Arts and Entertainment

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.

Bernstein Mass, Royal Festival Hall, London

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.

Broken Bells, Royal Festival Hall, London

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".

Loudon Wainwright III and Richard Thompson, Royal Festival Hall, London

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.

Elvis Costello, Royal Festival Hall, London

"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.

Paolo Nutini, Royal Festival Hall, London

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.

A Celebration of Kate McGarrigle, Royal Festival Hall

Memories of a mother loved and lost

Paul Lewis, Royal Festival Hall, London

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.

Nigel Kennedy / Orchestra of Life, Royal Festival Hall, London

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.

Observations: A bit of a glissando

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.

Randy Newman, Royal Festival Hall, London

"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.

Joanna Newsom, Royal Festival Hall, London

A girl, a 'persnickety' harp and a God-given gift to challenge Gaga

Rolando Villazon/ Gabrieli Players, Royal Festival Hall, London

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.

London Philharmonic Orchestra/ Jurowski, Royal Festival Hall, London

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.

London Philharmonic Orchestra/ Alsop, Royal Festival Hall, London

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.

Latest stories from i100
Career Services

Day In a Page

A
Independent Travel
Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
Seven Cities of Italy
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence
Prague, Budapest and Vienna
Lake Garda
Minoan Crete and Santorini
Prices correct as of 1 May 2015
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before