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  • Folk music meets Wham! for Christmas

    18 Dic 2014, 16:38

    Wed 17 Dec – Bella Hardy:

    I love Bella Hardy's music especially songs like Labyrinth and Herring Girl, but had never had the chance to hear her live until last night when she performed at St Pancras Old Church as part of her 'Christmas Tour'. This is a lovely old church although i wasn't convinced of the acoustics: Bella sounded lovely when she was singing softly but as the volume increased there was a harshness about the sound which made her voice sound more nasal than it should.

    The set list was eclectic: favourites like the afore mentioned Herring Girl along with new compositions (a song about WWI and one about childhood and Queen Elizabeth the First!) and Christmas pop hits. Her version of Wham's "Last Christmas" was rather brilliant but some of the others were a bit karaoke.

    I really liked the two musicians accompanying her: Anna Massey on acoustic guitar and Angus Lyon on keyboards, accordeon and... xylophone (or is the metal one a glockenspiel?). The banter between the three of them was also fun - and pretty educational at times.

    Anyhow, had a very good night all round, but think i'd rather see her in at a different venue and doing more of her stuff than she did last night.
  • Iranian World Music

    23 Nov 2014, 15:55

    Davod Azad's music seems to be divided between straight forward / traditional music and more experimental stuff, such as the poems by the poet Rumi that he set to music by Johann Sebastian Bach some years ago.

    Last night's concert, grandly titled Sat 22 Nov – On the Wings of Global Improvisation fell into the latter category. The master was accompanied by musicians who came from folk, and backgrounds. Some of the s that followed were a bit hit and miss, but when it worked it was superb with the second half of the concert being especially good.

    Davood Azad's voice is a bit lower, a bit less sweet than when I last heard him (but that was around a decade ago) but it is still one of the most experiences i can imagine. Live too, he has an energy that doesn't fully come across on recordings.

    The accompanying musicians were very good, although i couldn't make my mind up about the tabla player or whether the in this context really worked (shame because the tabla is generally one of my favourite instruments). My wife was particularly impressed with the sax player (but i think that may be because she loves the instrument).

    My main criticism around the concert was around its promotion, which seemed to be a bit poor. I only heard about the event by chance and an Iranian friend who makes a point of always going to hear Azad when he appears in London knew nothing about it till I happened to tell her. This probably explained why the auditorium was only about half full, whereas other Davod Azad concerts i've been to have been packed out.

    There were no CDs for sale either, which was unusual and the compere, who gave forth at length, appeared to speak no English (just as well that Azad himself seems to speak the language fluently). To be honest most of the crowd did appear to be from - but that points back to issues around its promotion again, because this hasn't been the case at other concerts.
  • Death and incest

    2 May 2013, 14:32

    Thu 25 Apr – Stravinsky: Apollon Musagète / Oedipus Rex

    Apollon Musagète i could've lived without but Oedipus Rex was amazing: musically and visually, with the soloists half-hidden in the orchestra and soloists and choir alike made up like ghouls. Lighting was used cleverly to add drama to the proceedings but the main thrill came from the power of the music itself which lived up to the myth.
  • The band played on

    2 Dic 2012, 20:25

    Thu 29 Nov – Beethoven Piano Concerto No 4 / Walton Symphony No 1 First the conductor and then the soloist were forced to withdraw because of illness, but the LSO came through magnificently.

    Sir John Eliot Gardiner (one of my musical heroes) took the place of Sir Colin Davis as conductor and a young Korean pianist, Sunwook Kim, stepped in to replace Elisabeth Leonskaja for Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4. The latter got a magnificent ovation for his performance but the real surprise to me was the Walton symphony which I hadn't expected to like. The LSO really seemed to put their hearts into playing it and the music put itself into mine. Quite a fierce piece too.
  • Unexpectedly fab

    28 Oct 2012, 10:45

    Thu 25 Oct – JALALU-KALVERT NELSON / DOMINIC LASH / ANGHARAD DAVIES / MARK SANDERS

    I had no idea what to expect of this gig as i'd never heard of Jalalu-Kalvert Nelson beforehand and he seems to have no discography (just lots of compositions, listed on his website: http://http://www.jalalukalvertnelson.com, which span to ).

