Joe Adambery - page 6

Joe Adambery has 55 articles published.

The 10th International Gibraltar Song Festival

in Features

It finally arrived, the ten year anniversary of our music institution song festival. I have said before that we should preserve and continue to nurture this festival because it serves as an important date in our social calendar and it gives our songwriters a chance to compete on home ground against international competition. I can’t quantify what it achieves in international publicity for ‘brand Gibraltar’ but it does come in at a very small fraction of the cost of ‘Gibraltar Calling’ and we are getting a better song festival each passing year. This year it was postponed in the spring and moved to this autumn date which unfortunately comes after so many recent music shows that it may have caused attendance to fall. 

This year’s show was technically superb and it was sad to see that many punters stayed away from the show because the Tercentenary Hall needs to be full to pack a punch and create the vibe that helps make these occasions memorable. Twelve songs competed for a cash prize of £6000 and a handsome trophy and among the twelve were two local songs. The show opened with last year’s winning song reprised by Morea from Italy who was denied her reprise moment last year due to a technical stand off by the Rosario Flores management.  She gave a rousing performance this time and then as further reward went to join the panel of judges. The panel this year was chaired by musician, producer and past winner Denis Valerga and also included Jetstream guitarist and past winner Stuart Whitwell, Enna from Spain and her fellow countryman Juan Carlos Arauzo, and the Italian Maria Penino (stage name Morea).

Andy Coumbe gamely did the presenting honours without a female co-host, which would have made the prize giving ceremony a little bit easier for him as he had to park his script and handle opening envelopes and keep a cool head while smiling too. He came through as he always does, but next year’s show should benefit from two presenters, that’s my suggestion. There were song entries from Spain, UK, Mexico, Venezuela and Gibraltar. There was well designed electronic information text on the backdrop to make the stage presentation smart, current and a joy to behold with the excellent lighting and themed electronic backdrops for each song. Sound was impressive and maybe just a tad loud at first but of course a less than half full sports hall which is not a concert venue has to be taken into account.

The twelve songs were performed without a break and my notes remind me that the winning song ‘Si no estas aqui’ by Ruben Cardenas Castillo and Sara Familiar Ruiz (Spain) sung by Sara Varela crept up on me from nowhere. As many in the hall also thought, a UK entry called ‘Life’ sung by its composer Tony O’ Malley came in second place when it might have come in a clear first. Third placed song was by Monica Gomila and Latvian co composer Kaspars Ansons. ‘I wouldn’t change a thing’ was given a very good reaction when it was announced as third placed. The best interpreter trophy went to Argel Campos from Spain who sang ‘Es por Ti’ which I had placed in my notes as a candidate. The dark horse song for me was ‘El Ritual’ (Mexico) sung by Paulina Pargas. I also have to say that the Venezuelan entry ‘Devuelveme mi libertad’ sung by Jennifer Leon, who delivered a powerhouse vocal, was for me also a contender for a placing.

After the prize giving ceremony and interval we were entertained by TVE ‘Operecion Triunfo’ star ‘Chenoa’ who had an excellent band but was not really the big draw ‘universal’ kind of artist who might have sold more tickets. She gave it all without holding back, accounting for her various hits and engaged in chat with the audience, among which were various contingents of her Spanish fans, who clearly enjoyed her more than we did as they were more familiar with her catalogue. She gave us a short acoustic set with her guitarist Alfonso Sanz and showed a ‘Rockier’ side to her otherwise poppy pedigree. A pretty stunning performer who might benefit from being less ‘Rocky’ and more powerhouse vocalist to which she is eminently suited.

Wrapping it up – it was a good show overall and definately a notch up technically from last year. There were some continuity issues outside the control of Director Joe Cortes and his team who work hard to bring this iconic show home every year. Chairman of GISF Joe Carseni promised exciting changes for 2020 and as a music writer I welcome the drive and optimism that his team brings to the song festival each year. We can’t win them all but we have to keep trying to please and improve all the time. Those two boxes were happily ticked in my book this time. 

