Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Finally a bit more from New York trip - photos etc to follow when get broadband back.


Suffering from lack of sleep & alcohol abuse but managed to drag myself up and out. Hotel was on 51st and 7th and very central. Just down the road street traders were unwrapping their blankets containing expensive watches, handbags etc (well they would be expensive if genuine), and pirate copies of all the latest cinema releases. Decided to walk to Time Square to get some food and then to Madison Square Gardens where I had arranged to meet Clare, who was buying my spare ticket. Picked up tickets + Monday night as well, met up with Clare and then headed to the Empire State Building. Unfortunately I had chosen to visit New York on one of the wettest weekends in recent history and cloud cover was low – so the view from the top was – well cloudy!

Next stop was New York’s original public library. One of the oldest buildings in New York and also one of the biggest in terms of land acreage. Joined the guided tour and had a look round at the architecture of the building. Then on to Grand Central Station to take a look at the architecture that has made it famous. So different from our main stations – lots of marble clad pillars and huge leaded glass windows – almost cathedral like. The basement area is a good place to eat so stayed a while. Eventually went back to the hotel to dry out.

Brief nap before heading off to MSG once more. Rain had eased so opted to walk (about 20-25m). Arrived to find the place crawling with Scalpers or touts as we know them). Apparently they are a big problem in New York – especially selling forged tickets, but no one does anything about it. Found my seat – awesome view just in front and left of stage. Clare already there – she’s a fanatical New York U2 fan so it was nice that she had the second ticket – she’d already been in the elipse the night before and was going to the other 3 nights.

Support act was Keane – not seen them before but was so impressed made sure I arrived early on the Monday to see full set. Not many bands can make good music minus and guitars. U2 was majestic – the opening City of Blinding Lights felt very appropriate for New York. You get the feeling they see New York as their second home. Band very laid back – really enjoying themselves. Indoor light show is very impressive and you get it the whole show – unlike outdoors. Sitting just above head height we were able to get a good view of the led floor lines designed by Willie Williams – very effective on Miracle Drug with the heart beat style monitor racing around the stage in red. Main highlight was probably Bono and Mary J Blige dueting on One. A great night which the rain couldn’t dampen. After the show back to the hotel and a night cap at the bar.

Still raining, albeit not as much. Headed off to west side of island to the port – plan had been to do boat trip round New York harbour but underestimated how long it would take to walk to boat so opted to grab a cab to the Finance district and visit Ground Zero. The most notable thing about Ground Zero is the size, it looks much smaller than I had expected but I guess in New York buildings tend to go upwards, rather than sideways. Aside from the 2 towers, there were 5 other buildings that formed part of the WorldTrade Centre – all collapsed. The names of the victims are displayed in front of the site. The only item still standing is a girder that has been cut in the shape of a cross. Over the road is one of the amazing stories surrounding 9/11. the old church there was untouched when the buildings collapsed, no windows were broken. Yet the surrounding area was dessimated. Watching American TV (which is mainly adverts) I became aware of the advert asking for the 9/11 enquiry o be re-opened, based on the theory that the two towers should never have been capable of collapsing and that there is no video footage or pictures of any aircraft having hit the Pentagon – just a hole – which apparently is too small. I guess America is the home of conspiracy theories.

After Ground Zero a look at the Woolworth Building, originally the tallest in the world – very art-deco in design. Then back to the hotel before heading out for the rest of the day.

First stop Spamalot – you have to kill for a ticket to this show but somehow I had anticipated popularity and struck lucky by booking a while ago direct through Monty Python’s website. What can I say about this show? The Americans love it – don’t know why as it is typical Monty Python – English humour, completely mad. Also very funny with a great cast including Tim Curry as King Arthur. Make sure you see it when it comes to the West End.

After Spamalot a strole to Penn Station to catch a train to Long Island (Manahattan sits between New Jersey on one side and Long Island on the other) where I was due to see Bruce Springsteen on his Devils & Dust solo tour. Spotted this one only few weeks before going and managed to book seat at the front when tickets went on sale. The venue was Nassau Coliseum. Being ignorant I had originally thought the gig was in New York – in fact it was New York state and the journey was a bit like going from London to Cambridge. Arrived at destination train station expecting to see hundreds of Boss fans, only to find 4. Worked out which bus to catch, and also discovered it was the last of the day so no idea how to get back. Got off bus at suggested stop on literature, discovered I’m on a highway in the middle of nowhere! Started walking and eventually saw stadium in the distance. Arrived to join large ticket collection queue but eventually got inside. Grabbed some food and looked for a way to my seat. I wonder how Americans ever get anywhere as the signage was useless. Asked security who directed me through a door – suddenly I found myself backstage and at the bottom of the steps was the back curtain to the stage. Tempted to walk down and onto the stage but bottled it so went back and asked for new directions. Finally found right door and walked down large flight of steps in pitch black as show was starting. From the outside arena looks very small – not too high – the reason being that 2/3rds is below ground.

As for the gig – excellent – played a lot from Devils & Dust with wide mixture of older stuff – more well known songs such as Born to Run not on the playlist. Must confess I found him similar to Michael McDermott – mixture of guitar and piano, plus the use of a foot “beat” box. The Boss clearly enjoys playing Long Island, seeing it as a twin brother to his native New Jersey. No fancy stage set like U”, just a chandelier, a few drapes and the odd light changing colour.

If you’ve listened to Devils & Dust you may have thought “the Boss has discovered God”. In reality he was brought up as a Catholic and spent the first 10 years of his life being dragged to the church over the road where they would throw rice at the newly weds – this was his religious experience! He explained that the thoughts behind te song “Jesus was An Only Son” – where he had wondered what it would have been like if Jesus had just been an ordinary bloke in a family growing up. He’s clearly interested in the issues of god but appears to have plenty of doubts too.

After the gig the fun started – how to get home. If this was Wembley 50% would come by public transport - but this is America and 99.5% arrived by car. So no buses or taxis to be seen anywhere. After a wander around the site I asked security for some suggestions how I get home. Pointed in direction of nearest hotel where I was told I could get a taxi. And it worked – so I and a few other stragglers all piled into a taxi and headed back to the station. Journey back from there was fine and I eventually made it back to te hotel about 12.45am. Glad I did it, but won’t repeat in a hurry.


The rain has stopped – just very cloudy. The morning was planned – first boat trip round the bay, then helicopter flight around New York. Boat trip was a bit on the cold side but it’s the best way to take in New York. You also get to see Staten Island and the Statue of Liberty – well worth the money. I’ve always wanted to fly in a helicopter so this was a good excuse. Not as exciting as I had anticipated, more like flying in a small aircraft, but the view of the skyscrapers is excellent.

Back to hotel via the Hard Rock Café and museum. Next stop was lunch round corner from the hotel at an excellent diner where I experienced American burgers at their best. Feeling rather full the next part of the afternoon was well-timed – a walk through Central Park. I managed to cover just about half the park with the weather the best it had been during my stay. Monday was a bank holiday in the States (Columbs Day) and the park was full of locals who had been to see the nearby parade or just got married – they come here for the wedding photos.

Eventually I arrived at the Metropolitan Museum of Art where I managed to do a whistle-stop tour round the building, seeing some of the finest art in the world. There are few rules here – except don’t touch or steal. You can take photos of the pictures – decided to avoid this or risk being there for next few weeks snapping away. If you’re in New York go there – you won’t regret it.

They may sound ok, but I just can't see how anyone can appreciate a band named after the nastiest man in football.
(Otherwise, great write-up. Can I come next time?)
Could explain why they are a support act - bit like the team the Mr K plays for... I'm sure I invited you - or was that Twickenham?
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