Category: Live Reports (Page 1 of 35)

CHINA CRISIS Live at The Stables

CHINA CRISIS, THIS IS YOUR LIFE!

It was to Laurie Johnson’s iconic TV theme tune that Gary Daly and Eddie Lundon walked onto the stage to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of CHINA CRISIS as a recording act with the ‘Classic Crisis – Greatest Hits’ show.

The location was The Stables in Wavendon, a village just on the edge of Milton Keynes; the venue had been originally established by jazz legends Sir John Dankworth and Dame Cleo Laine in 1970, within the former stables block of their home, hence the name.

The entertainment began with a few anecdotes from Daly; an engaging raconteur who could probably get a spot on BBC comedy showcase ‘Live At The Apollo’, he apologised for the lack of visuals which has been seen at other shows, as the laptop containing them had been stolen from his car along with some stage clothes. But the story didn’t end there as Daly had thoughtfully placed a tracker on the computer and told of how the band gave chase and ended up at a local supermarket. They spotted the thief dumping the stage clothes into a charity recycling bin before legging it with the laptop!

It was an evening filled with laughter and music as Daly continued about how he and Lundon had met at St Kevin’s Catholic Boy School in Kirkby near Liverpool and began making music together, partly because they just about hated everyone else who attended! Similarly to OMD, the duo purchased their first synthesizer from a Kays mail order catalogue belonging to Lundon’s mother; it was familiar to Daly as he recalled, for the ladies’ underwear section, which ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK would like to add, was always easy to find as it was after the ladies shoes section!

Settling on a monophonic Yamaha CS10, Lundon used it to play just three notes on their debut single ‘African & White’.

It was at this point that the musical part of the show began with regular sidemen Jack Hymers on synth and saxophonist Eric Animan joined by a drummer, backing vocalist, bassist and another two guitarists (including Stuart Nisbet who played with CHINA CRISIS in 1986-87) to become Merseyside’s answer to BLAZIN’ SQUAD!

In true ‘This Is Your Life’ style, the setlist was primarily chronological as CHINA CRISIS ran through the highlights of their career and told the stories that behind them. Daly took joy in reminiscing about how they were signed by Virgin Records and became a “threat” to label mates and rival Merseyside duo OMD; “When Paul Humphreys and Andy McCluskey saw our photos, they must have thought ‘the game’s over’” Daly delightfully quipped.

But while OMD were affectionately the butt of the humour throughout the evening with the CC33 front man stating “we wrote about our girlfriends, but Andy McCluskey wrote about atomic bombs and genetics, typical pretentious sixth former…”, CHINA CRISIS were capable of haunting anti-war commentary too, as their first hit ‘Christian’ taken off the ‘Difficult Shapes & Passive Rhythms’ album proved. Meanwhile ‘Here Comes A Raincloud’ was an emotive observation on the plight of the working classes in Merseyside as it was ripped apart under the leadership of Margaret Thatcher.

Given a slight Mexican flavour, CHINA CRISIS’ biggest UK hit ‘Wishful Thinking’ was followed by its sister song ‘It’s Never Too Late’, a rare number even in the wider Crisis Canon and deservedly given a platform on this 40th Anniversary tour.

Written by Daly in response to the Lundon-penned ‘Wishful Thinking’, it was originally recorded as part of the ‘Working With Fire & Steel’ album sessions produced by Mike Howlett.

However ‘It’s Never Too Late’ was dropped from the tracklisting for having a similar Emulator I string aesthetic and arrangement despite being of equal quality; it ended up being a bonus song on the limited edition second 12” of ‘Black Man Ray’ so was hardly heard even by CHINA CRISIS fans until it showed up on the 2017 deluxe reissue of third album ‘Flaunt The Imperfection’. “We should have released it after ‘Wishful Thinking’, we would have had another international hit and wouldn’t be here!” bantered Daly, “Like how many times have OMD played The Stables??? Like NEVER!”

‘Black Man Ray’ closed the first half of the show, with Daly recalling the excitement of working with the late Walter Becker of STEELY DAN who was bowled over by the song’s catchy simplicity. But he warned the audience that the second half would feature less hits but still lots of good songs; this was delivered with ‘It’s Everything’ from ‘What Price Paradise’ and the 1986 album’s lead single ‘Arizona Sky’, a song which today sounds like the massive hit it never actually was.

