Saturday, March 16, 2013

Week that Was

Its been a busy week in Manchester, with a fair share of exciting events I got along to. Having been away half a dozen times since Christmas it was good last weekend to spend it in Manchester; with a record fair at Sachas providing me with a number of late birthday presents ("Songs for Drella", a John Cale live LP etc.) followed by a house party/soiree in Old Trafford.

Sunday was the return of My Bloody Valentine, who played to a packed Apollo as if the last twenty years hadn't happened; swathed in darkness, playing in front of chimerical projections, and with their trademark deafening melodies it was an astonishing set. Like Kraftwerk, here are a band who don't seem to exist inside normal frames of rock reference - what they have is a particular take on music that they have somehow managed to keep fresh even after that remarkably long hiatus; without any of the nostalgia of the Stone Roses (though a couple of their more well known songs still had an anachronistic "baggy" beat.) New songs from "mbv" fitted in equally as well, and after the usual sonic mayhem of "You Made Me Realise"'s extended crescendoing noise, we all left in some kind of euphoric fog.

At times, My Bloody Valentine seem much closer to non-rock artists, and the fact that they use guitars and ostensibly play "indie" music is merely an affectation, for musically they seem a byproduct of the 20th century avant garde. Whether Shostakovitch is classed as avant garde I've never been quite sure, but seeing the Halle perform his remarkable 5th symphony on Thursday at the Bridgewater Hall I was reminded how music that is octogenarian can still be complex and unfathomable. As the 20th century resides into history rather than memory it was still a shock to find that the conductor, Polish maestro Stanisław Skrowaczewski knew the Russian personally. I was less convinced by the opening piece Lutosławski's Concerto for Orchestra. It reminded me a lot of Bernstein, especially "On the Waterfront", and indeed, it was written almost contemporaneously. The 5th though is and was a monumental piece of music that remarkably manages to be both tender and thrilling. I felt the Halle and conductor were at their best on the quiet pieces, which, sat close to the stage were almost unbearably fragile, yet by the time it came to the climactic fourth movement, the Halle had risen admirably to the thrilling power of this remarkably evocative piece of music.

In between these two not entirely dissimilar musical highlights I went to the 3 Minute Theatre in Afflecks for the first time, where my friend Leanne Bridgewater was performing at Word Up, a spoken work night organised by Steph Pike, with all women performers recognising the series of events put on to celebrate International Women's Day last Friday. Good venue and convivial evening; after being out for six nights in a row I ended up slumped in front of the television last night.

It doesn't let up though: I'm speaking about Thom Gunn this afternoon at my regularly poetry group, NW Poets, and then next week its the FutureEverything festival, where I'm involved with a number of events as we host over 50 European partners visiting Manchester.  No time for blogging, reading or writing until that's all out of the way. 

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