Posts Tagged ‘classical’

Ben Folds with Royal Northern Sinfonia The Sage Gateshead 11th July 2014

Ben Folds with Royal Northern Sinfonia The Sage Gateshead 11 July 2014
benfoldsflyerThis concert was part of Ben Folds’ 2014 global orchestral tour. Billed as “The Ben Folds Orchestral Experience,” it features his new classical piano concerto as well as a selection of his pop hits arranged for orchestral performances. Folds was the front man of Ben Folds Five before going on to have a successful solo career. Laura is a big fan, and Ben was on her list of people she has never seen, so off we went to his concert at the Sage last night. Fold’s music has somehow passed me by, so I went along with out of curiosity and looked forward to experiencing his songs for the first time. He was accompanied by the Royal Northern Sinfonia for the Sage concert; it seems he picks up “local” orchestras for each segment of the tour. The Royal Northern Sinfonia played with Ben for three nights, at Bristol Colston Hall, Manchester Bridgewater Hall, and at last night’s concert at the Sage.
I always seem to want to compare acts with those I am more familiar with, and I found this quite tricky to do in the case of Ben Folds. He has his own style, although I could sometimes hear influences from perhaps early Elton John, Billy Joel, Jimmy Webb, and American pop: The Monkees, The Lovin’ Spoonful. He is certainly a very talented and accomplished singer-songwriter. Ben was seated centre-stage at his grand piano, surrounded by the orchestra. He started with a few of his songs, which had been reworked for the orchestral accompaniment. He then played his new Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, which, he explained, he had recently been commissioned to write for a ballet. Now I’m not that used to attending classical concerts, but I really enjoyed this piece, which ran at around 25 minutes. One more song and there was a short interval.
Laura and I are were sitting in the upper level, looking down on the right of the stage, and the sound wasn’t too good there, so we moved to some empty seats up the back of the hall for the second part of the concert, and the sound quality was much better. The highlight of the second part of the evening was a completely new, improvised on the spot, piece. It was fascinating to watch the music develop in front of us, in real-time, Ben playing each part of the orchestra their parts on the piano, before they all played together. The piece featured Ben singing the lyrics (but not the tune) of the Kinks’ Sunny Afternoon, a copy of which a member of the troupe had apparently found in the restaurant. He explained that this follows similar, but also unique, improvisations in Bristol (a song about the Colston toilets) and Manchester (where the lyrics where the fire drill instructions). Pretty neat or what?! 🙂 benfoldstixIn another touching moment Folds led us phone to the mike so that he could play us his 14 year old daughter’s new song, which was really good (we all promised not to tell her).
Ben Folds is a big supporter of orchestras, and encouraged us all to support our local musicians. As we left the hall, we were handed a flyer promoting upcoming concerts by the Royal Northern Sinfonia playing Beethoven’s Six “Pastoral”, which included a message from Folds: “It’s long as shit, so if you haven’t heard classical music before you need to have patience you’re going to hear something that was probably as revolutionary as Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. It was written in 1825 and by that point a lot of Beethoven’s peers just viewed him as, well, some deaf gut who’s kind of losing his shit, you know, he’s meandering. he’s rambling. But he was like Lil’ Wayne here, he was building the beat. If you lie with your head between the speakers, if you have the patience, make yourself into a trapped audience, you will realise that this guy was sick, you know. He must have torn his hair out to get here. Its insane”. Indeed.
An interesting artist, and an excellent concert.
Setlist was something like this: Effington; Smoke; Jesusland; Picture Window; Concerto for Piano and Orchestra; Steven’s Last Night in Town. Interval. Zak and Sara; Landed; Fred Jones, Parts 1 & 2; Gracie; Not the Same; Sunny Afternoon (Orchestra Improvisation using the Kinks’ lyrics); Brick; One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces. Encore: The Luckiest. Encore 2: Kate; Rockin’ the Suburbs

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Celebrating Jon Lord The Royal Albert Hall 4th April 2014

