyway, I asked her a question, and that was about the song Me and You which I told her was gorgeous and wondered if it would ever appear on a compilation or live or anything because the quality that we have is not the best. And she was like “hmm no. That song was just done for the moment. It was special when it was made but I don’t think it will go beyond that.” So good thing she still remembers it but sad that it will not emerge anywhere.

Anyway I got a photo with her and she took the time to talk to everyone there. We were approximately 20. She told someone that they couldn't get the Hammond organ to the venue, and hence, she said the show might be different.

Then she went to sound check and it was a rather lengthy one. She played respectively Caught a Lite Sneeze, Body and Soul, Amber Waves (3 times) so yeah, we heard it four times today, Bells for Her, Hotel, Carbon Lust, Northern Lad (twice), Cars and Guitars (!!!), Juarez and two lines of Beauty and Speed.

A sheet with Carbon was sticked to the piano but later removed

I was praying not to have Cars and Guitars at the show because once at the soundcheck was enough and thank god it was not played!

Me and the beautiful Shirin in the venue

The doors opened at 8 and the opening act started some twenty minutes after that. We were up in the front, just some centimeters from the stage, which was too tiny. We wondered where Tori would be coming from since it all seemed too cluttered with plugs and things. Tori did not come until 9:35 and Shirin and I were wondering if she would cut the set because there’s no way she would perform after 11. And with the Hammond not being there, we knew that Strong Black Vine would not close the set.

So at 9:35, the place goes wild. This being a General Admission show, everyone was shaking at a time or another. I love Give and I think it’s a great song to open the show with. I dig the dark intro and the general feel of it live. Caught a Lite Sneeze was next. Now since I missed the Posse tour, and this was my first show with the band, I wanted Body and Soul and Beauty of Speed so bad. And since Sneeze was second, I knew that my chance to see Speed was almost over since it always comes second. And Body and Soul was performed the night before in Amsterdam. But anyway. I knew she would be playing many singles tonight, this being her first show in Luxembourg. Then she introduces Matt and John and that was the only time she spoke, before launching into Cornflake Girl for which the place went wild and she seemed to have so much fun playing that.

Icicle was fabulous. I was looking forward to see it after hearing so many people raving about it and it did not disappoint. I loved the addition of Matt and John even before the “getting off” part. Matt was doing some cool sounds all through that gave some kind of icicles crashing feel. Take to the Sky / I Feel the Earth Move rocked the house, and then I about lost it with Hotel / Lust / Beauty of Speed played back to back. Venus being my favorite record, I was glad I was getting Lust, even though I thought the bass was a bit overpowering. And Beauty of Speed was just as I imagined it to be.

Then comes this tour’s debut of Amber Waves. Now I’ve been to three Tori shows. I’ve heard this song at all three. Is that luck or does Tori really want me to connect with this song? She forgets some of the words in Glory of the 80’s but continues as if nothing happened. And then she played Flavor, which I thought was odd, considering the fact that she never does 11 songs before the Lizard Lounge. Flavor is among my favorites from the new album and I was delighted to see it. I loved the additions on the other keyboards. They give it such a spacey feel.

The stage being so small, there were no Lizard Lounge signs. The guys left the stage and Tori launched into an emotional combo consisting of Smells Like Teen Spirit and Silent All These Years. I thought Spirit was too mellow first but the two final words were belted and almost shouted. I expected SATY since Leather was performed the night before, and I knew that we would get that or Winter. Then the band returns and I wanted to tell Lenore that Northern Lad would be next (she requested it and it was sound checked) even though I freaked out at the idea of having Cars and Guitars after, Lad and Cars being the combo of this tour. But she played Bells for Her instead, and Lenore thought it was her biggest nightmare. She only wished that this song won’t be played tonight since she has heard it at almost each of the concerts she has attended. I thought it was exquisite and the dark instrumental portion before the final verse was violent and almost threatening.

Marys of the Sea was next and I was glad we got this one over any other Beekeeper song. This was the beginning of a hot streak of upbeat rocky songs. As soon as the prerecorded sounds of Body and Soul started, I went over the moon. It rocked the house. Matt played some cool things in the bridge that I have not heard before. Such an appropriate song for a GA show. With the absence of the Hammond, Fast Horse/Talula were not played and they were replaced by Juarez which was played on all four keyboards, although not all were really audible. I couldn’t believe I was hearing a third song from Venus! This tour’s version of Juarez with the band is the rockiest since ’99 and is much more powerful than the ‘02/’03 and ’07 versions. But I couldn’t but wonder how I could be jamming like every one else to the loud drums when it’s such a harrowing tune!

Precious Things was the main set closer and it was the only song I did not want to listen to prior to this show to get something to be excited about, after reading that she made some changes to it. The Matt and Tori interaction in the middle was awesome. It was like a song within a song. I’m glad she brought some life to it. By now Shirin and I were wondering if we’ll get any encore since it was past 11.

Rocking a Raspberry Swirl

But the lights were still on, and the guys started to play a long sassy intro for Raspberry Swirl before Tori reemerged with a goofy grin. Actually I have never seen her this happy. She was smiling all the time in the encore. I think nothing beats the ’98 version of Swirl but this was much better than the mess of the ’07 version. Tear in Your Hand was next and I thought it would be the final song of the evening. But she played Big Wheel and the poor security guy didn’t understand what’s the deal with the crowd singing ‘Don’t you forget’!

Gimme 8! Gimme 7! Gimme 6! Gimme 5! Gimme 4! Gimme 3! Let's go!

