Wednesday 27 July 2011

Starless and bible-black

David Newham and Susan Seddon perform
Under Milk Wood at the Maddermarket Theatre
On Tuesday evening I attended the Norwich Players production of Dylan Thomas' Under Milk Wood at the Maddermarket Theatre, Norwich. To begin at the beginning: It is spring, moonless night in the small town, starless and bible-black, the cobblestreets silent and the hunched, courters’-and-rabbits’ wood limping invisible down to the sloeblack, slow, black, crowblack, fishingboatbobbing sea.

Under Milk Wood was published posthumously in 1954, a play for voices that was written for the radio. For the stage this performance directed by Stephen Picton takes place in a derelict mental asylum somewhere in Wales. If you want to experience the piece as intended just shut your eyes.

David Newham is wonderful in the role of narrator made famous by Richard Burton. Also performing were Susan Seddon, Dean Bramwell, Peter Bryan, Etta Geras, John Levantis, Oonagh Segrave-Daly and Samantha Wright. Complete with welsh accents they put on a brilliant mad performance. The power of Dylan Thomas' poetry together with the mental asylum may have seemed a little unsettling at time but overall it made for an interesting experience.

Stark lightbulbs and madmen, all of life was on show at the Maddermarket Theatre. And before you let the sun in, mind it wipes its shoes. After experiencing the play on stage I'm looking forward to hearing it as it was intended on the BBC audio version starring Richard Burton.

Sunday 24 July 2011

Godspeed You! Black Emperor at Norwich UEA

Godspeed You! Black Emperor appeared at Norwich UEA on Saturday 23rd July 2011 like some cool Post Rock hallucination beamed in from Montreal or maybe an alternative Universe. Norwich was represented on the night by Transept who gently got us in the mood for the main event.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor is the greatest band name in history without a doubt and to see them at Norwich UEA as part of their warm up for All Tomorrows Parties was an amazing opportunity not to be missed.

They took us to an dark industrial landscape and left us there. Soundscapes they begin quiet and built up to a brutal noise that shudders throughout your body. When you attend one their gigs you know you really have been at one and have the scars to prove it. When they do loud it's very loud.

With an atmospheric dark video backdrop the UEA LCR was transformed into some kind of secret venue from another dimension where everything was in black and white and the noise from the band become a noise that went around and around in your head.

This is a gig that will be talked about in Norwich for year's to come. Lift your skinny fists like antennas to Heaven because tonight you have been in the presence of Godspeed You! Black Emperor.

Friday 22 July 2011

The Latitude Festival is full of The Beautiful Ones!

Foals headlining The Word Arena at Latitude on
Saturday night
On Thursday I made my way to the Latitude Festival by train from Norwich to Halesworth then the shuttle bus ride to Henham Park. I made my way to the campsite pitched my tent then headed for the Festival Arena. On the first evening I headed for the Theatre Arena and saw Theatre 503 and High Tide.

Theatre 503 performed PLAYlist which was nine plays inspired by the music of artists playing at this year's festival including Beautiful Ones the anthem of Latitude 2011.

High Tide performed Incoming a work about the war in Afghanistan by former poet laureate Andrew Motion. A powerful work about issues surrounding the effects of war.

I woke up on Friday morning and made my way back to the Theatre Arena to witness two productions from Clean Break. Fatal Light showed a young mother struggling to cope with separation from her daughter. While Dancing Bears was about girl gangs and life lived on the edge.

The time arrived for the music to start at the Festival with Avi Buffalo being the first act to perform in The Word Arena. Avi Zahner-Isenberg said he was stoked to be playing Latitude and we loved the bands souring guitars and What's In It For put us in a Summer Festival mood.

Edwyn Collins gave an inspired performance on the Obelisk Arena stage bringing back memories of Orange Juice and a guest appearance from his son. Chapel Club filled The Word Arena with their dark indie before Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan took us back into the light with their Country Folk sounds complete with the former Screaming Trees and Queen's of the Stoneage man's gruff.

