First published on Blogcritics.
by Natalie Bennett
When the PR sent a classic email suggesting they loved my blog, and thought it was a perfect place for a review of the musical Rock of Ages, I wasn’t surprised. I’ve had similar emails before – they obviously teach them at “PR school”, and often have no relationship at all to your normal subject matter. But in this case I (and others) do review plays, just usually historic plays, modern avant-garde plays and children’s plays. Rock musicals aren’t usually in the mix – reflecting the fact perhaps that the team doesn’t exactly fit the normal demographic profile of “big musical” audiences.
But in a moment of frivolity I thought “why not have a change”? Which was how I came to find myself sitting in the Shaftesbury Theatre, its dressing as Sunset Boulevard 1987 looking incongruous against the 1911 plaster swirls.
Had I looked it up first I probably wouldn’t have gone. The reviews were mostly terrible – the Guardian hated it, giving the dreaded one star, as did the Telegraph, as did the Evening Standard, only the Independent was cautiously positive.
It’s perhaps telling, however, though that the readers’ views in the Standard in terms of star ratings are more than double that of the reviewer’s. And I have to say, rather to my surprise, that this was simply a fun evening. There’s nothing that could be called meaningful or significant, and the music is no one’s idea of brilliance, but in a pretty well packed theatre, amid some 1,000 audience members, I had a good time. And some of them clearly had a glorious time, leaving glowing with pleasure.
By Robert Bain
Thursday night at the Borderline, and there’s a distinct tone of what I understand is called “Americana” by people who want to avoid any association with the term “country music”. I could have sworn we were just off the Charing Cross Road, but it feels like we’ve travelled back a few decades and are deep in the midwest.
As if to prove the point, the collection of Americana-tinged acts are preceded by the very British Jack Cheshire. He takes the stage alone to kick things off, armed with his acoustic guitar (probably the only one of tonight’s acts who doesn’t pronounce it “geet-tar”) and his flat English vowels.
He’s an unassuming, even slightly awkward figure, but he bashes out his melancholy songs with such conviction that he’s a joy to watch – it’s like seeing someone practising in their room when they think no-one else is there. In fact, Cheshire’s slurred singing style, nervous twitches and sudden excited outbursts between songs give the impression that he may be somewhat unhinged. In a good way.
It’s a shame he doesn’t get the audience he deserves before having to make way for the nights other, janglier acts.
Jangliest of all are the Desert Downtown, who look like they’ve got lost on the way to a ‘50s theme party. They serve up polished, foot-tappy country tunes with nice male-female harmonies – a little too nice, if anything.
by Rebecca Law
The Furies describe themselves as “an itinerant band of Eurotrash ex-millionaire playboys fallen on hard times”. With individual musical influences as disparate as their wardrobes, they are a motley crew who boast a raw energy in their music, which is as indefinable as it is inimitable. The anarchic skill of the guitarist combined with the natural showmanship of lead singer, Elmo Jones, in his obligatory indie uniform, make for a charged live experience.
Rebecca Law caught up with them in their studio in Victoria to talk music, Platonic realms of form and deliverance through creation.
Q. Who are The Furies?
A. The Furies are Elmo Jones on vocals, Suroj Sureshbabu on guitar, Eliseo Soardi on bass and Jez MacDonald on drums. Essentially though, The Furies are just four people who love to play music together. We came together through a bizarre series of coincidences in 2005. It was almost inevitable that we would meet. There is a certain force, which is guiding The Furies and itâ€™s currently at its Zenith. Weâ€™re doing a lot of gigs and people really seem to like what weâ€™re doing.
So who is going to like The Furies?
Anyone who likes to tap their foot hard and dance. With all things, there are fashions but as soon as something becomes cool and exclusive, suddenly, everyone knows about it and itâ€™s not cool any more. Our mission, if we have one, which we donâ€™t, is not to be a part of any particular scene. We donâ€™t really fit into any particular pigeonhole but we hope there is something timeless about our music; timelessly cool and timelessly attractive to the people who are listening to it. If you look at Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, the Stooges, they have something that goes beyond trends and fashions and itâ€™s a kind of spirit: itâ€™s not just about the music, itâ€™s about a way to live. Itâ€™s the kind of spirit Rock & Roll originally was.
By Rebecca Law
Battersea Barge, Nine Elms Lane, February 11, 2007
Walking down the grey and industrial Nine Elms Lane in Vauxhall, it comes as a welcome change of scenery to step onto the Battersea Barge, as into into a friendly boudoir. Last night it hosted a new â€“ to be monthly â€“ event: Femmes on the Thames â€“ where, the creators assure us, women rule the waves.
Hosted by comedian and singer, Rosie Wilby, an exciting talent handling lifeâ€™s complexities with acerbic wit, the night was packed with talent ranging from the sultry, dulcet tones of female singers to the buxom, bouncing beauty of the neo-burlesque artiste Ophelia Bitz.
Intended as a night of fun and empowerment — Femmes on the Thames even boasts its own cocktail, The Vauxhall Vamp, which comes suitably pink and orange, with bendy straw and paper Del-Boy umbrella — unrequited love generally seemed to be the order of the day.
Among the notable performances was that of post-punk poet and Fringe Festival regular, Sue Johns, who in Restoration gown took on her alter ego, The Royal Whore, and led us through the little-known tales of historyâ€™s mistresses.
By Robert Bain
(Wednesday 6 December 2006)
Natasha Khan doesnâ€™t do things by halves. Before her on-stage persona, Bat For Lashes, even appears, the stage has been adorned with candles, fairy lights and dry ice. Khan and her three female bandmates emerge dressed in swathes of cloth with gold hairbands, glitter on their faces for good measure.
At this point the show could go one of two ways. If the songs hold up, this handful of wannabe fairy queens will have succeeded in creating an ethereal air of mystery and wonder. If the songs falter, theyâ€™re going to look like a school art project thatâ€™s been allowed to go too far.
Happily, the songs rarely falter. Khan enthusiastically waves a shaker and tambourine throughout the foot-tapping first song, “Trophy”. Her smooth voice goes effortlessly from a whisper to a wail, and for such a gaudy act, her singing style is surprisingly natural, with none of the affectations and Americanisms that so many singers fall back on.