All in all, the concert was very good. I couldn’t be happier with the song selection. I got the three songs I wanted to see the most (Flavor, Beauty of Speed and Body and Soul), three songs from my Venus, and watched Tori from the closest point I could ever dream of! Add to that wonderful people who made this concert an even more memorable experience! Thank you guys!

See you in Prague!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Gibran on Mercury, Mira in New York

Place: A crater on Mercury
Mood: Blurred
Song: Don't Give Up * Peter Gabriel feat. Kate Bush

Could Mercury have its own prophet? Or is it the first Lebanese stepping on the smallest of the solar planets?
News is that the International Astronomical Union (IAU) has just approved in late August to have a crater on Mercury to hold the name of the Lebanese renowned poet, writer and artist Gibran Khalil Gibran.

Mercury is known for its craters, all of which hold names of deceased authors, painters and artists. These names facilitate the work of researchers studying the planet.

Gibran Khalil Gibran had to move from Bcharre in Lebanon to the US with his family in the late 19th century and that's where he fulfilled his studies and his artistic and literary career flourished. But his heart remained in Lebanon, for he wanted to be buried in his native land.

In mid-August, my dear friend Mira has decided to head to the US and follow her dreams. What I love about her is that once she has an aim, she achieves it no matter what. And now that she's in New York, I have full faith in the path she'll be pursuing for the next couple of years. I don't doubt a single minute that she'll be successful and get the positions that everyone dreams about.

But before that, and I know the road is tough, I'll be taking it next year, I wish she'd enjoy things as they come. She has enough to worry about and hope she'll have a kick at this. And then we, the close gang, will always be there!

"Rest your head
You worry too much
It's going to be alright
When times get rough
You can fall back on us
Don't give up
Please don't give up"

Here's what I would like to tell her:
You know you can and will make it, just jump into the waters. They'll be cold at first, but they you'll enjoy them. You can't be a good swimmer if you're afraid of water!

And you know you have to make it because Gibran needs another Lebanese on Mercury. And it won't be just any Lebanese.

Good luck beautiful Mira! :-)

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Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The Warmest of the Cold

Place: Ridge A.
Mood: Warm
Song: Suleima * Rima Khcheich

Welcome to Ridge A., Antarctica. A land where it is believed that no human could have possibly walked upon. What makes this place special? While looking for the perfect location to build an astronomical observatory, a team of American and Australian researchers have discovered Ridge A., the "coldest, driest and calmest place on Earth" (

Head of Study Will Saunders claims that it is as calm that "there is almost no wind or weather there at all."

There, the temperatures reach -70 degrees Celsius, you could hear your own breathing and see the stars twinkling.
And I bet you would feel so warm in such a cold heaven.

But if you find Antarctica way too far, and you'd like to reach such a state, here is another alternative.

In a genuine initiative from the Beirut Art Center (BAC), singer Rima Khcheich reunited with musician Rabih Mroue to present a thematic night entitled "One Minute Late." The BAC, known for its art galleries, video screenings and lectures, aimed to prove that it was a real center for Arts in the Lebanese capital by bringing to its small stage a musical performance.

The hall in which the concert was to take place is a small 70-something-seat that is shaped in a vertical yet conspicuously narrow manner that its only public entrance is through its right side.

Rima enters the stage in a black ensemble, a scintillant necklace, a yellow scarf and her unmistakable signature smile. She is accompanied by Rabih Mroue on flute. And then she greets the audience by introducing what the evening is about. Now although the presentation looked fuzzy and I did not quite get the true essence of it, it looked to me like Rima was intimidated by the place as much as I am. I felt confined in a coffin and was almost suffocating. Rima made several light mistakes in her speech but she was so elegant in her presentation that actually it made me smile rather than feel more confused with what she was trying to convey.

Onto the first part of the concert: "One Minute Late from Reality" or actually 33 minutes late as Rima introduced it since it would be a 33-minute piece. The original text of the song is written by Abbas Baydoun and ended up being performed in its entirety.

Mroue set the infrastructure by playing a tender flute intro that reminded me of the flutes of the Andes Heights in South America. And then Rima would sing Baydoun's lines a cappella. For the next 33 minutes, Rima and Rabih would alternate between her graceful singing and his crescendoing flute play (especially on the unsettling yet powerful third stanza which he mastered beautifully) only to meet at the very end in a perfect harmonized cacophony before Rima chants a final "I always arrive on time to the meeting, yet it's Time who's late."

Part two is introduced by Mroue as four traditional old poems which will be sung by Rima, all written between 1926 and 1928 by the likes of Ahmad Chawki and composed by Abdel Wahab. Mroue said that Rima would be making a unique composition out of the four poems, comparing that to a screwed up computer which would mix its files when they would be printed. I know this was supposed to make the audience smile because of the heavy performance that was coming up, but comparing a poetic composition to a deflated machine certainly wasn't the most intelligent association to come up with.

The actual composition surely felt like perfect territory for Khcheich. I have never been a fan of real 'tarab' but I certainly came a long way to finally learn to appreciate it. She made the poems breathe through her velvet voice and her yellow scarf felt so warm against these concrete blocks that she was surrounded by. Her voice was like a gymnasium undulating between high and low notes and it felt like she was on the edge of a cliff refraining from jumping.

The concert was rounded with the always welcomed Suleima, in an even more stripped and dirge-like rendition through the distinct sound of an accordion played by Mroue. By now, Rima has taken off her golden scarf to let Suleima cry more freely and wrap the concert.

And that was it. After an hour and some ‘minutes late’, Rima managed to enchant the small crowd no matter the circumstances, and no matter the place. And I’d bet that she’d charm the spectators anywhere she might be, even if it were on Antarctica's Ridge A.

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