November 23, 2010
The Hounslow Wall of Sound
Having been recently inducted into the fanbase of singer Cathal Coughlan, I was lucky enough to have him performing just down the road last Thursday, at the Water Rats in King's Cross, in the company of his Grand Necropolitan Quintet. Since sometime WT reader Robin is to blame for both the induction and alerting me to the gig, this brief report is essentially for him.
I went with a couple of old APT people, one of whom unexpectedly turns out to be enough of an enthusiast to have seen Coughlan before in his Fatima Mansions days, and apparently still have an old "Keep Music Evil" T-shirt, though he didn't wear it for the occasion. I arrived -- I thought -- quite late, to find Simon in the bar, taking refuge from the support act, who was notionally meant to have finished some time earlier but had been held back to start late because no-one was there. Didn't hear him, so can't comment, but there was a general air of dissatisfaction.
Eventually Cathal and the band took to the stage, which was frankly pretty cramped for the six of them, and launched into a reasonably long and satisfying set ranging from this year's Rancho Tetrahedron back to a couple of FM tracks, and from the tuneful and lyrical to jangly, discordant theatricality. I wasn't taking notes, so this isn't really a running order, but as a very approximate account the songs performed included:
Best Say We're Not Serious
You Won't Get Me Home
The Sultan of Coltan County
Black River Falls
Mr Bib's Saorstát Star Time
A Drunken Hangman
Rat Poison Rendezvous
Cathal sang with passionate intensity, keening and barking sweatily. In between numbers he was laconic and terse. Most songs were introduced by name alone, occasionally with a barbed comment. For Shipman Memorial: "I'd like to dedicate this to George Osborne"; for You Won't Get Me Home:
This is a song from the 1990s, which were like the 1960s only shit.
There were a couple of passing references to Ireland's financial situation, its language, and to living in London, but it clearly wasn't an evening for idle chit-chat.
The audience was very keen, and vaguely filled the small venue, but there couldn't have been more than 100 of us. The economics of this are opaque to me, but the performers can't be making much of a living on such a showing.
I have no idea how much of CC's rage is real and how much is an exaggerated theatrical pose -- probably a bit of both -- but I can imagine one might feel a bit aggrieved after years of performing so fiercely to so few people. I'm glad he does, anyway; it was a fun night.
November 10, 2010
Rosas' The Song was kind of interesting, with some moments of striking beauty and even entertainment, but it was about twice the length it could reasonably sustain and some of it was dreadfully dull. Best things were the falling mylar, Helter Skelter and some of the early foley artistry. I'd be interested to know if anyone could identify what song the crazy bearded guy was silently hollering into the lightbulb -- I'd guess it was another White Album number, but I couldn't make it out.
Ian hated The Song so much he decided to skip the following week's Pina Bausch, which was a shame because it was by some margin the most conventional dance piece I've ever seen from her and he almost certainly would have enjoyed it. An almost completely straight setting of Gluck's opera Iphigenie en Tauride, it featured live music and singing and lots of beautiful dance -- to the music, enacting the story. It was all very pretty, but seemed amazingly conventional, with the possible exception of the heavily eroticised relationship between Orestes and Pylades, and one little silent passage with a priestess strewing flowers on the sacrificial altar at the beginning of the last act. Turns out the piece dates way back to 1974, with Bausch just teetering on the brink of becoming the dance theatre revolutionary we now know. Interesting for that, and entertaining for what it was, but not really satisfying.
Far and away the runt of the latest dance litter was the new Featherstonehaughs piece Edits, one of the most asphyxiatingly tedious things I've seen in ages. Y'all know I'm a huge Lea Anderson fan, and I can usually find something to love even in her hokier efforts, but this -- while not hokey in the least -- was just insufferable. Which was particularly frustrating since I'd seen material from it in her "work in progress" evening a year or so ago and it was a lot of fun. Unfortunately, in the intervening time that has all been sacrificed to some gratuitous high-concept toss about co-opting the jump-cut language of film or whatever. The choreography has been finely ground into a sort of attention-deficient dance gruel, chopping and changing and flicking back and forth so continuously that it makes it impossible to find anything at all to engage with. There was a lot of very detailed and inventive movement, the dancers were athletic and talented, the costumes opulent, the lighting slick -- the music pretty abysmal, you can't have everything -- but it all added up to little more than white noise.
Alongside this new work, the Featherstonehaughs are touring a revamp of 1998's mouthful The Featherstonehaughs Draw on the Sketchbooks of Egon Schiele, which is not their finest piece either but certainly a lot better than Edits. In retrospect it looks very much like a landmark in Anderson's career, planting the flag for the era of Leigh Bowery/Divine David grotesquerie that lasted at least up until the Russian Roulette variations. It's not quite clear whether Edits continues this theme or represents the start of something different. It felt like the latter to me, and I couldn't help wondering if part of the point of the Egon Schiele revival was to close out that older cycle.
There was a post-perf talk on Monday. I was tempted to stay and ask. But the audience was full of gormless A-level Dance student dolts and I couldn't face either listening to their inanities or sounding like an ancient po-faced ponce in their midst. So we slunk out to the bar for a glass of wine instead, and home.