The Hay Festival 1994

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
This is the Nige experience: crushed velvet trousers topped by a Hendrix bandana that begins to suffer from slippage as the bowing becomes frenzied; two-tone bovver-boy boots with mismatching laces; black, quilted jacket strafed with zips and, of course, the famous punk bristle that wilts as the church heats up. Nigel Kennedy's face looks chubbier than in photos. His cheeks glow red when the sweat begins to pour down his face.

Tonight he's accompanied by John Etheridge, who slavers and grimaces over a borrowed Gibson guitar, and Rory McFarlane on contrabass who stares, adoring, misty-eyed, at the much shorter Nige.

They play an extraordinary fusion of Bach, Hendrix, Bach, Hendrix, Bartok, Bach and Hendrix. Nige does jazz improvisation on the violin. His toe caps hammer at the stage. The most remarkable aspect of the performance is hearing Hendrix arranged for an improvising string trio. The music seems to spill gypsy blood. And at the end? An encore of 'Purple Haze', a boyish grin, and a quick thumbs-up sign before he lumbers off the stage like a cheerfully bewildered boy in a world of adult compromise.

Then he bounces back on again - with a second guitarist in tow. 'All music is related so we'll play some other shit now.' The particular heap in question is Fats Waller's 'Honeysuckle Rose'. This is cultural relativism in fast and furious action, and it is very exciting. In the mind's eye we glimpse a raging pyre of redundant tuxedos, high-voiced screams of the pompous dead. Where next? Cheltenham?

Comments