Eagles at Wembley

in Culture Insight

I’ve had this band on my bucket list for so long that sadly one of them passed on. The legendary Country rock band that wrote ‘Hotel California’, perhaps the most well-known song in the world, are still around albeit in the autumn of their years. They’re still filling stadiums across the world.

Thankfully I was helped by my son to secure a top seat fifteen rows away from stage front at Wembley Stadium on 23rd June. This after the concert had been sold out months previously. My stars had aligned for this to happen and I was beyond excited.

It was probably the finest concert that I have witnessed over many years and like their fans around me I was held spellbound by the sheer quality of their vocals and the impeccable renditions of their well-known song catalogue. ‘The Eagles Greatest Hits’ album of the seventies was the US biggest selling album of all time and they are still one of the best-selling concert bands in the world. They are now off my bucket list and I need to spread the joy about these musical dinosaurs in London this summer.

After a very good set from opening act Cheryl Crow and her band who said she had past help from ‘The Eagles’ in her early career (25 years ago), the legends took to the stage at 7.45pm and after a staggeringly impressive ‘Seven Bridges Road’ opening, promised a two and a half hour concert “because we can” casually said drummer and main vocalist Don Henley to a huge roar from the stadium now in full voice.

Appropriately ‘Take It Easy’ was led vocally by Deacon Frey, son of Glenn Frey who passed. His father was co- founder of the Eagles and has been replaced by Vince Gill, a Country music giant who is a superb vocalist, a gifted guitarist and a hit songwriter to boot. This double replacement has enhanced the band’s line up by two guitarists and they now have a keyboard player too.  In between song announcements Don Henley said “We opened for the ‘Beach Boys’ in the old Wembley stadium forty five years ago. We are proud to be dinosaurs. Dinosaurs may be old but they leave big footprints.”

‘One of These Nights’ followed on and then he gave a hero’s welcome to Deacon Frey “who stepped up to the plate” and to Vince Gill who had the biggest boots to fill. He did, with ‘Take it to the Limit’ and we all approved the new signing. Vince also sang ‘Tequila Sunrise’ which typifies the laid back melodic Country Rock sound of The Eagles and the giant colourful desert backdrop completed the illusion.

This was another spellbinding moment for me, which as I looked around at the sea of faces with expressions of awe at the majesty of the sound coming from that stage, confirmed that it doesn’t get better than this at concert level.

Many times during their concert, guitarist Joe Walsh traded solos with 2nd guitar Stuart Smith whose tasteful guitar mastery got all eyes riveted on the giant side screens. Later they would trade iconic solos again in ‘Hotel California’ perhaps the most anticipated encore of all time from any band.

One hour into their set the famous song catalogue kept on unfolding. Each song marked a moment in the lives (or the concert t-shirts) of the many thousands of fans singing along or lost in the Wembley moment. Vince Gill has a beautiful melodic voice with which he kissed ‘New Kid in Town’ and ‘Lying Eyes.’  The latter song was perhaps his finest vocal and one which would have seen Glenn Frey proudly smiling down. Each band member got their showcase, which saw bassist Timothy Schmit revisit some of his ballads and main man Joe Walsh belt out his quirky songs and blazing guitar solos. 

Nowadays the band uses two drummers so that Don Henley can move to stage front and play a bit of rhythm guitar now and again. It was Don who raised the roof with ‘Heartache Tonight’ and had everyone up on their feet and dancing in the aisles. At 10.15pm they left the stage to wait for the crowd roar that would bring them back again.  The intro to the most famous song in the world ‘Hotel California’ had all the mobile flashlights coming on and the crowd jubilation factor was off the scale! Security had long given up telling fans not to film and I’m sure that no one left the stadium that night without at least having filmed a minute of this iconic anthem crowning a perfect concert. They were called back again but I was hearing their roars from outside Wembley, now hurrying back to walk to my hotel avoiding the throngs.

