Digesting Mobile World Congress 2014: Six Key Themes and Two Future Scenarios

10 03 2014

It’s been a while since we attended Mobile World Congress and whilst we have perhaps missed the buzz, we have not missed the sore feet from walking around those huge halls.

We are therefore grateful to, and warmly welcome Richard Arthur, Telecom guru and Head Communications & Media Solutions Enablement at HP, for this fascinating “guest post” on his visit to this year’s Mobile World Congress 214:-

A record breaking eighty-five thousand people attended this year’s Mobile World Congress in February in Barcelona Spain.   Many of us who were there are still digesting the cornucopia of booths, seminars, parties, and the one too many tapas and Rioja we all had.

Here’s my round-up of the highlights from the show; also linked my video: a smorgasbord of show floor highlights.

Use this link to watch Richard’s High Speed Review Video of Mobile World Congress 2014: http://vimeo.com/88625618

1.     Face time with Facebook

One of the most talked about keynotes was Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg who took the stage and justified the $19B WhatsApp purchase.  Meanwhile also at the show, WhatsApp announced a voice service on top of their popular messaging.   Zuckerberg also touted a free internet for developing nations initiative which caused much lively debate.  Shortly after the show, Facebook announced the purchase of drone company Titan Aerospace for $60B to support just such an initiative.

 2.     Wearable tech yes… fashionable?

As is usual, mobile devices were the most visible new announcements at the show.   Wearable tech adorned many booths, although less of the Google garb then we might have expected.  Samsung’s curved OLED watch shone brightly and surprised with a Tizen Operating system.   Companies both big:   Huawei, Sony, Motorola, and small:  GoPro,  Fitbit, and Byonym went wearable.

On the Smartphone side, Samsung Galaxy 5 was the most hotly anticipated launch.   However many reviewers and the GSMA preferred others.   HTC One rang up “Best Smartphone” and, impressively the Xperia Z2 shoots 4K video.   I liked the LG flex’s ability to make like Gumby while still featuring a great display. Nokia surprised with the X low end Android phone announcements:  a new tone for Nokia in the run up to their Microsoft acquisition.  HP announced new business tablets and showed off our  Slate 6 phone tablet now available worldwide.   On the Slate 6 CNET said “The overall fit and finish is excellent given the price range, and with dual SIM support it would be easy to see this new line building a fan base.”

3.     Network Function Virtualization made real

As has been the case recently, network infrastructure announcements were less visible at the show.  However, the major equipment providers and infrastructure vendors did make a series of announcements.   Multiple companies launched Network Function Virtualization initiatives.  If you haven’t heard of NFV, I recommend you check out the latest White paper from ETSI on the subject.  This new approach to telecom infrastructure has the potential to revolutionize the network with huge Capex and Opex savings as well as dramatically improving innovation potential in Communications Service Providers.

HP announced the HP OpenNFV program at MWC which included a new organization in HP, architecture and set of newly launched products, plus a partner and lab program.   It featured seven of the nine ETSI defined NFV use cases in live demos on its booth.    LightReading summarized the HP announcement concluding that HP’s breadth and partner program are key NFV differentiators.

 4.     Headline “No News on 5G”

In the network core, vendors traded opposing 5G views, meaning no consistent definition exists yet, however many approaches to improving 4G and WiFi were demonstrated.   LTE Advanced featured in many vendors and some service providers’ show participation.  LTE-A’s main attractions are support for highly variable network topologies including Pico and Femtocells, and aggregation of multiple carriers (frequency bands) to provide much higher potential bandwidth.

5.     Driving the Connected City

GSMA’s connected city program drove a number of “car-as-mobile-device” launches, including Ford’s high profile launch of the new Ford Focus.    This was quite a coup (not a “Coupe”) for Mobile World as the Geneva Motor Show follows only one week later.  HP’s own Jeff Edlund, with Telsta’s Hugh Bradlow, spoke on Smart Cities and how they can be achieved today.