    He is a trumpeter and also plays a massive (6 foot?) horn, called an . Amazing the sound that he gets out of the latter. I loved his playing too - unlike some of the set his tone is , as though some old-time trumpeter had gone .

    Apart from Jalalu we had Angharad Davies on violin, Dominic Lash on bass and Mark Sanders on drums. All excellent, especially Dominic Lash whose gigs and releases i'm going to be keeping an eye out for now. I bought a CD at the gig by a group called The Convergence Quartet which featured him and it is also wonderful.

    This was a session and you never know (i s'pose that's part of the attraction) how well the music will come together at these sorts of gigs. Well, it really came together at this one. Absolutely loved beautiful - but , with the musicians really listening to one another and no egos at all.
  • Berlin-Paris-Buenos Aires

    13 Feb 2011, 13:58

    Sat 11 Dec – LAST TANGO IN BERLIN: Ute Lemper started off the night by apologising for not being able to make the original date, 20 November, and then gave us our money's worth and a half, just to make sure we knew how sorry she was! I forget how long she performed for but it was a long show.

    The programme was a mixture of Brecht, torch songs and tangos by Astor Piazzolla, joined together with a narrative about a journey from Berlin to Paris to Buenos Aires... and then back again. In fact, i lost track of how many times we 'visited' each city and to be honest pretty well lost my way with the 'story' itself which started to bore me after a while.

    I also got a bit bored with the knowingness with which the songs were performed. I s'pose it's the nature of : the singer doesn't really inhabit the song, so much as play it for theatre. You sense them watching you watching them and watching themselves.

    The Brecht songs were probably the most satisfying. Not only did the theatricality feel more authentic there but Lemper also has just such a marvellous feeling for the beauty of as a language - and yes, you did read that right.

    Less successful, for me, were the Piazzolla pieces. Somehow Lemper never captured the spirit of his music, despite having an excellent guitarist (at least i think that's where she said he was from).

    She was in good voice and the back injury didn't seem to get in the way as she shimmied and strode about the stage. All in all, an interesting and enjoyable evening.
  • Kristin reads and sings

    30 Ene 2011, 11:58

    Mon 24 Jan – Kristin Hersh:

    I admit i haven't been keeping abreast of Kristin Hersh's career in recent years (being mostly a fan of her Throwing Muses stuff) so i had no idea she'd even written a book, never mind that she would be reading from it at the gig. Never mind, the book, a memoir based on a diary she kept in her late teens, is a delight as is Kristin's reading of it - at once world-weary, caustic, ironic and at the same time innocent, almost gauche.

    Each reading was followed up by a song, none of which were familiar to me. I had the impression they were specially written to compliment the readings but i may be wrong about this. At any rate, they were interesting songs, sometimes good songs, but for whatever reason didn't really grab me. I actually found i was looking forward to her reaching the end and starting the next excerpt.

    Maybe part of the problem was that i've never really got over the end of Throwing Muses (i miss that wonderful NOISE) but i think it may also have had something to do with the concert's format: as much as i did love the readings it meant the songs themselves were broken up and the music struggled to build up steam.

    At the end of the gig, after considerable persuasion (we clapped and clapped!) Kristin came back on and did a number of older songs. These i did recognise. They included "Your Ghost" and - most thrilling of all - a song from The Real Ramona, my absolute favourite Throwing Muses album:"Hook in Her Head". Wish she'd done Two Step but you can't have it all!