This dinosaur went to Wembley to see ‘The Eagles’ and was simply overjoyed speechless and spellbound when a bunch of fellow dinosaurs (by their own admission) held the stage for over two and a half hours and left a full house Wembley Stadium asking for more. More of what may I ask? You couldn’t have extracted one more ounce of musical energy from this band! They gave it their all and this after a long and illustrious career that even saw them split up for eight years and then reform again, proving that the sum of its parts is not greater than the whole ‘Eagles’.

If you were around in the mid-seventies and have not yet seen them, put them on your bucket list now because I guarantee that there are not too many concerts left in The Eagles’ tank. They were certainly not running on empty but there is a limit to the reserve a dinosaur tank can hold. Till next time, remember to breathe music, it’s better than air and good for the soul.

TAKE THAT – to party in Gib

in Culture Insight
Take That
Take That

Formed in Manchester in 1989, the band currently consists of Gary Barlow composer and lead singer, Howard Donald and Mark Owen. Of course, people of a “certain age” will recall the original line-up that featured Jason Orange and Robbie Williams. And over time, there have been reunions of sorts – whether on the stage or in the studio. They’ve had a string of chart hits behind them and some very successful million-selling studio albums.

And the good news for Gibraltar is that they’re coming to the Rock for Gibraltar Calling 2019.

We’re talking about a world class touring band which obviously doesn’t come cheap or small – it’s a big brand and a huge coup to have booked them. We can rest assured that we’re in for a real treat whether a fan or not, because their song catalogue comprises of melodious and heartwarming songs that have become a soundtrack to the lives of romantically-inclined pop music lovers.

Songs like Relight my Fire (1993), Back for Good (2005), Patience (2006), Rule the World (2006), Shine (2006), The Flood (2010), are among the best pop written in the last thirty years, and having witnessed their spectacular show a few years ago here on our big screen worldwide release night, I can vouch for their exciting performance and showmanship. It will crown our new Europa National Stadium and also celebrates the MTV/Gibraltar Government tie-up music festival contract which expires then.

Their 7th Tour: ‘Take That’ presents The Circus Live, begun 10 years ago in 2009 on June 5th at Sunderland’s Stadium of light and ended at Wembley Stadium a month later on July 5th. It was seen by over a million people and made a profit of £40,560,000. At the time it was the fastest selling tour ever with all 600,000 tickets sold for the original eight dates in only five hours! Their current tour sees them in Amsterdam, Zurich, Paris and Berlin and they have revealed that they will embark on a huge UK tour and European tour to celebrate their thirtieth anniversary. That is why that with a little bit of magic and fairy dust we will be proudly hosting them here on the Rock.

Gary Barlow’s net worth is estimated to be around £49.6 million, and he has written thirteen UK number one singles. Jason Orange who left the band in 2014 is worth $30million, to put some perspective into that, Brian May from Queen is estimated to be worth $175million (nearly £138million), so you can appreciate why superstars need to continue to work. They simply want to keep climbing up the rich list to outdo each other (joke), but more importantly, they always reinvent themselves and are always slaves to their concert reputation and song catalogues. That is why we love them, which then translates into their ‘bigger better richer’ and the trappings of their fame.

If life at the top isn’t too much fun because of all the hard work and travelling they should try retiring, but then we would all lose out because we wouldn’t be able to worship them at these huge concerts, the likes of which the Rock can be proud to host one soon in our ever-growing Music Festival.

If you haven’t got your Gibraltar Calling Music Festival tickets yet, get your skates on, as incredible as it sounds, they will sell out. Look at how Andrea Bocelli tickets sold out in just two days. He’s here for our National Week Concert on September 9th. We can do the impossible but miracles may take a little longer as they say. Till next time, ‘try a little patience’ breathe music … it’s cleaner than air, and good for your soul too!

The Rocks WWII History

in Culture Insight/Features/History Insight

There has always been an interest in Gibraltar by countries much bigger than us. This majestic limestone Rock, an icon which we call home, has been featured on many TV channels across the world for several reasons but mainly due to our unique historical links with the UK and a neighbouring country which has designs on our future and wants
to absorb us into its geography.

