Monday, November 22, 2010

Deep Purple

On 3rd November, I went to the WEX in Marche-en-Famenne to see Deep Purple on stage, one of my favourite hard rock bands. Although the tickets were quite expensive (57 euros), it was worth seeing this mythical band! They started their European tour in October and this was their only date in Belgium. All I can say is that it was an amazing and unforgettable concert!

The concert hall was not fully packed, there were 5,700 people (out of 6,000 places available). The show started at 8.30 p.m. with a band called Puggy, that I had never heard of before. It was thus a discovery for me and I quite liked their pop-rock music. They consider themselves as a Belgian band since they met for the first time in Brussels, but in fact the drummer is Swedish, the bassist French and the singer English. I had already heard their famous song “When You Know” on the radio, but without even knowing that it was from them! Their performance warmed up the audience before the real show.

Deep Purple started playing at 9.30 p.m. and played until 11.15 p.m., which was a nice gesture for 60-year-old people who had just come back from several concerts in Poland. What very much impressed me were the guitar and keyboard solos. Steve Morse, the only American member (the others are English), is in my opinion one of the best guitarists in the world. The keyboardist, Don Airey, is also a real virtuoso. He even played La P’tite Gayole, a well-known Walloon song, and the audience sang in chorus. The bassist, Roger Glover, also played a solo: it was the first bass solo I have ever seen! Ian Gillan, the lead singer, still has a perfect voice (and body!), despite his age. Being myself a former drummer, I was amazed by the talent of Ian Paice, whose Pearl drum is tremendous!

The highlight of the show was unquestionable, they played their well-known song Smoke On The Water, of which the guitar riff is certainly the most famous in the history of rock. In the end, they took a curtain call and played Hush and Black Night, the latter being my favourite.

The set list was the following:

1. Hard Lovin' Man
2. Things I Never Said
3. Maybe I'm a Leo
4. Strange Kind of Woman
5. Rapture of the Deep
6. Fireball
7. Silver Tongue
8. Contact Lost
9. Guitar Solo
10. When a Blind Man Cries
11. The Well Dressed Guitar
12. Almost Human
13. Lazy
14. No One Came
15. Keyboard Solo
16. Perfect Strangers
17. Space Truckin'
18. Smoke on the Water
19. Hush
20. Black Night

Monday, November 08, 2010

Troy: The Lord of the Silver Bow

Violence, honour, loyalty and redemption. These words can define all the works of the bestselling British author of heroic fantasy, David Gemmell.

David Andrew Gemmell was born in 1948 in London, where he was brought up by his mother. Living without a father was not easy; the young Gemmell had to face the mockery of his fellow students and was soon taught by his stepfather how to stand up “without hiding behind walls or running away”. At sixteen, he was expelled from school for organizing a gambling syndicate but went on with his life and began to work. He became a journalist by chance and eventually became editor in chief. He also worked for national newspapers such as the Daily Mail, the Daily Mirror and the Daily Express. Gemmell died in 2006, while he was writing the last book of the Troy trilogy.

Gemmell’s writing career really began when he was diagnosed with a cancer he believed to be terminal. In order to take his mind off his illness, he decided to write and quickly discovered that he wanted to be published before he died. His first novel The Siege of Dros Delnoch described by means of metaphors his fight against his cancer. Later, Gemmell learned that he was misdiagnosed and set aside his book until a friend of his advised him to work on it and to publish it. The book was published in 1984 under the name Legend and set Gemmell on the road of fame. Gemmell wrote over thirty novels in total, most of them were in the heroic fantasy genre, but Gemmell also wrote thrillers, graphic novels and historical fantasy novels. Unfortunately, Gemmell died before he could finish the last book of his trilogy based on the Trojan War, Troy: Fall of Kings. It was his second wife, Stella, who completed the second half of the book.

Troy: the Lord of the Silver Bow(2005) is the first volume of the Troy trilogy and can be considered as the prelude to the famous Trojan War. The hero, Helikaon, is a man of many names: For many, he is “the Golden one”, some say he is “the Lord of the Silver Bow” (Apollo) and Legends know him as Aeneas. The novel begins at the moment Helikaon sets sail for Troy and allows two Mykene ambassadors to accompany him to the legendary City of Gold, although Mykenes are Helikaon’s sworn enemies. One of them, Argurios, turns out to be the most loyal and the most honourable man Helikaon has ever met. While traveling to Troy, Helikaon picks up Gershom, the only survivor of a ship wrecked at sea, and the lady Andromache, who is to marry Hektor, the Trojan crown prince. Progressively, all characters find themselves caught in Fate’s web that leads them slowly to the greatest war they have ever seen.

