Sunday, 14 May 2017

Soho at Peacock Theatre

My Sunday afternoon was spent going to see a performance called Soho.

Not easy to describe, other than to say it was a cracking show which should be one of the hottest tickets in town. It's a mix of circus and dance with a little bit of juggling and some humour added to the mix. There is no real dialogue, just music and stagecraft. The story cum theme as far as there is one is of a young Italian arriving in Soho and looking around. Starts with a dance image of commuting

and has lots of little vignettes from sitting around in Soho Square,

 to seedy clubs,

to being mugged, to working in a restaurant, to working out in a gym

and being in a public convenience. All done with dance, Chinese Pole, ribbons, trapeze, acrobatics skilfully interwoven. The set was full of clever ideas. And the performers were absolutely wonderful. Especially the young chap in the main role. Not only wonderful dancers and gymnast but also fine actors.


That this isn't better known is a tribute in part to the vast number of things going on in London. But also due to the fact that it doesn't really fit neatly into a genre like say, sport, or drama, or musicals or ballet. Pity as it is just amazing and joyful.

When your ceiling falls in.

You know its a bad week when the ceiling falls in on you. Well not actually on me, but a close thing. Was just walking down the stairs when I heard a crash. I assumed something had fallen over, but no. Half my dining room ceiling just collapsed. Bother. To put it mildly.

But the advantage of having neighbours who are builders is that it was replastered in 24 hours!

Tate Britain

I had tried to see the two current exhibitions at the Tate (Hockney and Queer Art) before, but failed as the Hockney was so booked up. So I tried on a Monday morning and accepted a slot at 1pm, leaving plenty of time for the Queer Art exhibition and some extra time to kill as well.

The exhibition on homosexual art had the advantage that it was far from full. The problem with it was that it didn't really have a theme. You might say of course it did, but it wasn't really all art on a particular subject, or necessarily by homosexual artists. Nor did being a particularly good artist seem to matter. The large opening gallery with works by Simeon Solomon and a lot of Victorian nudes that seem pretty gay-themed was really very good. Rather went downhill from then on. The Oscar Wilde part wasn't really any art by him, but had things like his cell door - sort of relics relating to someone who was gay.

The Hockney exhibition in contrast was very full which did rather detract from it. Hockney is of course a famously gay artist, but this doesn't come out in all his art. My feeling about Hockney, which this exhibition only enhanced, is that he is far cleverer artist than he is a talented one. Fundamentally he is not a great draughtsman. His early graffiti type art is pretty hopeless in my view. His best work from the sixties feels to me to derive from a period when he tried to paint as well as he could, rather than mask that he wasn't that good by a purely ideas based art form. Therefore those flat, cool portraits, plus his swimming pool photos from California, are actually very appealing as images, even if not virtuoso examples of representation. There is nothing wrong with that. A bit like comparing say, the Beatles to Mozart. Simplicity works.

I think it is hard to like all of Hockney's work exactly because it is so varied. I like his photo montages too, sort of photographic cubism. And some of his colourful landscapes. But as I say, above all he seems to me an ideas man. Better in the design than in the execution.

My exorbitant double ticket (£29) included a complementary drink. But not really as the cafe was too crowded both before and after to make it a practical option to obtain. Bit of a cheat that.

Kooks at Alexandra Palace

Unfortunately the mate who was going to come to this gig with me had to pull out due to family commitments. But at least it meant I could go before doors opened (although already a long queue) and get a spot at the front guilt free.

What the venue looks like before the crowds arrive.

It was lovely walk from my house too, about 30 minutes but a perfect evening, with beautiful views from the Palace across London. Telephoto zoom came into its own.

The other general comment I would make is that the audience was amazingly young looking. Now one reason for this could be because I have got to the age where all policemen look young. But seriously much of the audience looked mid-teens to me, and I felt that the height of the Kooks popularity was about a decade ago with the release of Inside In/Inside Out, their strongest album. At which point most of the audience should have been in primary school.

Anyway, first support came from an Aussie band Fickle Friends. When they came on I thought they were the ideal opener, bouncy and brash to try and get a small crowd of early-arrivals going. Sadly I got a bot bored quickly.

Main support came from Clean Cut Kid, a Liverpool band who were clearly a cut above the openers. I had never heard of them before, but the songs were immediately catchy. And impressive as they looked "all wrong". Lead singer looks a bit like Rag n Bone Man with what he himself described as a rat on his face, a big belly and thick scouse accent. Lead guitarist looked like a younger version of Catweazle (in the week when the actor who played him died). So not auspicious. But they were good which is what counts. And likeable.

So onto the Kooks. Now I have seen this band several times over the years and a s a live act they get better and better. This is all about Luke Pritchard. He has gone from being a bit of a shoegazer when I first saw him to this energetic and quite magnetic frontman. As a recording act I would have to say their first two albums are the best, Inside In/Inside Out and Konk (although more recent stuff and the new material played here is not bad), but as a live act it is all about now. Some acts just seem a bit tired an knowing after a few years. It just feels a bit too rehearsed, and the band members start to put on weight and lost their hair and it all feels a bit of a nostalgia trip. But if you see the Kooks now maybe you are seeing the band at the height of their powers. I don't know how old Luke is, but he still looks a very handsome young chap, and as slim as when he started. The vocals are good, so is the rapport with the audience. And he bounces around and seems to live each song. This felt like a great performance as if it was what their careers were building up to, rather than a slick, learned routine. The young audience lapped it up. And it was also an audience very evenly split between the sexes, this is no boy band, nor a macho or geeky vibe. The Kooks are for everyone. And you can't go wrong with a song like Junk of the Heart with its simple chorus of "I want to make you happy". With which they closed the show (pre encore) and yes, it did make us happy.


 Most bands who have reached this level of gig tend to use some big set piece with the audience, and they were no exception, starting the encore with shiny confetti. Very effective.

This was intended as greatest hits tour, so all the favourites were in it like Shine, Always Where I Need to be, She Moves in Her Own Way and inevitably it closed with Naive.

Which just left the walk home. Buzzing (mostly in my right ear - standing too close to speakers with excessive base - don't go to Ally Pally for the sound quality) and enjoying the lights across London, including a blood red (well. pretty orange) moon.