When I have seen the Necks play they have always made me reconsider what music is and what it is for (both as a listener and a player) in a way that I have always found really cool, and I had that same experience this time but also with the symphony orchestra within that territory that is being redefined - it is redefining roles and expectations and demands on people (including audiences) and certainly orchestral musicians. It is fascinating to watch their body language and so many levels of meaning. And the bottom line was there were many moments where the orchestral element sounded really cool and to me it was a real sonic success. I saw Butch Morris doing his conducted improvisation with jazz musicians and really enjoyed it and I really enjoyed this too. That there will likely be very mixed opinions on it absolutely comes with the turf but for what it is worth that was mine!
Potted Grammys for those of you that missed it.
Beyoncé came on looking very hot in her undies and sang a carefully choreographed incredibly lit version of Drunk in Love while sitting on a Mandy Rice Davies chair. It is an ode to having sex with Jay Z, who showed up near the end in a DJ and large bow tie and phoned in an inaudible rap. I can't have been alone in wondering if there isn't a part of Beyoncé's brain thinking "I'm working way harder at this than he is..."
Anyhow one person who probably was wondering something like that was Jamie Foxx who came on (after Pharell appeared in a weird oversize Mounties hat looking a bit like some weird Rupert the Bear sidekick) and basically creepily flirted with Beyoncé who was by now sitting in the front row with her husband in a "sorry Jay Z I can't help looking she's so hot" way.
Then Mackerelmore or someone came on (a white rapper who looks like Boris Becker with a tunnocks tea cake on his head) he rapped a very actually uplifting ditty about gay marriage. This took a turn for the bizarre when Queen Latifah - who looked very happy to be there in not a totally convincing way - announces that 29 gay couples and Mackerelmore's sister were gonna get married right there and then during the song. Latifah kind of asked them to say I Do whilst stood in front of a glass door through which unbeknownst to us , and apparently Queen L, Madonna was about to make a huge entrance.
So Ryan Halibut (Mackerelmore's mute underfed sidekick) had to manhandle the heft of Latifah out the road just in the nick of time so that Madge could burst through said glass doors dressed like a diazepam befuddled Miss Haversham in a white cowboy outfit . Madge started screeching out 'Open Your Heart to Me ' in a vocally rancid way while holding a weird white walking stick (She must have had a sprained ankle cos nobody, I repeat nobody, could have thought it looked cool) .
Basically Madonna was only the first of several over the hill superstars stinking up the place with their dazzling hasbeenosity, and made to look even shitter by on top of their game performers like Beyonce and Pink.
Daft Punk came on , well Chic with Stevie Wonder and Pharell, to do 'Get Lucky' . Initially Stevie appeared to be have misunderstood the gig and seemed to be working as the stenographer in a court room taking a transcript tapping on this small box . You could see him actually typing "She stays up all night for the sun...,"
Google work revealed that the small thing he was tapping was in fact an iPad. Maybe the Stylophone app as a tribute to Rolf Harris? But you couldn't hear it or Stevie singing much ( though he clearly isn't over the hill in any way) which was a shame cos Pharell sang (allegedly his first live performance of the song) and sounded nearly as bad, but not quite, as the folk cover of Get Lucky by Aly Bain et al on Hogmanay.
Suddenly a curtain pulled back and there were the two Dafties in Darth Vaderesque helmets like two elective mute boys at Nursery. The music got suitably zowie wowee for a while.
Then less like a Monster of Rock more like the Bloated Carcass of a Dead Seal of Rock appeared ie Metallica with a Chinese pianist who had a two or three letter name beginning with Y. He did a ridiculous but suitably bish bash cod Liberace intro on piano until Metallica lumbered into full er throttle? strangle? like an overweight Dad going jogging in leather trousers and a tattoo sleeve.
Lars may have once been a decent drummer but now he drums like the guy who is still in the band cos he has a van but had to cut his hair cos he works in an insurance office during the week. In fact he probably spends his week counting his money.
In the middle of this came Lorde who was pretty good.
Pink did another dazzling aerialist display which wasn't as good as the amazing one she did at the Grammys in 2010 despite an increased range of death defying moves. It wasn't as good a) because in 2010 she hadn't already done it in 2006 and b) she didn't get dunked in water in the middle of it like an overexcited teabag ( as she was in 2010 to general astonishment). Then she jumped off the ropes and started doing angry couple dancing with a bare torsoed male dancer before changing into a frock and duetting with some singer I had never heard of in unfeasably long shoes.