Recently local historian Tito Vallejo was interviewed by TV Arte on the subject of ‘Operation Copperhead’ the official military name for a brilliant deception ruse by Dudley Clarke for British Intelligence during WW2 which fooled the Germans into thinking that General Montgomery was here on 26th May 1944 (and in another location in Africa later).The successful operation later spawned a war film called ‘I was Monty’s Double.’ The operation involved Australian actor Miles Mander who posed here as the British General so that spies would report his whereabouts and mislead the German commanders in the days immediately preceding the Normandy landings. Tito takes me over the story which he told TV Arte for ‘Invitacion au voyage’, a cultural TV magazine which airs in France and Germany.

“The Operation worked out beautifully and I think that British actor David Niven, who was a military commander, was also one of the architects, as you have to remember that Churchill had a double who was used to hide the whereabouts of the real Winston Churchill. The fake Montgomery was only here on an overnight stay and was invited to a Governor’s reception at the Convent so that he would be seen by spies here. The Governor played out the charade with ease because Mander was such a good double. From here he was flown to North Africa to direct attention away from Monty’s real location.”

Tito was kept busy on location by the TV Arte film crew mostly talking about ‘Operation Copperhead’ outside the Convent where at the time of the wartime operation the British wanted Monty’s double to be seen, and they also filmed at the airfield where he had landed and taken off purely for the benefit of the German spies operating in the area. “They fell for it hook, line and sinker because as we all know the British are masters at that sort of deception. They also conducted a similar operation with ‘The Man Who Never Was’ when the body of a fake military man with a briefcase full of fake secret documents washed up on a nearby Spanish shore, again with the sole purpose of fooling the German high command with false intelligence about the British and Allied military operational intentions.”


Directing the Gibraltar filming for TV Arte was French producer Camelia Encinas who previously directed a similar five minute magazine segment on the occasion of the sixtieth anniversary of the wedding on the Rock of Beatle John Lennon and Yoko Ono. On that occasion my name had been put up for it and I took the TV crew to the airfield for the backdrop of their iconic wedding photograph and to the Law Courts forecourt where the old registry was located to show them the location where the famous Beatle’s wedding took place just over fifty years ago. I have a copy of the travel TV Arte magazine ‘Invitacion au voyage’ programme in which the Rock and its popular tourist attractions like the apes and cable car are featured and although it’s dubbed in French it can be appreciated as a high quality culture and travel segment on another more recent aspect of our history. That one was screened early last year and the ‘Operation Copperhead’ feature with Tito Vallejo will have been screened on June 11th as the producer confirmed to me last month. I have every reason to believe that it will be worth watching out for because she sent me a link to see the edited TV segment.

Coming back to my recent chat with Tito I was struck by his infectious and light hearted approach to our history, which importantly is always backed by photographs of what he talks about. His mobile was chock-a-block with pictures that bring many a great story to life and he has things in the pipeline which will be a joy to see and hear stories about. He regularly lectures at our University, in our schools and in the Campo schools too, with frequent invitations to lecture further across the border. His talks (he prefers that term to lectures) he tells me are always richly illustrated with the wealth of photographs he showed me as he told me many stories that describe the pictures.

“You know that we have such a vast pool of history here that is really interesting like the ‘human torpedoes’ and the diver mother ship ‘Olterra’ anchored in the bay, from where they operated. A film was made about that called ‘The Silent Enemy.’ Operation Tracer, Stay Behind Cave, Operation Torch and many other stories and their locations should invite us to do a lot more about selling our rich history. It hasn’t got to be totally serious and it can all be backed up by humour, photographs and released secret documents.” We have all been duped at some point in our travels abroad when we go on historical tours which don’t even begin to compare with the richness and heritage that we have here.

At this point he shows me official Spanish identity papers belonging to Spanish prostitutes who used to work here when the Gibraltar Governors had to pay more attention to the ‘recreational’ needs of the several thousand troops garrisoned here and, more importantly, when the home fleet came in and there simply had to be more busy ladies entertaining in New Street and in the cabarets dotted along our Main Street. He showed me some spectacular photographs of the Spanish dancers of the day and of himself as a very young boy on a little tricycle inside the ‘Winter Gardens’ (taken in daytime of course) which was then among the top cabarets in town.