In some of the smaller booths some cool, if not necessarily ready for primetime, innovations could be found.   I particularly liked the “Brewbot” smartphone-controlled personal brewery and “Joseph” the ceramic Bluetooth speaker which can also be a planter or aperitif dish.

6.     Whither the Smartphone OS?

I dutifully made the rounds to catch up on the Smartphone Operating System trends.    I was disappointed to see that Firefox and Ubuntu, as well as Tizen, all big features of last year’s show, still cannot show significant market penetration.  This is a testament to the ongoing strength of OS market leaders Android and IOS.

img_1742.jpgOne day, in the not too distant future…

As always, the GSMA sets out to showcase the technologies, products and services that are shaping the future of the mobile industry at Mobile World Congress.   In closing this report, I leave you with the following scenarios gestated during a sleep deprived and cramped flight home:

In scenario one, Facebook provides free internet to the unconnected masses via drones while Google launches balloons that carry Wi-Fi to places still unconnected.    These brands become bigger than any telecom brand to communications customers in the developing world.

Scenario two hits a bit closer to home and plays out in real time:

Glance at smart watch – beer time.   Tap to connect to Brewbot and verify via smartphone that beer is proper temperature.   Command connected car to retrieve beer and deliver to friend’s house, where chips and dip are waiting in the Bluetooth speakers playing Smartphone DJ mixed music…. 

Oh and don’t forget the Tapas by app.


Rich ArthurEnjoyed this guest blog?

You can follow Richard on his Twitter account:  @RArthurTelecom


Ladies can you have it all? “Are you leaning in or out?”

17 03 2013

Are you leaning forward or back?  With the recent release of Facebook’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg, book, Lean In, the internet has been buzzing with commentary, support or disgust.  It has spurred a worldwide discussion on the merits of women in high places or not.  The book is calling to women to stop unconsciously sabotaging their careers, by having children or put it another way, having a life outside of the boardroom.

I do not want to open the can of worms that debates stay-at-home-mum v career ladder climbers etc as I believe many woman around the world have been leaning in for decades.  They know the shots and have made their decisions with a clear mind.

Whilst I will disclose I concur with the general position that corporations and boards should close down their old boy networks and open and welcome into their dusty boardrooms to talented, qualified women, I live in the real world.  In the majority of corporations, men still hold the highest percentage on senior roles and seats on boards.  Prejudice rides high and when faced with two equally qualified candidates, men will typically elect to hire another man over a woman.

Research confirms time and time again, that customers prefer men.  Sad but true.  It is therefore no surprise that men still hold the lion share of power, but it’s shocking to learn that men still receive higher remuneration for the same job.  The median wage for women is lower than the median wage for men in most countries.  There is a general scholarly consensus that the majority of the differences between men and women’s pay can be attributed to differences in the choices men and women make regarding their careers, so here Sheryl Sandberg has a point.

How can this all change?  Ms Sandberg is making the case that women need to be more proactive in their early career choices and “lean-in” for those leaps up the ladder.

For starters she could look toward Europe.  The gender-quotas has been an important driver for change, and no-where has this more seriously been applied is in Norway.  The Norwegian regulations for 60/40 per cent gender balance on company boards – world known as the quota law– has become a benchmark and a field study for Europe’s aim of increasing the number of women in economic and commercial decision-making. Many things have been said and written about the Norwegian quota, not least the positive affect companies has enjoyed by including women on their board.

It took legislation to pave the way for self-regulatory and complementary measures in Norway, perhaps other countries need to follow their lead.  That’s the only way more woman will be assisted to “lean in” to those C level roles.

In countries like USA, UK and many others there is a need for both parents to work.  The cost of home purchase, cars, education and all the other trappings of middle class living demand that two salaries be brought into a household.  So I believe many women have weighed up their choices.  For those that want to “lean in” they are already there!  They made their choices and now their families are stuck with an absent mother who is probably frazzled at home due to her impossible agenda and constant work demands.  These are the choices people make and whilst Ms Sandberg may believe it is the right choice for her, it is perhaps wrong of her to dictate that more should follow her in footsteps.

