When the fire jumped the highway

26 01 2009

Here are some pictures I took from the car when we were driving home from Perth yesterday. These are all about 5 kms north of Bridgetown, on the South West Highway and show how the bushfire ravaged pine and eucalypt plantations, native bush, fences, paddocks, and buildings, as well as jumping the highway.
















Neil Young in concert, Sydney, 24 January 2009

26 01 2009

24 January 2009, Sydney Entertainment Centre.

My Morning Jacket“, a young rock band from Louisville, Kentucky started their brisk 45-minute set right on time at 7:30PM (I like it when concerts start on time!). I didn’t know any of their songs, but their music was appreciated by the crowd. The lead singer has an amazing voice, with a big vocal range and some serious power.

After a 35 minute interval it was time for the main event — Neil Young. Who is not so young any more. He’s 63 now, but you would never believe it from his performance. From 8:50PM until after 10:30PM he played and sang like a man possessed, with only a slight break between the final number and the encore.  I’m not a big Neil Young fan — that’d be my husband — but I REALLY enjoyed this concert.

In the dark I tried to jot down all the songs he performed, but some of them I didn’t catch the title of, so I’ve put in a few key lyrics and hopefully my husband can fill me in on the correct titles later (he has pretty much every album and CD that Neil Young has ever released…)

  1. “Love and only love”
  2. “Sea change”
  3. “Everybody knows this is nowhere”
  4. “Spirit Road”
  5. “Cortez the Killer” (my husband’s favourite of the night)
  6. “Cinnamon Girl”
  7. “Oh Mother Earth” (on harmonica and pipe organ!)
  8. “The needle and the damage done”
  9. “Light a candle”
  10. “Four strong winds” (my favourite)
  11. “Unknown legend”
  12. “One of these days”
  13. “Get back to the country”
  14. “Words”
  15. “Just singing a song won’t change the world”
  16. “Rockin’ in the free world”

When the band came back on for the encore, they played something surprising, especially considering the tens of thousands of songs Neil Young has written. They played Lennon/McCartney’s “Day in the life”. And what a performance that was! If we thought the concert had been pretty rocky and grungy earlier (with a softer set in the middle), we were gravely mistaken. Neil Young spent an amazing 10+ minutes playing his version of this song and totally wore out a guitar in the process — literally. Unbelievable. The crowd went wild…

This guy has not lost it — his voice is as clear as ever, his guitar work is frenzied and almost demonic. If half of us had the energy that he has at 63, we’ll be doing very well indeed!

Other notes from the concert:

  • Band members: Anthony Crawford (guitar), Chad Cromwell (drums), Pegi Young (Neil’s wife, piano player, percussion, backup vocals), Rich Rosas (electric bass), Ben Keith (slide guitar)
  • There was an artist (painter) in the background working on a new canvas which ended up being of skulls. He finished that one then started another. Strange. But interesting. (A Google search has just brought up some stuff about these paintings.)
  • Official review from the Sydney Morning Herald.

So, was it worth the 6 hour drive to Perth and back, the Perth–Sydney return flights, the 4 nights accommodation (2 in Perth, 2 in Sydney), the meals out, the cost of the tickets? In a word — yep!

A long long weekend

26 01 2009

Our Australia Day long weekend started early with a trip to Perth on Thursday to have our 6-monthly dental checkups. I was OK, but my husband had to have a temporary crown done (he gets the permanent one in a few weeks plus he’ll have a filling done then too).

We had dinner with our friends W & D at the Ten Ten Restaurant in East Victoria Park. Boy, we’ve missed their food! Don’t look too closely at the decor or the service — just enjoy the food! We had Salted Chilli Squid, Satay Chicken, Sizzling Mongolian Lamb, Beef Rendang, a large Nasi Goreng, and some vegetable samosas to start. Including corkage, the entire meal for four of us was just under $80.