Then, as if Madonna and Metallica weren't enough then came Paul McCartney and Ringo. Now I love the Beatles as much as the next man but since Paul McCartney did Hey Jude at the Olympics surely someone needs to have a word. Despite the massive back catalogue of great songs he did something new from a movie that was just bleaaah.
It had that sub Chas and Dave chug a lug groove of so much of his post Beatles stuff.
Ringo was on drums in the sense that he was sat behind a set of drums and waving his arms about holding sticks. He was clearly miming and clearly didn't even know what he was meant to be playing.
At this point I went to bed and unfortunately missed Taylor Swift head banging to a ballad while playing the piano which I have seen since and looks like she was either having an orgasm or had tetanus.
Basically it was all good.
It was definitely Not Jazz.
After so many years working in music isn't it great when music yet again displays it's power to shock and stun you and reduce you to tears.
I was at an already wonderful concert of scots tunes set to classical music by great classical composers - Haydn Beethoven Ravel etc and played by some wonderful musicians who I toured with in Off-Kilter. Mhairi Lawson Adrian Chandler Jan Waterfield and the irresistibly fucking cool Su-a Lee . This stuff isn't normally my cup of tea but they do it so incredibly well and their grace and precision avoids the sentimental or clichéd - it is just very beautiful with restrained subtle undercurrents of emotion. Seeing them play Beethoven every night with Mark Morris' beautiful choreography and dancers was a revelation to me in Off Kilter. Mhairi Lawson's voice is like quicksilver in it's brilliance and precision. Adrian Chandlers violin sings out so precise so in control. Jan and Su-a are lovely players. Mairi Campbell was also playing viola and singing and adding a more folky slightly darker earthier voice to the occasion both on the larger fiddle and voice.
In the first set she did a lot of duos with the other Mhairi (with an h) and it was cool but you didn't really get a sense of the full musician.
Then at the start of the second set Su-a sat next to me as she wasn't on for a few tunes. First was a piece by Ravel- the piano chords sounded ridiculously jazzy. Amazing - Ravel was definitely a jazzer! Then a James Macmillan arrangement of a butns tune which was also very beautiful and stripped down. Then Mairi stepped forward to do a solo set and just plucking her viola let out this other worldly ethereal sound . You had this instant physical reaction. Hairs on the back of the neck and a pressure in the chest. It was mouth music I think, a very scottish thing, lyricless vocal improvising. But it had echoes of Meredith monks experimentalism, Jay Clayton, as well as traditional voices from Bulgaria and Africa. It was incredibly powerful moving sound.
She sang another incredibly beautiful song and played viola - wow. The she talked a while about her family, there was this growing sense of electricity in the room of emotion. This story about her great grandfather who was a missionary to china and died there aged 30. Then she sang this song about her grandmother, his widow, returning to ascotland with theit children including her mother. That song had Jan on the piano. Me and Su-a were in tears. Su-a was grabbing the sleeve of my hoody and wiping away tears. She totally blew us away.
Of course many people already know Mairi is a mega, master musician and don't need me to tell them. I already knew Mairi is a mega master musician. It is just great to see it and feel it and be reminded and to be blown away like that -quite remarkable. Gonna have to get my hoodie cleaned as well.....
The other thing I reflected on later was the impact of Mhairi', Adrian, Su-a, and Jan's more controlled, less emotionally up front music had for creating the setting out of which Mairi's very personal music could so devastatingly burst. And also the way you heard the ensemble's music differently after Mairi's solo set was finished, with this powerful emotion hanging in the air and linking up with the undercurrents and nuances in the more classical material.
You know the thing that happens when you get a set list for a gig just right so the last few tunes really kill the audience rather than a sense of slight anti-climax, and sense of there was another gear there we didn't quite hit. Or if you play a dark fractured crazy tune it can make a simple beautiful song after it sound much more powerful. There's something in that for sure. I believe because of the way music can trigger and resonate with this different states we all pass through.
The combination of these different styles really brought out the best in both. It was wonderful. Should be more of it.......cross- genre synergistic audience killing....