Money and power do not equal happiness and so to close this blog, I will end with this  famous story and joke about the Mexican fishermen.  In the spirit of “Lean In” I’ve changed the gender for fun but the moral remains the same.

“An American business women was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one lady fishing was docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican lady on the quality of her fish and asked how long it took to catch them. The Mexican replied, that it only took a little while. The American then asked why didn’t she stay out longer and catch more fish. The Mexican said she had enough to support her family’s immediate needs. The American then asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?” The Mexican lady said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, prepare dinner, take siesta with my husband, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar an dance with my husband and amigos. I have a full and busy life.”

The American scoffed. “I have an MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats. Eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually NYC where you will run your expanding enterprise.” The Mexican lady asked, “But how long will this all take?” To which the American replied, “Fifteen or twenty years.” “But what then?” The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions.” “Millions? Then what?” The American said, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, cook, take siesta with your husband, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar dance with husband your amigos…”

So perhaps the answers is, you can have it all, but not at the same time.   For those people driven to work all hours possible, you go for it and lean in.  Meanwhile, for the rest, determine what makes you happy, what makes your life fun for you and your family and go for it as well.  Switch off your phone and take your kids to the park and follow in Mary Poppins footsteps, “go fly a kite!”

How not to do Social Media – Orangutans 1-0 Nestle.

23 03 2010

The focus of this blog is to report on how technology is hopefully assisting to improve our lives in work and as we play – or is it? News this week has highlighted how our wonderful information highway, the internet, and the huge growth in social media needs careful management by corporations. Every corporation has been jumping on the bandwagon to open their own “FaceBook fan page” without, in same cases, not setting up clear policies of roles, rules, response guidelines, escalation policy etc. It appears that the role of setting up social media in many corporations is handed out to junior level staff, as after all, they are the Gen Y who “understand social media”…

Latest victim of the “how not to do social media” is Nestle. In case you missed it FaceBook’s Nestle Fan page has been swamped by critics voicing concern over palm oil use, deforestation, orang utan’s lost habitat etc. Nestles response was a lesson in poor social media relations. The social attack was most likely kick-started by via a Greenpeace campaign that highlighted Nestle’s use of palm oil in its chocolate products. Nevertheless, some fans on the Nestle site responded by editing the Nestle logo for their own identity. Rather than turning this into a positive, and perhaps responding by quickly staging a competition for the most creative edited logo, they responded aggressively, defensively and rudely. The Nestle response then fuelled pages of disgruntled “fan” comments.

Clearly Nestle have shot themselves in the foot. On all points they should never have embarked on a social media program without fully training staff on how to monitor, respond etc. Corporations are jumping into this arena without clearly thought out strategies on management nor recognizing that they must accept good and bad comments…

Clearly the quick fire response gave the corporation no time to consider how best to manage. A few hours of research could have informed this person on some alternative responses. Turning a negative into a positive would have been by far the best approach.

Every Nestle executive should be aware about the growing world concern over the consumption of Palm Oil. Acres of rainforest are being lost each day, as companies, cut, slash and burn to make way for more palm oil production. This is causing a huge environmental issue in Borneo/Indonesia where it is not only changing their climate but resulting in the lose of this unique habitat for orang utans and other rare species (and people who live in these forests). Orangutans and other animals/plants are thus facing extinction – in Sumatra it could be as soon as 2012-2015. A positive approach – such as other food manufacturers are choosing – is as follows.

To stop buying palm oil and using alternatives – YES, it makes the product more expensive – consumers need to understand that. But if the majority of consumers are asking a food manufacturer to change their ingredients, it is a point of consideration which could be turned into a big positive for Nestle.