Tito Vallejo lives and breathes local history and you will regularly have seen him with the History Re-Enactment Society marches which give the tourists and our Main Street great character and photo opportunities, providing historically themed entertainment on Saturday mornings. Next time you see one of his talks advertised at the University or anywhere else, don’t miss it because you will be enriched by great stories and the great pictures he has which back them up. He should publish a book soon just to get all this material off his chest.

He will find a ready market for it here I’m sure. Should he not do so soon, this writer will be chatting to him again and will bring you snippets and teasers that make our history truly come alive. The French producer said in her email to me … ‘Well done Tito’. I want to add that as soon as he agreed to participate for the ‘Operation Copperhead’ segment, I knew I had put her on to a winner and the finished TV segment richly illustrated with archive film and Tito’s commentary (dubbed in French) is definitely a winner.

Hammond, a star still rising at 75

in Culture Insight

How many famous people do you know whose life journey has been blessed with success through hard work and good fortune but they simply don’t want to retire because they seem to have found their calling? Not too many I bet. But I do know one who just fits that description and he’s very famous and very passionate – but he is getting on and in a rare heart to heart he agreed to share his philosophy.

His name is Albert Hammond and he is a local universal legend who has touched the hearts of many millions through his wonderful music. Read on and enjoy a success story that is still unfolding even after most of us have retired at sixty thinking that perhaps we had done enough.

“I’m not 30 anymore, I just turned 75. I’m still as motivated as ever, still always moving and full of energy just like the universe. You see as I journeyed through my life I realized I was not into being famous or making tons of money, I knew that would all come with success, but it would only satisfy my ego and not my spirit, and what is fame?” He pauses here to reflect for a moment: “Think of all the famous bad guys from the beginning of human existence. Then think that after all, life goes by like the blink of an eye and then you die – so for me it was always about something else.” Fame has not really changed Albert Hammond, he is still humble, creative and restless, always looking for new ideas for new songs which he knows may never get published (he records them into his two phones) but he is still searching and still open to learning.

“I grew up in the times of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, the Dali Lama and I read the teachings of Buddha, Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet and even read a little of Rumi. These were my spiritual heroes and they didn’t care about being famous, they cared about humanity and the world, their goal

was to help society through goodness, through kindness with love, compassion and empathy and being conscious. I wanted even in a tiny way to live that mystical journey, to be a small part of that spiritual world.”

The memories linger and come back vividly. “I remember my mother telling me a story that while pregnant with me in London she would encounter an image, more so a spiritual energy, every night outside the window of the 8th floor of the building she lived in, and she told me that one night she felt it come to her womb and never saw it again, so I’ve always believed this to be the explanation of why I found my love for music.” That enduring love is not unlike the strong bond which beckons to him to come back here to visit his mum regularly.

“She’s over 99 years of age and is now at the John Mackintosh Home, but a few weeks ago when I went to see her and asked her to tell me about those times during the war in 1944, she still tells me that same story.” Albert was born in the UK during the evacuation years but that graphic story that his mother tells him is very present in his mind. “It’s really amazing to me and I have never forgotten that. I lived in Shakery’s Passage until the age of seven and always knew that music would be my life and my afterlife. My life because I did it whilst living and my afterlife  because my music, my energy and my spirit will  live on after I’m gone.“ That last statement is sobering but so true, you only have to think of the musical legacy of many great composers and it seems that they are still here with us.

“I learnt many spiritual and mystical lessons whilst growing up and going through my journey, some good and some not so good, but the most important one was humility, staying humble and true to yourself, knowing that what you did as a singer songwriter changed peoples’ lives for the better, it helped those in pain and those who had terminal diseases, it brought people together and in my case because I grew up on the Rock, which is also a privilege, because of that I was able to do it for two cultures. The Anglo and the Latin and I can now say that was and is still my purpose.”