We stayed overnight at the Esplanade River Suites in Como (the old Broadwater and before that the Pagoda), as it was close to where we used to live so we knew how to get to/from the places we needed to be. The room was a bit tiny though — the TV unit stuck out and nearly bumped into the king bed, so you had to sidle past it and hope you didn’t hit your elbow, shoulder or whatever. $150 a night, so not cheap. But then, there’s very little in Perth under that rate that’s halfway decent.

On Friday we dropped the car at W & D’s place and W took us to the airport. We had a smooth flight to Sydney (I’ll tell you in a minute why we went to Sydney for the long weekend), arriving around 6:30PM to a wall of humid heat! Instead of grabbing a cab (~$50 each way), we opted for an airport shuttle to the city. The worst part of that was waiting for it to arrive, and when it did arrive, waiting for it to depart. The driver packed in as many passengers as he could and it was a hot and sweaty — and very cramped — ride into Sydney.

We were staying at the Novotel Rockford in Darling Harbour (right opposite the Sydney Entertainment Centre and on the edge of Chinatown). It was blessedly cool in their foyer and in our room ($209/night). We wandered out into the evening and down to Cockle Bay Wharf about 10 minutes away where we had a lovely meal at the Adria Rybar and Grill (no, I have no idea what a ‘rybar’ is…). By then there was a breeze coming in over the water, which helped make the night more pleasant.

Saturday was predicted to be a stinker — and so it was. After negotiating the heat, humidity and sheer mass of people in Paddy’s Markets, we caught the Monorail into the CBD, went to the Virgin Megastore and another record store, then stopped off at The Forbes Hotel for a couple of cold beers for my husband and a pint of iced water for me! Last stop was Haighs Chocolate at Strand Arcade before catching the Monorail back to the Paddy’s Markets stop and walking to the hotel. The Monorail had a sign up saying that the air conditioning may not work well in temperatures over 35C. It was 42C on Saturday in Sydney, and the Monorail’s air conditioning didn’t work at all. With no opening windows, we were like stewed sardines! And I was wearing jeans… We got back mid-afternoon and just flopped onto the bed in the cool of the air conditioning.

We met my husband’s brother and sister-in-law around 5:00PM and went for a drink at the bar at the Holiday Inn (the Novotel’s bar is the Pumphouse and all the seating is in the open — way too hot!). Then we had an early dinner at the Red Chilli Szechuan restaurant opposite the hotel. Well, what an experience that was! I have never seen so many dishes on a menu that I wouldn’t eat in a fit! Pretty much every part of every animal was a ‘feature’ in every dish — pig’s ears, pig’s feet, tripe, jellied who knows what… Yuck! We picked three dishes that looked vaguely familiar and like they may be palatable — and they were, thank goodness. They were huge servings, but reasonably pricey — the meal (including two bottles of wine) for four was just under $170.

By the time we’d finished our meal the southerly was in cooling things down tremendously, and then we were off to the concert. Which was the whole reason for going to Sydney — to see Neil Young perform at the Sydney Entertainment Centre. (I’ll write about the concert in a separate blog post.)

Sunday was spent having breakfast in the hotel with the BIL and SIL, then wandering the Powerhouse Museum (the old computers brought back a few memories for me!) for a couple of hours. Then waiting in the hotel foyer for the shuttle, then a crazed drive to the airport, then waiting to get on the plane back to Perth, and finally catching the flight. We got in to Perth after 8:30PM and got the shuttle to the motel (cheap — and nasty. And with an incredibly noisy air conditioner that we had to have on all night as it was a stinker. No more to be said about that experience, except we’ll never stay there again… At $125 a night it was an absolute rip-off, especially compared to other hotels we stayed in that cost only a little more.)

And finally today, Australia Day. W & D picked us up from the motel and took us to their place where our car was, then we headed home. We stopped in at Mandurah for some fish and chips at Cicerello’s, and at the Fruit Barn in Donnybrook for some fresh fruit and veges. Then it was home to unpack, deal with a mountain of emails (400+) and write this. Next up… the post about the Neil Young concert!