Another approach, as is being led in the UK, is buying palm oil only from sustainable palm oil
corporations (example: Sainsbury’s). Palm Oil farms exist, so why not encourage those corporations to continue to grow on the SAME land and not go for the cheaper, easier option of forever using virgin land… In Australia a huge majority of school kids and parents lobbied their favourite food manufacturers to change their purchasing of palm oil. The companies listened (Nestle take note) and responded positively – a win win situation for all.

This will surely become one of the main “how not to do social media” case studies for years to come – the orangutans plight may yet still win through.

p.s Nestle have since made a public statement confirming that they are “taking all feasible steps to impact our suppliers to assure that we don’t buy palm oil which contributes to deforestation.” They furthermore add they will be buying from certified sustainable palm oil producers – good news??? Yes and no. They commit to do this by 2015 – it may be too late for the Sumatra orangutans who face extinction around that time.

u2 Video Montage from Nice Concert

20 07 2009

Here is sampler from key highlights at the U2 360 degree Nice concert. Try and catch the full show if you are lucky to obtain a ticket for the remaining up-coming shows.

The Mobile Phone - the must have at any show

The Mobile Phone - the must have at any show

Does technology improve our lives ? In this example, a resounding big YES. Technology has allowed thousands of fans to book tickets from far and wide. Via numerous web sites, phone/mobile services ahead of the show, thousands have shared their excitement, shared news and gossip and arranged joint travel to the show (to reduce, albeit, their carbon footprint contribution). At the show many people were able to shoot photos/video and immediately share via MMS or upload to websites! Such is the power of mobile phones these days. The power of new social media sites such as Facebook are now offering interesting new apps to go one step further and reverse the flow of photo sharing.
Mobimii has launched a service on Facebook which allows users to send photos from their Facebook profiles. By integrating Facebook’s own photo-sharing options, Pix2Fone lets you send photos from your Facebook album to your mobile phone, or to the cell phones of your Facebook friends. No wonder BlackBerry signed up to be a U2’s tour sponsor.

Departing U2's Nice Concert - start spreading the word!

Departing U2's Nice Concert - start spreading the word!

Finally, post show, the google’s search engine will attest to the thousands of sites that carry concert review (this blog included!), discussions on the final set, backstage gossip, fund raising achievements, photos, videos (let’s hear it for YouTube!), fan feedback and more. Instant gratification to share, learn and debate. Something that would have been impossible only a few years ago.

oes technology

U2 360° tour, Nice, France July 2009

17 07 2009

Rejoice – it was a beautiful day – U2 360° tour, Nice, France July 2009

Pre-show build-up
15 July, 2009, will find U2 singing at the Parc des Sports Charles Ehrmann/Stade Nikaia, Nice, France in support of their 360° tour. This tour was launched to support its’ 2009 album, “No Line on the Horizon” and will notch up to 90-100 cities during the two year touring period 2009-2010. The tour’s name is based on the unique stage structure it will build at each event – offering its’ audience a 360 degree view* (*only 180 degree at some locations) – claimed to be a first.

U2 "Claw" Nice

U2 "Claw" Nice

In the quest to achieve marketing perfection to promote such a mega rock concert, U2 certainly have all the bases covered. First, having the lead sponsor, Blackberry (previous sponsor having been Apple), in these days of social media connectivity, is not a bad start. Whilst great for promotional use and for links with “Facebook” and the like, to stimulate pre-show excitement, its’ not exactly a vendor one would normally associate with “Rock N Roll”.

Having said that, “times are a changing…” the “de rigueur” item at any gig these days seems to be a mobile with stellar camera/video features… Not that Bono was amused, telling earlier attendees “put your xxxx camera down, this is a concert…” Second, having an amazing web site with all the right ingredients was a sure way to pull in one’s faithful fans (see http://www.u2.com/tour/index/) – U2 web membership offering amongst other goodies, pre-show priority booking, free music downloads, news and gossip leading up to the show – a package that helped paved the way to key support and ticket bookings.
Here’s a pre-show report on my observations leading up to the U2 concert in Nice, 15 July 2009, followed by my experience at attending this “most beautiful” show.