After ‘Sweet Charity In Adoration’ off 1989’s ‘Diary Of A Hollow Horse’ which had been recorded in Hawaii with Walter Becker and passing over the 1994 long player ‘Warped By Success’, CHINA CRISIS quickly moved onto songs from their crowdfunded comeback record ‘Autumn In The Neighbourhood’ issued in 2015.

Following the smooth ‘Fool’, a tune developing on the soulful moods of ‘You Did Cut Me’ featuring Lundon on lead vocals, the show concluded with what Daly termed “a Saturday Night Disco”.

After the mature audience stood and danced to the bouncy pop grooves of ‘King In A Catholic Style’ and ‘Tragedy & Mystery’, the final wind down came with ‘My Sweet Delight’ from ‘Autumn In The Neighbourhood’ as a poignant dedication to loved ones who have passed on…

While CHINA CRISIS didn’t achieve quite as many hits as their Virgin label mates OMD, THE HUMAN LEAGUE and SIMPLE MINDS did, they still had enough of them to enable them to work with their musical heroes, see the world and are today still popular enough to tour regularly with North America as well as their first shows in Australia and New Zealand now on the 2022 itinerary.

With a 50th Anniversary tour unlikely as Daly joked to everyone present that “half of you won’t be here!”, this was an enjoyable and entertaining celebration of possible pop songs, savouring not just the music but the enlightening and comical stories that helped to inspire them as well.


‘What Price Paradise’ is reissued as a 3CD deluxe set by Virgin Records

The ‘Classic Crisis – Greatest Hits’ live DVD is released on 22nd July 2022, pre-order from https://www.musicglue.com/chinacrisis/

CHINA CRISIS tour North America in June / July 2022 and Australia / New Zealand in December 2022 while they will be opening for Kim Wilde on her ‘Greatest Hits’ UK tour in September 2022

https://www.facebook.com/chinacrisisofficial/

https://twitter.com/ChinaCrisisUK

https://www.instagram.com/garydalymusic/

https://open.spotify.com/artist/0WUphJOGHE5i95IeR87hsO


Text and Photos by Chi Ming Lai
25th April 2022

NATION OF LANGUAGE Live at Lafayette

The rise of New York-based trio NATION OF LANGUAGE has been steady but as 2021 concluded, the UK took a keen interest, thanks to championing by BBC 6 Music.

This resulted in a sell-out 2022 British tour and an extra date at XOYO on the London leg after a premiere capital appearance in the more modest confines of Lafayette. However, the intimate surroundings of the latter was the perfect venue to showcase their sharp synthy spirit fused with a notion of anguish.

Front man Ian Devaney became interested in using synths after hearing OMD’s ‘Electricity’ in his father’s car. There is a distinct Northern Englishness about NATION OF LANGUAGE that also takes in JOY DIVISION while a Germanic precision can be identified in their rhythm construction.

It was no big surprise that an extremely warm welcome greeted the trio in London, with attendees ranging from beard hipsters and cool indie girls to middle aged bald men who might have worn long raincoats in their student days. Swathed in sequencers and electronic effect, ‘Rush & Fever’ from the debut album ‘Introduction, Presence’ opened the hour long set.

The evening’s styles varied from the wistful OMD atmospherics of ‘Wounds Of Love’ to the frantic NEU! gone post-punk thrash of ‘Across That Fine Line’.

The excellent if blatant NEW ORDER homage ‘On Division St’ got the first big cheer of the evening and sounded even more like ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ live while with a hint of a more intense A-HA, there was the glorious electronic pop of ‘Friend Machine’ which examined society’s addiction to technology.

NATION OF LANGUAGE have an unusual stage dynamic that just works; Ian Devaney is anxious and energetic with the persona of someone who has been sacked from the much-missed MIRRORS for wearing a T-shirt. Meanwhile his wife Aidan Noell is the sexy synth minx who could easily be running a Brooklyn fashion boutique and rock solid bassist Michael Sui-Poi looks as if he belongs in an alternative rock band.

