Having just heard Adele’s ‘Someone Like You’ for the first time just now (on the news I might add) I would make the following comments:
1. She sings with simple clarity which I think is refreshing and probably the source of her appeal
2. She sings with a bizarre American accent for some reason, which sometimes lapses even into a Deep South drawl
3. The lyrics seem to betray a rather unhealthy approach to processing feelings after a break-up IMHO
4. Adele addresses the ex-partner in the song with impressively believable sentiment, convincing me he is a real person
5. It would have been better comedically, though perhaps not musically or financially, to write a song to him entitled: ‘I am now rich as Croesus and you are still working in JD Sports in Tottenham, you fuck” or just simply: “Some Fuck Like You”
Actually this is not a man-sized bird, nor an Egyptian god, but the lovely Liz Green performing at Rough Trade in Notting Hill. Beautiful songs, beautiful voice.
A couple of years ago I blogged about discovering an amazing busker who drums on plastic buckets, tin pots and the like. His passionate and unfettered musicality was a great relief from the consumerism of Oxford Street, which can be quite oppressive. Whilst walking along the Southbank yesterday, I found that he had moved to a new regular spot between the river and Waterloo station. Apparently the local authorities didn’t like him drumming on Oxford Street. Perhaps they couldn’t hear the traffic quite so well.
Anyway, it was great to meet Jo again. He is an interesting guy, and is clearly sustaining his life effectively (without going into personal details). What I think is so spectacular about Jo’s drumming is the overwhelming effect he has on passers-by. Some buskers are annoying, some are talented, some are fun, but Jo is in a different league.
Technically, it is fascinating to see him exploring the different ways of using the plastic surfaces, investigating the varying timbre and resonance. That is all very interesting. But each time he picks up his sticks and starts hitting those buckets people just stop and listen in amazement. There is a thrill you feel when encountering such visceral and exuberant musicality – it engages something inside you. People of all different ages, nationalities, backgrounds simply stop in their tracks and become immersed within moments. You can see for yourself in the video how the crowd builds up, it is the same each time he starts. Jo’s music may be unvarnished but he makes a connection, he really communicates with total strangers. It is easy to forget that music is language.
Mind, he was getting a spot of bother from the guys who control the begging and busking scene around Waterloo. It ended up in an amicable resolution, fortunately.
Have any of you had the good fortune to pass this busker on Oxford Street recently?
He drums on plastic tubs and other sundry household items perhaps for fun or economic exigency. I imagine the tupperware-based kit is a lot easier for a busker to lug around than a standard drumkit. It sounds different too, as you would imagine. More punchy. He must have to hit each ‘drum’ a lot harder than normal to get the same volume as a conventional skin. I approached the main drag from a side-street, and found myself drawn by the intoxicating drumming sounded irresistible.
It went like this
After he had finished I went and shook him by the hand, I had enjoyed it so much. I was shocked by how hard his palms were! They were heavily calloused (like old feet) from years of obsessive drumming. I would have stayed and listened for hours but I had to rush off into the underground bundle at Bond Street.
You can tell that folk / indie artists have hit the big time when they start performing in concert halls (and selling them out). Will Oldham did just that on Tuesday night.
He may look like a troubled baby with a redneck beard, but his voice is beautiful: a balance of emotional valency and intricate delicacy. His lyrics are relevant and interesting, and he is clearly a consummate professional as well as a cordial and fun performer. For example, while one of his band members was changing a string it occurred to him that the monitors at the front of the stage were like teeth, the audience was like a big tongue and he was being eaten. He told us so.
But this image was pertinent for a negative reason. Despite Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy’s excellent energy, musicality and personal presence, the copious venue swallowed him.
It is not his fault. The songs varied from indie rock to sotto voce ballads, so in other words barn-stomping or intimate. With the former you would want to ideally get up for a dance, drink a keg of moonshine, break a chair over your face, and throw a young lady (or boy) out of a window, and cackle like you have rabies; with the latter you want to be able to see the folds of the performers face. But in the RFH you are stuck in your seat confined to sober reflection befitting a classical concert.
They tried to make it visually interesting with lighting. But the interest is only fleeting. They also got it critically wrong the one time they tried to do something clever with the fantastic song ‘I See a Darkness’.
The song takes the form of a secret confession to a close friend of deeply troubling thoughts thus the chorus refrain “I see a darkness” (this is a gross over-simplification, so go and listen to this amazing song yourself). To signify this the lighting director progressively dimmed the lights till by the end of the song the whole band was in total darkness. Nice, but wrong. Firstly, it is so obvious it looked cheap; secondly, the whole beauty of the song is in the contrast between the darkness held inside the singer and his jovial, brighter exterior; thirdly, metaphors should stay metaphors or they get a bit silly. Despite this, the rendition of the song was so beautiful I barely noticed the annoying lighting.
Big venues can work for rock, indie and folk musicians. But a traditional concert hall I find too cosseted. It is set up so that you can ignore your neighbours as efficiently as possible, and this is great for classical music. But with Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy I can’t help but think that there should be a more communal feel. Or some spittoons, at least.
Amazing. How can one single band be the band from absolutely everyone’s youth?
Radiohead’s old music sounds a lot more modern and interesting than a lot of the drivel pumping out of Jo Whiley’s miserable bandwagon. Their run of good records is stretching their whole career, it looks like. They adapt what is going on in the fringes of music and bring it to the mainstream, as Bjork does. And Thom Yorke’s lyrics have just the right amount of ambiguity in them to stop them being preachy or pretentious (well maybe not). I cannot stand the fact that he spells his name ‘Thom’.
Anyhow, this was Radiohead in Victoria Park:
There was a great atmosphere at the gig. Open air events are often nicer than arenas because they are so much less claustrophobic, people are less worried about grabbing space because there is so much more of it, and you can always wander off and sit down on some grass if you fancy. Ironically, since the public venue smoking ban in England, it feels a lot smokier than indoor gigs.
Check out this girl who got chatting to us during the concert. She was really nice and friendly, as was her boyfriend, but she had the most outlandishly mannered facial expressions when speaking. It felt like I was on laudanum:
Her boyfriend looked like he knew why I was photographing her.
One of the best things about the location was the aeroplanes. There was a pretty constant flow of small, lower flying aeroplanes flying to London airport at bigger Heathrow-bound jumbos much higher up. They looked great banking in the sunlight, quietly swimming past each other. It seemed to go pretty well with the music.
I am slowly getting round to updating the content on the rest of my website. Of late I have been focussing on the portraits. I want to get more photos and music up there, as well as open up more pages on the site.
I recently wrote the music for a play called ‘Briefing’ which ran throughout April at the Camden People’s Theatre. It was very well received and reviewed, as was the music, to my relief!
From my perspective it was great working with the director and cast (all top notch graduates of Ecole Lecoq) particularly because they used the music to build the play, not just have it in the background. In this way the dramatic and musical elements of the production developed together. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of working on ‘Briefing’ and felt really proud to have been part of such an outstanding production, to be perfectly honest.
Click the thumbnail below, and have a listen to some of the music. You may get a taste of the play’s atmosphere.