<i>Jimi Tenor</i> | Barbican, London

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The Independent Culture

Eccentricity is perhaps the most constant component of the Jimi Tenor experience. You can always rely on the sequinned headresses, the cocktail waitresses, and that hairdo - part Andy Warhol, part Alan Partridge - to put in appearances. Then there is his trusty synth, a relic from the early Eighties and a staple of Tenor's musical diet. But the music rarely stays the same. This Finnish musician, who had his creative epiphany while working in a mayonnaise factory, brings a restless diversity to his art. Lounge-core, funk and psychedelia have informed previous albums, though lately he has developed a fascination with a grander, more orchestral sound.

Eccentricity is perhaps the most constant component of the Jimi Tenor experience. You can always rely on the sequinned headresses, the cocktail waitresses, and that hairdo - part Andy Warhol, part Alan Partridge - to put in appearances. Then there is his trusty synth, a relic from the early Eighties and a staple of Tenor's musical diet. But the music rarely stays the same. This Finnish musician, who had his creative epiphany while working in a mayonnaise factory, brings a restless diversity to his art. Lounge-core, funk and psychedelia have informed previous albums, though lately he has developed a fascination with a grander, more orchestral sound.

Film compositions are feeding Tenor's imagination these days, perhaps not a surprising choice when you consider his penchant for high drama: tracks on his superb Out of Nowhere album bring to mind the atonal barrage of sound that accompanied nightmarish scenes in Seventies apocalyptic films such as Planet of the Apes.

So enchanted is Tenor by his new direction that he has borrowed the Trinity College Orchestra to perform songs - if you can call them that - from his album. It appears that their patron is not one to inflict a dress code. Revelling in their new-found freedom, they are decked out in everything from skating gear and swimming costumes to full evening regalia (this must surely be the only time the Barbican will ever see a violinist perform in nothing but a bath towel). But no one can outshine the great fashion commander himself who, for the latter part of the show, appears to be dressed as Titania, Queen of the Fairies in trailing satin and chiffon.

The music is just as extraordinary. Tenor has pushed himself far beyond the boundaries of novelty and proved himself a musician of unrivalled spirit and imagination. "Blood on Borscht" pits the orchestra's brass section against the roaring, abrasive textures of an electric guitar. "Hypnotic Drugstore" slips seamlessly in bhangra beats and jazzy rhythms. "Call of the Wild" sees Tenor on more familiar territory, airing the falsetto croon that earnt him the nickname "The Reindeer of Raunch" all those years ago.

Pretentious? Of course it is. Panto outfits aside, Tenor has always taken himself very seriously. Throughout the show he maintains a look of grim austerity from underneath the swathes of sequins and satin. Even the most cornball sentiments of his songs - "I paint the stars for you, baby" - are delivered with a stony face before being swept up in a deafening tornado of brass, strings and synth.

His composure is only broken at the sound of the audience's hysterical whooping. Then he throws his head back with laughter and begs for more. Well, why not? He is a showman after all.

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