Review: MULTI-MEDIA Meltdown `Rescue' Gala Royal Festival Hall, SBC, London

Charity galas are always a bit overwhelmingly hagiarchical, and the closing event of Laurie Anderson's Meltdown festival, held in aid of War Child, was no exception. Anderson herself described the evening as "a dream-come-true marathon of many of my musical heroes". From Lou Reed to Philip Glass, Robert Wilson to Bill T Jones, it was quite a line- up, even before surprise appearances by Salman Rushdie and Michael Nyman.

With a twinkle of tiara and a river of black hair cascading to her knees, young Tibetan devotional singer Yungchen Lhamo made a powerful start to the show. Her pure unaccompanied voice swooping to meet her frail outstretched hands in songs of spellbinding mournfulness.

After two solos, Lhamo was joined on stage by dancer Bill T Jones. Impressive as always in his iron control, Jones flexed his Peter Andre six-pack and his glistening Arnie-sculpted pecs. There was a jarring knowingness in his deft benedictory gestures, however, as he rippled voguingly through the forest of amps and mike stands in response to Lhamo's plaintive elegy.

Jones gave way to Rushdie (reading race riot scenes from The Satanic Verses), then off slipped Rushdie and on bounded the newscaster-smug theatre director Robert Wilson reading Vonnegut's Dresden bombing sequences. Segue to an acoustic Lou Reed, sedentary and somewhat avuncular, performing songs from his Robert Wilson collaboration Time Rocker and a written-for- tonight ballad "Rescue Night". The old Velvet Undergrounder had gone all sentimental on us, but that gnarled voice of smouldering gravel still does it for me every time. Cue Michael Nyman.

The time-hopping war visions of Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five, and the recent Heaven's Gate suiciders who tried to hitch a ride out of town on the tail of the Hale Bopp comet, provided the evening's declared inspiration. "This image of people longing for a better and different and higher far- away place was really on my mind," Anderson explains in a brief programme note.

Surprisingly, the mistress of futuristic technology dips back in time to 1904 to find the central cog in her wheel of longing, with a slender eight-minute silent film by Dorothy G Shore called Land Beyond the Sunset. To a spare new Eno / Anderson accompaniment, the film's naive tale unfolds, taking New York urchin Joe away from his drunkard mother for a charity picnic in the country courtesy of the philanthropic Fresh Air Fund. Surrounded by nature for the first time, and listening to fairy tales, Joe's appetite is now whetted for a more magical future. Shunning the train back to the city, he steps into an oarless boat and drifts off into the ocean sunset.

This mood of serene drift rather took hold of the whole show, as all the performers tried good-naturedly to swim in the stream of wistfulness.

Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto took a firm grip on the second half thanks to the reassuringly excited chicks of the Electra Strings quartet and some groovy computer-generated projections. His lava-lampy twisty helixes and extruded blobs eased the prevailing sobriety, before the injection of a glimmer of humour courtesy of a projected David Byrne quotation on the nature of salvation: "Save me from good manners, holidays, happy endings, perfect skin, good teeth."

More minimal discretion from Philip Glass and Laurie Anderson, then - lo! - after three and a half hours adrift in the sea of ambient monochrome ... some colour.

Belting out Hector Zazou's hip re-settings of French and English folk songs, on strode a vision in red satin, magenta-haired, and red-blooded, tottering alarmingly in mock-collapse and rolling her madwoman-in-the- attic eyes. A non-icon, unaccredited in the programme, Mimi Goese (look out for her at Womad, and her forthcoming debut album Soak), who wasn't too supercool to really put out.

Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams in True Detective season 2

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Off the wall: the cast of ‘Life in Squares’

Arts and Entertainment

Books And it is whizzpopping!

Arts and Entertainment
Bono throws water at the crowd while the Edge watches as they perform in the band's first concert of their new world tour in Vancouver

MusicThey're running their own restaurants

The main entrance to the BBC headquarters in London
TV & Radio
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

    Solved after 200 years

    The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

    Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
    Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

    Sunken sub

    Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

    Age of the selfie

    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
    Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

    Not so square

    How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
    Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

    Still carrying the torch

    The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

    ...but history suggests otherwise
    The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

    The bald truth

    How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
    Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

    Tour de France 2015

    Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
    Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

    A new beginning for supersonic flight?

    Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash
    I would never quit Labour, says Liz Kendall

    I would never quit party, says Liz Kendall

    Latest on the Labour leadership contest
    Froome seals second Tour de France victory

    Never mind Pinot, it’s bubbly for Froome

    Second Tour de France victory all but sealed
    Oh really? How the 'lowest form of wit' makes people brighter and more creative

    The uses of sarcasm

    'Lowest form of wit' actually makes people brighter and more creative
    A magazine editor with no vanity, and lots of flair

    No vanity, but lots of flair

    A tribute to the magazine editor Ingrid Sischy
    Foraging: How the British rediscovered their taste for chasing after wild food

    In praise of foraging

    How the British rediscovered their taste for wild food