Little Dragon need more firepower

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Little Dragon

Corn Exchange

Church Street

Brighton

November 17

Yukimi Nagano, the frontwoman for Swedish electronic outfit Little Dragon, may be diminutive but she possesses the stage presence to dominate a venue ten times the size of the Corn Exchange. Dressed as a goddess of spring flowers she prowled, skipped, struck arabesque and neo-classical poses and had the enthusiastic audience under her full control from the start. Her vocal range is limited, but her charisma is like a tidal river sweeping all in its path.

The same cannot be said for her fellow band members. Fredrik Källgren Wallin (keyboards and bass), Håkan Wirenstrand (keyboards) and Erik Bodin (drums) exuded the collective personality of a beer mat and their musicianship on this occasion verged on the sloppy. On the bands recordings, first-rate production polishes some very average songs. Live, they were reduced to reverb-drenched longueurs.

This is not to say the night was a total disappointment. ‘Klapp Klapp’, ‘Ritual Union’ and ‘Nabuma Rubberband’ are sturdy constructions and were able to withstand the rough treatment they received.

On this showing I predict a starry future for Nagano and perhaps back room careers for the boys.

This article was first published in The Argus on November 18

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It’s early! Brighton Baroque on a roll

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Ars Eloquentiae

Latest Music Bar

November 1

If you bumped into the five fresh faced members of Ars Eloquentiae cooling their heels at a train station you might guess that they are musicians. Pressed to specify what kind of music they perform, you’d probably plump for something along the lines of the virtuoso sturm und drang of Radiohead.

In a sense, you wouldn’t be that wide of the mark. The six-piece ensemble may have swapped guitars and drums for recorder, cello, violins and harpsichord , but their performances of 18th century pieces by Marais, Rameau, Vivaldi and others, posses a swagger and dynamism not a million miles away from Thom Yorke’s boys.

At the Latest Music Bar in Manchester Street, Brighton, on Saturday morning, they presented a ‘Sentimental Journey’, punctuating the musical performances with quotations from Laurence Sterne’s novel. Laszlo Rozsa on the recorder tackled the tricky Baroque licks with aplomb while violinists James Toll and Guy Botton displayed an unbuttoned flair for period pieces that can feel stale from more self-effacing performers. Gavin Kelly on cello and Chad Kelly on harpsichord laid a secure floor from which their more florid partners could tackle the dizzy changes in keys and temp that characterise the enduring appeal of Early Music.

Brighton Early Music Festival: Paris – Convent Divas, St Paul’s Church, West Street, Brighton,

Sunday

November 2

The fact that it was standing room only at St Paul’s Church is testament to the appeal of 17th century church music.

The wind was howling down a sodden West Street, but inside the church an atmosphere of ethereal peace was conjured by Musica Secreta, Celestial Sirens, and the Brighton Festival Youth Choir under the direction of Esther Jones and Deborah Roberts.

Compositions for chromatic a cappella performances grew out of the taste for high voices in 16th century Italy. Composers such as Marc-Antoine Charpentier, Jean Baptistse Lully, and Marin Marais gained fame in the world of small scale sacred vocal music.

For this evening’s performance, the directors chose the Propers for St Margaret. Propers are liturgical texts that vary for service to service. The singing mostly featured solo voices with the choir responding to the sopranos’ lead.

The performance was all the more powerful for an absence of vocal pyrotechnics with Katharine Hawnt, Elizabeth Dobbin and Deborah Rogers delivering plain but enchanting melodies, subtly augmented by Claire Williams at the organ.

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Brighton Early Music Festival: Leipzig: Bach’s secret addiction – Bach and Telemann meet at Cafe Zimmerman, The Old Market, Upper Market Street, Hove
Sunday,
November 2

It was George Santayana who said that those who fail to remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

The 19th century philosopher would no doubt take pleasure in the fact the city elders of 18th century Leipzig were unnerved by the habits of the youth who were spending far too much time sitting around in coffee houses talking about changing the world – after the next invigorating cuppa.

The trend was sufficiently widespread for Bach to briefly abandon the religiose themes of his cantatas in favour of a mild satire revolving around a father who despairs of his daughter giving up the evil caffeine in order to make a decent marriage.

The Little Baroque Company commissioned a new translation of the work by Carla Blackwood to drive home the modern parallels: “It’s always Starbucks! Espresso! Latte! Aargh! When will you hear my phrase/and give up this coffee craze!”

The audience were treated to coffee and cakes while they listened and the brew was given added piquancy with the addition of Handel’s Overture to Ariodante and Telemann’s Burlesque de Quixotte.

It was light frothy fare, which sent the audience back into the autumnal squalls feeling slightly perkier than when they arrived.

Why a stand up comedian says she’s nothing special

Francesca Martinez

Ropetackle Arts Centre

Shoreham

October 30

When Francesca Martinez was born, medical professionals told her parents that their new-born daughter was physically and mentally retarded. This is patently not the case, as she told the audience at the City Books event, as she doesn’t read The Sun or vote UKIP.

The actor-cum-comedian is on tour to promote her new book “What the F**** Is Normal” which describes the pleasures and pitfalls of growing up wobbly. Her brain was deprived of oxygen at birth causing cerebral palsy. But Martinez is not one for misery memoirs. This was an evening of joy, laughter and at times anger as Martinez, interviewed by fellow comedian Jen Brister, delivered her very straightforward message – don’t let others define you – with charm and wit. She even had a good word for Russell Brand as one of the few celebrities willing to stick their neck out and say that all is not well with the nation’s political leadership.

Not that Martinez wishes to be seen as a role model. “It’s not inspirational it’s common sense!” she insisted as she dissected the needs of others to judge her based on the way she looks and talks – and the fact she likes Frank Sinatra.

She raised a big cheer from the audience when she declared: “Accepting who you are is an act of civil disobedience.”

Catch her when you can – just don’t call her inspirational, ok?

This article first appeared in The Argus on October 31 2014

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