The Surprise, The Wondrous, The Forbidden

Another weekend away, but this time with my 2 favourite guys :) Thought it was time Gordon and Liam experienced a concert, and when I found out The Piano Guys were playing London as part of their tour, decided it would be a wonderful treat.

But first, the surprise.  Got off the train at Waterloo, walked past the barrier onto the station concourse to find that Waterloo had gone ‘Jurassic World’-crazy!  Not that we were complaining ;)

The only glitch in the entire weekend was the journey on the Underground to our hotel.  The line that we needed to take was partially closed, but we only found out partway into the journey as the relevant information was poorly displayed.  We ended up playing station-merry-go-round before finally getting on a bus!

Anyway, we found the hotel, which was located on the busy North End Road in Fulham.  It was market day, and as Liam said, it did not feel like being in London at all; it actually reminded us of being in Malaysia.  The reception guy was very friendly and helpful; our room was comfortable but ended up being quite hot – for safety reasons, the windows cannot be opened fully.

View from hotel room

After our ‘adventure’ on the Underground, we decided to walk to the concert venue, the Apollo in Hammersmith, which took us about 30 minutes.  Instead of walking the direct, busy route, we opted for the ‘road less travelled’ – beautiful and quiet.  

I’d been to an ‘Iron Maiden’ concert at the Apollo… over 20 years ago, I think – yeesh!  When I was studying in London, I used to live in the Hammersmith/Shepherd’s Bush area, and it sort of looked the same, but different …

Standing outside the Apollo was exciting enough.  Getting through the doors was pretty easy, the queues hadn’t built up yet.  Got a programme, and found our seats.  Having booked it online, we were pleased with the seats I’d chosen – not too far from the stage, with a good view.  Photography isn’t allowed at the Apollo, but it was ok to take pictures before the show …

The concert was, indeed, wondrous.  It was like a 2-in1 – a concert and a comedy show; Jon, the pianist, and Steven, the cellist, are so funny, a great double act.  They had us in stitches; Gordon was in tears, he was laughing so much.  Hearing the music played live, seeing them ‘in the flesh’ … I am so, so glad this was the boys’ first experience of a live concert.  I wasn’t expecting it, but there were moments when the audience was singing along, and there was a lot of clapping in time to the music.

The next morning, we took our time getting ourselves sorted – that’s one thing I like about Travelodge, checkout isn’t till 12:00.  The other thing – the ‘Family Room’ caters, not just for families, but for up to 4 adults – there’s a double bed, and 2 single beds that are made up on request, which meant I didn’t have to book 2 rooms :)

Couldn't resist ;) shop by Baron's Court tube station

Instead of heading straight home, or doing our usual of going to the British Museum, we made our way to Leicester Square, and had a late, full English breakfast at Patisserie Valerie ...

A macaroon display ... yum ...

... then walked the short distance to ‘Forbidden Planet’.  When I lived in London, I used to go to the Planet regularly for my comic fix; that was when it was located on Denmark Street.  But my favourite comic shop was ‘Comic Showcase’, which, sadly, no longer exists.

Decorating the side of the Odeon cinema ...

My kinda school!!

Across the road from Forbidden Planet, where Comic Showcase used to be 

There were palpitations before we even stepped into the store … I set Gordon and Liam free, in their natural habitat, among their own kind – geeks rule!!  The street-level floor is crammed with figures of all kinds, in glass-fronted display cabinets.  There was Batman, Joker, the Batmobile; Avengers; Terminator; Alien, and the marines; Game of Thrones; Pacific Rim … and so much more.  The temptation to take pictures, but couldn’t be bothered with the number of staff around.  Downstairs is crammed full of comics, graphic novels, books, manga, anime, DVDs …

Thanks to Amazon, it has been too long since I have taken the time to actually browse in a bookstore.  It sounds silly, but, for me, there’s nothing that quite compares to letting my gaze wander over numerous book titles, take a book down off the shelf, read the description, and flick through it, breathing in the almost pleasurable‘new-book’ smell … I treated myself to a book :)

About 1.5 hours later, armed with goodies, we left, only because we had a train to catch.  We spent most of the train journey home talking, not just about the concert, but also the visit to Forbidden Planet.  The weekend turned out better than I expected, and the boys agreed; we didn't feel drained from having done too much, which is always a good thing.  Oh. And it was their first time staying overnight in London - a nice little adventure :)

'My' book

Liam's Lego Star Wars

Gordon's Optimus Prime ...

... which he's wanted for a while now, and never thought he'd get :) Result!!

Favourites on Friday - More Music

The other ‘group’ that I discovered, quite by accident, last year is the fantastically talented 'The Piano Guys'.  I cannot remember what I was actually looking for on Youtube, but noticed them on the suggested list of stuff that appears on the side.  Being a huge fan of piano music, decided to have a look-see, and am so glad I did.

(from left) Jon Schmidt, Al van der Beek, Steven Sharp Nelson, Paul Anderson

The whole thing was started by Paul Anderson (group’s producer and videographer), the owner of a piano store, called The Piano Guys, and he wanted to try a different, novel approach to get people interested in pianos, and to buy pianos, which he believed he could do through Youtube and Facebook.  One day, Jon Schmidt, a pianist and composer, walked into his store and asked if he could practice on one of the pianos in preparation for a concert he was doing that night.  Paul broached his idea to Jon, and asked if he would be in a video promoting the store, and also Jon’s music.  Jon knew Steven Sharp Nelson, a cellist; they’d been performing in concerts together since they’d first met and shared a stage together when Steven was 15.  The fourth member is Al van der Beek (music producer and songwriter).  When Steven moved to the same road, they got together and began writing music together.

Jon had been composing music since he was 11 (!), and already had a 20-year solo career when he started with The Piano Guys.  He composed this piece, 'Waterfall', when he was 17.  Steven is a pioneer in ‘cello-percussion’, which combines traditional cello techniques with percussion techniques, nicely highlighted in 'Moonlight'.  He started learning the cello at age 8, percussion at age 12, and guitar at age 17.  He's also a songwriter.

Their music tends to be ‘mash-ups’ of, usually, a classical piece and a contemporary piece.  All the music you hear is the piano and the cello, but there are so many layers, and all the percussion is done on the cello!  They are so tremendously talented; so far, I’ve enjoyed every piece of music I’ve listened to.  Not easy choosing just a few for the blog …

This is the first one I listened to, 'Titanium/Pavane'.  It’s not just the music that's beautiful, they film their videos in gorgeous surroundings, which adds to the enjoyment.  At the end of this one, there’s a little snippet showing how the different sounds are made on the cello.

This is one of my absolute favourites – 'Paradise/Peponi'; has a distinct African flavour to it ...

This one, 'Kung Fu Piano: Cello Ascends', was shot on the Great Wall of China … the beginning is so tender and moving, then the pace picks up ...

Shall also mention 'What Makes You Beautiful'.  I cannot bear to listen to this when it’s sung by One Direction – ‘hate’ is a strong word, but I do have an aversion to ‘boy bands’.  But ‘The Piano Guys’ version … love it!

Watching various snippets of videos, not only are they very talented, they all come across as really nice guys, with a great sense of humour.  And, personally, I could watch Steven Sharp Nelson play that cello all day, every day :)