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Siren Songs, St Georges, Sep 16th (and a digression about poetry)

September 21, 2010

Impassioned song, thoughtfully chosen poetry, unobtrusively skilled accompaniment, oh, and some visuals, all figured in this ambitious evening. Among the ambitions was to be out of the ordinary, to “extend the concert experience”, as the rubric for producers Bozarts events has it.

Did it work on the night?  Not for us. There were plenty of nice moments, but in the end the whole was less than the sum of the parts. The theme (birds, love, women – a bit vague) didn’t get tied to any intelligible narrative, so the eclectic choice of material just seemed a bit arbitrary. All the songs, ranging from Piaf to Purcell, were performed well enough, and the recitations by John Telfer were gripping, but the thing didn’t really hang together. Everyone performed well, especially Howard Moody at the piano, but you didn’t quite feel they were doing their best work. The odd jazzy bits lacked conviction, and the visuals added little or were actually annoying– especially the bits where there was simply a video projection of the people playing, behind them. This was merely distracting. Anyway, if the music is good, I tend to shut my eyes, so multi-modal performance will usually pass me by. Conclusion: the concert experience doesn’t need extending, really; the thing is to put on good concerts. But if it did, rock theatrics have gone so much further than this lot that they look, well, a bit amateurish. Not a wasted evening, but not one to remember particularly, either.

One thing or the other is doubtless a conservative position, but I think it is where I sit. That posed a hard choice a couple of days later, when Kit Downes clashed with a nice night of poetry at the Arnolfini on Sunday. We plumped for the latter, for converging reasons – an earlier finish after a long day, a recent (terrifically good) sampling of the Downes trio, and the rarity of good poetry gigs in the city. No need to comment on the proceedings with another Kit (Wright), the awesomely talented Paul Farley and Robyn Bolam on a music blog, save to say that they confirmed that doing one thing very, very well is a sound strategy. And, given the modest audience, to wonder if a few more jazz people might sample this blog’s other harmless obsession and turn out for the odd poetry gig. Both, after all, reward serious listening.

Things will be multi-modal again at Cabot Circus on Sunday, though since that means ace saxophonist Tim Whitehead projecting Turner sketches he has been inspired to write music for there is hope the ingredients will be mutually enhancing this time. I’ll be there, anyway, as the other pair of ears is off to Hawaii for academic purposes and I need some consolation prizes.

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