Deerhunter brought their noise rock to The Word Arena which filled the tent with a glorious collage of sounds that brought Halcyon Digest to the Suffolk coast full of chaos in the true spirit of Rock n Roll. I just had time to catch my breath before it was time to catch Bright Eyes on the Main Stage. Conor Oberst and the band put on a magnificent show for the festival audience which included a guest appearance from Jenny and Johnny on a cover of Gillian Welch's Wrecking Ball. Finishing with a Road to Joy which could have been the mud filled tracks to the Obelisk Arena.

I crossed the bridge into the woods and got to see Jenny and Johnny twice in the same night. On the Sunrise Arena stage they gave which could be their last performance for a long while. Full of energy and fun, the packed tent were having a party. I rushed back to the Main Stage to see The National who were headlining the Friday night at Latitude. They were returning after headlining the second stage last year.

Opening with Bloodbuzz Ohio we all knew this was going to be a special performance from The National. Lead by frontman Matt Berninger the band took the stage by storm filling the night air with their gloomy rock that ripped into our hearts and souls and removed any Fake Empires from Henham Park. High drama from High Violet this a triumphant set from the band. Somehow Matt Berninger walked past me singing Terrible Love in the middle of a field at the end of their performance. A great way to finish Friday night.

I woke up on Saturday morning with the sound of rain and wind sweeping around my tent. I made my way back to the Theatre Arena for The Opera Group's production of Seven Angels. Complete with a chamber orchestra this was a story of seven fallen angels whose purpose and history has been forgotten.

James Vincent McMorrow opened the music in The Word Arena with his folk pop direct from Ireland evoking thoughts of the wild Irish coastline. Heavy rain greeted Ed Sheeran to the main stage while his acoustic pop mixed with hip hop samples warmed the crowd.

Villagers put everyone in a good mood with their folk sounds direct from Becoming a Jackal, putting smiles on the faces of people of all ages. Next on stage were The Walkmen who provide us with a lively set that completely erupts into life when they perform The Rat.

British Sea Power put on a brilliant performance while their fans seem to have brought the forest into The Word Arena tent with them. They are a band to treasure with top songs and intelligent lyrics. Waving Flags had us all bouncing up and down. Bellowhead gave us some traditional folk songs including Yarmouth Town.

After a long delay due to making sure that the Waterfront stage was safe, The English National Ballet performed two excerpts from Carmen and Don Quixote to a large crowd. This was a wonderful moment at this year's Festival and was well worth the wait.

I returned to the Obelisk Arena to witness My Morning Jacket perform a memorable set as they entertained us complete with memorable beards. The weather may not have been kind but the band took it all in their stride and rocked us into the evening.

After catching the end of Echo and the Bunnymen's performance it was time to see Foals, the Saturday night headliners in The Word Arena. The whole tent was buzzing as the band put on an amazing show that has to be one of the highlights of the weekend. Math Rock with attitude that had us all dancing without a care in the world.

On Sunday morning I was back at the Theatre Arena for the 1927 Theatre Company presentation of The Animals and Children Took To The Streets. This was a stunning production of live music, animation and stage performance. A dystopian future awaits a mother and her daughter in the sector of the city known as Bayou.

I was back at the Obelisk Arena to catch the performance of Scala with their take on contemporary indie pop. It was then left to Anna Calvi to turn us into the light. With Edith Piaf and Elvis covers she took the main arena by storm. Kele made it a mid afternoon party in the sunshine and showers and shocked everyone by playing a guitar. With a mixture of his solo material and Bloc Party songs his performance went down well with the crowd.

I was back in The Word Arena to catch The Naked and Famous bring their New Zealand indie dance to this little piece of Suffolk they had everyone in the tent jumping with joy. No Sunday afternoon naps when these Kiwi's are hitting all the right notes.

Iron and Wine took to the main stage to thrill us with their folk sounds. Samuel Beam bearded frontman looked happy as he thrilled us with songs like Walking Far From Home and Tree By The River. Cool Americana of the highest quality.

With the rain, sunglasses, white t-shirt, Carl Baret and everything that's rock n roll, Glasvegas took us on a rollercoaster ride as James Allan lives out his dreams. Daddy's Gone has us all singing along while Carl Baret and his wife joined the band for Be My Baby. You had to be there to believe it. At the end of their set the sun came out and we are all rock stars now.