The second NATION OF LANGUAGE album is appropriately titled ‘A Way Forward’, but despite the cautious optimism from the future, it has been the songs such as ‘The Grey Commute’ and ‘This Fractured Mind’ that have connected to the reality of recent times for audiences. The former paid tribute to ULTRAVOX! and KRAFTWERK with hypnotic mechanised rhythms and octave laden backdrop, while the latter to cheers of approval has been the best song of 2021 for many with its incessant Motorik drive and catchy synth hooks.

Encoring with a great bleep ‘n’ buzz cover of THE PIXIES’ ‘Gouge Away’ that was no less agitated than the original, ‘The Wall & I’ closed proceedings as it did on ‘Introduction, Presence’.

Reminding the wider musical world that synths and drum machines can sit next to bass guitar for an absorbing danceable pop sound without any loss of soul or emotion, NATION OF LANGUAGE partied like it was 1980 and delivered with an enjoyable musical escape following a down trodden few months of uncertainty for all.

An engaging and spirited performance, the next time that NATION OF LANGUAGE tour the UK, you can be sure they will be playing much bigger venues.


‘A Way Forward’ is available in CD and vinyl LP formats, download available from https://nationoflanguage.bandcamp.com/album/a-way-forward

https://www.nationoflanguage.com/

https://www.facebook.com/nationoflanguage

https://twitter.com/notionofanguish

https://www.instagram.com/nationoflanguage/


Text and Photos by Chi Ming Lai
4th February 2022

From The Port To The Bridge: The Story of THOMAS LEER & ROBERT RENTAL

First established as an exhibition in Greenock during the Autumn of 2018, ‘From The Port To The Bridge: The Story of Thomas Leer & Robert Rental’ recently made its London debut at The Horse Hospital in Russell Square.

Released at the end of 1979, ‘The Bridge’ was the only album by Port Glaswegians Thomas Leer and Robert Rental whose respective solo singles ‘Private Plane’ and ‘Paralysis’ were among 1978 pioneering electronic independent releases which also included THE HUMAN LEAGUE, THE NORMAL and CABARET VOLTAIRE.

To launch the London leg of the exhibition which was attended by luminaries such as John Foxx, Stephen Mallinder and Brian Griffin, a special event was held featuring talk by Daniel Miller who had toured in the guise of THE NORMAL with Robert Rental as a duo opening for Ulster punk bank STIFF LITTLE FINGERS in Spring 1979. As well as loaning his still-working Korg 700s with which he made ‘Warm Leatherette’ for display, his label Mute will be reissuing ‘The Bridge’ as a white vinyl LP edition and CD via their imprint The Grey Area.

Thomas Leer and Robert Rental had met working as gardeners and shared a love of TONTO’S EXPANDING HEAD BAND. Using just two EDP Wasp synthesizers, an EDP Spider sequencer, a guitar and recording equipment provided by THROBBING GRISTLE who originally released the album on their Industrial Records, ‘The Bridge’ is considered a landmark in DIY and experimental electronic music.

As stated on the back of the cover: ”This album was recorded at home on 8 track equipment, provided for us by Industrial Records. It was produced in two weeks dating 18th June to 2nd July. All blips clicks & unseemly noises were generated by refrigerators & other domestic appliances & are intrinsic to the music.”

Comprising of a side of five songs and a side with four ambient instrumentals, the best known track on ‘The Bridge’ is the pulsating dystopia of ‘Day Breaks, Night Heals’ which found itself playlisted regularly at The Blitz Club.

Other highlights included the appropriately titled ‘Attack Decay’ which undoubtedly influenced John Foxx in his ‘Metamatic’ period, the hopeless claustrophobia of ‘Connotations’ and the spacey Eno-inspired soundscape of ‘Interferon’.

The uneasy creative tension between Thomas Leer and Robert Rental revealed itself in the eventual recordings, especially with THROBBING GRISTLE deliberately withholding their best equipment. In a short film of interviews shown as part of the evening, Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti confirmed it was all part of their mind games to ensure the Scottish pair captured the spirit of their demos and retained their own unique sound, whilst gaining an improvement in sound quality. Carter set up the equipment in the shy and introverted Rental’s London flat and with minimal guidance, let them get on with their voyage of discovery with a deadline of a week (later extended by another week) to complete the album.

