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 15 May 2015
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test