Sponsor: BlackBerry expresses its' love!*

Sponsor: BlackBerry expresses its' love!*

The hype prior to the show was intense – the new 360 degree show – promised to deliver a show, like no other music extravaganza. There would be 50,000 tickets going on sale on 30 March 09, with a per centage of low cost 30 euro tickets. Normal French outlets along with international websites were lined up for the sales day – but sadly technology let the show down. Similar issues occurred at the Dutch event with 0900 paid service tel numbers being unreachable.
Many young people lined up outside FNAC and other outlets, to be first in line to secure those low cost tickets. Once the tickets were released, the demand online to purchase tickets was immense. The FNAC outlets could not get connected and by the time they could process an order, all the lower cost tickets were sold – in less than 20 minutes. Sadly for two young girls that had lined up all night, they could not afford the higher priced tickets and so left ticketless and in tears. Luckily we had secured two tickets via a French corporate purchase scheme for standing only places (seats being unavailable). However, we also tried to purchase further tickets for friends on the ticket release date. The online purchase route was a nightmare, trying all day – the key websites were just jammed, unresponsive and it was impossible to make a request. Finally in the early evening, a connection was finally made and two further tickets confirmed – many others were unlucky. My conclusion, it was a black day for technology. However, the band had more luck in Spain where 97,000 tickets sold out in 54 minutes – a Spanish record.

U2 Massive stage lighting and sound*

U2 Massive stage lighting and sound*

Having recently attended a show at the Nice, Stade Nikaia that only attracted around 8,000 people, it was tough to find a parking place, so we anticipated that parking was going to be a big issue for the U2 event. The parking availability near the stadium is around 10,000, but with 50,000 + expected, the roads, and every available parking slot for miles around would be jammed. Living in a rural village, bus transportation was a non starter so creative thinking was required. Those of you who may live in the Nice region, will know that taxis in this area are some of the most expensive in the world. Nevertheless, a taxi was booked and the cost would be shared between 4 friends – the total would exceed our ticket prices, but we felt we contributed to being a little “green” rather than clogging the roads with 2 more cars. Information on access to the show was non-existent. Once on the motorway leading to the stadium there was no information on a key closed motor exit to access the show. Certainly our normal “on the ball” driver, had no idea what was happening. As a result, a major traffic jam took place, and a journey that would typically take 30 minutes, stretched to 2 hours, arriving at 19.00h – so much for our great plan to arrive early… The time spent hunting on the internet to determine the best route, had failed us.

It was impossible for our taxi to get close to the stadium, so we jumped out just off the motorway ramp and walked the remaining 1000 meters. It appeared that many others had a same idea as we noted taxis arriving from Cannes, Monaco and Nice. The much heralded 360° staging, was looming in the early evening sky looking like a large tarantula. In reality the design was something akin to a space rocket station. Resting on four enormous moss green painted legs, orange satellite plates adorning the structure (like buttons), a large rocket shape thrusting through the middle and an inner grey body core that would be the pinnacle of the video wall and entertainment. The inspiration for the 58 meters by 47 meters (190 feet by 154 feet) and 50 meters (164 feet) tall “space rocket” design, nicknamed “the Claw”, came from the landmark Theme Building at Los Angeles International Airport.

It was an amazing work of art and engineering. The big question that lay with me was why did U2 go to so much expense to build such a superb staging, only to perform ONE show. With the Nice capacity at only around 50,000 would it not have been possible to repeat the show 2 or 3 times in the same week to amortize the costs? With Nice’s location being in easy reach for many by car (Marseille, Lyon, Milan etc), not to mention a simple hop using low cost airlines from around Europe, it could have been a way to deflect criticisms on wastage and costs. One should note that U2 are buying carbon offsets in relation to this tour.