    Afterwards i bought the memoir: "Paradoxical Undressings" (it also seems to go under the title "Rat Girl"). I'm looking forward to reading through her tales of a squat 'haunted' by a ghostly unidentified animal and her friendship with a former movie star and that lady's priest. It'd be even better if Kristin would release it as an audiobook though. Or maybe she has? I must look.
  • Britain as a village

    11 Dic 2010, 13:08

    Sun 31 Jan – The Imagined Village: [GIG EARLY THIS YEAR]

    I thought that if you had an acoustic guitar / It meant that you were / A protest singer / Oh, i can smile about it now / But at the time it was terrible
    (The Smiths)

    It began with a protest song. The song, sung by Chris Wood as i recall, concerned the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes by the Metropolitican Police - an important event, don't misunderstand me, but that doesn't alter the fact that the song was worthy, graceless and endless, as protest songs almost invariably are.

    I'd actually only gone along because a friend had bought tickets for the pair of us and after this initial number plus the couple that followed it by the same support artist i seriously began to wonder if i'd be able to stand to stay for the whole gig.

    Luckily, once the rest of the gang came on stage things improved mightily. Both Martin Carthy and his daughter Eliza are fine singers and musicians. Eliza Carthy in particular has one of the great folk voices. And then there was the rich mix of musicians which included an Indian percussionist, Johnny Kalsi. This signalled a new understanding of what British folk music might be and also made the music more more fun.

    All in all, not something i'd want to go to twice but interesting and enjoyable nevertheless.
  • Eight cellos!

    11 Dic 2010, 12:30

    Fri 10 Dec – Park Lane Group: Cellophony:

    Reminded at half eleven that i'd promised to find something "quirky and interesting" for me and a friend to go to in the afternoon i rushed to the internet and found this free lunchtime concert at St Martin in the Fields. It so happens that i've already bought a ticket to see this all- octet at the Purcell Room in January, playing much of the same repertoire, but never mind: you can't get too much cello.

    We arrived a quarter an hour before the performance was due to begin and the church was already filling up. This was the best-attended of the three lunchtime recitals i've been to so far by a mile. I don't know whether this was because the musicians had brought their families and friends down en masse or whether it's because word is already out that they're brilliant but if it's not the latter, then let me put the word out right now because they are.

    The programme began with the "Prelude to Tristan and Isolde" by Wagner (a composer i've yet to connect with) and then moved on to a fantastic contemporary piece apparently by Berio which was followed by a jump back to the 18th Century for an excerpt from Bach's "Well-Tempered Clavier". Two further pieces, one by Boulez and one by Giovanni Sollima completed the concert.

    As the group moved from piece to piece they also moved chairs and even re-arranged said chairs. Presumably this was to add some spatial variation to their sound although i have to admit i didn't notice much difference. What i did notice and what impressed both me and my friend M was how much range the cello has as an instrument. We scarcely missed the violins at all (although i'd have liked a double bass or two but then i always do).

    Looking forward to hearing Cellophony again in January!
  • The Unthanks break out

    11 Dic 2010, 11:55

    Thu 9 Dec – The Unthanks explore and perform the music of Robert Wyatt and Antony & The Johnsons:

    A gig of two halves, literally.

    The first half saw The Unthanks (formerly known as Rachel Unthank & The Winterset) serenade us with torch songs from the songbook of Antony & the Johnsons: lovely although it did get a bit samey in the end and somehow Rachel and Becky never quite captured the loneliness of the originals (even though i prefer their voices).

    The second half was much more varied, mostly, i suppose, because Robert Wyatt's repertoire is more varied. Alongside timeless ballads such as "Sea Song" we also got the barbed, breezy "Dondestan" and a bit of .

    There were a few precarious moments, notably one in which Rachel fluffed one of the verses of a song. I put these down to nerves (record company people were in the audience we were told) and lack of preparation time: it seems this concert was planned back in the summer when they were expecting to finish their new album imminently. It remains unfinished.

    Still, overall it was a rewarding evening: a chance to hear the Unthanks branch out from their familiar northern folk territory and a chance to hear a fresh take on familiar songs (well, some familiar songs and some i'd never heard before if i'm honest).