I have only read so far the first book of the trilogy and I am now fairly sure I will devour the two other books. What first caught my eye was not the size of the book, which is enormous, but its cover. It remains very simple but gives this feeling of power and glory that is usually associated with the Trojan War. At first, I must admit it was quite difficult to understand, for the vocabulary was technical (the first chapter takes place on a ship), but at the second attempt I was quickly able to guess the words I did not grasp at the first reading. Then, before I knew it, I finished the book within a couple of days. Not only is the story fascinating, especially for those who are very fond of mythology, but Gemmell’s style makes it also really pleasant to read. The author has the krack of turning a slaughter into the most graceful and glorious fighting scene ever. In my opinion, though the story was amazing, it was the descriptions, the dialogue as well as the right choice of words that took my breath away.

Turning to the contents, I must confess I was astouned. First, I believed that the main character would be one of those great legendary heroes, like Achilles or Hektor, and it turned out that I was wrong. Aeneas, the little “forgotten one” (he is always a secondary character, even in the movie Troy; we see him only at the end), became the main character in all his glory. He is depicted as a godlike warrior, who can be gentle but also very cruel when he needs to be. He is surrounded by many other characters, each with his own personality, but only two of them have totally fascinated me. The first one is Lady Andromaque. She is a strong woman, blunt and fiery, who won’t bow to any man, not even a king. She is quite intriguing and unpredictable and plays a great part in the story. The second one is the famous king of Ithaka, Odysseus. He does not play a big role but his presence in the book lightens the mood, mainly because of his storytelling (he is known as the biggest liar and most outrageous storyteller in the world). Surprisingly enough, he is far from being handsome (his wife calls him “the Ugly One”) but otherwise he remains faithful to the myths: sneaky, wise, extremely smart and neutral.

Second, the world the characters live in is incredibly realistic. No gods or magic, just pure reality. There are no elegant speeches or sparkling warriors in their shining armor; there are whores, slaves, blood and corpses. I admire Gemmell for staying loyal to the ancient myths while making them close to our reality.

In sum, Troy: the Lord of the Silver is a marvelous book that combines action, humour, suspense, tenderness, love and the sunlit Aegean Sea. I heartily recommend it, this book is worth the read!

No, lass, I don’t make mistakes about people. I have two gifts that have served me well. I can spin a yarn and I can read the hearts of men and women. You are like my Penelope. You are, as you say, intelligent. You are also warm and open and honest. And you have courage and a sense of duty. My father once said that if a man was lucky he’d find a woman to ride the storm with. You are such a woman. Odysseus, p.47.

To read the first chapter, follow this link!

Mélinda Mottint

Friday, November 05, 2010

The Vampire Diaries

‘The Vampire Diaries’ is an American series inspired from the book series by L. J. Smith, and is broadcasted on The CW every Thursday. The first season, released in September 2009, was a great success and the second season is already underway since September 9, 2010. The episodes are all available on the website of The CW.

The story takes place in Mystic Falls, a fictional town in the USA, and stages a high school girl, Elena Gilbert (Nina Dobrev), who lost her parents in a car accident during the summer holidays. Her aunt Jenna,her mother’s sister, comes back to Mystic Fallsto take careof Elena and her younger brother, Jeremy.After the summer break, Elena and her friends, Bonnie and Caroline, findout that there is a new student at school. His name is Stefan Salvatore (Paul Wesley) and everything about him is mysterious. Stefan and Elena fall in love almost immediately and the latter will soon discover that Stefan is not human: he is a vampire.

The arrival of Stefan’s older brother Damon (Ian Somerhalder) complicateslife in the small town. Damon reveals himself to be arrogant, ironical, apparently heartless, even more mysterious than Stefan, extremely powerful and dangerous but… desperately sexy. He compels people to his will, kills remorselessly and drinks human blood. In short, he is the perfect opposite of his brother, who is kind, sweet, truly cares about people and drinks only blood from animals. Damon also disrupts the relationship between the two lovers. Indeed, Damon and Stefan are both attracted by Elena, partly because she is a “dead ringer for Katherine”, a female vampire who is at the origin of the 150 year-long quarrel between the two brothers. Over the episodes, we learn more about the past of Katherine and Salvatore, how they turned into vampires and the true reason of their quarrel.

I completely love The Vampire Diaries. This series is even better than the books, which is not often the case for other films or series inspired from books. The plot of the series and the plot of the books are very different, but the characters and their past are similar. The TV-series is very attractive: there is more suspense than in the books, so that you always want to see the next episode immediately. The subject matter is at times very serious, but there are also funny moments and amusing answers, especially with Damon, who has a dark sense of humour and has digs at everyone. To conclude, I would really advise this series to anyone who is fascinated by vampires or simply anyone who wants to laugh and cry, share the feelings and the fears of the characters and be trapped in this world of unconditional love, friendship and revenge.