Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions live @ The Tivoli, 24.06.10

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One thing I often wonder about the move away from music as a physical product to a digital one is whether the same emotional attachment is there as it was for the older generation. It’s just not the ritualistic nature that used to exist – buying the album, looking at the photos on the inlay and reading the liner notes on the train back home, carefully taking the album out of its sleeve, the physical act of actual being able to hold it, checking for inscriptions on the vinyl, placing it on the turntable, lifting the stylus over to the edge and lowering the arm as gently as possible to not to made a sound when the needle and the vinyl connect, not forgetting the oh-so-important act of turning the record over to play the second side: Playing records was (and still is) one of life’s greatest pleasures. It’s not just the ritual, it’s the way music is listened to, even to the very fact that it instead of being listened to, it’s described as “consumed” now: How do you consume music? Listening habits have changed to the point where not only can you “obtain” my entire music collection in probably a day – whereas it taken me the best part of 30 years to collect – but you can carry it around with you and listen to it 24/7. Instead of music being something to be cherished in stolen moments it’s largely become something to fill the silence in every second of every waking hour of modern life.

September 1991. If push came to shove I reckon I could narrow it down to near enough the very day that I first heard Mazzy Star. 144 Brighton Grove, Fenham, Newcastle. A house that a year later I moved into, into the very room where I first heard Hope Sandoval sing. There are a lot of albums that I can remember hearing for the first time; some I can even remember buying. Does that still happen?

So almost nineteen years after hearing She Hangs Brightly for the first time, I finally get the opportunity to see Hope Sandoval perform live. However, she’s known for being “difficult” and the day’s events definitely prove that to be true.

I’m expecting it to be dark and as it’s all seated I’m guessing that I’ll probably have to photograph from the stairs but maybe naively that is all I’m expecting until an email from the Tour Manager via the Promoter arrives in my inbox mid-morning, telling me:

The band play in almost darkness and don’t particularly like photographs being taken.
There is a slight chance you may not be allowed to shoot – it seems the Tour Manager has to wing it on the night depending on the vibe… and he’ll have to take you through protocol on the night if you *are* allowed.

So on arrival and collection of tickets, he needs to advise he’s a photographer. Box Office will then get our Tour Manager who’ll get Hope’s Tour Manager to discuss procedure.

Although I’ve seen Mick Turner the previous evening at The Hangar, the original date for this show, I’m keen to see him again so get to The Tivoli at the advertised start time of 8pm only to be told that I can’t go in for the support acts (Dirt Blue Gene, who back Sandoval as The Warm Inventions are also on the bill) and to come back in 90 minutes for the headline set due to start at 9:40pm. Luckily the re-arranged date is the same night as the free-entry I Used To Skate Once 6 night at The Zoo so it gives me something to do for well in the meantime whilst Dirt Blue Gene and Mick Turner play. On the plus side, “the vibe” is good so I can photograph but it’s confirmed that I’m going to have to do this from upstairs.

When I get back to The Tivoli there’s a contract to sign, which in the grand scheme of things isn’t too bad but has a very interesting clause at the end written in big capitals:


Maybe that’ll explain why there’s not much in the way of photos in this blog.

Then Hope’s Tour Manager comes down to meet us and to “discuss procedure“. It’s quite sweet and enduring and yet it’s so laughable it’s hard to keep a straight face. There’s lots of talk about needing to work together so that we can all benefit from the experience. There’s lots of reinforcement of the ABSOLUTELY NO RELEASE TO ANY INTERNET SOURCE IS PERMITTED and any photos being put forward for possible publication have to be sent to them for approval before anything can be printed (Note: the Rave deadline has been and gone without anything being approved for publication to accompany the review, although the Tour Manager said he thought the photos I’d sent through were beautiful). We’re also told that normally they tour with a photographer and, as Brisbane is the first date of the tour, we’re the first photographers from outside “the organisation” to ever be allowed to photograph them. It’s also confirmed that we have to photograph from upstairs although we can shoot from either side of the balcony for the first three songs; I had been expecting a Ryan Adams shoot from the lighting desk at the back of the balcony so am thankful for small mercies.

However, when it comes to the low lighting stakes, Hope Sandoval wins by a country mile; she’s so far out in front of Ryan Adams it’s not true. The lighting is minimal to say the very least, with the bulk of it coming from a projector in front of the stage used to project Super 8, arty-type images onto the screen at the back of the stage. This is the main light on Hope Sandoval so for the three songs it becomes an exercise in waiting until there is a flash of light from the image being projected to take photos. This happens best in the second song, There’s A Willow, although at one point it coincides with her playing harmonica and at another with her resting her hand on the top of the mic so that it casts a huge shadow over her face.

Photographically, tonight is largely a waste of time. However, sitting down and watching the show after the first three songs is a different matter; from a punter’s point of view it’s sublime. Whilst being near useless for photographing in, the projections are beautiful to look at and the sound, in particular the vocals are stunning. Song-wise it’s a fairly short set at nine songs. Highlights are Around My Smile, which also would have been good to photograph as there was strong front light from the projector and really interesting silhouettes of Sandoval’s xylophone playing on the back screen, Trouble and set closer For The Rest of Your Life (the link is to a live version; it’ll give you an idea of the darkness).

Towards the end of the final song she just turns and walked off stage; the only time we’ve heard her talk tonight is when we overhear her asking the band whether she should come back later when there are problems with the bassist’s foldback speaker at the very start of the evening, before the band have even played a note. There’s no hello, no goodbye, no thanks for coming, no acknowledgement whatsoever. The setlists on stage have a two song encore of Satellite and Feeling of Gaze but after the clapping and calls for an encore finally die out, the music starts up over the PA and when a little after this the lights come back on it’s clear that there isn’t going to be any encore. It’s a shame, especially not getting to hear Feeling of Gaze, but at least it sounds like we got a much better deal than they did in Melbourne.

I guess if it had been someone I didn’t really want to see or if I’d been escorted out of the venue after three songs I would have been a lot more critical but I knew a bit about what to expect and it held me in good stead for the day’s events. It helped a lot that the show was fantastic, even though there was no encore and it was terrible to photograph. That she didn’t acknowledge the audience didn’t really matter to me although I think it’s the first time I’ve ever seen anyone play an entire show without saying a word. In many ways it was like seeing My Bloody Valentine at last year’s ATP and the first show being the best of the three they played even though the second and third shows were incident free. That there is a fallible human element can make it a much more memorable experience, more than a show where you feel the band is going through the motions, playing the same songs as they did the night before and the night before that, playing them note perfect but on autopilot, with the same ad libs and between song stories. And where’s the fun in going to see a band where you know exactly what you’re going to get night after night? I might have taken me nineteen years to finally get to see Hope Sandoval play live but hopefully it won’t be as long until the next time.

All Photos ©2010 Justin Edwards. All Rights Reserved.

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