Celebrating Jon Lord The Royal Albert Hall 4th April 2014
jontixI am sitting on the 07.00 train from Kings Cross to Newcastle as I write this. Last night I spent the evening with a group of musicians, from the worlds of both classical and rock, and fans who had travelled from around the globe to celebrate the music of Jon Lord. The event was held in the majestic Royal Albert Hall, a venue in which Lord performed many times, and where he premiered his concerto for group and orchestra with Deep Purple some 45 years ago.
As we arrived in the hall, we were greeted by two large video screens on either side of the stage, showing images of Jon. I had a seat on the arena floor, a few rows from the front, to the left of stage centre. A great view.
jonprogThe evening had been organised by The Sunflower Jam on behalf of the Jon Lord Fellowship for cancer research. The Sunflower Jam is a charity led by Jacky Paice (wife of Ian Paice and twin sister of Jon Lord’s wife Vicky Lord), which organises annual events at the Albert Hall.
The event started promptly at the advertised time of 19.30 with our host Bob Harris welcoming us and introducing the concert. This was an evening of music, celebration and emotion, which started with Ian Paice accompanying his sister-in-law Vicky Lord on stage, for Vicky to say a few words about Jon. The first half of the concert was devoted to Lord’s solo and orchestral compositions and featured the Orion Orchestra conducted by Paul Mann, and our house band of the evening of Murray Gould, Neil Murray, Jerry Brown, Paul Wichens and Nigel Hopkins. The first piece was “Durham Awakes” from the “Durham Concerto” featuring Kathryn Tickell on Northumbrian pipes. This was followed by Steve Balsamo on vocals and Anna Phoebe on violin accompanied by Mickey Moody on guitar, performing “All Those Years”. jon2Then Miller Anderson gave a moving reading of “Pictured Within”. This was followed by Rick Wakeman leading the band in music from “Sarabande” and Margo Buchanan singing “One From The Meadow”. Finally, the first half of the concert closed with Jeremy Irons elegant reading of Thomas Hardy’s “Afterwards”, accompanied by Paul Mann on piano. There was a lot of material that I wasn’t familiar with in the first half of the show; it was good to experience something new and different, performed perfectly and beautifully by a group of musicians who were all there to celebrate the diversity of Jon Lord’s compositions. Bob Harris returned and told us that after the interval “we are going to rock” 🙂 It was 20.45.
The second part of the evening started at 21.10 with Joe Brown, ever the cheeky cockney, who entertained us with a few quips and then introduced Paul Weller. Mod Weller took us back to the ’60s performing two tracks from Jon’s first band The Artwoods. These were fine slabs of Motownish white soul R’n’B: “Things Get Better” and “I Take What I Want”. Great stuff.
jonpurpleNext we were treated to a couple of Paice, Ashton and Lord songs “Silas & Jerome” and “I’m Gonna Stop Drinking” led by the amazing vocalist Phil Campbell, and great blues guitar of Bernie Marsden. Phil is a relatively new vocalist from Scotland and is straight out of the mould of Rod Stewart/Joe Cocker/Chris Robinson. Just perfect wild raucous singing and the right amount of rock’n’roll swagger. Check him out. The high point of the evening (so far). Steve Balsamo and Sandi Thom then performed a beautiful version of the haunting classic “Soldier of Fortune”.
Nothing could have prepared any of us for what came next, which was an amazing performance by Bruce Dickinson and particularly Glen Hughes. They started with “You Keep On Moving”, which was great enough, but then they took the roof of the place with an incendiary version of “Burn”. Everyone on their feet, the two of them sparring vocally, both out-singing each other with their tremendous outstanding vocal ranges. Sorry for all the superlatives, but it was that good. A hall full of old guys punching the air and rocking. jon1 Hughes was incredible. It took me back to the time I saw Purple Mk III on the Burn tour. I was struck that night (can it really be 40 years ago?) by Hughes’ over the top performance and his soulful soaring vocals. Last night he was strutting and stalking around the stage, bass aloft, wrestling ever ounce of soul and emotion out of his voice. I have never seen a performance like it; at times he was on his knees, tears running down his cheeks. Yes it was over the top, but you just knew that the guy went out last night determined to deliver the performance of his life, and that he felt and meant every word of it. Electric, and a privilege to experience. Glen Hughes closed this segment of the show with “This Time Around”, which he explained was the only song he wrote with Jon Lord.
Finally it was left to Deep Purple to close the evening, which they did with great style performing a short set of “Uncommon Man”, “Above And Beyond”, “Lazy” (with Bentley Kline on violin sparring with Don Airey on keyboards), the beautiful blues of “When A Blind Man Cries”, the cooking rhythms of “Perfect Strangers” and closing with (what else) a rocking “Black Night” with all of us singing along. Then everyone joined Purple on stage for an encore of “Hush”. Lots of “Nah Nah Nah Nah”s from the stage and the floor. It just doesn’t get much better. For over three and a half hours we were well reminded just how great a musician, composer and man Lord was. RIP Jon Lord.
AlbertHallThe Performers
Host: Bob Harris
Deep Purple: Ian Gillan (vocals), Steve Morse (guitar), Ian Paice (drums), Roger Glover (bass), Don Airey (keyboards).
The Orion Orchestra conducted by Paul Mann.
House band: Murray Gould – guitar, Jerry Brown – drums, Neil Murray – bass, Paul Wichens – keyboards, Nigel Hopkins – piano.
Guests: Miller Anderson – vocals, Steve Balsamo – vocals, Joe Brown – jokes and cockney twang, Margo Buchanan – vocals, Phil Campbell – vocals, Bruce Dickinson – vocals, Nick Fyffe – bass, Glenn Hughes – vocals/bass, Bentley Kline – violin, Paul Mann – piano, Bernie Marsden – guitar, tMickey Moody – guitar, Anna Phoebe – violin, Sandi Thom – vocals, Kathryn Tickell – Northumbrian pipes, Rick Wakeman – keyboards, Paul Weller – vocals/guitar
Postscript
It was truly an amazing night. However, I have to say that I came away feeling a few things were missing. First, Blackmore and Coverdale. Now we all knew Blackmore was never going to attend, but some of us lived in a vain hope that past issues might have been forgotten, and that he may have made an appearance. On the other hand, it is of course up to him how he wishes to remember Lord, and his new song in Jon’s memory sees a return to his old style. I understand Coverdale couldn’t make it; again a big miss. I also expected to hear some of the “Concerto”, particularly given the occasion and the venue. A strange omission. And finally I had hoped for “Child in Time”. I know Purple don’t play it any more, but a version by the house band with a guest vocalist might have been possible. Sorry to niggle about what was an incredible event.
The images are all photographed from the concert programme.