There it is – that explains his calling. He doesn’t do it for himself, although he has to feed his ego and to be able to enjoy what he does in his concerts he has to be secure and happy in himself and always give 100% – which explains why his peers have finally invited him to play at the biggest green field music festival in the world – Glastonbury.

“So now we go to Glastonbury and yes of course I’m excited and it’s a wonderful achievement, very fulfilling and it’s a wonderful stage to play where all the greats have left their fingerprints. It’s just as incredible as being responsible for the sale of over 300,000,000 records, or The Hall of Fame or The Emmy, The Ivor Novello nomination to the Oscars, the Golden Globes, the Grammys, even the OBE and yes of course now finally – the biggest Rock Festival – Glastonbury and am I excited?  Yes of course I wouldn’t be human if I wasn’t, but at the end of your life all will be forgotten. Every now and then someone will mention your name, maybe on your birthday. But my music will live on, and no one can ever take that away. That’s why I’m here, that is my purpose in life.”

Hammond will play at the iconic Glastonbury, a musical milestone reserved for legends, on Sunday June 30. He will play the sub headliner spot on the Acoustic Stage (40,000 capacity arena) and will precede American Country Rock artist Rickie Lee Jones who tops the bill, but his catalogue eclipses most contemporary songwriters.

 “At the ripe old age of 75 I’m invited to play Glastonbury, the largest green field music festival in the world. Wow, how exciting is that and even more so because I’m from Gibraltar”. This milestone concert in Hammond’s illustrious career celebrates him as a song writer with a career spanning over five decades of hits and importantly as an artist in his own right. Although he would have known that his name was on the cards for Glastonbury the reality is a sobering thought. “Who would have thought some kid from Gibraltar was ever going to play Glastonbury?”

“Sometimes I think back to my childhood days on the Rock which were wonderful and that dream that was always in me and still is. Now I know my purpose in life and that is to touch people with my music”

It’s a well-known fact that he’s  touched the hearts of 300,000,000 people with his songs that have been sung by top artists like Whitney Houston, Tina Turner, Starship Trooper, The Hollies, Julio Iglesias, Willie Nelson, Leo Sayer and many others in the Latin markets.

“I’ve had an incredible career both as a songwriter and a performer and I’ve accepted many awards and nominations, but to be invited to play Glastonbury has to be one of my highlights”. Albert Hammond is now at a stage of his touring career that has regularly seen him play many major cities and summer festivals over the last five years, but the thrill of playing Glastonbury this year has crowned his recent 75th birthday celebrations. “It is one the most iconic festivals in the world and so many incredible artists have performed there, like David Bowie, The Who, Radiohead, Cold Play and  Adele, just to name a few, so for me it’s another milestone in my career and what an exciting one it is”.

I couldn’t pass on the opportunity of asking him how he would pick the set list from his vast catalogue of hits. “One of the problems I have is what songs do I leave out, as you well know I was given an Ivor Novello Award for ‘Outstanding Song Catalogue’ a few years ago, so choosing the Glastonbury repertoire will not be easy because there are songs that I can’t leave out like ‘It Never Rains In Southern California’, ‘Free Electric Band’,’ The Air That I Breathe’, ‘When I Need You’, ‘When You Tell Me That You Love Me’, ‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now’ and ‘One Moment In Time’, to name but a few”.  Well Hammond’s star is in the ascendancy as all these things unfold, and there are plans to release a new album and for a US tour all lined up for next year. “Last year I played ‘Proms in the Park’ at Hyde Park and now this year ‘Glastonbury’, so if you ask me how I feel, I feel really grateful.”

It will remain one of the unfortunate conundrums of our life and times if we as his community miss out and don’t welcome back this national treasure, who keeps making so many people feel good with his wonderful music and give him the ‘home concert’ he so richly deserves. A concert with all the stops pulled out and all tickets selling out in the new stadium, because that is what should happen before he decides to stop touring. As the US is seeing him tour next year, I wonder whether that will finally be the clincher to spring our movers and shakers into action and claim a date for Gibraltar in Albert Hammond’s diary. That will be one for the history books in which we can all share.

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