Moving on. As one approached the stadium, our group was horrified to see the amount of rubbish strewn on the floor at only 19.00h. There were very few bin skips, and those that had been provided were already full. With U2’s interest and commitment to the environment, it would not have been difficult for their management team to insist that a larger number of bins be provided for SORTED garbage (especially as the majority of rubbish was plastic bottles and cans). It would also save on the huge clean up costs that are associated with these events. We made our way over through the debris and through the security and ticket check. We noted ticket scalpers were out in force, but business looked thin. We heard that many had to drop their prices to well below the ticket value – some as low as 20 Euros – so the credit crunch was hitting a normally vibrant market, not a bad thing.

U2 360° tour – Nice Concert review
– including contributor, Rich
Just after 20:00 Snow Patrol took the stage in the bright evening sun. A light sea breeze blew across the stadium, cooling the awaiting heated crowd.

Judging by the reported Barcelona set list, Snow Patrol played some different songs and a different order… Launching into “If there’s a Rocket tie me to it” (perhaps linked to U2s space references and that the following week was the 40th moon landing anniversary) from their latest “Hundred Million Suns” and quickly following with Chocolate and Hands Open. Engaging the crowd, the band exuded confidence and kept the intensity going for their full set. The sun was finally on the Baou de Saint – Jeannet cliff face as they closed with “Open Your Eyes” and “You’re all I have”.

After a lengthy pause to finalize the preparations for the U2 extravaganza, the volume came up on Bowie’s Space Oddity and Elton John’s Rocket Man. Shortly after, U2 took the stage firing off three songs from the new album in rapid succession: “Breathe” and “No Line on the Horizon” and “Get on Your Boots”.

An intense two hour set ensued comprising a best of the last twenty years of the U2 catalog, back to War (Sunday Bloody Sunday), three from Joshua Tree, Rattle and Hum (Desire), and to more recent albums. (Find the full set list at :-http://www.setlist.fm/setlist/u2/2009/nikaia-nice-france-53d65ba9.html).

As the darkness fell, the full glory of the stage production was revealed with a massive “Beautiful Day” with the over-stage video screen splitting and dropping to form a part lighting, part screen hanging cone. Bono’s stage patter was subtitled in French through part of the show allowing the predominantly French crowd to follow along more easily. Bono told the crowd how the Cote D’Azur was the most beautiful coast in the world and that all the band were happy to have their “second homes” here. He also thanked many locals including the people who served him in bars and “those that didn’t serve us!”.

The multi-screen videos also allowed for some very cool layering and movement effects and occasionally morphed into pure video effects. During a dance remix of “I’ll Go Crazy” the band’s faces moved in and out rhythmically. Larry Mullen Jr was able to get out from behind the kit and walk the ramp around the front of the stage with a Tom Tom.

Sporting U2 Mask Aung San Suu Kyi

Sporting U2 Mask Aung San Suu Kyi

U2 used their show to remind the world of the plight of Burma’s democratically elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi. For those fan’s that studied the U2 website ahead of the concert, some had responded to U2’s invitation to download a mask of Aung San Suu Kyi and wear it when the band played “Walk on” – a song written for her. Mask wearing appeared to be thin on the ground in our area, but Bono lead a group of people around the stage, masks in hand. (See this link for more details :- http://www.u2.com/stream/article/display/id/4770.

The imperturbable Edge on guitar appeared to be sporting a different axe for each song. He progressed through Gibsons, Fender Strats and Telecasters as well as an acoustic guitar and also played piano while wearing his guitar.

Adam walks the bridge*

Adam walks the bridge*

Adam Clayton appeared to be playing a Gibson hollow-body bass throughout the set. Both the Edge and Clayton also took their turns playing, walking and running on the stage ramps and moving bridges. Bono played his Gretsch Green/Irish Falcon late in the set.

