Music: Grrr! She's wonderful
Friday 13 November 1998
IT'S A strange yet time-honoured ritual: the promoter spends thousands hiring the hall and flying in the band; the audience arrives in a heady state of expectation, and then some bloke in a pony tail at the sound desk mucks it all up. Or at least that was the view from Row G. To be fair to the bloke, the musicians must take a fair share of the blame themselves.
We were all probably hoping that pianist Geri Allen's trio would feature bassist Buster Williams and drummer Lenny White from her marvellous album The Gathering. Instead we got two sturdy yeomen who were eminently capable but somewhat lacking in subtlety. Perhaps as a result, Allen chose to concentrate on heavily percussive, blues-based themes rather than pellucid keyboard meditations. As she pounded her way through the set, individual notes disappeared in a backwash of overtones, the volume levels got louder, and one became unmistakably aware, as if in a kind of out-of-body experience, that the instruments of the trio were actually an undifferentiated din.
It started off fine, with the sprung rhythm of the album's title track ushering in a series of dazzling improvisations at the keyboard that more than justified Allen's reputation. True, you couldn't actually hear her very well, and the drums sounded like biscuit tin lids, but surely, one thought, the bloke in the pony-tail would soon sort that out? He didn't, and while there was no doubting Allen's technique - or her ability to swing as hard as anyone - it remained deeply frustrating.
If the experience of Allen and her trio was strange, the young British pianist and rising star Nikki Yeoh, who opened with a solo set, was just bonkers. Scheduled for 45 minutes, she played for 70 and almost had to be hauled off the stage with a hook. Though Yeoh has yet to learn that less can mean more, her improvisations contained enough shards of brilliance to last a career, never mind an opening act, but they were mixed in with quite a lot of dross, too.
Her great appeal is that she sounds like nobody else, and her sparky, oddball personality is engaging and irritating at the same time. Though she took a while to warm up, the second half hour of her set was wonderful. Then, just when you were ready to admit her genius, however wayward, she went and dedicated the performance, indeed the whole evening, to the glory of God. Bah!
But if God was in the QEH on Tuesday night (and not at the RFH, listening to Dave Brubeck), He must have been a proper Old Testament, crotchety grandad, fiddling mischievously with the faders on the sound desk and laughing his socks off.
musicReview: Culture Club performs live for first time in 12 years
Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 This 'woman calls police to order pizza' story isn't going where you're expecting
- 2 Watch what happened when food critics were unknowingly served McDonald's
- 3 Jimmy Carr's controversial Oscar Pistorius joke goes a bit too far at the Q Awards
- 4 Ottawa shootings: Bruce MacKinnon's cartoon is the perfect tribute to soldier Nathan Cirillo
- 5 Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
This is what a film sex scene actually looks like on set (mostly awkward)
Taylor Swift, 1989 - album review: Pop star shows 'promising signs of maturity'
American Horror Story season 4, Fox - review: Silly, sensational but still sensitive
Breaking Bad season 6 hoax: Vince Gilligan has not confirmed a new series
Miranda Hart confirms eponymous sitcom has come to an end as she bows out on a 'high'
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as 'fit to work in future' – despite no possibility of improvement
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Attacks on 'Ukip Calypso' show how skewed people’s priorities are