It was within the THROBBING GRISTLE axis that Robert Rental had met Daniel Miller, leading eventually to the release of the ‘Double Heart’ single as MUTE 010 but in-between, they played a number of shows together and it was this aspect of the story that the conversation with Daniel Miller hosted by exhibition curator Simon Dell focussed on.

Among the amusing stories, Miller talked of how due to the touch-sensitive membrane keyboard of the Wasp, it would play by itself when overheating under stage lights while with regards to the upcoming reissue of ‘The Bridge’, how important it was not to clean the album up too much although to make it sound good on Spotify, the trick was to “compress the f*ck out of it”.

After the release of the raw ‘Live at West Runton Pavilion, 6-3-79’ one-sided album on Rough Trade, Robert Rental went on to produce the soundtrack for The Comic Strip’s 1984 feature ‘A Fistful of Traveller’s Cheques’. But despite the support of Daniel Miller to continue in music, ever the perfectionist and concerned that Mute might release material that he felt was not of the required standard, Rental retired from the industry; he sadly passed away in 2000.

Thomas Leer went on to release the album ‘Scale Of Ten’ on Arista in 1985 and formed ACT with Claudia Brücken who recorded just one long player ‘Laughter Tears & Rage’ for ZTT in 1988. After a career break, he began releasing music again in 2001.

Photo by Chris Carter

Now living in Greenock and unable to attend the exhibition launch in person, Leer was represented by an insightful new interview filmed by his brother just a few weeks before.

One of the highlights in his forthright anecdotes was his dismay at how DIY was misperceived by the too cool for school crowd as his Fairlight programming was done at home before entering the studio, making it valid as a DIY product as much his 1982 album ‘Contradictions’ on Cherry Red Records.

With records, photographs, press cuttings, film and equipment including an EDP Wasp and Boss Dr Rhythm DR55 drum machine to tell one of the forgotten stories of Synth Britannia, the pioneering legacy of Thomas Leer & Robert Rental deserves greater recognition and this exhibition provides just that.


‘From The Port To The Bridge: The Story of Thomas Leer & Robert Rental’ runs at The Horse Hospital in London until 10th February 2022, entry to the exhibition is free but pre-booking is required at https://www.thehorsehospital.com/events/from-the-port-to-the-bridge

‘The Bridge’ is reissued by The Grey Area in limited edition white vinyl LP, CD and digital fomats, pre-order or pre-save via https://mute.ffm.to/TheBridge

https://www.facebook.com/leerandrentalexhibition

https://twitter.com/leer_and


Text by Chi Ming Lai with thanks to Simon Helm
24th January 2022

SOFT CELL Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret Live In London

1981 was a sensational year for electronic pop music and along with albums from THE HUMAN LEAGUE, JAPAN, KRAFTWERK and OMD, SOFT CELL’s ‘Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret’ was among the best.

Despite a farewell show at London’s O2 Arena in 2018, Marc Almond and Dave Ball decided a 40th Anniversary tour of that classic album was in order, along with a brand new long player ‘*Happiness Not Included’ to be released in Spring 2022.

As one of the most subversive acts in popular culture, SOFT CELL found themselves part of a celebrity world after the unexpected success of their breakthrough single ‘Tainted Love’; escaping to New York to record and mix their debut album, they found themselves the toast of The Big Apple, mingling with the likes of Divine, Madonna and Andy Warhol in the city’s hedonistic club scene.

‘Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret’ is a document of that period which also contained narratives on dirty old men, prostitution, grooming, sexual deviance, personal grievance, tabloid sensationalism, political scandal, middle class entitlement and living in squalor.

But this tour was not just about 40 years of ‘Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret’ but also SOFT CELL in the present day. After opening with the 1982 No2 hit ‘Torch’, Almond and Ball showcased several songs from ‘*Happiness Not Included’.

Although ‘Bruises on All My Illusions’ and ‘Heart Like Chernobyl’ had already been premiered on streaming platforms, the new record’s promise was outlined with the cinematic drama of ‘Happy Happy Happy’ and the tense Italo Noir of the ironically titled ‘Nostalgia Machine’.

