Spaghetti Western Orchestra, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London
Friday 06 January 2012
Successful tribute acts must look the part as much as sound familiar and while the Spaghetti Western Orchestra pay attention to detail, their look is strangely distinctive.
It is not the outfits themselves, so much as the five members’ deathly pallor. Lacking any Clint Eastwoods, let alone a weaselly Eli Wallach, they dress as extras from the cowboy films that Ennio Morricone scored.
They also wear white make up, for the performers represent existential corpses – characters seeking a life beyond the cutting room floor, though after a brief opening explanation, this highfaluting concept is left to wither like tumbleweed. This leaves the quintet looking like the Deadwood Tiger Lilies, somewhat apt given the cabaret sensibility they bring to a show that recreates tunes indelibly marked on the popular consciousness, plus obscurities for directors other than Sergio Leone.
For those celebrated movies, the Italian composer had already underscored their dramatic tension with an ironic humour that plays in to hands of this Australian fivesome. Morricone worked to a tight budget – whip-cracks and gunshots were used to make up for limited use of a full orchestra and this group use that as a way of linking the heroic marches and incidental reveries with the sound effects of generic western scenes – bar room brawls and gun fights among them. These are the show’s true highlights, when the gang display rich inventiveness, comic nous and respect for the Foley artist’s skills – crunching cornflakes for approaching footsteps, popping open an umbrella and eviscerating a cabbage that meets a gruesome end at the close of a fight sequence.
Almost as impressively, the compact group recreate the familiar themes from A Fistful Of Dollars and For A Few Dollars More on a wide array of instruments and with much charm, including a bravura turn on the theremin for Once Upon A Time In The West. There is an ingenious take on ‘Chi Mai’ where they blow over beer bottles before it degenerates into a lounge jazz style with cameos on pianoforte, trumpet and vibraphone. The Orchestra’s eyebrows remain arched throughout, so they fail to capture the grand beauty that Morricone managed to instil in his compositions, notably ‘The Ecstasy Of Gold’ from The Good, The Bad And The Ugly. Still, following an awkward billing at the Proms last year , this slick, fast-paced show feels at home in a more intimate venue. Like a runaway stagecoach, it shows no signs of stopping.
Spaghetti Western Orchestra play Queen Elizabeth Hall until Jan 11, then tour from Feb.
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Five-year-old Iris Grace is raising awareness of autism through her extraordinary paintings
- 2 Car tax disc changes: Two days to go - and they affect you much more than just not displaying a piece of paper
- 3 The Simpsons death: Creator Al Jean would 'kill himself' before character like Homer or Lisa
- 4 British man raped while urinating in bushes at Oktoberfest beer festival in Germany
- 5 A teacher speaks out: 'I'm effectively being forced out of a career that I wanted to love'
Black-ish: America's new 'racist' TV sitcom has had a mixed reception
Cilla, episode 3, ITV - review: Ed Stoppard steals the limelight as Beatles manager Brian Epstein
The Simpsons death: Creator Al Jean would 'kill himself' before character like Homer or Lisa
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'
The Jungle Book: A tale as old as time
Isis, we are told, is a 'clear and dangerous threat to our way of life'. I’m sorry, but I just don’t buy it
Exclusive: 'Putin's Russia has been my biggest regret,' says Nato's outgoing Secretary General
'Women, walk wherever you want' posters taken down in Stamford Hill following 'unacceptable' signs separating men and women
There’s no excuse for Dave Lee Travis’s behaviour, but we need to keep a sense of proportion
Mark Reckless becomes second Tory MP to defect to Ukip in a month
Should gay sex be illegal? 16% of Britons think so
- < Previous
- Next >