U2 promotes plight of Aung San Suu Sku*

U2 promotes plight of Aung San Suu Sku*

Another interjection from Bono: First to promote the ONE campaign that he avidly supports. Apparently they had been signing up support outside the stadium – something most managed to miss. However, one lucky couple’s kissing image, made after their donation, will be electronically sent out to space, courtesy of U2. Second, Bono made a plea for donations to help another fundraising initiative that will benefit a water, health and hygiene project in Liberia, a scheme administered by Africare. The scheme will increase access to safe drinking water and improve sanitation and hygiene for up to 7,000. A UK telephone number was flashed on the giant screen, and Bono urged fans to dial the number – that would cost only 11 cents. Few in our area responded – most likely as the request was made in English…

Descending Video Wall lights up fans*

Descending Video Wall lights up fans*

U2 didn’t hesitate to tinker with the songs and change arrangements from the recordings. Three snippets were added into songs including “Stand by Me” on “I Still haven’t Found What I’m looking for”, a Michael Jackson medley (led by Billie Jean) at the end of “Desire”, and “Here Comes the Sun” featured at the end of Beautiful Day.

For the encores the set changed into blue/green tones, shown on the video screens as a kind of underwater effect. Bono sang into a dangling microphone reminiscent of a ship’s control as the band continued through Ultraviolet, With our Without You, Moment of Surrender and a short tribute to “You’ll never walk alone” before bidding a final good night.

Overall it is was an intense and crowd-pleasing show from this Irish foursome.

Within 5 minutes of the band leaving the immense stage structure, a large group comprising key engineering crew were busy dismantling the “space rocket” staging for onward transportation to the next show (Berlin).

The amazing claw with video core

The amazing claw with video core

*Photos by Pierre Masse – merci!
Other photographs by Sandra Arthur, Rich Arthur

Free music on the streets of France

18 06 2009
JAM'S Band, France.

JAM'S Band, France.

Displaying their talent, Colle sur Loup, Fete de La Musique

Displaying their talent, Colle sur Loup, Fete de La Musique

If you find yourself in France over the weekend, note it is the Fete de la Musique – Musical Festival – where you will find free music on the streets.

On Sunday, 21 June, anyone with or without talent(!) can play music and not get arrested.

Every wannabe musician is dusting off their instruments, reviewing their play-lists and hounding friends, neighbours and colleagues to mark their calendars and support them. Once again technology is playing its’ role and sites such as Facebook are driving the publicity machine to alert friends on planned concerts. Planned attendance can be monitored by bands and adjustments to their publicity can be made at a flick of a button. Likewise, Google maps is playing its’ role. Helping attendees check out outdoor locations and assessing which restaurant terraces will offer the optimum viewing site of the stage.

Hard hit restaurant owners have double reason to celebrate. The government has offered a VAT reduction to 5.5% (from 19.5%) – valid from July 1, 2009 – Jan 1 2010 IF the owners agree to a 11.8% reduction in menu prices. It’s not such a bad deal, as only 7 key menu keys need be applied to the reduction.

The change sadly will not fall in time for this weekends’ fete, but owners are hoping the good weather and the offer of free music will drive hungry crowds to their empty terraces.


A quick plug for my husband, Richard Arthur – his band, Jam’s, will be doing their best in the quaint village of Colle sur loup – check details here:


Love Revolution Tour – Lenny Kravitz 11 May 2009, Nice Nikaia

25 05 2009

Lenny Kravitz’s first released album in 4 years, “It Is Time For A Love Revolution” -during 2008 sold approx 1.1 million copies (not bad in this torrent download credit crunch era). This album formed the theme for his world-wide tour that was kick started in USA via a mini tour during 2008.

The mini tour started in Santa Monica, California and ended in New York City. Being the marketing savvy guy (and technology switched on –more on that later) that he is, the tour was done in association with Myspace and called the “Get on the Bus” tour.

Contest winners were eligible to be picked up at each tour stop and ride “the Love Revolution” bus until the end of tour! Cool.

During the year, he suffered from various illnesses and had to postpone and cancel certain gigs.