‘Monoculture’ reflected on the first SOFT CELL reunion of the early 21st Century, but the evening was also an opportunity to perform a few songs that were not part of The O2 extravaganza. Most welcome was the glorious ‘Kitchen Sink Drama’ with its tale of a bored lonely housewife and her growing dependency, while the Latin-flavoured goth of ‘L’esqualita’ and the exhilarating electro-schaffel of ‘Divided Soul’ also got deserved airings.

However, ‘Where the Heart Is’, ‘The Art of Falling Apart’ and ‘Martin’ provided points of familiarity for Cellmates to end Act 1, with Ball providing a particularly blistering Eno-esque solo to the sophomore album title song.

Throughout this first half of the show, the audience appeared confused as to whether to get up and dance, resulting in perhaps a more muted response than Almond would have liked. But that was all remedied for Act 2 when the curtain went up for a live run through of ‘Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret’ in its entirety and in order.

With original autobiographical lyrics by Dave Ball about his own father, ‘Frustration’ was the magnificent opener to ‘Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret’ and its embodiment of suburban middle aged angst still resonates today. The positioning of ‘Tainted Love’ though so early in the set only highlighted the brilliance of the other nine songs on the album.

The smooth sleaze of ‘Seedy Films’ was enhanced by Gary Barnacle on sax who toured with SOFT CELL back in the day and projections of Soho’s sex industry neon signs.

Billie Godfrey alluringly deputised for Josie Warden of VICIOUS PINK PHENOMENA’s role before Almond cheekily asked the remaining backing singers Louise Marshall, Bryan Chambers and Simon King “Isn’t that YOU on the screen?”

After a poignant ‘Youth’ visualised by vintage home movie footage, a mighty ‘Sex Dwarf’ blasted forth accompanied by cued crowd screams. Things were going well but it got even better with ‘Entertain Me’ and ‘Chips On My Shoulder’, both chant-friendly highlights from ‘Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret’ that got the now warmed-up crowd hoarse and allowed Almond to indulge in his performance art energetics. Then there was an ecstatic treat in the extended Early Morning Dance Side version of ‘Bedsitter’, complete with rap to start the nightlife over again.

Whether it has been John Profumo, Jeremy Thorpe, Cecil Parkinson, Jeffrey Archer, David Mellor, Paddy Ashdown or Matt Hancock, the superb Northern Soul tinged ‘Secret Life’ captured the continuing spectre of the British political sex scandal while on the same subject, the evergreen melodramatics of ‘Say Hello Wave Goodbye’ provided a magnificent Act 2 conclusion with the final chorus sung entirely by all present.

The encore allowed for another newbie in the catchy ERASURE sounding ‘Purple Zone’, by far the most convincing song from ‘*Happiness Not Included’, before ‘Memorabilia’ provided the end of night dance off with Almond joining Ball in his synth complex to wave goodbye.

Saying hello, waving goodbye and saying hello again, SOFT CELL have more than demonstrated their four decade longevity

Despite a slow start from the mature crowd, it was eventually a fine night of dancing, laughing, drinking and loving. There was no standing alone at The Pink Flamingo tonight or crying in the rain.


Special thanks to Debbie Ball at Create Spark

‘Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret’ is still available via Universal Music in various formats from the usual retailers

The new SOFT CELL album ‘*Happiness Not Included’ is released on 6th May 2022 via BMG, pre-order from https://softcell.tmstor.es/

http://www.softcell.co.uk

https://www.facebook.com/softcellband/

https://twitter.com/softcellhq

https://www.instagram.com/softcellhq/


Text and Photos by Chi Ming Lai
16th November 2021

RODNEY CROMWELL + MOOD TAEG Live at The Hope & Anchor

With Alice Hubble on DJ duties, the Hope & Anchor in Islington was the location for a Happy Robots Records family gathering that hosted the live return of label CEO Adam Cresswell in his Theatername of Rodney Cromwell and the debut gig of MOOD TAEG.

With his second Rodney Cromwell entitled ‘Memory Box’ now in the can and set to be unleased in Spring 2022, Cresswell and his band were keen to road test its contents in front of a receptive audience.