Lykke Li was a little bit brilliant back at The Word Arena. Electronic pop beamed direct from Sweden, she took us on a journey with lots of fun on the way. It was time for the final headliners of the weekend and one of the bands of the nineties. Suede took to the Oberlisk Arena stage and we all became film stars. The Latitude Festival is full of the Beautiful Ones as Brett Anderson puts all his energy into a dramatic performance to bring this year's festival to an end.

Tuesday 5 July 2011

Katherine Jenkins live in Christchurch Park

The beautiful Katherine Jenkins
On Saturday afternoon I made the train journey from Norwich to Ipswich greatly looking forward to seeing Katherine Jenkins live in Christchurch Park. With support from Wynne Evans the Opera singer from the Go Compare ad this was always going to be a fun night.

Christchurch Park is a great setting for a picnic concert on a perfect Saturday evening. Katherine thrilled us with a splendid programme of music which included Somewhere, Angel, Godfather and Time To Say Goodbye. With her incredible voice she filled the Suffolk night air with beautiful sounds that moved us all.

The National Symphony Orchestra played brilliantly throughout the evening and Wynne Evans took us back to Italia 90' with a performance of Nessun Dorma. Katherine entertained us with a question and answer session as well as singing the Welsh National Anthem. She also sang Black Is The Colour which will appear on her new album.

She made full use of her wardrobe with regular dress changes which wowed the large audience. She finished the night with a Proms in the Park set with Union Jacks being waved throughout Land of Hope and Glory and Rule Britannia. This was a very enjoyable evening in the presence of a true star who has made Classical Music accessible across the world. 

Sunday 3 July 2011

Iain Quinn delights at St. Peter Mancroft

On Saturday afternoon it was the final Mancroft Music Summer Recital 2011 at St. Peter Mancroft Church, Norwich which featured organ music from Iain Quinn who is Director of Music at the College of St. Hild and St. Bede, Durham University.

The programme for this performance was Prelude and Fugue in A minor, Opus 607 - Czerny, Toccata Tertia - Muffat, Toccata Prima - Fresobaldi, Chorale Varie - Taneyev, Tre Tonestykker, Op.22 i Moderato - Gade, Chorale Prelude and Fugue on 'O Traurigkeit, o Herzeleid - Brahms, Continuum (Notre Dame) - Quinn and Piece d'Orgue, BWV 572 Tres vitement -gravement-Lentement - Bach.

Iain Quinn has performed in many of the world's most important centres including Westminster Abbey and the National Cathedral in Wasshington DC. He has also composed works for choir and organ which have been performed around the world.

This was a splendid performance to finish this year's Summer Recital series at St. Peter Mancroft Church. A wonderful choice of programme played to the highest quality. Well deserved applause rang out around the church as Iain Quinn completed his recital. Another very enjoyable afternoon at this historic Norwich venue.

Friday 1 July 2011

Arcade Fire wake up Hyde Park!

Arcade Fire turn  Hyde Park into Neon Bible Country
Arcade Fire came to Hyde Park, London on Thursday to claim it for Canada which they did in a triumphant manner with Win Butler preaching from the Neon Bible. Support on the day came from Mumford & Sons, Beirut, Vaccines and Owen Pallett.

I made my way to Hyde Park looking forward to seeing Arcade Fire for the fourth time. The highlight of the support was Beirut with their trumpet laden Eastern European and Balkan Folk that thrilled and delighted the large crowd. Zach Condon looked like he was enjoying himself and having fun.

Arcade Fire opened their set with Ready To Start and never looked back. They put so much energy into their live performances with all seven members contributing to a brilliant show. My own personal highlight was Rebellion (Lies) from their debut album Funeral. This was the first live outing of Speaking in Tongues with Win Butler telling the crowd: "'That was the least time we've been scared doing a song we've only really played in rehearsal to 60,000 people, so thank you so much!"

By the time Neighborhood #3 (Power Out) was echoing around Hyde Park we were all dancing with joy. This was a night when Arcade Fire were able to claim the title of best band in the world when Hyde Park was turned green with No Cars Go. Win Butler wants to hire the person who put the lantern into the sky over the stage at the end of the gig. A poetic finish to an epic night.