Josie Long is an award-winning comedian and writer. She will perform with Robin Ince in Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People at London’s Bloomsbury Theatre (10-22 Dec) and also on tour in Robin and Josie’s Shambles.
Royal Festival Hall
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Sunday 11 July 2010
Mass is Leonard Bernstein’s most personal, most provocative piece. His daughter Jamie has described it as his “most Lennyish” piece – meaning that it knows no inhibition, that it is everything he was. There are no fudges, no in-betweens, no half-measures.
Tuesday 29 June 2010
Greeted with an awed silence from the packed Royal Festival Hall, James Mercer (singer-songwriter and brains behind jingle-jangle indie outfit The Shins) asks an impromptu question that catches his enraptured audience off-guard. "Anybody here skateboard?" he enquires optimistically. "I used to skate at Southbank before it was a skate park. This is my homecoming," he explains, with that tone of wistful poignancy that characterises his work to date and manifests itself in the lovelorn lyrics of the track that follows, "Trap Doors".
Friday 25 June 2010
The programme for Richard Thompson's Meltdown festival carries a photograph of Thompson in his salad days – taken, probably, in the late Sixties or early Seventies, some time around his founding of Fairport Convention and his marital and musical union with Linda Thompson. A little Nick Drake-like, he gazes wistfully off-shot. It feels iconic. But while for a lot of people Thompson's name might ring a bell, ask them to hum one of his tunes and you'll probably draw a blank.
Wednesday 23 June 2010
"I've been wading through all this unbelievable junk/ And wondering if I should have given the world to the monkeys," he spits out with relish on "God's Comic" in this blistering solo set. It's about time we reclaimed our very own Elvis, and thanks to Richard Thompson's Meltdown we get a rare sighting (he now lives in New York with his wife, Diana Krall) of this British new-wave whiz.
Friday 18 June 2010
By the time Paolo Nutini swoops into "High Hopes", the third song of a rousing and beautifully chaotic evening, it's clear that any sense of decorum that the Royal Festival Hall exerts is hanging by a thread: nervous stewards (and bizarrely, or not, depending on how hard you care to think about it, ushers with mops), shepherd grinning, swooning dancers back to their seats.
Wednesday 16 June 2010
Thursday 10 June 2010
Ever since Alfred Brendel took Paul Lewis under his wing, this 38-year-old British pianist has been in the fast lane, but his beginnings were not privileged.
Sunday 30 May 2010
We’d had the first two movements of Bach’s Violin Concerto in E, Nigel Kennedy and his newly formed Orchestra of Life bathed in a haze of blue light and discreetly amplified as befits a gig not a concert. “What’s next?” says Kennedy, glancing at his play list nestling between the foldback speakers where adoring fans had also left an assortment of messages and CDs for signature. “What about the third movement?” shouted a man in the front stalls. “Don’t like it”, retorted Kennedy. And there was no answer to that.
Friday 28 May 2010
It seems the harp is having a moment. After Florence Welch brought 12 harpists to The Brits, American harp-playing folkie Joanna Newsom sold out the Royal Festival Hall for two nights and has received rave reviews for her enchanting album Have One on Me. It has taken a while for a British exponent to give the instrument a similar profile. Lancastrian solo artist Nancy Elizabeth uses the instrument in her beguiling work, but only the smaller Celtic version.
Friday 21 May 2010
"No one is retiring from the rock'n'roll business anymore," quips Randy Newman. "Rock'n'roll is like chess but stupider. You've done all your best work at 14," he adds before launching into his typically arch "I'm Dead (But I Don't Know It)" where he encourages us to call out "he's dead, he's dead". We gamely do. The US satirist has never fitted the rock-god bill, he's always been a tad too portly around the gills – resembling an avuncular turtle with a sly, wry smile – but he's always attracted a loyal, similarly shaped, following. And as a lyricist he's right up there with Cohen, Lennon and Dylan.
Sunday 16 May 2010
Rolando Villazon, Royal Festival Hall, London<br/>Hallé / BBC Philharmonic/ Elder, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester
Sunday 09 May 2010
Tuesday 04 May 2010
He’s come through throat surgery and survived From Pop Star to Opera Star (though the jury is still out as to which posed the greater threat) – so on the surface of it an all-Handel programme (strategically tied to his most recent album, of course) might have seemed like a sensible way of nursing Rolando Villazon back to full vocal health: plenty of fast moving coloratura to keep the healing chords supple, lightly inflected legatos, and only the soft-grained period instruments of the splendid Gabrieli Players under Paul McCreesh to surf.
Friday 30 April 2010
Prokofiev and Myaskovsky – firm friends, musical polar opposites. Once again Vladimir Jurowski demonstrates the essence of creative programming bringing us two highly contrasted but musically well-complemented pieces and one genuine rarity – Myaskovsky’s 6th Symphony.
Thursday 22 April 2010
The platform is empty as the conductor, Marin Alsop, enters with four flutes who then proceed to sit in silence as the first downbeat of the evening produces barely audible but blissfully consonant string chords from celestially far off.
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