Thursday, 31 March 2011

Peter Gabriel - New Blood in two halves

No one could ever accuse Peter Gabriel of not being adventurous and the second outing for the New Blood Orchestra provided some unexpected surprises. I caught the previous tour at the 02 back in early 2010, effectively promoting his Scratch My Back orchestral covers album which I reviewed in some depth here. This show (Wed 23rd March 2011) at the Hammersmith Apollo mainly featured orchestral versions of his own extensive repertoire.

The first surprises were in the first set. To kick off with 'Intruder' seemed a strange choice with all its dissonance and harshness. However, on reflection, it was a good choice to both enable any settling down to take place and keep any hiccups hidden behind the sonic assault the piece has. However, that didn't work as the next song, 'Wallflower' PG actually had to stop after a disastrous start. Even after the restart things still sounded awry with tuning problems and PG's voice barely audible. It seemed the cellos were not playing from the same score, such a massive shame as they stole the show during the 2nd set with a stunning rhythmic part for 'Red Rain'. I sunk into my seat both with embarrassment for the man himself and also in case my good buddies were wondering why on earth I had encouraged them so enthusiastically to accompany me into London for the day!

Strangely, another surprise, it was the back to back selection of the Scratch my Back songs that eased the show back on course despite PG's vocal still being too low in the mix. The empty and plaintive 'Boy in the Bubble' was followed by the dramatic 'Après Moi', then 'The Book of Love' with 'The Power of the Heart' completing the Scratch my Back selection. Another one of PG's more strident pieces, 'Darkness', was shoehorned in before the final surprise of the first set, a brilliant and moving version of his timeless classic 'Biko'. Here the overhead and back of the stage carried a simple film of some candles burning along with a monochromatic picture of Stephen Biko himself. Until then the graphics had been noticeably out of sync with the music, a technical surprise, but once Biko had finished the sense of joy and delight that being part of the Peter Gabriel congregation had returned in abundance.

The second half was blissfully transcendent!

Peter Gabriel is an extraordinary encourager, whether that be of his noticeable support of World Music, cornerstone of The Elders peace initiative and of his music collaborations. So the romantic in me imagines a serious yet inspiring team talk at half time as the all round improvement was staggering! It seemed everything was sorted and now PG's vocal soared... clearly a gig of two halves!

The set started of with San Jacinto and moved through Digging in the Dirt, Signal to Noise, Downside Up, Mercy Street, Rhythm of the Heat, Blood of Eden, Red Rain and finishing with the evergreen favourite: Solsbury Hill. We were then treated to encores of In your Eyes and Don't Give Up with the wistful instrumental The Nest That Sailed the Sky finally sending us on our way. My posse was split on singer Ane Brun's interpretation of Kate Bush's memorable vocal on the original Don't Give Up, personally I thought the girl did great, made it her own with perfect control and diction.

In his March Full Moon video Peter says this whole New Blood project will be put to bed once the last handful of North American dates are complete. We can look forward to both the album and the DVD filmed at the Hammersmith shows, if you can make the real thing I so strongly recommend it. I had not even planned on going, it was all a last minute moment of madness and, despite the gremlins in the first part, I cannot fully express how special it was. Like many established artists PG now has less constraints to find new ways of expressing his creativity even if some think it is merely whimsical. His voice just keeps getting better, his music never ceases to amaze and now John Metcalfe's brilliant arrangements provide another dimension for our listening delight.


Monday, 28 March 2011

Thou shalt not covet...

From acoustic mastery in the last post to technological masterpiece in this one! Always been a Moog (and Yamaha) man, this boasts a tweaked polyphonic Moog Little Phatty along with two iPads, iPods, mini keyboard, Mac Mini as a controller all set in a beautifully crafted wooden case... and it's a prize in a competition by audio company Spectrasonics, there will only be one made... ever!

Enter competition here (a purchase definitely required!)

Hear it working in this video, from about half way through


Sunday, 20 March 2011

Seth Lakeman, Benji and Cormac play a blinder!

Went off to Colchester Art Centre last week to see the amazing Seth Lakeman, this time in his acoustic trio line-up featuring Benji Kirkpatrick (guitars, mandolin and bouzouki) of Bellowhead and the amazing percussionist Cormac Byrne, of Uiscedwr, as above demonstrating his skill on the Bodhrán. The evening was fantastic, three superb musicians in perfect synergy made all the more special by Cormac's incredible versatility and engaging smile.

Interestingly even though these three guys have done so much to re-energise folk music they are generally frowned on by traditionalists who say they both don't play their instruments 'correctly' and they're dumbing down the genre... reminds me of something??!!


Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Tubular Bells and Girl Power...

This is a re-creation of Mike Oldfield's epic Tubular Bells by an ensemble of New York female musicians under the collective name of The Brooklyn Organ Synth Orchestra.

If you are at all into historic synths, organs and other clever audio devices then this is definitely for you!

Read more about the project here.

h/t DV Magazine

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Rob Bell in his own words...

Am grateful that George Luke, writer and radio presenter, recently chose to post this mini-interview he recorded when Rob Bell spoke at the Greenbelt Festival in 2009. It struck me both how prophetic it was back then to have predicted some of the grief Rob is getting now over his new book Love Wins and also what grounded perspective he has...

There have been some excellent blog posts in defense of Rob from both sides of the Atlantic:

Maggi Dawn's blog
Julie Clawson's blog
Sojourners' Blog
and one that made me smile:
Is Rob Bell a Universalist?


Thursday, 3 March 2011

The President's Speech...

In the wake of the success of the incredible film 'The Kings Speech' comes the trailer for the American adaptation... it helps if you've seen the original, makes this even funnier despite the soft target!


Wednesday, 2 March 2011

A blast from the eighties...

Was sent this youtube link by my good buddy Peter Bigg 'tother day, who commissioned me for one of my earliest music to picture jobs for The British Television Advertising Awards.

The production became a pretty collaborative process with motion control guru and director Peter Truckel of The Moving Picture Company. Unusually, no final visual element was completed before the initial music track was recorded and therefore I only had the storyboard for inspiration. All the spot sound effects, all created by synths, were then overdubbed as each piece of video was sent over. When I submitted my very first rough demo tape Peter T immediately gave my creative masterpiece the glamorous title of G-Dung!

I can still pretty much identify every instrument used including:

  • Fostex B16 track analogue tape machine
  • Soundtracs 16-8-16 mixing desk
  • Revox B77 half track tape machine (still have - serviced)
  • Yamaha CS-80 Synth (still have - mostly working)
  • Yamaha DX7 Synth (version 1) (still have - broken)
  • Yamaha RX11 drum machine (might still have!)
  • Roland SH-101 Mono Synth
  • Moog Multimoog (still have - broken)
  • Some BanksyBoy vocals! (yep, still have!)
  • Cubase on an Atari ST
  • Great British Spring reverb (still have - condition unknown!)
  • Some cheap and cheerful delay unit
  • Klark Teknik active monitors (still have - one broken)

  • Yamaha NS10 monitors

  • Auratones

It could actually be a bit of a showreel for 80s synth sounds, especially the DX7 brass! The filming and effects took absolutely ages to complete and, at the time, was all very cutting edge stuff...