I was intrigued to see if this 80-90’s icon still has what it takes and planned to attend his Nice south of France concert in May 2009. Technology paved the way and offered amazing support to any curious concert attendee or fan. Tickets were easily obtainable via the web from a wide range of online ticket sellers. Lenny’s Myspace page provides everything you may want, and more – free streaming mp3, links to itunes – to purchase his music, links to Facebook to share event information with friends, links to Youtube to watch his videos, links to ilike, links to fan pages etc you name it, he has it covered- the King in applying Social Web apps use.

Hype was building for his 25 May , 20th anniversary edition album “Let Love Rule” – re-mastered with some new material. Back in 1989, Kravtiz was being promoted as the new Prince or perhaps even the haloed Jimi. This tour would respond and help answer those critics.

With a near sell-out crowd approaching 8000, I made my way to the smart new Nikaia
Stadium, just outside Nice, France. Traffic jammed the roads leading to the gig, adding an additional hour or so to every eager concert goers journey. Planners had failed to factor in large scale parking – and every conceivable road edge, legal or otherwise had been occupied around a 2 km basis. Goodness knows what occurs when the stadium is opened up to accommodate those 50k style shows, such as U2 – July 2009 will unfold and tell the story – watch this space!

Once parked and hiked to the show – first stop the toilets. It was 20.00h the show had just started and already long queues at the ladies, two toilets not working and no toilet paper. Likewise, the bar provided no helpful reprise. More queues, long waits, crazy system of service, low numbers of staff, I’ll say no more. Come on – Nikaia – this is no-way to treat your customers…

The opening act was Chris Cornell. Clearly briefed to warm up the crowd – or more accurately, warm up one’s ear drums. A smallish group of the crowd appreciated his loud shouting, punching air style rock king performance, but for me I passed and took advantage to grab a drink at the less busy bar.

Finally the moment for Lenny to arrive – lots of crowd moshing, chanting and clapping in anticipation – who would have known he had so many French fans?

The stage was simple: No AV screen included – pity for those short people standing… One Liberace style piano, clad in silver mirrored decoration dominated the stage. Washes of green and blue lighting purveyed during the show. Including a neat blue ladder image – go figure.

He rolled out all his hits, using Bolanesque sound to R & B, soul to pure Rock numbers.
His hit “It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over” echoed around the hall as he definitely
engaged with his fans. `He continued to churn out his hits, delivering them with a passion. The mantra-like Love Revolution bounced around the walls with its lame lyrics but held its’ own and captivated the audience with its’ amazing guitar riffs. He bashed through “American Woman” (I wonder if he really understands those lyrics?), and charmed the crowd with “Fly Away” . Then settling into an acoustic set of love songs including the new “I’ll Be Waiting” and “If You Want It.” It certainly worked for the guy standing next to me – he barely came up for air – nuzzling the neck of his blond companion.

He connected further using the old tricks of audience participation – getting the crowd – singing melodies from Pink Floyds’ “We don’t need no education “ and Jackson’s “Billie Jean”. I was impressed that the vast French crowd knew the lyrics and sang along: no sitting on their hands over here!

The people jammed into the Nikaia – mostly 30/40’s crowd, all appeared to be wannabe film directors. Have to admit I haven’t been to a large scale concert in a while, but boy there were more people filming the show with their mobiles and mini cameras than those simply waving their hands waving and clapping. For those standing, at times it was easier to watch someone’s camera /mobile phone screen than the actual stage – especially those using digital zoom.

I should mention his voice. There are performers who can perform LIVE and those who cannot or should not. Lenny definitely falls in the first category. He was truly exceptional. Despite all his throat illnesses of 2008, he has recovered well. He proved he is a great musician and performer: Animated guitar playing, passionate piano performance and genuinely engaging music and vocals. A new Prince – perhaps? I’ll let you decide.

The UK tour is starting on 24 June in Newcastle and closing July 1, 2009 in London – guys you’re in for a treat. Catch it if you can!