An excellent night with good friends at the Barbican Centre, watching Gruff Rhys perform his latest album, Babelsberg, with the London Contemporary Orchestra. I’ve seen Gruff Rhys a few times with the Super Furry Animals and solo (the American Interior show at the Southbank being a highlight), and he always brings something new and special to the show. This time the orchestration really brought the new songs to life and shone extra light on his melodies; I hope I can catch him again soon and look forward to seeing whatever he does next.
There’s a strong argument, I think, for September being the best month of the year: still warm without boiling on the train home from work; a hint of autumn-to-come in the air; a better quality of light; the best song with a month in its title; and people back from their holidays and actually doing stuff. The start of the month was dominated by the build up to my daughter starting school – a momentous milestone somewhat punctured by her getting chickenpox on her first day… Apart from the adjustment to a new routine, and the relative grindstone of work, I saw and heard a few things that gladdened the heart:
Gruff Rhys at the Queen Elizabeth Hall
Gruff Rhys doing his one man (and one stuffed doll) American Interior show (this Quietus piece explains the story of John Evans much better than I can), with the assistance of overhead projector, dub plates, harmonising effects, and an acoustic guitar. Deadpan hilarity, topped off with some incredibly sweet singing (the looped a capella harmonised refrain from Honey All Over at the end was particularly spine-tingling), and a reminder that he has a really strong body of work behind him now.
King Creosote at the Barbican
Kenny Anderson and band performing the live soundtrack to From Scotland With Love: impossible not to compare this with From The Sea To The Land Beyond (indeed, the programme notes were quite clear the that the director had been inspired by that film), and in many ways it fell short (too broad a subject for the film to build up a real narrative; arguably too Glasgow/West Coast-focused; not King Creosote’s strongest set of songs); it was, though, a lovely evening. The band played well, Anderson sang beautifully and reminded us that, though he may recycle his melodies from time to time (and he’s hardly alone there…), they are lovely tunes. And the venue was a bonus; I’d not been in the Milton Court theatre/concert hall before (and my heart sank a little when the Barbican staff directed us to go out of the Barbican building – would we get lost and miss the beginning of the show again?), but it’s a beautiful space: comfortable seats, and a smell of fresh wood (can it really be new enough that the wood still smells freshly-cut? Whatever, it was the nicest smelling concert venue I can remember). Best of all, it was all over before 9.30, giving ample time to get down to the excellent Gladstone in Borough to catch a psych-folk band (never worked out which one of the acts on the bill they were) and drink some Tribute.
Chris Killip at Tate Britain
I’m never sure that mid-morning is a great time to visit art galleries: on the plus side it’s usually nice and quiet, but I find it hard to avoid thinking about whatever else I have to do that day and end up rushing round too quickly. Still, a Friday off work gave an opportunity for a quick dash around the Late Turner exhibition – packed with people, and definitely worth a proper look before it closes – then the joy of being one of two people in the Chris Killip temporary exhibition. I’d seen – and enjoyed -a few of these prints before, but put together, they made an incredibly powerful collection. Thanks to Brian David Stevens for the recommendation.
J Mascis – Tied To A Star
I can’t see it being remembered in the Top 200-album-ever lists in years to come, but the new not-Dinosaur Jr album from J Mascis is a nice thing: wistful, tuneful, and a bit autumnal.