Stop the War Coalition, Astoria, London

For Brian Eno, the torture never stops
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The Independent Culture

Firstly let's get the politics out of the way: we're here to stop a war - which is great. Now on to the music. Our very own renaissance man and ex-Roxy synth torturer, Brian Eno (inset), is making an extremely rare live appearance for a cause close to his heart. His main collaborator, for whom he'll be "sound manipulating", is the French-Algerian, Rachid Taha, who has been purveying his particular brand of Arabic punk funk since 1980.

Before we get to that, there's a solo spot from up-and-coming Kate Bushy songstress Imogen Heap. She's a likeable and self-effacing presence, although some of her lyrics sound like they could have been lifted verbatim from the speech balloons of old Jackie magazines. And, backing off the stage at the end of her set, she's almost apologetic as Eno ambles on.

The benignly smiling polymath gives a short speech so reasonable and humane that an audience member shouts that we need him as a politician. He chuckles at the idea, mutters something about not wanting to spoil his perfectly happy life, and with some relief, assumes a position behind his bank of computer paraphernalia, where he remains for the rest of the evening.

Sound manipulation turns out to mean taking the live sounds from other musicians (vocal and instrumental) and reshaping them to his heart's desire. During his collaboration with Nitin Sawhney this works perfectly because, with only a guitarist, percussionist, and Sawhney's vocals to mangle, fragment and distort, the results never get too dense or dissonant. But with Taha's seven-piece rockin' band, Eno could just as easily have had an early night; still, in a very English kind of way, he's clearly having the time of his life, grinning like a besotted fan, as Taha runs over to plant his leather cowboy hat on that professorial dome.

Sadly, in all the rock noise, the subtler arabesques of Taha's music, such as the intricate pickings of the oud player, were lost along with Eno's sonic tinkerings. But never mind - Eno has shrugged off his jacket, the Clash's Mick Jones has appeared. Taha's renowned cover of "Rock el Casbah" explodes into life. For a moment world peace seems within our grasp. And although the overlong encore - culminating in a grunge-disco workout consisting of the endless chanting of what sounds like "heron grip" - is inevitably an anticlimax, this wasn't a bad night.

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