But for MOOD TAEG, it was a step into the unknown. The project comprising the enigmatic Düsseldorf pair of TDK and K’ko plus the absent Shanghai-based Lowell Freeman had never been conceived for live performance, but acclaim for the debut long player ‘Exophora’ and interest in its newly released follow-up ‘Anaphora’ has sparked demand.

However, nerves were undoubtedly kicking in, but after a few technical glitches were resolved, MOOD TAEG finally got the motorik on the move with ‘Deictics’ from ‘Exophora’ recalling the cosmic adventures of yore with a mind bending effect.

From ‘Anaphora’, ‘Happiness Fragment’ developed on its rhythmic groove with a pentatonic synthbass mantra although there were a few iffy moments on TDK’s borrowed guitar as it pierced the speakers on occasion.

But for the HARMONIA inspired ‘Ohrwurm’, there was a move away from Apache beats with K’ko augmenting on violin. Ending with an appropriate musical homage to Michael Rother, ‘2MR’ offered 10 minutes of Motorik Durch Technik as they say in Düsseldorf in the vein of NEU!

Understandably since last performing 2 years ago, Rodney Cromwell was a bit stage rusty with a few leads left unplugged, but tonight was about embracing the fear and exorcising the ‘Age Of Anxiety’. Cresswell took some joy in reminding the almost full venue that when JOY DIVISION played the Hope & Anchor in December 1978, only three people turned up!

Recalling ‘Tanzmusik’ from ‘KRAFTWERK’s ‘Ralf & Florian’ album, ‘Cloud Catalogue’ from ‘Memory Box’ opened the set. While this delightful instrumental was quite cheery, the new album looks at the social and political tribulations of the past few years. Intended as a soundtrack to a sadly post truth world, it is very different to the melancholic but upbeat synthpop sensibility of ‘Age Of Anxiety’.

In a month that has ironically seen some of those who have been moaning about fake news on mainstream media also celebrating the 40th Anniversary of DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Speak & Spell’ album on the incorrect date of 5th October, the ‘Memory Box’ title song’s release as a single has been timely.

The hazy but appealing metronomic number reflects in Cresswell’s own words on “how do we believe anything in a world where truth and honesty are of so little worth?”.

There was a comparatively lighter moment with the pulsating fan favourite ‘Black Dog’ given the harmonics treatment by guitarist Richard Salt, but the grim moods of ‘Fluctuations’ were made more haunting by the spacey keyboard swirls of Martin J Langthorne.

But Cresswell brought his Stylophone, along with his best Bernard Sumner impression for the premiere of ‘Opus Three’, Rodney Cromwell’s very own ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ if ever there was one, although the tribute perhaps isn’t quite as blatant as NATION OF LANGUAGE’s ‘On Division Street’! To finish the main part of the set, Rodney Cromwell and his band of not-so-merry men formed a melodica orchestra for the sombre wordless newbie ‘Calculations’.

Remaining on stage, Cresswell shouted “Do you want an encore?” to acknowledge the pretence of that accepted walk off practice. As he got into this spirit of showmanship with some Citizen Smith cosplay, appropriately it was ‘Barry Was An Arms Dealer’ that was the oldie that got dusted off while the more recent vocodered ‘Comrades’ concluded the evening.

While at times, both acts appeared a bit shaky and lost with long pauses between songs like on NEW ORDER’s ‘Taras Shevchenko’ live video, everyone including the audience just appeared to be happy be out mingling again. Music was what got many through the last 18 months and as times are still uncertain, music in its live variant will help to get everyone through the next year and a half.


The new Rodney Cromwell album ‘Memory Box’ is released by Happy Robots Records on 18th March 2022, the single of the same name is available now as a download from https://happyrobotsrecords.bandcamp.com/

https://www.happyrobots.co.uk/rodney-cromwell

https://www.facebook.com/rodneycromwellartist/

https://twitter.com/robot_rocker

https://www.instagram.com/rodney_cromwell/

MOOD TAEG’s ‘Anaphora’ is released by Happy Robots Records in vinyl LP and digital formats, available now direct from https://www.happyrobots.co.uk/product-page/mood-taeg-anaphora-12-coloured-lp-bot24

https://www.happyrobots.co.uk/mood-taeg

https://www.facebook.com/MoodTag/

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Text and Photos by Chi Ming Lai
30th October 2021

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